Sunday, February 7, 2010

Beit Sahour - "House of Shepherds"

Silent anticipation built as we left Jordan and entered Israel. We curved and climbed and went through a tunnel and then there it was, the old city of Jerusalem. We stopped near the Mt. of Olives and overlooked the land. Olive trees, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Dome of the Rock, palm trees, sheep, the garden of Gethsemane, and in the distance beyond Bethlehem was Beit Sahour. This would be our home for the next few weeks. We loaded the bus again to travel the 4 miles from Jerusalem into Palestine. As we crested a hill our eyes met the wall. A 26 ft high, grey, concrete wall separating states, religions, and cultures. We had a rather effortless entry due to a push for international tourism. But we watched on as the adjacent checkpoint was lined with Palestinians attempting to enter back to their homes by foot.
We arrived and were met with open arms into our host families. I am living in Beit Sahour with a wonderful family that gives a whole new meaning to hospitality. They have 5 girls - quite a difference for someone with 3 brothers! Life goes on here as usual: homework, sports, laughter, whining, sibling rivalry, meals, bedtimes... I feel so privileged to get a glimpse into something Americans often hold so private. These people would open their house to all of EMU if we could fit.

It's been less than a week since we've arrived, and Beit Sahour has quickly become to me a place of paradox. This land is full of questions and answers, pain and joy, belief and struggle.
Among lectures and Arabic lessons we made a trip to the Church of the Nativity, the traditional site of Jesus' birth. Speaking of paradox; the creator of the world came to us as a baby! My view on the character of Christ continues to expand. There is something special about this land and there are no easy answers to the conflict that saturates it. The more we learn the more complicated it seems. But I'm reminded of Isaiah 55:8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. My trust is in the Lord and His ability to reconcile all things.
Overlooking an Israeli settlement in Bethlehem.