Over the next few days/weeks, I hope to publish a series of post about my two weeks in Palestine. I am determined to share my authentic experience and hope that whoever reads this, reads it with an open mind and heart.
When I first found out about going to Palestine, I made sure to tell everyone I was going to Israel. I didn’t want all the extra questions and wanted to avoid all the “warnings.” The idea came when I ran across an internship program that offered Arabic classes and immersion in the Palestinian culture. I was instantly intrigued, but also a little apprehensive.
Growing up and having a southern, Christian education there are certain things you learn, and you learn them fast. During my middle school and high school years I was in and out of Christian schools, and my first memory of genuinely learning about Israel was in a series of books, the Zion Chronicles, that my teacher encouraged me to read. I was enamored and instantly enthralled with the history of Israel and how God brought it all together for them. In high school, we had Bible classes and Bible history that literally had me repenting every other minute because I was sure the rapture would happen anytime. These classes educated me on the superiority of Israel and the evilness of Palestine for making it hard for Israel to become a nation. For example, for a project, we were assigned to write about some of the “evil” (non-Christian) leaders in the world, and mine was over Yasser Arafat. I used texts from my school and literally wrote about how bad this man was, not knowing anything about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s important to note this teacher was utterly disgusted that there was a mosque a mile away from our Christian school.
I say all that to say, it wasn’t until a year and a half ago I decided to step out of my comfort zone of what I had known my whole life. I allowed myself to doubt, question, and explore the things that bothered me about my faith. (i.e., evangelicals obsession with Trump, lack of diversity in church leadership, the cliche verses, diverted gazes, awkward promises of prayer, and pity filled eyes that were directed at me when I tried to explain why I needed a break from serving in the church and church people, etc.) It has been a long, lonely, scary season of discovery and I realize that the most significant thing I have gained is that I am open to genuinely learning about things outside the safety of my Christian bubble.
I realized that I wanted to step away from mission trips (something I will expound on soon) and begin to unlearn the ideas and the preconceived notions that were weaved into my Christian education. SO all of that lead me to find a program in Palestine. While Harvey wrecked havoc on Houston, I locked myself in my room and researched for hours about an occupied land and an oppressed people that I had NO idea about. I read so much that I started to doubt half of the stuff I was reading, and that’s was when I knew I needed to go and see for myself.
My goal in going to Palestine was to learn. No agenda to try and convert people or go on some vast spiritual journey to the Holy Land. It was to go and see if the stories I read were real.
And man, was I in for the most heartbreaking reality check.