Jet-lag did not win the day!
It was close though . . .
Day Two was about beating jet-lag and setting some context for our conversations and visits over the next week. We began the day with a walking tour through Old Jerusalem. While this trip is not meant to be a Holy Lands Pilgrimage it was good to take a walk through some of the locations that have such rich history and are at the center of such tensions.
Our tour guide was great. An Arab, Palestinian, Orthodox Christian, he gave us some good insights and stories about some of the myths and realities of the locations and situations. His best quote on the Temple Mount,
If the problems of this place are solved, the problems of the Middle East are solved.
Our walk was filled with stops as some great sites, the Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Bethesda Pools, the Western/Wailing Wall, the Crusader Church, and more. I am not a big historical sites guy, but it was a great day of sites.
As always I had the most fun just watching people, checking my assumptions, and just taking it all in. One exciting moment was that we walked right into the middle of a pretty heated arguing match between a soldier and shopkeeper. Our group just stood still during the entire altercation, just waiting until a few of the folks could get things under control. Was was clear from that and a few other observations is that there is a tension that is always present.
We then moved on to meet with a local community organizing group, Grassroots Jerusalem, where we spoke with Co-Director, Micha Kurz. Micha gave us some historical background that was drastically different from the narrative that most people have heard regarding Zionism, Israel as a nation state, settlements, and more. A Jewish Israeli born in Jerusalem, Micha helped to gives some depth and texture to the situation, especially around the roles of NGOs, refugee issues, settlements, One or two state solutions, etc. Micha’s gem was this,
Things are not so complicated. Justifying injustice, that’s complicated. Justice, democracy and equality are not complicated concepts.
For many of us on this trip, we have a heart and mind that is trying to seek justice and an end to violence anywhere. While some may see this as “pro-Palestinian” or “anti-Israel” I am still convinced that we must step out of those assigned roles and be more creative and willing to look at the systems that have created this situation. Micha was great at pushing on some of the assumptions and patterns of international do-gooders who come to visit the region. I also have no delusions about what I can do in the midst of this other than to soak things in, connect to people who can help to shape and form my understanding, and then act and speak as I feel called.
And yes, this was only the second day.
See you tomorrow.