I must start by offering my apologies for the recent hiatus in writing. Things have been quite eventful over here, what with first quarter grades being due, basketball and soccer tournaments for our students, a visiting church group, and my boyfriend suffering a concussion (and the successive hospital visits). However, recently I was asked to write a 300-500 word article for Vox Populi ("Voice of the People"), the alternative publication of Gordon College. What I offer below is what I wrote for them. I hope you all are well!
"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility." Ephesians 2:14
As I look out my window, the sun has begun to set over this Palestinian neighborhood. It casts a warm glow on the white limestone buildings and catches the sparkle of hubcaps. The red awnings of storefronts pop vividly against the cerulean sky as laundry blows in the breeze on the rooftops. From places near and far can be heard the sounds of children calling in Arabic and the gas truck whistling a cheerful Fur Elise through the streets. And I feel at peace.
Ironic. In a land that for decades has been choked by the despondency of conflict, whether through overt violence or simply the bitterness that breaks the souls of its people, it may seem like the most unconventional place to feel peaceful. Indeed, for many people the hope of peace is under constant threat of despair and is sometimes rejected altogether.
But then there are mornings like yesterday. I was sitting in my kitchen sipping tea when I saw a playground. Across the valley and beyond a street and up a hill I could just make out the feet of children swinging under the trees. I'd never noticed it before; but now when I look, it's the only thing that catches my eye. And I realize that peace is already present here. It is children swinging together. It is the man at the grocery store who patiently explains the Arabic names of fruits and vegetables to me day after day – and then rewards me with a banana when I come back and recite them correctly. It is our eighth grade girls who practice diligently for “Peace League” – an organization where Israelis and Palestinians play basketball together. It is all of our students becoming compassionate thinkers before our eyes. And it is my roommate’s class, where just this week her students prayed for the Israelis. Our responsibility is to recognize and be part of the daily incarnations of it, just as Jesus himself became peace incarnate in this very place.
The work is far from over. This is why tomorrow I will go back into the classroom and teach my students. I will read their journal entries about feeling trapped in a prison devoid of opportunity and wishing for more. And I will cling desperately to the hope that Jesus’ gospel message – that which tells us to care for those in need, love our enemies, and notice the lilies of the field – does indeed have power here.
And we will keep playing ultimate frisbee together.