Why I Went to Israel and Palestine

In February, I joined 13 others on a pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine led by the Telos Group, which seeks to change how American Christians understand conflict in the Holy Land.  Telos is pro Israel, pro Palestine, pro Jesus, and pro peace.  

The trip exposed us to sobering realities, diverse perspectives, and witnesses for hope on all sides of the dispute.  They humanized the tensions and politics in this place through stories, emotions, and expressions.  As we remembered Jesus’ radical witness at the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum and Jerusalem, we were also being taught by these brave people - these “living stones” - as they applied faith and trust in the midst of conflict and fear.     

Along the way, fellow pilgrims asked me: Why did you come?  A response did not come easily, although the reasons felt clear in my heart and soul.  The words that came out were about openness to experience, willingness to be vulnerable and challenged, and that this trip felt right for where I am on my journey. As our pilgrimage unfolded, a truer explanation came for why I was there.  

I live between black and white.  I have one foot here and one foot there.  I move in diverse communities, able to feel at home and offer something to others while accepting the tension of seeing things less clear cut than some.  My identity is bridge builder; common grounder; calming presence.  As we retraced the footsteps of Jesus, and tried to stand in the shoes of modern day Israelis and Palestinians, that took on new meaning.  

The region’s challenge is enormous because common ground is needed in both outer and inner ways.  Nations need peace to honor basic needs and freedoms. Communities need acceptance allowing for relationship with the other that can reduce fear and increase hope.  Individuals need space for the tough work of forgiveness and love, especially when all they have ever been taught is hate. All of this requires hope and a willingness to stand in the space between black and white - between “us and them” - with trust, patience, and commitment.  

In past years, my calling has become helping people and communities with calling, discernment, and transition.  This means being with people in the spaces between awareness, knowing, and action.  It is geared toward welcoming the gray areas, helping people be more comfortable there, and eventually seeing how much color can actually be found.  Palestinians and Israelis need help in between.  Leaders need help in between.  Americans of faith need help in between.  

We all need help in between seeking paths to peace - in this region and our own lives.   

I know now why I went to Israel and Palestine.  I was led there because I am learning to honor how God moves through me to help those in between; to help them in new spaces they can’t control; to support leaders when the vision is not yet clear.  I was also there because I need help in between.       

I will continue my pilgrimage.  I will stay with what breaks my heart, and what I think breaks Jesus’.  I will pray that I can be helpful to those in between.  I will trust that this trip came at the right time, for important reasons, and that God is at work in that.  I’ll also trust that God is working in me to understand implications of this trip for my own life, family, and communities.