I apologize to all of you who may have expected more regular updates of my travels. It has been all I could do to keep my head up, eyes awake, and heart semi-intact on this journey. This Shabbat evening is the 61st anniversary of the UN mandate that cleared the way for the foundation of the state of Israel. I closed this special Shabbat this evening with a young Israeli family who helped to humanize and recenter the wild mix of experiences I’ve been living.
So short of being able to actually make any kind of narrative conclusion of what I’ve seen so far, let me in instead offer some snapshots from the last few days.
Our group shuffles into a beautiful home in a neighborhood much like a suburb of Pheonix. The roof is made of imported pine and bookshelves full of beautifully bound religious texts line the walls. Our group sits and speaks with two Israeli settlers who live within the occupied territory of Palestine in the South Hebron hills. The men tell us about how they want to follow God’s will in the land, practice civil disobedience if necessary in order to follow His command, and are seeking to keep “their feet on the ground and their heart to heaven” in order to live in their settlement with the protection of a secular military in a land not quite ligitmately theirs… yet.
Just a few miles away we walk across the desert to another settlement. A lush herb garden wafts sweet smells and an aromatic tranquility through the steel fence and across a small collection of tents just meters away. These tents are the site of the village of Uum Khader, demolished just weeks ago by the military. The villagers, their homes freshly piled in twisted bundles of steel and masonry, invite us into a tent that doesn’t even stand up to the small breeze that picks up as we trundle inside. They offer us bread and tea, these people with absolutely nothing but bread and tea, and tell us about their college degrees, how they tell their children this is all a game, and of their faith and hope in God. I weep as they arrange a ride for us home down a road it is illegal for them to travel on.
That’s all I can manage for now, I love you all.