Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Hope

As I wrap up my time here in the Holy Land and we pass the baton on to the next team of Ecumenical Accompaniers, I have been looking to find the hope in what seems to be a hopeless situation. I have found that hope embedded in many amazing people I have meet here. I have introduced many of them to you over the course of the last three months. I have met many wonderful people here and made many new friends that will live in my heart for the rest of my life. I have also had the opportunity to experiences things that I never dreamed I would do. This past week’s celebrations of both the Christian Holy Week and the Jewish Passover with some of those new friends are among the highlights of my time here.
A week ago Sunday I joined many thousands of people from around the world in a procession down the Mt of Olives with palms waving to commemorate the triumphant arrival of Jesus in this city. The mood would soon change from joyous to somber as this outsider was challenged by Jerusalem’s establishment but like the first Palm Sunday this day was festive and joyous.
This year in a very unusual occurrence the Jewish Passover landed on the Thursday of the Holy Week, the day Christian tradition marks as the day of the last supper which was believed to be in celebration of the Passover. Our team was invited to join our friends Gila and Judy at their beach home in Nahariya on the Mediterranean coast near the border with Lebanon for two days to celebrate the beginning of the Passover which starts with the Seder meal. I introduced you to Gila in the Article titled Woman in Black. Over twenty years ago she and some of her friends began standing on a street corner dressed in black holding protest signs opposing the occupation of the Palestinian people. They are still there every Friday. We learned a great deal about this Jewish tradition which commemorates the freedom of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Most importantly we deepened our friendship with some really great people.
We arrived back in Jerusalem on Thursday to resume the Christian Holy Week activities with the a somber evening service in the heart of the Old City followed by a procession to the Garden of Gethsemane and a candle light vigil at the Russian Orthodox Monastery there. At 6 am Friday morning we, and about a hundred other friends, met at the beginning of the Via Dolarosa near the Lion Gate into the Old City, which is the gate closest to the Garden of Gethsemane. From there we processed through the Stations of the Cross with readings from the bible at each station and prayers for God’s intercession into our lives and specifically the conflict in the Holy Land. Like those who witnessed the death of Jesus in this place all those years ago, we could not help but end our time of sharing Friday morning with little hope. I can only guess that the Jews who were enslaved in Egypt for generations were also hopeless prior to the return of Moses and the events that led to their freedom.
Today, many express hopelessness related to the conflict between Israeli’s and Palestinians. It does seem bleak. I have felt the bleakness building during my time here but as I stated in my first letter in this Finding Hope series I have chosen to be in the camp that is looking for a solution and celebrate other who are doing the same. Like the first Easter, and the first Passover, it is darkest before the dawn. While it is dark right now I see glimmers of hope in many places and in many people who are committed to a just solution to the conflict. Both the Easter and Passover celebrations are rooted in hope. In the case of the Jewish people that hope is for a better life in the Promised Land. In the Christian tradition our hope is for our ultimate salvation in the risen Lord.
Early Sunday morning we were gathered again in the dark with our many new friends just a few steps from our temporary home here on the Mount of Olives to greet the new day and celebrate the risen Lord. Like the women on the lonely walk to the tomb before dawn we arrive discouraged. As I watched the sun rise over the Jordan Valley as it has done every day since that fateful day when the tomb was found to be empty and the scripture fulfilled, I could not help have my hope renewed. The God of the three Abrahamic faiths calls us, not only to be hopeful, but to work toward reconciliation and build respect for the other. One of the greatest parts of this Easter season for me was to join those of other faiths in sharing their faith traditions and learning about them. We are much stronger as a society by having the diversity that these traditions embody. The world would be entirely too boring if we were all the same. I am thankful for the diversity of the friends I have met here who have come together to work toward a just peace. In all of them, and the risen Lord I find Hope.

60 Minutes - Is Peace Out of Reach?