Sunday, January 25, 2015
Trip to the Holy Land
My husband and I returned home last night from a three-week trip to the Holy Land. The trip met, didn't meet, and far exceeded our expectations, all at once. It challenged our thoughts, beliefs, and faith, and it opened our eyes to reality in this little area of the world. Today we are decompressing at home, and now that life is still and silent for a few hours, I am feeling the weight of excitement, sadness, fear, doubt, and reality pressing in on my mind and heart from all directions. There are moments I feel nearly smothered by it. I've been anxious for a couple of weeks now to be able to process some of these things here, openly and publicly, both because I need to and because I want others to have a glimpse into what we experienced. It was a great sight-seeing tour and vacation, to be sure. But this particular trip went deeper than that and brought us face to face with individuals, with people. And that is what shaped us the most.
We arrived Jan 3 in Amman, Jordan, and spent three nights there. We then crossed over the Jordan River into Israel-Palestine and spent the next eighteen nights at various towns, villages, and cities in the area. We saw just about every sight there is to see, and yet we barely scratched the surface of this ancient land. We visited so many ruins that at first it felt like "if you see one you've seen them all," but the more we saw, the more we learned about time periods, types of stone, building styles, and what each pile of rock used to be. And before long I could identify these things without the help of our guide.
We walked where Jesus walked (except not really because with all the ruins we actually walked above where Jesus walked). We saw mosques and churches and synagogues. We interacted with Muslims, Christians, and Jews. We saw brokenness and dysfunction of cities and families and government, and we heard laughter and saw the smiles of children as they intermingled with our group. We saw the conflict in the Holy Land with fresh perspective and realized how complex and messy it is, how impossible it feels for compromise to be achieved. And yet, above all else...
We saw hope.
Hope for peace. Hope for a future of Palestinians and Israelis living side-by-side as neighbors and friends. Hope for Palestinian children to one day live in freedom and without fear.
I've been anticipating for a while now how to answer what everyone back home is going to ask: "How was your trip?" And I know I will stare at each person for just a few brief moments before answering, because the answer to this question is not one most people expect or care to hear about. I will answer according to how people expect me to answer, and if they are interested they will ask more. Better questions would be, "What did you see on your trip?" "What did you learn?" "What did you experience?" "What challenged you the most?" "What is going to change now that you're home?" These...these are questions I can answer. These allow me to explain my experience while helping me to process this mass of chaos that is filling my heart and mind.
One sign of a successful trip is coming home with more questions and confusions than we left with. Let me say that this was one of the most successful trips I have been on.
I hope to make several posts here about both the sights we saw and about the conflict in Israel-Palestine. Please feel free to leave comments below and start some conversation.