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Saturday, February 27

Reflection: You can see both suffering and resurrection in Bethlehem 

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” 

John 11:25 

Lent is a time of remembering Christ’s suffering and resurrection. You can see both suffering and resurrection in Bethlehem.

Over dinner, my friend, Karimeh, told me her story of fleeing Jerusalem during one of the intifadas. I asked her why she was not living in Jerusalem now. She said, “Because Israelis are living in my house.”

One of the wives of the Palestinian chefs who came to our church to prepare a Palestinian meal told me about her brother-in-law living in Jerusalem only a few miles away, and yet they are not allowed to drive their car through the checkpoint. They must walk and then take a taxi. The taxi driver charges them double or triple what he would charge an Israeli.

You cannot order books on Amazon to be sent to Dar al-Kalima College because Palestine is not recognized by the world. You must send books first to Jerusalem and it’s up to the Israelis to decide whether they will allow them into the college.

In the midst of this suffering, I saw hope in the community.

From the rubble, students from Dar al-Kalima College take broken glass they find in the streets and make light catchers. Because the unemployment rate for Palestinian men in Bethlehem is over 20 percent, the women make beautiful cross-stitched scarves to sell in the marketplace and use the money to support widowed women, meals together and Bible studies. Diyar Consortium is sponsoring the first-ever Palestinian women’s soccer team, and Palestinian music and dance are an integral part of each worship service at Christmas Lutheran church.

I experienced an undaunted spirit in the people I met. Sen-ior women fellowship together and look out for each other. Palestinian artists find ways to express their feelings through paint and collage. Palestinian chefs are proud of their culi-nary creations and travel far and wide to share their talents. Pastor Mitri Raheb is tireless in sharing his message of hope and reconciliation even in the face of death threats.

This ability to find hope and direction in the rubble is the mark of true discipleship. We in this country are not ruled by an occupying force, but we do face difficult situations every day. We can chose to dwell on them and allow our hearts to be darkened, or we can look to Jesus, the voice of hope and inspiration, and be light in a darkened world. All it takes is a Holy Spirit vision. Pastor Raheb says, “Our aim is that our people, who admire stars, will dare to look up and dream, to believe in goals to strive for, and develop a new sense of hope, community, beauty and faith.”

Lord, When I am in the dark, please help me to remember that You are the God of Hope. Amen. 

Catherine Soderberg 

 

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