On Drinking Tea

On Drinking Tea

In the last month I have experienced the work of partners in Jordan and in Israel-Palestine. In Jordan, a Global Ministries’ partner focuses on the growing refugee crisis, whereas the context in Israel/Palestine is of a struggle that is not 3 years old, but 47.


It cannot be denied that the entire Middle East is suffering from tension and stress related to the surrounding turmoil.  Upon entering Palestine, it was clear that the population is reeling from the tragic war on Gaza that was waged this summer.  It is the general opinion there that this summer’s violence was not just a continuation of an ever-expanding policy of aggression but that it will serve, hopefully, as a wake-up call for the international community. 

Upon entering a complicated, nuanced and aging conflict zone, it can be tempting to look for opportunities to be pragmatic and to take initiative, especially because people have been ignored and dismissed for far too long. I realize, though, that priority must initially be given to listening and understanding: compassion without wisdom is folly.

In Israel/Palestine, Global Ministries’ engages with many partners, among them Jean Zaru, presiding clerk of the Ramallah Friends Meeting (Quakers), and B’Tselem, the prominent Israeli human rights organization. The two complement each other: Jean teaches about the need to deconstruct structures of inequality from her deep wisdom, while B’Tselem exposes the injustices of the Occupation through data and footage, advocacy and accountability.  Jean and the Ramallah Friends Meeting (Quakers) nurture one’s spiritual journey while B’Tselem acts to combat human rights violations in a methodical way. It is this type of complementary partnership that is necessary in order to build a just and sturdy society.

Despite one being eager to chip in and chip away at the wall separating these two societies, I have been often reminded that there exists both a time for acting and a time for listening.

Last week at Ramallah Friends Meeting, Jean brought me a cup of mint tea. She encouraged, in the whirlwind of to-do lists and current events, a pause to sip this traditional tea and talk. What followed was a meaningful discussion about partnership in the Palestinian context. She shared that, more often than not, partnership is best represented by relationships and equality, two tenants that have been foundational to Global Ministries over the years.  Jean expressed her deep appreciation for the relationship she has had with UCC and DOC staff and members over the years and credited this partnership with enabling her to continue her life’s work of nonviolence for so many years. It is clear to me that we, as Global Ministries, are the true beneficiaries as so many of us have learned and grown in our faith through the witness that Jean bears to the Biblical teachings which we strive to uphold.

I am humbled to witness this relationship, to have been welcomed warmly into a long-standing friendship between three churches and two countries. Slow as I may be to change my habits, I am learning through partnership to embrace the invitation to join Jean for a cup of tea.