Thursday, June 14, 2012

Five Weeks (And Enough Tears to Flood the Sea)

With exactly five weeks left until I leave Palestine, I am pretty much in panic mode. The thought of leaving this place, my new home, is absolutely devastating. I cry every time I start to think about it, which makes for some pretty awkward moments, like my bus ride home from work yesterday when the woman sitting next to me dug through her purse and offered me a handful of tissues because I had a mini-breakdown (IN PUBLIC!). I would do just about anything to stay here, but unfortunately, I was told that because I have a one-year work visa, I shouldn't even bother trying to reapply (Israel has a ton of crazy rules and procedures regarding visas). My request for a new visa will be denied. The only option left for me is to go back to the US and try to figure out how to re-immerse myself back into my old life when I feel like a completely different person than the girl who left DC a year ago. I waver between feeling optimistic about returning home and starting my "real, adult life," and wanting to skip out on all my responsibilities, fake my own death, and stay here as an illegal immigrant (don't worry mom, I would never actually do that).

This past year of my life, I have been completely immersed in the struggle for freedom, peace, and justice here in Palestine. This seems to consume my entire life, and I honestly don't know what is going to be left of me once Palestine is stripped away. What will I think about? What will I talk about? What will I work toward? I'm worried that I'll end up floating around in the breeze, completely empty with no direction.

Living in this undercover war zone bonds people together; we all have struggles and frustrations and fears in common. We all are, whether directly or indirectly, working for the same thing: Freedom; freedom that will only come through peace and justice. It is a strange thing to live in a place where I am not free. Even after a year, it is still such a jarring experience to be walking down the street and encounter a checkpoint, or a refugee camp, or a wall. The core of this apartheid system wholly clashes with the core of my faith, which is the love of Christ.

Christ's message of love and peace and equality is the absolute antithesis of this apartheid system, and even after a year and hundreds of conversations, it still breaks my heart every time I encounter a fellow brother or sister in Christ who tries to tell me that this occupation is somehow Biblical, that it is somehow a justifiable means to an end. I can't help but cry for these people who have somehow missed what Jesus was saying. Christ's command to "love your neighbor as yourself" has somehow turned into "love your neighbor as yourself, unless they have the wrong skin color or speak the wrong language," or "love your neighbor as yourself, unless they have something that you want," or "love your neighbor as yourself, unless they don't love you back, then just kill them all."

Treat someone the way you want to be treated. I don't understand the confusion. How much more clearly could Jesus have put it? If your people were being massacred, wouldn't you desperately want your brothers and sisters in Christ to stand up for you? Refuse to support the group that was killing you? On the other hand, if you were the one doing the massacring, wouldn't you want your brothers and sisters to come and stop you, show you the error of your ways before it was too late, refuse to allow you to slowly lose your humanity by doing something so heinous?

The term "massacre" comes from the Latin term "mass sacrifice." That is exactly what is being done here. Palestinians are being "mass sacrificed" in order to... well... what? In order to give the Jewish people a homeland, an EXCLUSIVELY JEWISH homeland where there are no Arabs allowed? If so, why do Palestinians continue to be kicked out of their homes in the West Bank in order to allow for the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements? Often times, people will say, "well the West Bank was part of the land that God promised the Jews," so they should have that too. This poses a bit of a problem, because the land that God promised the ancient Israelites (and that some believe Israelis now have claim to) is not just modern day Israel, West Bank, and Gaza. Oh, no. It is Israel, West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan, and large parts of Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. It's most of the Middle East. So if we believe that the Israelis have claim to all of the original Promised Land, then what are we going to do with the hundred million Arabs who currently live in it?

Somehow, we've skipped over Galatians 3:28-29 which says "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." We are one in Christ Jesus. How do we miss that? We are all heirs to the promised land. How do we miss that?

As I'm entering my last month here in Palestine, I'm still struggling with all of this. I'm struggling with what to do with this experience, with this knowledge, and with all of these vivid images of suffering and oppression that will forevermore be burned into my brain. What do I do with all of this pain that constantly weighs down my spirit? Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. All I know is that I wouldn't give up a second of this experience. The oppression that I've seen, the pain I've felt, the depression that I know will follow my return to the US, it all has been and will be worth it. In the next five weeks, I have a graduation ceremony, a birthday party, the wedding of two dear friends, 21 more days of work, countless conversations, meals, cups of tea, and eventually, many devastating, tearful goodbyes. I'm trying to stay positive, and so for now, I am going to focus on the next five weeks, and not any of the moments after.

2 comments:

  1. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

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  2. tough stuff Meredith, thanks for your candid thoughts.
    Leaving is never easy...and you can never go back to how you were before you left. Praying for you as you finish up and try to put all the pieces together :) <3

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