Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Today on Facebook I saw a beautiful picture. It was a picture of the village of Buqayah, in the Northern Galilee. My friend Hanna was from there. 

 Even now when I think of destroyed villages, hundreds of destroyed villages, I think of scattered houses, shacks, tin-roofed barns, like Bedouin communities. There's an emotional detachment to those images, and legal uncertainties about land ownership, and if and when the paperwork changed with the regime....

But you see an image like this and it's so scenic, it's like a movie. It's colorful. Nurit Peled-Elhanan really had a point when she talked about Israeli schoolbooks and the depictions of Arab life as colorless, or brown and yellow. 

Look at this picture! 

It looks like a screenshot from a movie...about the Holy Land. This is the Galilee. And this community was forcibly re-written. How can that be Holy?

Here's a description I found from the document linked below:

Hanna is from the village of Buqayah, in the Upper Galilee inside Israel
Proper. On the maps of Israel the village is called Peqiin, or Ancient Peqiin,
because New Peqiin is now a Jewish settlement built on land originally part of
Buqayah. The village has been inhabited for millennia and, recently, a cave was
discovered with ceramic coffins, skeletons, and artifacts that date back seven
thousand years. Hanna grew up there, in a small community of five different
religious groups: Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Druze, Jewish, and Muslim.


I first met Hanna at a coffee shop in Wallingford, a Seattle neighborhood.  I was meeting with Ed Mast, a long-time Seattle activist who got the "End U.S. to Israel" bus ads put up. Ed had met his wife while they were ISM activists in Palestine. Ed reminded me of my politics professor at Whitman. I liked Ed. 

His friend Hanna was there too, and when Ed took off, I found myself alone facing Hanna, going "umm...hey, so...where you from?"  

We ended up talking for two hours. I didn't know much about the situation of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. Some call them Israeli Arabs, some call them '48 Palestinians, they're often exploited to prove that Israel is a democracy. I mentioned that to Hanna and he said, "you want proof? I'll give you proof..." and he listed off several ways the system discriminates against non-Jews. I remember one: he has a number zero at the beginning of his ID number that sets him apart from Jewish Israelis. There were many others, anyways, I learned a lot from Hanna, and found out he spearheaded the Team Palestine soccer team in Seattle. I filmed them practicing and playing at the All Nations tournament in Tukwila a few weeks later. 

After I saw the picture of his village, I went back and Googled Buqayah. I found Hanna and Ed's theater project about a destroyed village. Their play actually got a lot of exposure.  Read this....it's an amazing story.  

The play, titled Sahmatah, was performed in Seattle and around the Pacific
Northwest in 1996. In 1998, Sahmatah traveled to Israel/Palestine, to be performed
on the actual stones of the village itself.
The project began five years ago.

The story of Sahmatah

Also, check out the movie The Time That Remains. It's about a Arab family from Nazareth, from 1948 to today, and it's fantastic. 

Oh Jesulein Suss

When I went home this Christmas, my parents were looking at a German hymn in their Carol book. It's an old family favorite, and my mother wanted us to sing it as a Christmas present for her aunt, who's recovering from Leukemia. It was the first time we'd attempted something classical together, but we're all choir nerds, so it only took a few sessions in front of the piano to get it down...

At first I didn't find the song that interesting, but when we got all four parts together, I melted like buttah.

The words are so sweet too. God comes down from the heavenly kingdom to be like us mortals...it softened the German language to me. I've sung in German in choir and lessons, but I don't have a strong relationship to it, unlike my parents. I still find it aggressive a lot of the time.

Michael was coming up from California to meet the fam on Christmas day, so I told my mom he could record us and help us Skype our song out. We were just deciding on whether to sing the words or sing on "doo's" and I suggested that yes, on the day my Jewish boyfriend meets my family we should bust some German out in 4-part harmony...

 "Dad, what's the literal meaning of Himmel reich?"

"Umm...heavenly kingdom."

"K...just checkin."


I'm trying to publish as much of my footage as possible, even if it's in bits and pieces.

My favorite videos are of kids....




Friday, January 25, 2013

Fool in the Rain

This is my favorite Led Zeppelin song. I learned it on piano in high school, but never got a real jam going on that end part. It's kind of like a tongue twister though, by the fifth time around it sounds like jibberish...

Yesterday was very, very interesting. Michael had signed himself up for a Bay Area meetup group called Yalla Arabi, which had advertised a screening of The Law in These Parts in San Francisco, and he said we should check it out! I was surprised, because joining that group is something I would've (or should've) done, and also because halfway through the last Palestine film I took him to (Five Broken Cameras), he looked at me and said, "you're not going back there."

I knew he meant to the demonstrations, so I assured him that Bil'in had calmed down a lot since the movie was made. I couldn't lie and say I wouldn't go back. I just tried to watch the movie from the eyes of someone who'd never been, and after the screening, I got Iyad to give him assurance that Bil'in is actually a nice place, and I was well taken care of there.

So we went to see the Law in These Parts. I was looking forward to getting some good legal background on the occupation. Most of the movie was a series of up-close interviews with Israeli military judges from the 80's and 90's.

In the end, it didn't stick with me that much. A little way through the movie I realized the target audience was Israelis, and what I learned from the judges was mostly swallowed up by the absence of Palestinians. The makers of the film had determined that they weren't in the scope, that it had to be done a certain way, and I tried to understand their vision. I tried to think, "if I were an Israeli and didn't know a lot about the Territories, I would need this information presented to me in this way...." like when Israel was credited with giving occupied Palestinians the chance to petition the Israeli High Court, I understood it was more than a fact, we were meant to put the occupation on a pedestal so we could scrutinize it more clearly.

 I tried to put myself in that mindset, to see fairness and balance as a tactic, to appreciate the candor, anything to forget the personal tragedy that wasn't shown, and may not have been felt by the target audience. I tried to remind myself of why the humanity of Palestinians wasn't really in the scope....

When the interviewer read testimonies from prisoners who had been tortured, it went on for minutes, showing videos of prisoners blindfolded and lying in strange positions....mostly the camera was tuned in on the judges' stoic faces. When asked if he knew there was torture going on, one of them said, "yes, of course I knew!"

I saw my friends. I saw countless friends of friends, and Ashraf, and Saed, and Souli, who never told me everything. I saw their families, mothers, brothers, friends, that I knew...and that fact that they weren't on the screen smiling and working and arguing politics and smoking argheela and eating maqloubeh and lamenting the slowness of internet...my head was too small a space for all of that, so I cried. Michael held my hand, and I kept crying.

One by one, the interviews ended and the ex-judges unclipped their microphones and got up from their chairs, after which they must've headed back to their houses and gone to sleep. I wondered if they slept the same or worse that night.

As the credits rolled I pulled myself together. We chatted with the girl who was sitting next to us. I'd recognized her face from her profile picture, she had organized the Yalla Arabi group. We learned that her grandfather was from Jaffa, and he'd been expelled to Nablus, but she'd never been to the Middle East. She'd been in the Bay Area her whole life, and was a photographer now. I told her I was interested in an Arabic lesson, and we talked about activism and politics as she drove us back to Michael's car.

We reviewed and discussed and argued and as we drove across the Bay Bridge and back into the East Bay, he said, "I still feel guilty for what we've done."

"Why do you feel guilty?"

"I can't help but say we..."


"What did you think about all this before we met?"

"That it was just a bunch of crazy Arabs and crazy Jews fighting each other for hundreds of years. I still kind of do, but at least now I know what the Palestinians have been through..."

"You thought the Israelis were crazy?"

"Yeah. That's why I didn't go on Birthright. A conflict goes on for that long, there has to be something wrong on both sides..."

Though my head was still swimming, careening up a suburban hill in the dark gave me a strange sense of peace. Who was inside these houses? We dodged around their fenced-in fortresses, through that neat little mess of slumbering humanity....I would always have one foot on the other side of the globe, but here I could put my thoughts to rest a bit. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New blog to check out

Hey everyone!

My former student Urwa just starting his first blog! His voice is so important because he's an activist in the Jordan Valley while all these demolitions are going on.

Check it out:

Valley of Jordan-Urwa's Blog

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Shed A Little Light

One of my favorite songs :)

Today I'm meeting up with the Rebuilding Alliance team and the founder of Canaan Fair Trade! We're going to talk about how to better promote their Fair trade olive oil in the Bay Area. I lived so close to Canaan Fair Trade in Al Aqaba, it would've been about 30-40 minutes to Burqin, Jenin. I'll have to go next time!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Area C sumud projects

(sumud means steadfastness)

Pay attention to these peacemakers! Not only do these efforts help Palestinians stay on their land, but they invite internationals and Israelis to engage with these communities as well. Bringing people together on the ground, building bridges of trust, all that good stuff...

I've been to three of these places, and hope to visit more (and promote more) on my next visit! 

Al Aqaba Village (Tubas)

The Al Aqaba kindergarten and Rebuilding to Remain housing program were funded by Rebuilding Alliance in San Mateo. Since its kindergarten was built in 2003, most of the village has been under demolition order.  In the last two years, the Israeli army has demolished homes, two barns and two major roads (three times). The village continues to plan and build, even after its third master plan was rejected by the Civil Administration. No actions have been taken against the village in the last nine months (save for two live-fire trainings in and around the village), but since November, up to 1,000 Bedouin camps and small villages have been evicted and those people are still displaced.

Susiya Village (Hebron)

Susiya is a village of tents and caves in the southern part of the Hebron Hills. Its residents have been forcibly evicted four times, and the village is right now under another demolition order. Since their legal battle began in 1986, the 60 original families are now down to half of their original number. Rabbis for Human Rights and Israeli and international human rights groups and activists are supporting the village against the Israeli government and settler movement, which are trying to claim the southern Hebron Hills for Israel.

Hope Flowers School (Al Khader, Bethlehem)

The Hope Flowers School teaches non-violence, citizenship, social and community skills to children aged 5-14. It also works with trauma-recovery and special needs education. In 1999, the school was issued with a demolition order because of its proximity to the proposed Israeli separation wall. After submitting reports, attending meetings with the Israeli Civil Administration and continuous international pressure, the order to demolish was rescinded. The school applied for an Israeli building permit the same year and was successful, but the fee for issuing and validating the permit was beyond their capabilities, so they were unable to obtain the permit.

The directors of the school are still in a legal battle with the nearby expanding Israeli settlement of Efrat. The Israeli separation wall has isolated the Hope Flowers School and now prevents Israelis from visiting the school, which has been known as a home for peace education with bridge-building programs that have reached out to thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.

Canaan Fair Trade (Burqin, Jenin and farms all over the West Bank)

Canaan Fair Trade exists to benefit the farming communities of Palestine. “Before we began, farmers here were selling their olive oil for 23% less than it costs them to harvest it (8 sheckels per kilo). Now, that we're able to sell our oil around the world, our growers are earning 22 sheckels per kilo, enabling us to earn a living from the farm crafts our families have practiced for generations. Our motto is "Insisting On Life". A number of solidarity communities sell tree sponsorships and the Trees for Life project is solely funded by grassroots movements abroad. This project helps offset the enormous destruction of olive trees by the Israeli occupation army in Palestine.”

Tent of Nations (Bethlehem)

 Tent of Nations is a Palestinian family farm located south of Bethlehem. It is owned by Daoud Nasser (below), whose family has owned this land for four generations. His grandfather registered his land with the ruling Ottomans and the Nassars still have the original deeds of ownership from the Ottomans, the British and the Jordanians respectively. In 1991 the Israeli military initiated proceedings to expropriate the Nasser’s farm, which happens to be located between two Jewish settlements in the Gush Etzion Block.

 Despite Daoud’s irrefutable proof of his family’s ownership of the land, the legal battle over it has stretched on for well over two decades – and the Nassar family has spent over $140,000 in legal fees to date. Last May, the Israeli military issued demolition orders because the Nassers added some minor but essential additions to their property. Thanks to an international solidarity campaign, they were granted a stay by the Israeli courts. At present, their case is ongoing in the Israeli courts. In the meantime, the Nassar family has used their land to establish “The Tent of Nations” an inspirational center that provides arts, drama, and education to the children of the villages and refugee camps of the region. Daoud and his family have also established a Women’s Educational Center offering classes in computer literacy, English, and leadership training. Many pastors and rabbis are familiar with Tent of Nations as a primary destination for Encounter – a well-known educational program that promotes coexistence by introducing Jewish Diaspora leaders to Palestinian life.

Wadi Fuqin Village (Bethlehem)

Caught in firefights along the armistice line between Israel and Jordan, the village was twice demolished and in 1954, its residents forced out to Dheisheh refugee camp in nearby Bethlehem. Thirteen years later, Israel had occupied the area and began investing in settlement projects that swallowed up residents’ agricultural lands. Today, Wadi Fukin has grown from a population of several hundred to more than 1,238 people, surrounded on three sides by towering Jewish-only settlements built in part on the village’s confiscated land.

The series of walls, towers, barbed wire and patrol roads that Israel is erecting around Palestinian communities in the West Bank is slated to run along the fourth side of the village, placing Wadi Fukin in an isolated enclave. Buena Vista United Methodist Church in Alameda, California kicked off their Beehive Project in August 2009, and as of February 2010, 23 beehives have been sponsored for the cultivation of honey as a means of economic survival.

Marda Permaculture (Marda, Salfit)

The Marda Permaculture Farms seeks to address the local economic crisis at an individual and community level by promoting a range of Permaculture techniques so that Marda residents can more effectively provide for their own basic needs. It practices sustainable design principles and techniques such as rainwater harvesting, water and energy conservation and small scale organic gardening. In addition to providing training for the local community, Marda Permaculture Farms aims to develop a sustainable income stream through permaculture training courses for a wider international audience.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The destruction of Al Maleh

This has been happening slowly for a long time, but yesterday I read that the Bedouin community next to Al Aqaba, called Al Maleh, was demolished. 

Al Maleh means "the Salt," for the salty hot springs that used to run next to it. People used to come from all over to heal their maladies (I'm going to the Salt! they'd say). Now the springs have mostly dried up, because water is directed to Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley. Below, you can see the news from the last few days. Most of the structures have been torn down. I'm keeping tabs on the situation through friends at Jordan Valley Solidarity and the Maan Development Agency. There are solidarity actions happening, and also some rebuilding. 


I only visited the community once, after taking a two-and-a-half hour walk with a woman from Al Aqaba. We ended up at the Roman ruins that sat high on a hill, then descended into the Bedouin encampment. There we sat with the women of Al-Maleh, who were remarkably beautiful. They had amazing smiles. They fed me fresh bread and goat cheese and soup, and grilled me on where I was from, what I do, why on Earth I live in Al Aqaba when I could live in America, if I had a boyfriend..."3adi," one of them said, "it's normal, don't worry." Before I left, they suggested I marry one of their men and live in Al Maleh with them.

I had such a good time with these women. It wouldn't have been appropriate for me to take their pictures, but I wish I had one to show just how beautiful and happy they were.

This was the post from that walk and visit:

Walk to Al-Maleh


Jan 18th-55 Buildings Demolished in Al Maleh

Upon arrival, the army declared Al-Maleh a closed military zone, and refused entry to residents, observers and a delegation of medical staff whilst the demolitions took place. The masked, unidentifiable workers accompanying the army assisted in removing possessions from residents' homes.

Jan 19th-IOF Escalates Repression of Al Maleh Community

Following widescale demolitions in Al Maleh on Thursday 17th January the Israeli occupation forces returned to confiscate all the community's possessions, including food, bedding, and tents that had been demolished, leaving families with no means to rebuild their lives. In addition the whole area has remained a Closed Military Zone since the demolitions and the road has been closed off.

Friday, January 18, 2013

This week's report

I went to four awesome events this week.

The first was a house party presentation put on by the Quaker Meeting in Palo Alto. I was going to attend the Stanford SPER (Students for Palestinian Equal Rights) meeting, but Donna said this would be a good opportunity, so we went with olive oil and zaatar and bread, and there I met the wonderful Joy.

Joy was born in Ramallah in 1936, and lived there until 1945. She was a family historian, collecting documents and pictures of her father's life, much of which was spent in Palestine. What I found fascinating were the old pictures from Ramallah. The Friends School, which some of my own friends worked at this year, looked the same in the early 40's, as did most of the stone buildings and houses in Ramallah. The dress was more formal, but still Western. The graduates wore suits and dresses. The faculty did too, and we saw pictures of them going on retreats in the "country," probably Wadi Qelt or Nabi Musa. It reminded me of the Arab-American Museum in Dearborn. I wasn't used to seeing pictures of Arabs in Western period dress, but there they were, coming through Ellis Island, on faculty retreats outside Ramallah....I see pictures of pre-Israel Palestine posted on Facebook all the time, and it still astounds me how much culture has been glossed over. It's truly criminal.

Joy was a wonderful speaker. She and the audience also appreciated my experience in Ramallah, and we were able to talk about the same places...I even threw in some updates. I'm hoping to see her at her shop in Berkeley soon. She's an expert on Bedouin weaving, and brought some  pieces to show us. 

The second event was an interfaith breakfast attended by local clergy and people involved in local congregations. We had Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist attendees and a Muslim woman representing an interfaith center.

I learned about projects and activities being held at the Beth-El temple in San Mateo, and St. Bartholomew's Church. There's a big interfaith meeting on January 31st that I'll definitely be going to. A lot of people were interested in the work Donna and I are doing, so I think there's a lot of potential to invite these congregations into a peace coalition for Palestine/Israel. At one point I glanced down the table to see that Donna had drawn a sketch of the West Bank on a scrap piece of paper, and the man next to her was asking all these questions about Area C. I've gotten better at dropping that knowledge in casual conversation :)

The third event was a performance with one of my former Whitman classmates, Aisha Fukushima. She traveled the world on a Watson Fellowship, exploring social justice through the lens of hip-hop. The project is called Raptivism, and now she's in the Bay Area! The other day I saw a video of her singing on a radio station in front of George Clinton. Damn!

Another Whittie friend and I rallied some people to see her at the Elbo Room in the Mission, and she was awesome. Seeing her up there, and the response that she's gotten, really inspired me to get back into music. I think we have similar messages about peace and justice, perhaps there's a project in the works there...

The fourth event was the Tech Wadi, a forum for Arab-American entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. I thought it was going to be a pretty casual event, like a fair, but there was a whole program set up with speakers and a dinner. I was so incredibly impressed by this gathering. People that had started and sold companies for millions were talking about their experience (ok, so I'm a little inexperienced with Silicon Valley, this was bedazzling to me) and I wondered if I could ever start a company. My friends from middle school were now in the business, and had thought of a few start-up ideas, mostly to do with social networking and drinking.

Hmm, is it time to go back to school?

I met Khaled Naim, a Stanford Business School student, who started a company called Addy that lets people all over the world map their address if they don't have one. It's picking up in the Middle East especially. I told him about Area C of the West Bank, and how you can't find those villages on Google Maps because Area C is controlled totally by Israel. Khaled said he was happy to see a few sign-ups from the Palestinian Territories. I want to stay with him as the app gets launched...

Good company, good contacts, good inspiration....good opportunity to practice a little bit of Arabic.  I think I was convinced to visit Beirut too...

Alright, that's it for now. This is my new favorite song. My friend Christie showed this artist to me, and she sounds like Kate Bush/Regina Spektor/Sia/awesome:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Dead Sea

First time I've logged onto Spotify in over a year! I went straight to REM's Nightswimming, then to New Order's Bizarre Love Triangle, then Cyndi Lauper's All Through the Night, then I saw what came recommended.  Ho Hey by the Lumineers, a feel-good song...what else do they have?A song called the Dead Sea.

Well, that's in Palestine. Let's listen to that!

I got a little more than I bargained for with this one....

I stood alone, upon the platform in vain
Puerto Ricans they were playing me salsa in the rain
With open doors and manual locks
In fast food parking lots

I headed West, I was a man on the move
New York had lied to me, I needed the truth
Oh, I need somebody, needed someone I could trust
I don't gamble, but if I did I would bet on us

Like the Dead Sea
You told me I was like the Dead Sea
You'll never sink when you are with me
Oh, Lord, like the Dead Sea

Whoa, I'm like the Dead Sea
The nicest words you ever said to me
The finest words you ever said to me
Honey can't you see,
I was born to be, be your Dead Sea

You told me you were good at running away
Domestic life, it never suited you like a suitcase
You left with just the clothes on your back
You took the rest when you took the map

Yes, there are times we live for somebody else
Your father died and you decided to live
It for yourself you felt, you just felt it was time
And I'm glad, cause you with cats, that's just not right

Like the Dead Sea
You told me I was like the Dead Sea
You'll never sink when you are with me
Oh, Lord, I'm your Dead Sea

Whoa, I'm like the Dead Sea
The finest words you ever said to me
Honey can't you see
I was born to be, be your Dead Sea

I've been down, I've been defeated
You're the message I was heeding
Would you stay,
Would you stay the night?

Dead Sea,
You told me I was like the Dead Sea
I never sink when you are with me
Oh, Lord, I'm your Dead Sea

Whoa, I'm like the Dead Sea
The finest words you ever said to me
Honey can't you see
I was born to be, be your Dead Sea

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Brothers in Arms

I've been watching a bit of West Wing lately. I'm not as reverent of the show as I was in middle and high school, especially now that I understand the Orientalist undertones. But it's packaged very well, and damn I love a good soundtrack.

There is something timeless about the show. The writing has a way of blindsiding you, and that's what makes it one of my favorites.

It's just that....they disdain right-wingers, and they're liberals on everything....but the Middle East.

Maybe it's just Season 3. Post-9/11 and the height of the Second Intifada. In one episode a Palestinian splinter faction in the West Bank claimed responsibility for a shooting on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem, and I thought, what are the chances they're from the refugee camp in Jenin that's being flattened?

Anyway, pop culture is fascinating. I wonder what the climate will be like in 30 years...if we'll look back on that aspect of the West Wing and think "ughhhhh. our best screenwriters really had to coddle us like that?"

 Now the sun's gone to hell 
And the moon's riding high 
Let me bid you farewell 
Every man has to die 
But it's written in the starlight 
And every line on your palm 
We're fools to make war 
On our brothers in arms

Sunday, January 6, 2013

More words from Pastor Shawn, New Orleans

Beautiful People,
Someone told me that her new year’s resolution was to not make any resolutions.  Then she told me that she had broken that one as well—already.  That seems about right.  Life and goodness are always pulling us forward luring us to be if not better, than gooder and happier.  
As for me, I have resolved to read a poem a day.  I hope to imperfectly achieve this ambitious task.  Poems seem to not only make me nicer but they improve my vision by helping me to see “the image of God” of you and to feel my own image of God glowing and making musical sounds. 

So here’s a poem by St. Thomas Aquinas.  Let me know how you feel afterward.

On the Sabbath try and make no noise that
goes beyond your

Cries of passion between lovers
are exempt.

See you…on the Sabbath,
Pastor Shawn


I'm scouring the internet for resources on Epiphany for a church presentation. Tomorrow is Epiphany, but did I ever really understand what that meant?

What I found was this: Palestine Israel Network-A 2012 Epiphany Message from Jim Lewis  

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree, putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes.

That’s how W. H. Auden ends his Christmas Oratorio. And we know he is right because Christmas trees have been dismantled, the crèche has been stored, Santa is gone from the mall, and we are left to live into the bleak midwinter we sang about at the Christmas Eve worship.

But we must not lose hope. After the twelve days of Christmas, the Christian calendar offers believers a lovely sugarplum. It is called Epiphany.

Beginning on January 6, it lasts for forty-seven days and the arrival of Lent. The Epiphany liturgical season begins with words from Isaiah (60:1-6). “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” They are encouraging words that balance Isaiah’s reminder: “For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples.”

Enter the Magi, following the star with gifts for the Christ Child, who will one day tell his disciples, “I am the light of world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 9:5). Epiphany is the celebration of the “true light that gives light to everyone,” a light that will not be overcome by the darkness (John 1:1-8).

The comparison between then and now is astonishing. The People of Israel, when Jesus was born, were looking for deliverance from the oppressive occupation of their land by the Roman Empire. Today, in like manner, Palestinians are looking for deliverance from the oppressive occupation of their land by the Government of Israel. Then and now, the lesson is on display for our edification. The lesson learned: Occupation only leads to injustice, violence, and isolation. Occupation is darkness personified. It pleads for light. But what, we might ask, was the raison d’etre for this child in the crèche? What better definition than this:

“ 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).

 Ah, The Prince of Peace battering down walls that separate people and nations.

There is no more appropriate symbol of hostility than The Wall erected by the Government of Israel separating Jews from Palestinians—all 430 miles of it when completed. It epitomizes the hostility between Jews and Palestinians. The existence of The Wall begs the question: If the Magi were to attempt a visit today to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in search of God incarnate in humble settings there, would The Wall prevent them from their destination?

The answer seems self-evident to people of faith. As long as The Wall exists, built upon the illegal appropriation of Palestinian land, darkness will cover the land like a pall, and the light that enables a just peace will be shrouded. Like the Berlin Wall, or any wall that separates people and nations, it must be taken down. A divided land, like a divided self, is at war with itself and destined for a disastrous future. What gifts do we, like the Magi, have to offer the Prince of Peace in a divided land, the birthplace of Jesus?

Here’s a gift suggestion: Epiphany is an appropriate time to pray for peace as Jews and Palestinians once again renew negotiations in Jordan. And, by way of action, to work politically in this election year to put an end to U.S. foreign policy and corporate business military-based activity that perpetuates the violence between Jews and Palestinians. Consider such a gift as a way of discipleship directed toward breaking down the dividing walls of hostility.

I starting looking for more Epiphany messages, and ended up on several EAPPI blogs. The Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel invites people from all over the world to live among occupied Palestinian communities that are most vulnerable. The South Hebron Hills, Yanoun, places were land and resources are being stolen, people are being displaced by the Israeli army or settlements...

I met several EAPPI's and members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, they're such wonderful people. The oldest I met was 80-something, and the youngest, about 20, from Brazil, Sweden, Spain, Pakistan, Canada, never from the States though, unfortunately.

One of the EAPPI's posted this prayer in her blog, and I want to share it here:


You ask for our courage to protect the powerless but we prefer to remain safe, preserving ourselves for future challenges.

You ask us to speak out for justice but we whisper, in case we are heard.

You ask us to stand up for what is right, but we would rather blend in to the crowd

You ask us to have faith, when doubting seems so much easier.

Lord forgive our calculated efforts to follow you, only when it is convenient to do so, only in those places where it is safe to do so, only with those who make it easy to do so.

Together we pray 
God forgive us and renew us;
 Inspire us and challenge us 
So that we might risk the journey, to your kingdom with you,


Friday, January 4, 2013


In middle school I used to roll my scooter through the American Embassy School campus in New Delhi at night. There was a big garden with a winding ramp and I'd go whooshing down from my mom's classroom back to our apartment at night. I decided that Orion's belt was my favorite constellation, even though it was the only one I could make out in the smoggy sky.

Sometimes I stopped by the sundial to read the poem on the side. It was only about three and a half feet tall. It was this:

To laugh often and much; 

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; 

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; 

To appreciate beauty; 

To find the best in others; 

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; 

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; 

This is to have succeeded. 

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was 13 at the time. I liked the part about winning the affection of children, and making one life breathe easier. I wondered what that entailed.