by Abi Hernandez
We started the day visiting Sabeel, a grassroots liberation theology center. Here we learned about the faith crisis that many Palestinians have gone through in the face of one blow after another. They have been the victims of Zionism and people who, in the words of Omar Harami, a staff member, “have a Bible in one hand and a gun in the other.” When Jews are motivated by Zionism to violence and apartheid, Palestinians are easily left to consider themselves as not God’s children, and/or see God as someone who allows, or even wills for, their lot in life.
Harami further explained that in some cases, Palestinians choose to say, “I am not a child of God, but I still believe.” There are those who have abandoned being Palestinian in order to be “good Christians,” and there are those who have abandoned their faith altogether.
Sabeel chooses to address questions about politics and how they relate to faith, questions that churches have tried to avoid answering. Palestinian Liberation Theology is about asking “how do we remain faithful to God, how to we become better Christians, while under occupation?”, building unity in the community and focusing on similarities rather than differences through interfaith discussions, and asking those in power why they are allowing the situation to be as it is currently.
Thus far, Sabeel has groups gathering in many villages in Palestine with 30-40 Christians meeting on a weekly basis. They are making faith relevant to Palestinian life and occupation and making a positive impact by fusing faith and politics together. As Harami said, “What is our faith if it doesn’t make us better people and make our communities better?”
Afterwards we went to Vad Yeshem, a Holocaust museum and memorial. Walking through the exhibits and reading the plaques and descriptions of the events, it was difficult to not make parallels between what the Jews went through during the Holocaust, and the way Palestinians are being treated today, and have been treated for a long time now.
The discrimination that the Jews faced mirrors the plight that Palestinians face because there are 56 laws in place that discriminate against them. The ghettos that the Jews were forced into reminded me of the refugee camps that we’ve witnessed. The innocent blood shed by the Palestinians is just as precious as the 6 million Jewish lives that were lost during the Holocaust.
Of course these two situations are distinct, but both are important to discuss and remember. It is not a question of whether one was worse than the other, but of what we are going to do with the knowledge that we have about them.
Another stop we had was at the Garden of Gethsemane, another Holy Site for the believer on a pilgrimage.
I think a revelation that God in His grace has given me is what Paul said in Acts 17:24-28 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[
Of course people desire to be close to God, but I have found that more often people desire to feel close to God.
I am truly grateful to have been able to walk in the garden with Jesus. He does not live in a temple, but he is there with me in whatever temple I walk into. He is not served by human hands, but He uses mine. He gives me life and breath, and in Him I live and move and exist, as does everything and everyone else.
It is not the site that brings me close to God, because if it was then I’d only feel close to Him when I’m there. But He has taught me what it means to be close to Him. In everything I experience, with all the people I meet and everywhere I walk. From A Palestinian Liberation Theology Center, to a Holocaust museum, to a holy site, Jesus is the same (yesterday, today, and forever!). God is good, all of the time!!!