Posts Tagged “Israel”

I’m a third of the way through my training for my half marathon in September in aid of Christian Aid.

Here are the stats:

So far I’ve run 34 times.

I missed 3 runs when we were on holiday.

I’ve run 205.97km in 20 hours 13 minutes and 05 seconds.

I’ve used 16577 calories.

And all so I can run 21km.

You can help me to help Christian Aid change the lives of some of the poorest people in some of the most difficult places to live in the world by sponsoring my run at JustGiving/stewartcutler

From Christian Aid:

A soldier explains why he decided to speak up about his service in the occupied Palestinian territory.

In May 2011, Christian Aid partner Breaking the Silence launched a video project.

The project is made up of video material gathered during interviews with 22 soldiers who have decided to testify with their faces unmasked, and their names revealed.

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I doubt there is anyone who travels to the Holy Land without experiencing ‘the wall’.  I’m sure there are lots of tourists who travel up and down the motorways and wonder why the roadside barriers are 10 feet tall but you can’t ignore it.  I’m no expert.  These are just my thoughts and reflections.  If I’m wrong, tell me.  If I’m right, tell me too.

Watchtower

Nothing really prepares you for ‘the wall’.  I’ve seen pictures, news reports and read other people’s blogs about it but that’s not the same as standing at a checkpoint watching people coming and going, or being turned away for no reason other than the soldier feels like it.

The Israelis call it the Security Wall.  The Palestinians call it the Segregation Wall.

I understand why Israel wants to keep who would blow up or shoot people out.  But what I don’t get is the way in which they seem to have completely forgotten their history as a people.  The very reason for the modern state of Israel’s existence was the Holocaust.  In many cities throughout Europe the Nazis rounded up the Jews and forced to live in ghettos, walled in to separate them from everyone else.  I’m not suggesting that Israel has set about the systematic extermination of the Palestinians but there are times when they seem to have come perilously close.

I always thought ‘the wall’ was a border.  It’s not.  The wall zig-zags across the country, separating people from each other, farmers from their fields, families from their relatives and workers from their workplaces.

Israel has deliberately fractured Palestinian society.  People are caged in.  Stopped from travelling.  People who are not Jews have no status in Israel.  They don’t get passports.  They have ‘temporary residence cards’ instead, even those who have lived there all their lives.  They are not allowed to build homes.  If they do the army come along and bulldoze them.

All of this doesn’t seem to be a recipe for peace.  Separation breeds mistrust.  Walls build division.  Guns bread fear.

And what have the Christian Church to say about all this?  Well we make pronouncements.  We support initiatives.  The Church of Scotland has an £8million 5 Start hotel.

In the Holy Land there seem to be two kinds of Christian.  The ones who live there who are mostly Arabs and the ‘professional Christians’ who are stationed in Jerusalem or at other Holy Sites.  The sad thing is that the Professional Christians seem more interested in fighting over who owns which bit of which Holy Site than actually contributing to the peace process.

The Christians who live in the Holy Land seem stuck.  They are stuck between the Jews and the Muslims.  Because they are Arabs they don’t have the same rights as Jews in Israel.  Because they are not Muslims they are often treated with mistrust in Palestine.  They are stuck in the middle.

But maybe the middle is a good place to be.  Maybe the middle is the place that Jesus calls them to be.  Blessed are the peacemakers after all.  I wonder how we can help?  I wonder how we can stand there in the middle with them?

Any ideas about solving the world’s longest running conflict?

I’m thinking getting rid of ‘the wall’ might be a start.

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The Holy Sites (day 5)

6.00am: Wake up

7.30am: Bus trip north to Haifa, the Sea of Galilee and Nazareth

Stop 1 – Haifa – Elijah’s Cave on Mt Carmel, Haifa

I knew that the Holy Sites were places where important Biblical events had happened, and I knew that there were churches built over the top of most of them but I don’t think anything quite prepares you for  the reality of what that’s actually like.

Our first stop was Elijah’s cave, which, as expected, is inside a church.  Weird, but kinda cool.  At each stop one of the young people read a related Bible story in Arabic then one of our American friends (Eric, Harold of George) said a few words about what the significance might be for us today.  The challenge here was the same one Elijah issued to the people; will you worship the little gods you have created or will you worship the one true God?  Funny how things are so different but so similar.

Elijah's Cave

Stop 2 – Cana of Galilee

Up a back street in a small town in the middle of nowhere seems an appropriate place for Jesus’ first miracle.

Excavations at Cana

Stop 3 – Church of the Heptapegon

The site of the feeding of the 5,000.  The heat of the day was starting to have an effect.  Standing around outside the church was almost impossible, hanging around inside was almost as bad.  The church is beautiful but just after we arrived three busloads of other tourists piled in and any sense of peace, wonder or holiness was shattered.

On reflection it’s funny that I should feel that large numbers of people in this place should take away from the experience.  5,000 people turned up to listen to Jesus teach.  The thing I’ve never understood about this story is why they wouldn’t have food with them?  We were on a bus trip for a day and had enough food and water for a week.  What were these people thinking?  Or was this a miracle that was more about sharing?  About community?

The church has a beautiful courtyard with a lilly pond.  The flowers are spectacular but are surrounded by buzzing bees, all working together, all important, all contributing so there is enough for all.  Perhaps that’s the kind of miracle our world needs?

Water Lilly

We had ice-lollies instead of bread and fish as the temperature soared to 42C!

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Avril and I have just returned from ten days in The Holy Land, most of them working with a Christian kids camp.  It was an amazing experience for all kinds of reasons, but mostly because we met some great people and learned a bit about what life is really like for Christians in Israel and Palestine.

The easiest way for me to write about it and make any kind of sense is probably to diary where we were, what we were doing and comment along the way… so, here goes:

Tuesday (day 1)

We arrived in Israel after a flight delay of a couple of hours and went straight to our hotel, the Notre Dame pilgrimage centre in Jerusalem.  It was dark so the drive was uneventful until we reached Jerusalem when we encountered the deep divisions in the Holy Land for the first time.  We passed through the edge of the ultra -orthodox Jewish area of town and although the subsequent riots hadn’t kicked off yet there was an air of tension that was apparent, even from the car.

Wednesday (day 2)

The camp started today so we were met by the team at 8.30am and picked up the 40 young people and headed off to our home for the next week, Beit Gemal, a former orphanage about 30 miles from Jerusalem.

Beit Gemal

Beit Gemal sits on a hill, surrounded by its own land where the resident Fathers grow grapes and olives and make wine and oil, as well as growing limes.  It stands on the site of St Stephen and Nicodemus’ supposed tombs and was built as an orphanage.

We spent much of the day helping the kids get to know us and each other and trying to cope with 34Celsius heat!  In the evening one of the resident priests, Father Jonny, entertained the kids with a brilliant magic show.

Thursday (day 3)

Camp starts early with wake up at 7am and breakfast at 8am.  We’re in charge today with a full programme of activities, food, activities, snacks, activities, something to eat… Lots to do and even more to eat!

In the morning Father Antonio told the young people about St Stephen and the history of the monastery and church and dedicated a beautiful new outdoor worship area built with Jerusalem stones under some shade trees.

table

Today’s teaching sessions focused on parables, exploring the Mustard Seed and the Prodigal Son.

Later in the day we paid a visit to the Trappist Nuns who live nearby.  They live in a beautifully simple convent and spend almost all of their time alone, meeting only for a short time on Sundays for worship, a meal and a walk.  They are self-sufficient,making pottery and jewellery which they sell to visitors.

At night we had a bonfire and BBQ with a sing-song round the fire.

fire

Friday (day 4)

The group went swimming on Friday morning but, given the heat and chance for a rest, Avril and I stayed at Beit Gemal, spending the morning reflecting on the programme so far and thinking through the rest of the week.

We spent the day’s two teaching sessions on a timeline of Jesus life to help prepare the group for their two major day trips on Saturday north to Galilee and Nazareth and to Jerusalem on Sunday.

The big tunes were broken out before the bonfire and BBQ and some of the group leaders were even seen to ‘get up and get down’ to Jump Around!

Early(ish) to bed for a big day tomorrow… and a very early start!!!

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