One of the projects I’ve been working on while I’m home is going through old pictures. I’ve been archiving my favorites on flickr. This afternoon, I started going through my Israel pics. I spent a semester studying in Jerusalem in the spring of 2000, and it shook me to my core in many ways…
I would spend Wednesday afternoons volunteering at an orphanage in Bethlehem. My time was spent mostly playing with the kids, providing them with a bit of interaction and love, cleaning them up, taking them outside, playing on the playground… Looking back, it was one of my favorite things about my time there.
Yet even though I spent every week there, I didn’t ask questions. I never found out what had happened to their parents – how many of them were from the refugee camps, how many had parents that were killed, how many were from families that were just too poor to care for them… I wish I had.
One of the most special things about our time there was the opportunity to build relationships. From the shopkeepers of the Old City (Jewish and Palestinian) who always had time to invite us in for tea and talk to the bumbling young American college students, to the Armenian photography store owner who became a dear friend (Armenain Cup, anyone?) We were invited into homes, and fed, questioned, listened to… My eyes were opened to issues I had never thought about. I saw things from different perspectives… It was uncomfortable and exciting all at the same time.
During our first week in Jerusalem, a bunch of us decided to walk from our school (Jerusalem University College, right outside the old city of Jerusalem) down to Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity. We left in the afternoon after classes were finished, and by the time we’d walked to Bethlehem, made it through security checkpoints, and seen the Church of the Nativity, it was dark.
A few of us sat outside the church in Manger Square on benches, waiting for the larger group inside to finish up. While we were there, I noticed a young Palestinian boy looking warily at us from a few feet away. His nose had a huge scab on it, and curiosity burned in his eyes. I don’t remember exactly what happened next – a smile, a shared candy, a silly face. Somehow, hilarity ensued. Wild antics and games of tag on the scaffolding set up in the square. Ninja fights. Joy.
I look back on that time, that night, with a bit of wonder. It is even more so now as I watch the news, and read about what is currently happening in Gaza, and why it is likely to continue for some time. I’m sickened, horrified, and feel so impotent. It makes me angry while frustrating me to no end. The senselessness…
And as I think about it, I wonder what happened to these boys in Bethlehem… Are they alive? Were they caught up in the second intifada? Are they now trying to go about their lives? Could they be in Gaza for some reason?
And as I wonder, it does come back to us… to me… What am I going to do about the brokenness, pain, suffering, and evil that are going in our world, all around us, every day? What is my response?