I leave Wednesday on my fourth trip to Israel/Palestine ... with considerable excitement and lots of expectations. My itinerary this time is entirely my own, but good friends and kind people on both sides have welcomed me for visits. My goals for this trip are several. One is to ask the same question of many people ... "What contributes to your hopefulness for a just peace and what lessens it?" To the best of our ability, we obviously need to contribute to the former and cut back on the latter!
Another goal is to visit and talk with people and groups contributing to justice, reconciliation and peace. Among those are our two good friends, Estephan and Laurie Salameh (and now baby Luca as well!) who are founders of the Seraj Library Project. With E & L I will visit Seraj's two children's libraries in Jifna and Al-Itihhad and shoot enough stills and videos to make a short DVD for Seraj when I get home. On behalf of the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (AFEDJ), I'll visit and learn more about a couple diocesan institutions in Jerusalem and Ramallah. And for sheer fun, I'll get up to Jenin where the Palestinian Fair Trade Association recently built a modern olive oil press, the source of the wonderful olive oil we sell in Chicago. I go on this trip armed with a Nikon D90, a very compact little camcorder and a voice recorder for times when videos aren't welcome. I'm currently on a crash course to master enough of the technology to be able, when I return, to create useful tools for sharing what I've learned.
Putting all of this in theological terms, I'm looking for "signs of the resurrection", an appropriate Lenten discipline, I think. My theology of resurrection is pretty humble; it amounts to signs of hope where there seems little to justify it, signs of love where it seems in short supply, signs of justice and peace where injustice and violence dominate. On these journeys, the courage and fidelity of so many Israelis and Palestinians always strengthen my own.
There are many more plans, but they will unfold as I travel. Wherever and whenever possible, I will post regular updates and include some pictures of the wonderful people and places I visit. Thanks for joining me along the way. Shalom, Salaam, Peace. Cotton