Put Isis aside before you read this post, and think of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot for advocating education for young women, who survived, and became a winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Furthermore, try to remember that God will have the last word.
Going to the Holy Land was something we had always wanted to do, and when we finally went, we were so grateful that we did. We spent two days with an overnight stay in a hotel in Jerusalem. Our guide, accompanied by armed guards, was kind, knowledgeable, and he educated us on Jewish culture. Although he was Jewish, his Christian education provided us with a well-rounded perspective in Jerusalem.
We saw militant signs such as “To Resist is To Exist,” which was unnerving, but also characterized the conflicts between the Jews and Palestinians. Another sign read “And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never [spray painted over] of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the [spray painted over.]” The unrest in the area was palpable as our tour bus took us from one place to another. On the other hand, when we saw a man baptized in the Jordan River, for example, the Christian influence was palpable and touching.
Interestingly, each of the religions, whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or Armenian Christian are represented in Jerusalem, and share the city, each with their own quarter, not necessarily the same size. Accordingly, my perspective informed by living in America, changed considerably. The fact that the different people groups live in the same city, but are separated by geographical boundaries, made me think about ancient biblical times—the Tower of Babel, for instance, where God dispersed the people over their rebellious pride, and took away the universal language in order to squelch their attempt to take their destiny into their own hands. Going to Jerusalem showed me in a different way that people still want to take their destiny into their own hands. That human tendency will never change. I witnessed people at the Wailing Wall, women on one side, and men on the other. We walked the path of Christ (Via Dolorosa: Way of Suffering-Latin or Painful Way-Hebrew & Arabic) on his way to the crucifixion.
Leaving Israel gave me additional hope in God’s plans for our future, because of all I had learned. You see, whether Jewish, Muslim, or Christian, we are all descendants of Abraham, and that fact shows the mysteries of God as to how he will reconcile the world to himself, which gives me pause, in a cosmic way.
In Egypt, it was the same thing, in terms of armed guards. I was taken aback by the placement of our four star hotel from which we could see the pyramids, in the middle of poor, garbage filled streets. My initial reaction was disgust over the mounds of garbage until I learned the reasons behind it. You see, we have to try to look at the reasons, the history, and the traditions of each people group in order to accept them as they are.
I learned that the one common denominator in the Middle East is religious and/or political oppression and discord. Unfortunately, it seems as though the area will never live in peace, and for that, I am sad. On the other hand, the many people we met and talked to were human beings just like us, and the differences between them and us did not exclude them from having lives that matter.
Until next time …