Despite uncommonly cold temperatures that penetrate to the bones in these stone buildings, Bethlehem’s winter has been replete with celebrations: Christmas (December 25th for the Roman and Western Churches, according to the Gregorian calendar; January 6/7th for the Greek, Oriental and Armenian Orthodox Churches, according to the Julian calendar), Epiphany, the Baptism of our Lord and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Now we can look forward to the spring and its commemorations: Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter.
Those are special times here. Besides the inspiration, joy and renewal they infuse in the life of the Churches and Palestinian Christians, many Christian pilgrim groups and church delegations from around the globe come and share in new reflection on the meaning of these festivals for our common faith. New depths are discovered in the familiar stories of the Scriptures; and new dimensions of the unity and diversity of the Body of Christ are recognized.
This spring, as we look toward a renewed term of service in the Holy Land, we will take time (three months) for mission interpretation, in the United States (and possibly Canada). We anticipate combining the various requirements of our appointing denominations together with attending to some periodic self-maintenance (routine health check-ups, connecting with family, etc.). Already, we realize this will be a very busy and demanding time, but hope it will also be a good opportunity to re-charge our batteries. Such a restorative opportunity is needed from time to time to relieve the stresses of living conditions arising from a conflicted and sometimes chaotic situation…
Despite such stresses God’s life-giving and life-renewing Spirit revives our souls. We cannot fail to give thanks for the faithfulness of God’s people amid their struggles here, the steadfastness and resiliency of peacemakers who “refuse to be enemies,” the beauty, giftedness and joy of children, and the strong bonds of families – these continue to inspire us. We can also count blessings others might take for granted – the reliable work of various service providers: garbage collectors and street sweepers who, day or night, clean up thoughtlessly strewn trash, propane gas distributors, drinking water delivery drivers, farmers who bring their fresh fruits and vegetables every day to the local market, a bread bakery only a 30-second walk from our apartment building, nearby small grocery stores that stock almost everything we need, and even a weekly fair-trade market set-up by a Palestinian non-profit organization “Adl” (meaning, “fairness;” or “justice”). Like many of our neighbors, we “refuse to be defeated” by all that could drive one to despair or depression.
It is a struggle to refuse to be defeated when one hears or views news of a flurry of bigoted executive orders issued by the new U. S. President, or of the bulldozing ahead with more and more discriminatory legislation by the current Israeli government (see https://www.adalah.org/en/content/view/7771, and the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post article at http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Ministers-prepare-to-vote-on-academic-boycott-bill-480587). A quote from a recent article by a human rights activist is sobering; it reads: “much of the world now sees that there was never a ‘two-state solution’ to a colonial - anticolonial struggle.” The hope for a peaceful end to the chronic Israeli-Palestinian conflict grows progressively dim. Yet, refusing to be defeated is the firm stance of those who believe in and work peacefully for a just future. Professor Mazin Qumsieh, author of this article, concludes:
Our job is to stay vigilant and respond to the bad news (like
Netanyahu's visit to Washington to push for more wars for Israel). But
another and perhaps more important endeavor is to build a new society based
on RESPECT (for ourselves, for others, and for the environment). In
other words, work for the future by challenging those who want to
destroy it, and by actually doing positive things for achieving sustainability,
peace and justice.
We pray for Israel and for Palestine – and for all who have resolved to pursue the paths of a just peace, wisely and courageously, here and elsewhere, that they may not resign themselves to defeat. And we extend our deep gratitude to all those who pray with us and for us, and to all who contribute to the Churches that support us and many others in God’s mission.
Victor and Sara Makari serve with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with the Diyar Consortium of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Their appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.