Friday, 18 September 2009

The Pilgrimage and Rosh Hashanah

Alison a candidate for the Presbyteral ministry in the Methodist Church at Queens recently went to Palestine with the Amos Trust as part of her Independant Study Module, here is a short reflection on the experience that she kindly wrote for this blog (pictures to follow) I have also added a challenge from Jewish Voices for Peace at this time of Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish new year.

Sitting on the steps of the main stand at Cheltenham Racecourse, overlooking the Cotswold Hills, listening to Sami Awad (Director of The Holy Land Trust[1]) speak at the Greenbelt Festival this August Bank Holiday weekend, I was transported back in time to three months previously when I had sat in a room in Bethlehem, in the West Bank listening to Sami speak about non-violence.

Under occupation, Palestinians face discrimination, humiliation and injustice on a daily basis[2]. Since the Separation Wall was built in 2002, life has become increasingly difficult, with restrictions on movement, trade, health care and education, to the point where high unemployment, the collapse of tourism, limited access to water, to their families and their agricultural land and also house demolitions is now making life intolerable for many people. “It is like living in a big jail…we are dying a slow death here in Bethlehem,” said one Palestinian.

Yet amongst the suffering, there are seeds of hope. There are people, both Israelis and Palestinians, who choose to walk the way of non-violent resistance, to make a difference in their communities, working for justice, peace and reconciliation. For students beginning education in non-violence, “the first lesson they have to learn is not to come with their guns!”

“To exist is to resist” is the slogan written on the nine metre high wall and however hard Israel tries to create an apartheid system with Palestinian enclaves and illegal Israelis settlements, many hold fast to the hope of a future where all are equally recognised and valued as human beings.

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land is an opportunity to visit the sacred sites of our faith traditions, but do not leave without listening to the stories of a people who are the ‘living stones’ in the Holy Land.[3] Pilgrimage and story are entwined like the threads of a cord that strengthen each other in their coming together, sharing time and place. As pilgrims we journey along that spiralling route, where story speaks and the way calls the pilgrim forwards towards revolution.
We become witnesses to the lives of a suffering, yet incredibly hopeful people, in the face of persecution. “Out of a disaster comes one hundred opportunities”, says a young Palestinian woman living in Bethlehem, committed to working with women and young adults, encouraging them in positive thinking and non-violent resistance.

As I journeyed home, I realised that I will always hold these people and this land as part of my story, now more than I ever did before – so how can I make a difference?[4]

[1] The Holy Land Trust: Greenbelt Festival adopts “Just Peace” Campaign for the Holy Land Aug 2009
[2] The Arab Association for Human Rights
[3] Amos Trust Trip to Palestine/Israel May 2010
[4] Greenbelt Worship Booklet: Take an Olive seed – Resources Aug 2009-09-16

Meanwhile Jewish Voices for Peace write:

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins on Friday night. It is the start of a ten day period of reflection ending on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when we contemplate the year that has passed, and make commitments for the year to come.

We at Jewish Voice for Peace are using these ten days to reflect on our work over the past year, and to re-commit ourselves to work even more effectively to bring about a world in which Israeli and Palestinian lives both matter, equally. Especially now, when Richard Goldstone's UN report has just been released highlighting war crimes commited during the assault on Gaza.

We invite you to take this moment to join us and Jews all around the world in this process of tshuvah, repenting for what has been, and turning toward a new hope and a new world.
What will you do to create a more just world for all people? What vision do you hope for in the coming year?

Please go to our website to share your own commitments and be inspired by others:

Tell the world what you hope for, and how you will commit to bringing into being the world of justice we all seek.

L'Shana Tova u'Metuka

A peaceful, just and sweet New Year - for everyone. May you and your loved ones be written in the book of life, and may our efforts to end the occupation and bring about justice for all bear fruit in the coming year.

In solidarity and hope,

Rebecca Vilkomerson
Jewish Voice for Peace

The alternative TV station 'Democracy Now!' carried this report on the Goldstone report featuring Norman Finkelstein

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