Massachusetts Conference Pastor visits Israel/Palestine
The Rev. Branwen L. Cook, pastor at Roslindale Congregational Church, in Roslindale, MA of the UCC’s Massachusetts Conference, visited Israel/Palestine in October 2010. The following two stories are her accounts of the trip and what they experienced.
Part 1: “U.S. Interfaith Outreach to Burned Mosque in Beit Fajjar“
The village of Beit Fajjar lies a few miles south of Bethlehem, nestled into the hilly, rugged beauty of the West Bank – a part of the area that was designated in 1948 to remain as a future state for Palestinians, many of whom have lived there for countless generations. In the small hours before dawn on October 4, 2010, the mosque in Beit Fajjar was attacked. Under cover of darkness, according to a report in the Christian Science Monitor (10/4/10), a group broke into the mosque -– apparently from one of the Israeli settlements nearby which have been built on illegal areas belonging to Palestinians. According to the report, these settlers were apprehended by Israeli Defense Forces, but instead of arresting the culprits, they were chased away….
When I heard about these events, I was in the final stages of preparation for a two-week pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a small delegation seeking to learn more about the situation and to bring a message of peace and reconciliation. We were five women from Boston: two Congregational United Church of Christ pastors, two Episcopal laywomen, and one Jewish woman who calls herself secular but spiritual.
Part 2: “Birds of Paradise: A Journey to Hebron”
We arrived in the offices of a new magazine named “Birds of Paradise” – loosely translated from the Arabic. It was mid-morning on a beautiful October day. Our group was small: all from the Boston area we were two United Church of Christ ministers, two Episcopalian lay women, and one Jewish woman. Our guide, who creates trips such as this two-week-intensive education tour, is an American Presbyterian who has devoted the greater part of the past dozen years to living in the West Bank. She knows people, has some facility in Arabic, and knows the culture. This is a great advantage for the traveler. Instead of the typical pre-packaged, superficial tourist experience, In His Steps: Pathways of Peace provided us with a deeper experience of the complexities of Palestinian and Israeli realities. On this particular day we were visiting Hebron. We had been driven there from our hotel in Bethlehem. The journey took no more than a half hour and again I found myself surprised by the smallness of the West Bank.