Three members of our group went to Ja’ba to participate in the last day of the olive harvest this morning. It was an enjoyable day for them, and the day brought a few raindrops in the afternoon. The group had to drive through a Settlement to get to the farmers olives. The farmer’s land is directly under threat since there are Settlements on both sides of the land. One of the local leaders had to sneak through the Security Wall to help lead the internationals. There is a Settlement School next to the farm that wasn’t in session. They still had Jewish music playing every time the class periods would have ended.
Those from California went to church at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Beit Jala. These are our Ecumenical partners in the Bethlehem region as PC (USA) and UCC congregations. We arranged with Pastor Jadallah Shihadeh to attend worship, and meet with members of the congregation about possibly creating a “sister church” relationship. Pastor Will was honored to be invited to help with an English reading of the Gospel and at the Communion Table. The service was mostly in Arabic, but some of the music was familiar. We met with the worshipping congregation (close in size to our own back home) over coffee and found UCC and school connections from previous visits. The church offered us a wonderful lunch, and then we met with Mohammed Fararja and the boys of the Abraham’s Herberge – where 14 Muslim and Christian boys live in a program at the church so they are in a secure environment and can attend school in the region. Another project of the church is Abraham’s Tent, which provides after school programming for 120 Muslim and Christian students in the village of Al Obediya nearby in Beit Sahour.
They have hosted peace events here with Combatants for Peace, Rabbi’s for Human Rights, and community wide candlelight vigils at the Separation fence with Jews, Muslims and Christians sharing messages of peace. They have taken students to Germany for exchange programs with others from the reg=ion. We started to dream about what we could do together, and were inspired by the Ulster Project of bringing Roman Catholic and Protestant teenagers together from Northern Ireland during the conflict. What if we could create camps for Christian, Muslim, and Jewish kids from Israel-Palestine in California as a way to build peace both in I-P and among the religiously diverse teens of Contra Costa County?