Friday, 20 July 2007

Contemporary Way of the Cross

Today's activities were structured around the Contemporary Way of the Cross - a Sabeel liturgy that combines the traditional stations of the cross with the reality of the situation in Palestine.

13th Station: The Loss of Jerusalem
"Jerusalem is a place that holds so much importance for so many, yet it has become a battleground. Nobody wants to see the destruction of this holy place, and the situation now is the cause of much grief and anxiety for those who live there, and for all those around the world who consider it to be such a special place. Just as Mary and the disciples grieved over the death of Jesus, so people today grieve at the deep sickness of the place that Jesus called home. One of the many churches in Jerusalem is called Dominus Flevit in memory of the tears that Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Through the window of the church there is a spectacular view of the city that is so much in need of healing. We grieve as Jesus grieved, and we pray for the peace and tranquility of Jerusalem: the city that must be shared."

Stood on the Mt. of Olives, we shared in the 13th Station whilst looking out at the city of Jerusalem stretched out before us. Travelling on to 'Anata (north of the city) we passed through a checkpoint without problems and saw the contrasting communities of Israeli settlers and Palestinians on opposite sides of the coach.

12th Station: The Wall
"Jesus died on the cross, surrendered to the overwhelming power of his captors, seemingly abandoned by God. Likewise the building of the Wall overpowers the Palestinians in the West Bank, feeling abandoned and forgotten by the international community. The separation barrier consists of either an eight metre high concrete wall or, in rural areas, an electronic fence and traverses the west side of the West Bank. The Wall does not follow the Green Line, the internationally recognised, though unofficial, border between the West Bank and Israel. In most places it runs several kilometres inside Occupied Territory, separating Palestinians from crucial aquifiers and fertile land. How long can they continue to fight for breath within its suffocating grip?"
'Anata has been irrevocably changed by the building of the wall. For two hours we stood in the diminishing shade of the boys' school, listening to representatives of Combatants for Peace talk about how the community has been affected. We met Abu Arab, whose 10yr old daughter was shot dead by an Israeli soldier as she bought sweets. He now focuses his grief in trying to educate others to fight (non-violently) for peace.

Abu Ali spoke to us for a long time about his decision to return to Palestine, having lived most of his life in the US. With his long beard it seemed as though he'd been in Palestine forever! He was once detained without charge for 37 days, but unlike many of his Palestinian friends, he was able to gain release thanks to the US consul. His closing words contain an important truth: "when each [Israeli/Arab] bleed, their blood is red and there is no difference". He's not against the Jews or Israelis, but opposed to the state and the regime that allows such injustice.

Etamar is an Israeli member of Combatants for Peace, who seeks to educate Jews who have served in the army about the situation and why peace is so important. It was important for us to meet people like him, to remind us that there is no use in viewing the conflict as Israeli vs. Arab - it's not clear cut.

5th Station: Stress & Humiliation
"The cross is a lonely burden to bear. It cannot be shared - it is suffered alone. Simon, though, carries the weight for a few steps along the way. Many come from round the world to help carry the burden of the Palestinians. As they bear witness to the suffering of this community and share their stories, their presence removes the isolation of our misery and makes it their as well. As Palestinians carry their cross, many people watch and offer them what they have. Those in power offer greater accusations and condemnations, including mockery and ridicule. Yes, there are the chief priests, the Herods, the Pilates, and the soldiers. But there are also the Simons of Cyrene who help ease the carrying of the load, the men and women who offer thier tears of solidarity. There are also those who get converted on the road. They witness the grave injustice and take a stand for what is right. Such shall we pray to become."

At the Sabeel offices, we listened to the story of Cedar Dualysis, who became a refugee from Jaffa in 1948. All her adult life has been lived under the occupation. She spoke not just of her own life, but of Sabeels - how the need for a spiritual home within modern theology was met and the subsequent development of Palestinian Liberation Theology. Part of the problem for Palestinians is that the Old Testament centres around the Israelites and their promised land. Whilst other strands of liberation theology put the Exodus at their centre, this is impossible for Palestinians. But there are stories that fit: David and Goliath can be read as Goliath being the state of Israel and David being the Palestinian children fighting against it. Her talk ended with a sobering statement, that at first, she hoped for reconciliation in her lifetime, then for her children. Now she accepts she may not see it before she dies, but hopes that it will happen in her grandchildren's lifetime.

1st Station: The Nakba of 1948
"Just as Jesus was condemned to die, so the actions of 1948 passed a death sentence on more than 400 historic Palestinian villages that were completely destroyed across the country. We remember that pain of losing community, family networks and a sense of place. We open our eyes to the initial devestation caused by the founding of the state of Israel that has never received acknowledgement, and we hold these people and their memories in our thoughts."

Lifta was one of these villages. Unlike many others, the shells of buildings still remain on a hillside outside Jerusalem. Located near a natural spring, with pools of water, it seemed like an idyllic location. Beautiful buildings have been left to rot. One that had been home to the village sheriff still had evidence of ornate tiled floors. Now those that still have roofs (few of them) are home to squatters. In a building that housed an olive press, our guide showed us a hole in the roof that had been the size of a dinner plate just 2 weeks earlier. Now it's easily ten times that. Our guide had fled in 1948, and his emotion and desire to return to this place was increasingly obvious with each building he led us to.

No comments: