Mile Marker #40 – Tear Down the Walls
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” has been running through my mind ever since I returned from a 10day mission trip to #Israel-Palestine.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
(Mending Wall by Robert Frost)
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” has been running through my mind ever since I returned from a 10day mission trip to Israel-Palestine. There were 12 of us, UCC & DOC. Three ordained pastors and nine lay leaders guided by Rev. Nancy Fowler, Co-Chair of our joint Global Ministries Committee. The purpose of this mission trip was to provide an opportunity to be an eyewitness to the current situation in Israel-Palestine in order to gain understanding of the challenges to a just peace in the Holy Land.
Thinking about this pilgrimage trip to the Holy Land stirred up lots of good memories of my first experience in 2001; seeing the “holy sites”, meeting interesting people, gaining new insights and understandings about this special place that I have read and studied most of my life. The excitement of “walking where Jesus walked” and seeing the places recorded in our scriptures.
Therefore, in preparation for this return trip I made a conscious effort to open my mind and heart to see it anew from a different perspective; primarily through the eyes of the Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim, who also reside in this land. I was determined to look beyond the romantic “tourist” view and really see this place that has so much rich history and religious significance and at the same time harbors enormous conflict and struggle.
What most of us hear about or read in the papers is about Palestinian suicide bombers or rockets shot from the Gaza strip into Israel. News media is often quick to label all Palestinians as “terrorists” and continue primarily a “pro-Israel” perspective; after all Israel is a longtime ally of the US in the Middle East. Certainly as Christians we should condemn all acts of violence perpetrated on others.
While there is no justification for killing innocent people, after experiencing firsthand the deplorable conditions that most Palestinians live in I could understand, though not support, the retaliation. As one person put it, “even a gentle cat backed far enough into a corner will attack.” Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed”.
What many of us may not know, at least I did not fully realize, is that Palestinian refugees and internally displaced Palestinians (IDPs) represent the largest and longest-standing case of forced displacement in the world today. On the 60th anniversary of the Nakba (or ‘Catastrophe’), the destruction of Palestine and the massive displacement of Palestinians by Israel in 1948, two out of every five refugees in the world are Palestinian. At the beginning of 2007, there were approximately seven million Palestinian refugees and 450,000 internally displaced persons, representing 70% of the entire Palestinian population worldwide (9.8 million).
Palestinian refugees include those who became refugees following the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948 and the second Arab-Israeli war in 1967, as well as those who are neither 1948 nor 1967 refugees, but outside the area of former Palestine and unable or unwilling to return owing to a well-founded fear of persecution.
As we visited historic Palestinian communities that are thousands of years old, such as Bethlehem, Hebron, Nazareth, Nablus and others, what we experienced and witnessed was clear signs of occupation by Israeli military forces. We saw main roads closed or blocked to all Palestinians, segregated areas with military check points (even into temples and mosques) and barriers diverting Palestinians from entering their homes and businesses.
We read in recent news the continued plans for furthering settlement developments on Palestinian lands. Again we saw huge Israeli settlements in the heart of Palestinian territory where land had been confiscated, businesses closed, houses demolished, access to generations of family owned vineyards and olive groves denied and clean water rights cut-off.
We visited several refugee camps and witnessed the shocking and appalling conditions where Palestinian peoples have been forced to live. For their first 8 years in these camps they were subjected to living in tents until the UN helped provide temporary housing structures – now over 45 years old! These are walled in communities with little or no opportunity to leave. Cement walls that are 20 to 25 feet high, erected by Israel as “separation barriers” for security reasons. They are refugees in their own land. We also met with members of Bedouin tribes who are systematically being driven off the land and their way of life destroyed.
It became clear to us on this mission experience that what we were seeing was an apartheid state fueled by fear, hatred, racism, and discrimination clouded with religious entitlement and political control. What we also found were friendly, hospitable, and good people who endure and remain hopeful amidst injustice and persecution. This latter part left all of us angry and sad.
Throughout the trip we had the opportunity to also meet with various advocacy groups, both Palestinian and Israeli, who are working on human rights issues, humanitarian relief, religious as well as political education and peace efforts on behalf of the Palestinian people. These organizations offered us glimpses of hope amidst a dismal situation.
I am writing this in the wake of the recent MLK remembrance and the second inaugural ceremony of the first African American President. Both instances remind us all, of the long road to freedom, equality and justice. Dr. King challenged a nation in the midst of the civil rights movement that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Perhaps it is helpful to remember that Bethlehem was under cruel occupation in the days of Jesus, too. So when Jesus began his ministry he called upon the words of the prophet Isaiah to define his call: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.” (Luke 4:18-20)
As followers of Jesus may we too accept this as our call to ministry, tearing down the walls that divide us as human family, speak out about injustice and be advocates of peace and freedom.
Together in Ministry,
Don & Susan
If you would like to learn more and/or hear a presentation on the Palestinian experience contact:
Rev. Don Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Nancy Fowler at email@example.com
Rev. Mike Holland at firstname.lastname@example.org