I forgot that part of pilgrimage, especially to the land of the Holy One, is having your heart broken open.

Our day yesterday began at the tomb of Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. One can view Abraham’s tomb from either a mosque or a synagogue, built adjoining one another on top of the cave where Abraham was buried. Each has their own separate security entrances. Each has their own viewing platform that carefully cuts out the possibility of seeing the other side viewing the tomb and there is bulletproof glass that bisects the sarcophagus. I suppose the miracle is that they figured out an agreement to share this important site, so that both sides can pray and study in the manner to which they are accustomed. It is also a gift that they let Christian pilgrims in to both sides, but it makes for a fractured experience… as if you can’t see the tomb as an integrated whole. You can only see it through either one point of view or the other, not together.

That proved to be an apt metaphor for the afternoon. We visited the Jewish settlement in the West Bank called Efrata and spoke with Rabbi Ardhi, who made an airtight and compelling case for Israel’s sovereignty over the land, all of the land. He carefully avoided acknowledging that the Palestinians are a people or that the land is even called Palestine. Instead, he kept referring to it as Judean Samaria. We then went less than fifteen minutes away and visited the Dahaisha Palestinian refugee camp, and spoke with 25-year-old Hamzeh, who works at the Abda Cultural center. Hamzeh was born in the camp and will graduate from college this year with a psychology degree. In the West Bank, he has little chance of finding work, however using that degree. He has no prospects, cannot move around freely, and has not seen Jerusalem “since 12 years.” He dreams of the day he will return to his grandfather’s home outside Jerusalem. In 1948, his family was told to leave, that in 15 days they could return. That 15 days has tuned into 65 years and they are still waiting.

 

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It was as if they each were looking past one another, unable to imagine sharing the land. While Ardhi feels safe in his settlement, he sees no hope of a peaceful solution. Hamzeh does not feel safe in the camp, because Israeli police can enter whenever they want and give them a hard time, even though there is no crime within the camp. Hamzeh says he will never give up hope that one day he will live on the land for which his grandfather has the deed.

Our hearts were quite broken at the end of the day. It was not until today, when I sat and meditated at Shepherd’s Field in Beit Sahour, where we visited a cave like the one Jesus would have been born in, that I got the message - His message of peace. There is nothing to be done, but love. There is nothing to do, but love where you are, and however you can, no matter how much your heart is breaking. It was only then that I felt like I could take a deep breath again.