A terrible beauty
By Paul Hansen
After a week of profound experiences of occupation of a people, check points, human degradation, a formal liturgical moment was needed.
I had come to name my experience of the first week in Palestine: A Terrible Beauty. Terrible indeed but beautiful little signs of hope coming from the most unexpected places. A mother whose five sons knew Israel Military jails said her hope and faith was in God. We needed a liturgical moment. I had not expected her comment.
We found ourselves on Sunday celebrating the Feast of Christ the King at St. George the Martyr Anglican church at a liturgy led by the Bishop, Very Rev. Hosam Naoum. The Bishop is a Palestinian and an Israel citizen able to vote in elections. Most Palestinians are not able to vote in Israeli elections.
St. George the Martyr is the only local saint. He was born in Lod near Jaffa at the end of the Third century and is also the Patron Saint of England.
Bishop Hosam loves the Feast of Christ the King. He loves it more than Christmas or Easter. I found this very interesting and wanted to hear his reasons why. For him, although the notion of King may not be a title we like, it nevertheless draws together the life and meaning of Jesus the Christ. The entire meaning of the life of Jesus is gathered here into one. All truth, reality, life for Christians is drawn together in Jesus’ life death and resurrection. Jesus is the beginning and the end for Christians. Jesus is Lord of Lords, King of Kings. The Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end.
The reading of Jeremiah the prophet speaks of leadership in the community. Leadership so often takes advantage of the people led. The shepherd image of leadership that Jesus uses and is everywhere in this time in Palestine, speaks of shepherds who do not care for their sheep; some even eat them. Leadership so often takes advantage of the people. Leaders often care only for themselves and their welfare. Jesus the Good Shepherd shows a very different kind of leadership. Jesus taught us how to pour ourselves out for others. This teaching is best taught in the Beatitudes. Jesus brings all to himself as seen in the so-called Good Thief on the cross: “This day you will be with me in paradise.” The cross of Jesus is not the end of the story, but the result of a life lived into Resurrection.
After the liturgy, Bishop Hosam met us for a conversation. Anglicans care for the land of Palestine. They try to live within a community who cares for Justice and Peace. Christians are playing a large role in peace making in Palestine.
Hosam is the formal voice of the Anglican church dealing with five governments – Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Syria. He looks at his ministry as holistic and not denominational. He learned much from his experiences in South Africa. For him Kairos is a sign of Hope, the moment that breaks through. At the end of his conversation with us he noted something that I found quite interesting. He said do no remove biblical texts that you do not like. They force us to often rethink our take on matters in life especially moments that we do not like.
Before having a free afternoon to visit the Church of the Holy Sepluchre, the Wailing Wall and a walk about the Old City of Jerusalem, we made a visit to B’Tselem, human rights centre. This is an Israeli Research and Information Centre on Human Rights deeply concerned about the plight of Palestinians especially in the Israeli Military Courts. They document and create videos showing the terrible treatment of especially the young teenager for throwing stones as an example. The Israeli child does not receive the same treatment as the Palestinian. Yet, Israel claims to be a democracy. There is a 220 km Separation barrier around elements of the West Bank and greater Bethlehem. It was inspiring to see the courage and price that often these Israelis pay even from family and friends for naming the truth of the situation. This is another small sign of a beauty.
Blogs are so often very personal, filtered through the moment of one’s experience. Please hold this little reflection with all the others written by members of our delegation over the two week visit to Palestine.
I return to Canada and, as Christmas is approaching, want to have my own check point where I take a good hard look at our living out our values and attitudes towards life and others.