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Permenantly in my heart

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Reflections on MCC’s learning tour

I will not forget the people I met in Palestine and Israel. The images of the trip are captured in hundreds of photographs, but my heart has seized the warmth, tears, and passion of their stories. Like my pictures, there are too many stories to tell. But one that’s caught in my heart is the story of Aisha and Robi (see article Bereaved Palestinians and Israelis promote peace).

It’s easy to understand why these two women would hate each other’s people. Robi’s people, still suffering from the wound of the Holocaust, live in fear of terrorist attacks and see the Palestinians and surrounding Arab nations as bent on their destruction.

Aisha’s people, who have lost their land, jobs, freedom to travel, and in most cases their citizenship, see the Israelis as occupiers, fiercely committed to claiming all the land at any cost solely for the nation state of Israel.

I travelled to this holy land with 12 Anabaptist Canadian leaders in April. At first, it seemed a benign invitation to learn about the work of MCC in Palestine-Israel with the side benefit of experiencing the historical sights of the Bible.

But before I left Canadian soil, I realized I was on a journey of far greater complexity and consequence.

When I arrived my questions deepened. How do I understand God’s promise to Abraham of giving “this land to your offspring”? Is this conflict about the religious differences of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity? What are the historical political currents that have manipulated the lives of the people who each lay claim to this rocky soil? What difference does my interpretation of the Bible make for the people of Palestine-Israel? Can Canadian Mennonite Christians – can I – contribute to peace between Jews and Arabs?

While the questions remain, I know I must speak out about what I’ve seen and heard. I invite Canadian Mennonite Brethren Christians to visit Palestine-Israel and go beyond the guided Holy Land tours. Meet the people – Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims, parents and children, conflicted and peaceful.

I encourage us to support our Canadian government for upholding international law and to hold Israel accountable to its commitments. I implore us to pray and hope for the peace of all the people in Jerusalem and beyond.

Steve Berg is provincial conference minister for B.C.

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