Last year, around this time I was stuck on the eighth hole at a golf course in Sunnyvale. With no movement from the group ahead I checked my phone to see if any new messages had come. Unfortunately one had, my assignment for GA, the Middle East committee, one of the most controversial committees at the General Assembly. Unfortunately the rest of my golf game went from fairly good into the toilet, as new thoughts and worries overtook me!
As a denomination, the Presbyterian Church does garner respect for our academic and thorough study of any issue that we get involved with. The sad thing that I feared, and learned to be true, was the power of emotion over facts. I have written a lot about this over the past year and my disappointments with the result of the General Assembly’s vote on the Middle East affairs. However, through the process I have gained a lot of knowledge about the conflict and really saw how groups often manipulate the message and use others to further agendas, which under the auspice of peace would create systems that were anything but peaceful.
When I said that last sentence to a friend their response was “so they blow each other up, that is not our problem.” I was taken aback, mostly because I could have seen myself in the past saying the same thing. The problem is that when injustice happens you can sit on the side and let others do the work, or you can get involved and hope to bring peace even if it does not look exactly like what you wanted.
Soon after I got back, Rabbi Melanie Aron reached out and said that she was working in a new group that was trying to advocate for a peaceful two-state solution but to advocate in a multi-faith, open way. So I, after a discussion with the Session, joined the leadership team for the interfaith Partners for Peace. Their goal is to build grassroots interfaith partnerships for peace among Israelis and Palestinians.
This trip marks one of the first missions of this group. You can follow my experiences with this mission next week on my Blog http://www.yatt.org/blog. Or you can visit the Facebook site for the trip HERE or the Website for the Trip HERE.
Why is a narrow strip of land so important to its inhabitants and to the members of the three great monotheistic religions? Interfaith Partners for Peace will journey to the Holy Land to experience and understand the land and its people as they do themselves. We will encounter the many narratives of Israelis and Palestinians, and we will hear from partners there who are working to build a more peaceful and secure future for both peoples.
We will start in Tel Aviv, then travel to Christian holy sites and areas where there have been fascinating archeological discoveries. We will travel on to Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Bethlehem. Along the way we will study the sacred texts that make the land so special. We will open our hearts and minds to one another and to the amazing people we will meet along the way—including Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious leaders, Israeli and Palestinian officials, journalists, scholars, civic leaders, and next-generation social entrepreneurs.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen