Saturday, November 10, 2012

Daniel in the Lions' Den

As many of you know, I spent the last two weeks (Oct. 24 – Nov. 10) in the Holy Land, on a “witness tour” with Sabeel, an ecumenical organization that preaches “liberation theology” and practices what it preaches through education and grass-roots programs.  There are so many stories I could tell of the varied people and organizations in this land who are working for peace, but I promised to share a story that I call “Daniel in the Lions’ Den,” so I will start there.

Daniel was a young Jewish man (his yarmulke was a dead giveaway!), who approached our group when we were in Hebron, just outside the old city in a small “neutral” area, accessible to both Jews and “Arabs” (rare, especially in Hebron, I might add!).  He listened attentively as our Palestinian guide told us about a program to restore historic buildings in the Old City (that had been damaged or destroyed to expand a road to serve Jewish tourists to the historic temple).  Several in our group noticed him and spoke to him; we ended up inviting him to join us on a  short ride into the Hebron hills, where we were to visit a Bedouin village under demolition orders.

Initially he expressed fear about joining a “lions’ den” of some 25 Christian grandparents going into “enemy territory,” but apparently curiosity overcame fear and he and his bicycle boarded our bus.  We were all impressed by his good looks and soft-spoken demeanor, and were delighted when he took the microphone and proceeded to tell us about his own background.  (He was an Israeli Jew of Australian parentage, from Tel Aviv, on leave from Army duty because of an injury.) 

He also shared his beliefs – many of which, we were surprised to hear, agreed with ours about the urgent need for peace in the Middle East.  He spoke of an Arab-Israeli “Australian Football” team that he had participated in, and of how that had given him the opportunity to meet Palestinians as equals and form friendships with them.

Of course, there were areas of disagreement as well and our Palestinian guide, Omar, debated him on several issues.  When we dropped him off at a nearby settlement, many of us where hopeful that Daniel had heard and seen some things that would open his eyes as to the “on the ground” reality of the land he occupied.

Later, questions were raised by some group members.  Was Daniel a “plant” by the Israeli army to “infiltrate” us with the “truth” as seen through their eyes?  Did the football team he mentioned even exist?  (A later Google search confirmed that it did.)  Or was he just a young adult, searching for his own truths?  We’ll never know – but we’ll also never forget that afternoon.  And we all prayed that Daniel, and others like him, will continue his search for the truth?

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