Olives for Hope

If the world is ever going to come to peace,
humanity can no longer be recognized 
on a case by case basis.


This is the Life

Posted on July 26, 2012 at 2:05 PM

When was the last time you thought those words….even maybe said them aloud? Perhaps you were on a beach somewhere enjoying a cold one while the warm breeze ruffled through your hair. Or maybe you were at the wedding of a dear friend or relative, witnessing a partnership's new beginning. Was it during your last escape to the “cottage up-north”? Even if you do not have those memories, we all know and aspire to them – the “Good Life”. And everyone associates those words “this is the life”, with that feeling of peace, and freedom that we are supposed to feel when we have arrived at “the good life”. Everyone knows what those words mean. Even if you live in poverty and struggle for your daily bread, when you hear those words, you understand.

But what if you not only did not experience the good life yourself, but you never saw it around you either? What if your daily struggle was not only your struggle, and not just the struggle of your relatives and your neighbors? What if, all around you, all you saw was hardship? Maybe in some distant place you dreamed of a different life. Maybe occasionally you see glimpses “over there” and know things are different someplace else. But you understand this is your life, the life of your grandparents, and the life that will be for your children? What would the words “this is the life” mean to you then?

In Palestine I heard these words many times; usually in response to my questioning of some (in my American perspective) systemic craziness. In my time there I came to know and care about many people. All of them have unique stories, but they are all united by a theme of struggle. Often the struggle, to me, seemed beyond comprehension. “What do you mean there is no help from the government to fix the water pipes?!” [said by me after watching my neighbor tear up the road to fix a pipe himself]. “Ahhh, this is the life”, was the response.

There is a very American trait to want to make sense of the nonsensical. For people in general this is a facility of the mind – we fill in the pieces to “see” the whole picture. Many optical illusions are based on this truth. However, the degree to which we will go in our mental perceptions of events to create “sense” of them, I think, is uniquely American. Perhaps it is a product of our history, but Americans cannot tolerate nonsense. There must be a reasonable explanation for everything, even the unreasonable.

Sometimes I think it would be easier for Americans to understand the struggle in Palestine if it were simply a matter of poverty. Everyone knows what to feel when they see pictures from Africa illustrating the devastation created by a conspiracy of poverty and natural (and man-made) disasters. It makes sense. There is no question of the response demanded by seeing those photos. But how do you illustrate the degradation of spirit created by occupation? How can you understand “why” an Israeli settler would beat up a young Palestinian shepherd who was just tending his flock? You can’t make sense of it, so we create context where there is none – he must have thrown rocks at the settler – yes. that must be it – there has to be a reason for the unreasonable.

But while we try to make sense of it all, to put Palestine and Palestinians into boxes of reasonableness, they go on with their lives. If the government doesn’t fix the water pipes, you fix them yourself. If the checkpoint is closed, you find a path around it to get to school. If you want to pray in the mosque, you don’t wear a belt so you can get through the metal detector easier (which was set up at the entrance to the mosque after an American Jew took in an automatic weapon killed 29 people and wounded 125 at prayer - how do you make that make sense?). You continue to live your life the only way you know how. This is “semud”, steadfastness – This is the life.


The Border Crossing - Part 1

Posted on December 2, 2011 at 3:55 PM

Well it's all right; Riding around in the breeze

Well it's all right; If you live the life you please

Well it's all right; Doing the best you can

Well it's all right; As long as you lend a hand ~ The Traveling Wilburys


My Israeli visa is good for only three months. This means I need to leave and then re-enter Israel to get a new visa. So, not knowing what to expect, I headed for the Jordanian border. I chose the northern crossing for a variety of reasons, some no longer valid, but all things considered it seemed to be my best choice.


I headed out in the morning and made it to the central bus station in Jerusalem with no problem. After I purchased my ticket for Nazareth, as I waited on the platform for the bus, I was struck by the fact that a year ago waiting at that same platform for that same bus I felt so much joy and anticipation for a diversion that in the end, turned out badly. I could only hope that this trip which filled me with so much anxiety would turn out so much better.


Everything started out fine and I even managed to get to the bus transfer station in plenty of time to catch my connection to Nazareth. But then I could only watch helplessly as the bus drove past without even slowing down. I asked about the bus at the ticket counter. Although the agent spoke very little English, I was able to understand that the next bus was in two hours. The time came and went, and then after waiting three hours the bus came and went, again without stopping. I ran back to the ticket agent hoping he would call the bus back, knowing it was the last bus. He seemed very perplexed, made a couple of calls and reported “nothing to do”.


Now I was really stuck. I had gone from being on track, to hoping to find a place to stay in Nazareth, to having to sleep at the bus stop. I don’t speak any Hebrew, except “toda” – thank you, and I wasn’t feeling very thankful at all. I knew nothing about the town I was in and was not sure if I would have enough cash to pay a taxi and still pay the border fees. Taxis here are notorious for overcharging if they sense any desperation.

This was so messed up and I had no idea what to do. I have never felt so vulnerable here. Literally, my last hope was to contact someone I had met last year, who did not live too far away. Last year I thought we were friends, but he has refused to communicate with me since I left. His contact information was still on my phone, but I knew the likelihood that he would help was slim to none. It took an hour of arguing with myself to finally decide to contact him. I was able to send a short email with my Kindle (BTW, a great investment), I also sent a text in case he wasn’t home to get the email. I was relying on the Palestinian hospitality gene, but I never heard back from him. I guess he missed the lesson in Sunday school about the “Good Samaritan”.


It was dark and getting cold. I felt pretty deflated and contemplated going back to Jerusalem; but it would have been too late to get back into the West Bank. Just then someone approached me and asked me “Where you want to go?” I looked up and asked the man in front of me “Do you speak English?” Yes, he said, “a little”, and introduced himself – Nir. So I poured out my story. He took me to a private bus that would get me to the town closest to the border, Beit Shee’ann.


After arriving in Beit Shee’ann, again I had no idea what to do or where to go – I was so off the “plan” I had started with that morning. After standing on the corner for a couple of minutes, seeing no sign of the border or how to get there, another man approached me and asked if I needed help. He was from Nepal. He helped me find a taxi (which I paid too much for), and then I was at the border. At the border I was grilled for what was probably less than 15 minutes, but seemed like much longer. The border agent was obviously looking for my name in the computer. Only after I actually crossed the border did I relax. I was able to split the cost of the taxi to Amman with a young man from America who was there to attend a wedding. I finally arrived to my hosts and was glad for their warm welcome.

In two days I get to repeat the adventure for my return trip – part 2, next week.


Pure Palestine

Posted on October 29, 2011 at 2:25 AM

"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else -- if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."

"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" ~ (Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 2)

In Palestine you quickly learn that there is a different sense of time – Palestinian time. According to Western standards Palestinians are notoriously late, but they will always expect foreigners to be on time. If a Palestinian tells you “five minutes”, expect 15; if “15 minutes” expect 30; if “a half hour” expect an hour. If they say “tonight” – well - for more than a week now I have been without water, and every day I am told, “Tonight, Inshallah (God willing)”. This is “Pure Palestine”.

If I understand correctly, someone forgot to fill our tanks (my apartment and one other are the only ones affected). Now they can’t come back until the next regular delivery. However, they don’t want to tell us that, so every day it is “Tonight, Inshallah”. Directness is not a value here. For someone like me, that believes it is important to “say what you mean and mean what you say”, this is very difficult. This is “Pure Palestine”.

Palestinians live in the moment. They have learned that there is no other choice. Even in relatively quiet times, like now, they know it can change in an instant. In the States, in general - at least in the "mid-west", people don’t ‘go out’ during the week; if they do, they don’t stay out’ late – “It’s a school night”. Here people take every opportunity to enjoy life. Any night I can go out on the terrace and hear music and laughter (and yes, fireworks). This is “Pure Palestine”.

The downside to living in the moment though, is that people here tend to not make plans. There is something positive about being spontaneous, but sometimes you just need to make plans. Since I left last year I have wanted to attend the commemoration of the massacre in Eilaboun (my post about Eilaboun is here). But, because I have not been able to make a solid plan to get there and back, it looks like I won’t be going. This is “Pure Palestine”.

But, in the moment, Palestinians are incredibly generous. A visitor quickly learns to be careful in a Palestinian home when admiring something – you just may have no choice but to take it home with you. Once, a friend of mine admired a cane being used by an elderly man that she met on the street. He insisted she follow him home, where he then insisted she take his cane. This is “Pure Palestine”.

The one exception to the reluctance to make plans are weddings. Weddings here are huge affairs full of traditions and expectations. A young man I work with is planning his wedding. I think he referred to it as a modest wedding – with at least 500 invitations. Yes, I said “he is planning”; here the groom pays for everything, even the bride’s dress. And they do not do this once, but twice. The engagement party (which looks a lot like a wedding) can cost more than the wedding itself. This is “Pure Palestine”

If you ask a foreigner who has spent significant time here, what they love about Palestine, they may have a hard time answering you. But when two foreigners meet that have been here, they just understand. And when we are away, we feel the absence of a loving friend – one that infuriates us, and that supports us, and that disappoints us, and that embraces us.

Within three minutes of posting on Facebook that I would be without water at least until Monday (and without clean clothes) I had an invitation to stay with someone until the water is delivered. This is “Pure Palestine” - gotta love it!


One Does What One Can Do

Posted on October 14, 2011 at 11:45 AM

 Here on the slopes of hills, facing the dusk and the cannon of time; 

Close to the gardens of broken shadows,

We do what prisoners do, And what the jobless do:

We cultivate hope. ~ Mahmud Darwish

Self-doubt has been my companion this week. I have had the experience of telling my plan of writing an anthology of everyday resistance here in Palestine, the stories of real people to several other 'travelers'. All of them are either also planning to do something similar or knew someone that was. I began to think “who am I to believe that my voice has anything to add?” Then I thought about the focus of the book, Palestinians in Israel (a mostly ignored story) and the person that encouraged me to get serious about a book – he said that what he liked about what I wrote was that I don’t attempt to prescribe answers as so many do, that I let the questions stand.

Well, words mean a lot to me – poetry, music….I think in metaphors (which often seems to get me in trouble when I assume others view things from a shared context that may not exist). So as I pondered his words, I was happy to find, as often happens, just the right words came my way, and I found this in my inbox;

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ~ Marianne Williamson (commonly misattributed to Nelson Mandela, who used it in a 1994 inauguration speech)

So, back on track I realize that that the “romantic edge” of being in Palestine during my last trips is not the same this time. I expected that the everyday-ness of actually living here would be like that (and I welcome it), just not so soon. It is very much a different experience than before. If I step outside of myself, I still have that "I am not in Kansas anymore" feeling. But, when I step back into myself, into the moment, it just feels like the most normal thing to be here. 

I do find that the local Palestinians treat me differently than before (more aloof). I was speaking with my new British friend, Luke, about this, and we agreed that we are a little disappointed that they did not seem to engage with us the same. Maybe we are different, having been here before, or maybe they are more cynical about us - I am not sure ..... I met an older American woman yesterday. She is leaving this weekend after a two week stay which she described as profoundly lonely. Then one of the Palestinian staff here explained that he no longer gets close to foreigners because they leave.

I do in a rational sense, understand his sentiment, but we get invested as well (some of us even come back) and I think it is sad to miss any opportunity to connect with someone on a deeper level. When I was here last year I thought I had found an incredible friend in the most unexpected place, only to find that after I left he decided not to continue the friendship – it broke my heart. But I refuse to let that stop me from being open to new people coming into my life - People who will impact me at least as much as I impact them (and probably more) .

God breaks the heart, again and again and again; until it stays; OPEN. ~ Hazrat Inayat Kahn (Sufi)

People like the three women I mentioned last week whom I pass everyday on the way to the office. Two days ago, on my way home two of them, Muna and Lydia, chased me down. After several minutes of trying to understand what they were asking, I figured out it was something to do with glasses and reading. I promised I would return the next evening – not sure if I had promised to come read to them, or let Muna use my glasses to read something herself (or even – uh oh – agreed to give them my glasses). The next day I returned and called a local friend that could translate. He explained that Muna was asking me if I could help her get glasses, because she enjoys reading but can no longer read without them (she is Moslem and reading the Quran is important to her as well). I started thinking “how can I make this happen?”

I know that some would say it is a mistake for me to do so but, I told her I would try.  It is a dilema because there is a sense of learned helplessness here. It is a fact that Palestinians are the most aid dependent population (50-80%, depending on location, rely on foreign aid). That combined with the very real difficulties imposed by the occupation can create a sense of “why should I try?”. This runs counter to the Western idea of individualism and “pulling yourself up”. But, I believe that I am my brother’s (or sister’s) keeper, as they are mine; and we should not pass up the opportunity to make even one life a little better.

A small bird found lying on her back was asked, “Why?” She responded, “I heard the sky is falling.” “And you think that you can hold up the heavens with those spindly legs?” To which she replied, “One does what one can do.” ~ Bulgarian folktale


Exactly Where I Am Supposed To Be

Posted on October 7, 2011 at 8:10 PM

“ What you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, that sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: is it possible that there are no coincidences?” ~ Signs

When you meet someone you know you have known before, or find a place you know you have been before, it can’t be explained – it’s a Knowing beyond reason, beyond understanding, beyond questioning, beyond knowing – you are just exactly where you are supposed to be.

I have been in Beit Sahour for a week now. It has been a week of settling in and adjusting. I am still figuring out my new normal, and I will admit that my birthday brought a twinge of loneliness. Every time I come to Palestine, I seem to end up living at the edge of town. Each day I walk a little less than two miles to the office and then I am still at the edge of town. Being without a car is definitely going to be an adjustment. I don’t mind exploring places during the day, but it gets dark very quickly here and wandering in unfamiliar places at night is just not something I am comfortable with, anywhere. Tonight though, on the way home I passed by the apartment of three elderly women – one Moslem and two Christians living together. I have been walking past and saying good morning every day. Tonight, they insisted I come inside. They made me Arabic coffee which I had no choice but to drink (the real stuff, not the Nescafe and milk I have become fond of) so I am wide awake as I write this. They didn’t speak English and I am definitely not conversational with Arabic, but we did OK.  It was a nice way to end the day.

Last week I mentioned how things here are upside down, and it is really true. I go into the grocery store (there is a new one near-ish me) and I have no clear idea what to buy – shopping for one is something I have not done in a very long time. One of the first things you might notice is that while in the US processed foods tend to be cheaper than fresh, here it is the opposite. I bought seven nice size tomatoes and a bag of baby cucumbers (the ones Meijer charges $2.50 /4) for a total of about $2.50; but a can of green beans was approximately $1.75. The other thing that strikes me is the large amount of foods on the shelves that only have Hebrew on them. My experience has been that more people here speak English as a second language, than speak Hebrew (let alone read it). So it seems to speak to me of a certain kind of arrogance – when you have a captive consumer you really don’t have to care about communicating with them in their language.

This week it also seems that there have been a lot of fighter jets flying very low. I asked if something was going on and was told “no, this is nothing, sometimes they rattle the windows to remind us they are there.” In spite of all the talk of a Palestinian State with Abbas going to the UN, it doesn’t change the everyday reality of occupation. But, people continue to live their lives the best way they can - right where they're supposed to be.


Great Expectations

Posted on September 17, 2011 at 2:45 AM

Expectation - A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.” Henry David Thoreau

Expectation gets a bad rap – We are told that expectation breeds disappointment and some people rebel at the thought that others might have expectations of them (even though they have their own expectations). There is nothing wrong with having expectations; they are like the skeleton that moves us through life.

I expect the sun to come up tomorrow, I expect cars to stop at red lights, I expect strawberries to taste good and I expect to be treated with kindness and respect. There is nothing wrong with that, but we also have to understand that sometimes it does not happen that way. The sun may come up unseen because the day is filled with storms, cars sometimes run red lights and create accidents, strawberries are sometimes rotten, and sometimes people are cruel. What really matters is what we do next. I can’t give up on the sun, or driving, or strawberries (never strawberries), and I certainly cannot give up on people (even though, once in a while, in those darker moments I think I might).


On September 21 Mamoud Abbas is expected to seek UN recognition for a Palestinian State. What happens after is anyone’s guess, but I don’t think anyone expects the resolution to get past a US veto. However, much like I cannot give up on people, Palestinians cannot give up on Justice (even though, once in a while, in those darker moments, some might). The 21st is also the International Day of Peace and the Global Day of Listening. So when you go to sleep Tuesday night, add a prayer for Palestine, and while you are at it, a prayer for Israel too.


In 10 days I expect to leave for Palestine. I expect to see old friends and meet some new ones. But what else will I find? – I don’t know what to expect….other than the dawn.


Doctor, My Eyes

Posted on September 9, 2011 at 9:55 PM

I have done all that I could...To see the evil and the good without hiding...You must help me if you can….Doctor, my eyes...Tell me what is wrong...Was I unwise to leave them open for so long?

Do you remember? Where you were? You know, that day….9/11. The question is everywhere right now. I know I am supposed to feel a part of this nationalized sense of grief….but I don’t. I understand the shock many felt that day – the US is invincible after all (at least that is what we were told). And yes, many people, all sorts of people, died that day – a microcosm of the US; wealthy people, poor people, blue collar, white collar, whatever collar, young, old, Asian, Hispanic, white, black, Atheist, Christian, Jew, Moslem, and so many more. When I see the unending commentary, and the heart wrenching biographies play on television I do feel sad – for the victims and their loved ones, not for me. This is their tragedy, not mine.


I know that not only are we mourning the loss of lives that day, but also a sense of entitlement (that we weren’t really entitled to). But instead of learning and growing stronger from that, the US had a temper tantrum, stomping around the globe to “make them pay”. In the process many, many…many more people (mostly brown people) lost their lives as well. Did it work? Are we really safer? Do we feel better? It doesn’t look like it from here.


There were a lot of heroes that day, and there were amazing acts of compassion and kindness. But where are we now? That sense of our common humanity was the final victim of the terrorists. I think it is the cruelest lesson they left us with. This country has become fearful and yes, mean. I am very afraid for this country. But not because of some perceived outside threat. We have seen the enemy and the enemy is us.It is time to learn a new lesson, but are we too far gone? I hope not –

Doctor, my eyes...Tell me what you see...I hear their cries...Just say if it's too late for me

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Quaker Oats (no, not oatmeal!)

Posted on September 3, 2011 at 10:00 AM

I believe in prophecy.

Some folks see things not everybody can see.

And,once in a while, they pass the secret along to you and me.


The issue of faith has been prominent this week. A group of Atheists and Agnostics put up a billboard near me that sparked a lot of discussion. It suggested that one could be a good person and live a good life without believing in God.  It is a pretty radical statement in this area. I have also been confronted several times with statements aligning Christianity with the instruction to “Stand with Israel”.


And as the Quaker faith is a “peculiar” faith, a number of people have asked me “What exactly, do Quakers believe?” Anyone that has ever asked, or attempted to answer that question knows, there is no one straight-line answer. I do my best, explain it is not so much about what we believe, but it is about who we are and what we do. However, one of the beautiful (and hard) things about the Quaker faith is that no one person can define it for other Quakers.


And I believe in miracles.

Something sacred burning in every bush and tree.

We can all learn to sing the songs the angels sing.

Yeah, I believe in God, and God ain't me.


There is nothing about faith that speaks of rationality and logic. It is not linear, or black and white. Yet, at the same time it makes so much sense. I remember in high school Earth Science class, my instructor was an atheist. One day he asked me “How can you know what you know, and still believe in God?” My answer was “How can you know what you know, and NOT believe in God?”

I've traveled around the world,

Stood on mighty mountains and gazed across the wilderness.

Never seen a line in the sand or a diamond in the dust.


 I had a conversation once in Nazareth with someone that was wrestling with their own faith. He spoke about the faith of the worshippers there (we were at the Church of the Annunciation) as superstition. I don’t believe he was referring to their belief in God in general, but of the ritualistic way of expressing their faith (yes, there was a holy water drinking fountain). Although I don’t believe what they believe, I can see how in their (very scary) world, faith in those rituals can be comforting.T he problem with faith as I see it, is that too many people use it as a weapon. Somehow my faith (or lack, of in their minds) is a personal assault which they must confront.


And as our fate unfurls.
Every day that passes I'm sure about a little bit less.
Even my money keeps telling me it's God I need to trust.

And I believe in God, but God ain't us.


I saw the same when I visited the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem and the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. The rituals themselves are different, but yet very similar. And they all serve the same purpose - to create a sense of connection with God. Quakers don’t (in general) put much stock in rituals, though I have often said that I think sometimes Quakers can be quite ritualistic in their “non-ritualism”.


God,in my little understanding, don't care what name I call.

Whether or not I believe doesn't matter at all.


A Jewish friend once said to me “I am not concerned about saving the State of Israel. I am concerned about saving Judaism.” She is certain (and I agree) that the politics of Zionism are corrupting the faith. But, it is not so different in Christianity and in Islam. It is very sad to me that something as profoundly personal as faith is so skillfully used to push political agendas. When we feel threatened, we so easily forget that the essence of faith is not to support a particular politics, but to look outside ourselves and create community in this world we have been given.


I receive the blessings.
That every day on Earth's another chance to get it right.

Let this little light of mine shine and rage against the night.


Faith, however, is a political statement. Regardless of what one believes about the inerrancy of the Bible, you have to be struck by the fact that Jesus was a revolutionary whose only weapon was love. “Love your neighbor” – it doesn’t get much simpler, or harder than that. (Power to the People!)


Just another lesson
Maybe someone's watching and wondering what I got.
Maybe this is why I'm here on Earth, and maybe not.

But I believe in God, and God is God.


['God is God' by Steve Earle, is on his recent release 'I'll never get out of this world alive"]

That which is hidden

Posted on August 20, 2011 at 12:15 AM

 Each one of us has something to do here that can be done by no one else. If someone else could fulfill your destiny, then they would be in your place, and you would not be here. It is in the depths of your life that you will discover the invisible necessity that has brought you here. When you begin to decipher this, your gift and giftedness come alive. Your heart quickens and the urgency of living rekindles your creativity. ~ Anam Cara, John O'Donahue

I have spoken and written many times about my belief that each one of us has a special concern laid on our hearts. Recently I had the honor of speaking to several young people about that belief and how I am following my path. I encouraged them to find that thing that calls them forward into joy. It was good to be reminded of that as my preparations to leave in September feel very scattered amongst everything else I have to do before then.

Several friends have read and loved Ekhart Tolle's books. I have both "A New Earth" and "The Power of Now". The problem is I have never been able to read very far in either book. (I have also never gotten past the first chapter in the first book of Harry Potter  (another series of books I feel that I am supposed to like). Tolle comes across to me as completely arrogant and detached from his own humanity. The tag line for his official (for fee) website is "Experience his teachings and find inner peace". I could be wrong, like I said I have not read much of either book. John O'Donahue, on the other hand writes with a warmth and generosity of spirit that draws me in and on to the next page. I am rereading his book Anam Cara which I actually recommended last week to the professor teaching my spirituality in counseling section of residency.

I often think the inner world is like a landscape. Here in our limestone landscape there are endless surprises. It is lovely to be on top of a mountain and to discover a spring well gushing from beneath the heavy rocks. Such a well has a long biography of darkness and silence. - J.O'D.

This week I am camping in northern Michigan finishing up my end of quarter projects. I understand why writers choose special places to write. The opportunity to embrace solitude and to concentrate on just one or two things is wonderful. Even though all of the other shoulds are waiting to ambush me when I get home, and the fact that leaving for Palestine is just over a month away has me near panic (sooo much to do!), sitting here watching the ripples on the lake helps to navigate that inner landscape that O'Donahue describes.

It reminds me of the village lights in Galilee that I am so fond of. If you focus on each light it seems individual and separate, but if you widen your view you can see a beautiful puddle of light. And then if you widen your view even farther you can see how each light puddle is connected to the next with a river of light. In life it is not so different. We can choose to see the events of our lives as unconnected bits of our history, or we can widen our view to see the connectedness that creates the landscape of our soul.

There is such an intimate connection between the way we look at things and what we actually discover. If you can learn to look at yourself and your life in a gentle, creative and adventurous way, you will be eternally surprised at what you find. - J.O'D.

There have been a couple of comments made to me recently that knocked me back a little. Some people seem supportive at first and then something else starts to leak out. I could choose to look at my involvement with Israel/Palestine through their eyes, as a "one of event", disconnected from the rest of my life experiences. But, by standing on the shore of solitude, I can see how everything is coming together and preparing me for the next chapter.

I started out in my twenties thinking my life would unfold a certain way. Those expectations led me down one path which divided into another and yet another again. Somewhere along the way those experiences (and some wonderful friends) prepared me to say yes to Palestine. In figuring out how to move that passion to the next phase I find myself back in school. Now I am starting to see how these seemingly separate threads are coming together.

We are earthen vessels that hold the treasure. Yet, aspects of the treasure are darker and more dangerous than we allow ourselves to imagine.- J.O'D.

Of course, I have hopes for this trip and I know some of them will come to disappointment, and some things may take me to those dangerous inner spaces, however the light continues to get brighter and I am excited to see where it leads me.

Now, back to the practical - finishing a term paper and oh yeah, fundraising!

"life unfolds itself in mysteries ways." - Khalil Gibran


Keep the crazy in your back pocket!

Posted on August 12, 2011 at 8:00 PM

"We are all like the bright moon, we still have our darker side." — Khalil Gibran


This week, I am participating in the first required residency for the Masters in Mental Health Counseling through Walden University. This is actually my first quarter in the program and, once again, other people are telling me that I am brave. This kind of courage though comes easy; but if it comes easy, then is it courage at all?


The first advice my section advisor / professor gave our group was “keep the crazy in your back pocket”. She was stressing to us that at all times we are being evaluated by the entire staff (people were sent home after day one), and that although we all have “stuff” and, even if we are ‘Right’, this wasn’t the place to let it out. This week, however, I have seen plenty of crazy slipping out (the mental health field is referred to as the profession of the wounded…)


It has been tough – long and challenging days, plus lots of heat and humidity (we are in Orlando, Florida). All in all though, I have found a new confidence in the program itself, in my choice to be in the program and in my own skills! I have challenged myself to take risks, and I have been able to think more about what I really want to do and where I want to be at the end of the program. That is where the real courage will be needed…..


It is also challenging to not know what is going on in the world around me because we exist in an academic cocoon. Prior to leaving for Florida I saw that the protests across Israel were growing in number and intensity. I also heard a report that Netenyahu approved more settlement units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank to address the housing crisis that instigated the protests.


I did read that there was unease and controversy about the fact the protests did not include a call for an end to the occupation (certainly they could at least acknowledge the money spent on the settlement project could be better used in Israel proper). I share those concerns. I do not understand how there can be a struggle for social justice when it does not include the Palestinians - not even the 20% of Israel’s population that are Palestinian citizens of Israel. (At the same time there has been a move in the Knesset to remove Arabic as an official language in Israel.) Palestinians and everyone struggling for equal human rights for all in the ‘Land of Canaan’ feels the frustration.


These are tough times for all involved in the struggle. But they are also hopeful times. Weekly protests against the Wall in villages like Bil'in and Al-Walaja continue and following the return of 200 acres to the village of Bil'in last June, the Palestinian Hydrology Group plans to alleviate the poverty of 20 of Bil'in's poorest farmers by constructing water cisterns on the returned land and providing seed, fertilizer and seedlings.


The movement is maturing and finding its voice. It is being heard and accepted in more places. Even in the United States I hear more questioning of the current and ongoing policy toward Israel and Palestine. Along with hope however, is also concern. What will happen in September? Will the Palestinian Authority move forward with a call in the United Nations for Palestine to be accepted as a member state? What will happen in Israel and Palestine after?


Last week I wrote about the things I wanted to do and places I wanted to revisit when I return to Bethlehem in September. I referred to them as “fun”, meaning only that these were things that would happen outside of the official “job” I was there to do. I would add to that list my hope to see a new beginning for Israel and Palestine, but I have to wonder, will everyone remember to “keep the crazy in their back pocket”?