Saturday, 4 August 2007

The other side

I wasn't entirely sure if going on a Church holiday within 12hours of getting back from the conference was a good idea. It certainly didn't seem like it when I was saying goodbye to those in the team who were heading off to Galilee once the conference was over. But, now that I'm actually home properly, it seems like it was a good plan - for a variety of reasons.

Those that know me know that I have a tendancy to talk, ad nauseum, about any topic that's caught my attention. Also, to quote my year 3 primary school teacher "Elizabeth is not always aware that she has lost the attention of her audience". So actually having a captive audience of 500 people who I could talk to in rotation was a good thing. I pity the people who sat with me at meals on the first couple of days, because I was still rather raw and probably came across as a bit of a nutter! But having the space to worship, pray and reflect was really good - I hadn't realised how much I would need to process.

Two women had returned from Israel just the day before me, and I was naturally keen to catch up with them and share experiences. They'd been studying at an intensive Biblical Hebrew camp - at a kibbutz outside Jerusalem. So they were officially "on the other side". But what was interesting was that they felt that they were only seeing half the story. They were there for 6 weeks, and although the went into the city, that was as far as their experience of Arab culture got. Also, many of the others studying with them were American, mostly seminarians and Christian zionists. Hearing the zionist views made them feel uncomfortable. In Britain, we rarely come into contact with zionists - unless you happen to move in those circles. Our press is relatively unbiased (at least compared to the US press) and certainly left-wing papers like the Guardian and Independent promote the Palestinian cause regularly.

Other positive things included talking to people within the leadership of the church about some of my experiences and having a chat with some friends who make documentary films who are already keen on making one in Palestine. It's just so difficult knowing what things to say when, and how much to share. The last thing I want to do is lose my audience before I've had a chance to make a difference!

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