-sharing reflections on what I've heard and am hearing, learned and am learning,
from voices in the Holy Land, the USA, and Rwanda-

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing

Here is an early Sunday morning look at the Old City of Al-Quds (Jerusalem).  Having arrived for service at the Redeemer Lutheran Church with an hour to spare, my friend Luke and I set out on an exploratory photoshoot.  

I took these pictures within the Christian and Muslim quarters of the city--you can only imagine the sounds and smells that accompany these images, as well as the thoughts that pop up.  You will see delicious freshly baked goods for sale, small street shops opening, the empty courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a woman on her way to pray, hidden entrances and doorways to homes, beautiful graffiti, clothes hung on the line to dry, the Dome of the Rock, and Jewish homes within the Muslim quarter.  A whole lot of beauty amidst of a whole lot of pain, surrounded by a whole lot of faith.

Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Monday, April 4, 2011

all too familiar

The Lutheran schools of the ELCJHL are currently being swept up in a frenzy of new books--English books!  The brain child of two friends of mine, the "ELCJHL Libraries Project"* is in full swing.  This project allows people from around the world to buy brand-spanking new books (from ABCs all the way to classic novels) to help support the libraries of the Lutheran schools and programs in Jordan and the Holy Land.  In Beit Sahour, we are grateful to be phasing in our new books while weeding out the outdated, donated books that currently adorn the library's English section shelves. 

With a new delivery coming in just this week, I was asked to do one of my favorite tasks--organizing the books into categories on the shelves.  (For all of my friends who studied library science, let me take a second to give thanks for all you do!)  The next free period I had, I walked up to the library, stepped inside, and squealed in excitement.  Before my eyes were some of my favorite books from my childhood--books that I may or may not still read on occasion when I'm home: The Magic Tree House series, The Hungry Hungry Caterpillar, Love You Forever--I could name a handful more!  Though, as I started organizing the shelves, one book in particular caught my eye--The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss**.

I can't tell you how many times I read this book before going to bed as a child!  While I couldn't remember the whole story or even how it ended, I did remember how it was by far my favorite of Dr. Seuss's stories.  As soon as I noticed it among the other books, I determined I would read it again for kicks once I finished my work.  With the last books arranged in some kind of order on the shelves, I took a seat and began reading.

For those of you who haven't read it before, or have forgotten it's ending much like I did, here's a brief summary.  There are two villages separated by a wall.  In one village, the people proudly spread their bread with the butter side up, and in the second village the people enjoy spreading their bread with the butter side down.  Eventually, a small skiff between two men across the wall from each other triggers a "one-upping" match of weaponry and threats.  At the books end, the same two men stand facing each other on top of the wall, each with a weapon of atomic proportions in their hands while their villages (aside from one of the man's grandson who narrates the story) hide underground awaiting the fallout. 

This is how it ends...

 "'Grandpa!'  I shouted. 'Be careful!  Oh, gee!  Who's going to drop it?  Will you...? Or will he...?'
'Be patient,' said Grandpa.  'We'll see.  We will see...'"

I wasn't quite anticipating this reality check when I opened up my childhood bedtime story memories.  No wonder I couldn't remember the ending--there was no end.  Sadly, this story sounds all too familiar, especially living within sight of such a wall.  How easily we point out the differences between ourselves, creating the a sense of the 'other' and putting up walls to keep ourselves 'safe'.  We seek comfort in gathering allies against a common enemy.  We strike with violence and hatred to try to gain the upper hand.  We begin losing sight of what makes us similar; what makes us human.  

For now, I pray that the Butter Battle Book becomes a favorite of the students who read it.  I hope they gobble up every rhyming word, laughing at the goofy sketches and enjoying the silliness of the whole conflict.  Beyond all else, though, I hope in reading it they find hope.  The book itself ends with the hatred of the other, but the story is not complete.  While complete destruction is only seconds away as the last page is turned, it does not come.  There is still a chance for reconciliation and peace--a peace that I pray these students may eventually know and help to determine.  Amen.

*If you'd like to purchase books through Amazon Associates for the ELCJHL Libraries Project, you can find the site here! 

**If you'd like to read the Butter Battle Book, you can find it here.  Sadly, there aren't pictures, but the story is available.