Today was yet another heavy day.
We started our day talking about our vision and potential for this interfaith college program. The responses we continue to get from locals, tour guides, bus drivers and organization leaders is a smile, an acknowledgement of the difficulty of doing something like this and a conversation full of guarded hope and encouragement to press on. We have a long way to go.
We then went to Arab Educational Institute in Bethlehem. This is an organization located in the shadow of the wall (see below) that is committed to being agents of change through the power of story. They give women and youth the opportunity to sit together and talk about their faith distinctives and difficulties through conversation, music and art. It is quite beautiful. The art you see on the wall below was a Christmas project they recently created. They also have developed a strategy for sharing such stories. They call it RRCA. They Read passages from holy books together. They Reflect upon what was just read. They Communicate with one another. Then they Act upon that which they have learned. It is another powerful story to hear and one that must be shared. Rania, one of the leaders of AEI said, "It is enough to visit the dead stones. We must visit the living stones."
Following a wonderful lunch, Tave and I traveled to the Mount of Olives where we had a panoramic view of Jerusalem (see below). We then visited Dominus Flevit ("The Lord Wept"), a beautiful church located on the top of the Mount of Olives. We also had the opportunity to go to the Garden of Gethsemane, the church located at the located venerated as the birthplace of Mary, Bethesda (the healing pool), Mount Zion, the Upper Room, the Tomb of David and the Western Wall Tunnel. It truly was overwhelming.
The highlight of the day was a two and a half hour dinner with two of Tave's friends from Israel - an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Christian. These are two of the most incredible humans one could ever meet. They are kind, compassionate and loving. And THEY ARE BEST FRIENDS! Their stories are equally powerful and transformative. I will never forget sitting at that table as four fathers talked about our families and shared photos of our wives and children. I will never forget listening to the pain they feel about their country. I will forever be impacted by their passion for their homeland. The power of change is in the stories! We all have one and we must find a space to share it. Things will change when we LISTEN, when we take the time to HEAR the other in our midst. That is where the hope lies.
I repeat Rania's words, "It is enough to visit the dead stones. We must visit the living stones."
Heading home tomorrow night and will arrive Friday afternoon. I am FULL! Now comes the most difficult part. I must process. Be patient with me as I do.
Shalom from the Old City of Jerusalem (the city of peace).