April 28, 2013
PALESTINE REFLECTION: Last-minute communion
Checkpoints and land seizures are hurting chances of making communion.
Yesterday I attended communion at Sabeel, an
ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem. Actually, I missed most of
Traveling in an occupied territory takes a long
time. One member who regularly attends communion says it takes him an hour and
a half to travel the five miles to reach the communion. As anywhere, some of
the delay is due to traffic. Unlike most other places though, checkpoints are a
big factor. The bus from Bethlehem goes through a checkpoint before entering
Jerusalem. The last few times I have undertaken this journey no one was
required to leave the bus. So yesterday I was not expecting people to leave the
bus and I was not quick enough. I stayed on the bus as soldiers came through to
check the passports of the elderly and pregnant who had not left the bus. In
front of me sat a developmentally disabled man. A soldier shouted at him and
asked him why he hadn’t got off the bus. The bus driver had to intervene and explain
that he was developmentally disabled.
I arrived five minutes before the communion ended.
Afterwards a man introduced himself as a Quaker from London. He explained that
on Sunday he would be starting a tour of Palestine/Israel with four other
Quakers and five Jews. The Quakers had decided to support the boycott of
settlement goods, a move that elicited a strong Jewish backlash. Because of
this the Quakers invited Jews to come and speak with them. The Quakers
described how for the first three meetings they just listened to people’s anger
and hurt. By the fourth meeting humour was introduced and by the fifth the
Quakers were able to share their point of view as well as listen.
Now, two years after the first meeting, four
Orthodox Jews and one Liberal have joined the group of Quakers on a fact-finding
mission to Israel and Palestine to see things for themselves. People at Sabeel
praised the Quakers for their effort and for not giving up the boycott and
caving in to the opposition as so many Christian groups do. The Quakers talked
about the importance of seeing that of God inside everyone and connecting with
people. They said they appreciated how far their Jewish friends had come over
the past two years.
I sympathized with this point of view, but had a rude
awakening when a Palestinian woman said that if the Jews take another two years
to move on further and change their minds about the situation, then there will
be no land left for the Palestinians. How valid are our liberal opinions and
the view that everyone moves at their own pace and must be listened to, when
every day children are being arrested, people killed, houses demolished and
land seized? I can offer no answers. Dialogue is vital, yet who should be
involved in it and what else has to be done?