Our CTS study group visited with the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem yesterday and heard a powerful presentation on interfaith peacebuilding. Peace - despite all the evidence - can be a reality in Israel - Palestine.
Leaving Bethlehem, our bus ran into a cloud of tear gas. We didn't know what precipitated the use of the gas until this morning when we learned a 21-year old Palestinian was killed in a clash with Israeli police close to where we had been meeting. A protest against the occupation of Palestine had erupted and the man killed is said to have been throwing rocks. How that could become a capital offense is a question I cannot answer.
Most of yesterday and a good bit of today was again spent visiting different ruins (we heard an interesting talk about the politics of archeology in this area) and had the chance to swim in the Dead Sea today. Floating in the water was odd. Learning about the environmental dangers facing the Dead Sea, along with other issues concerning the environment and water rights, was dishearting. A visit and dinner tonight to The Auja Eco-Center, located in a small Palestinian village outside of Jerusalem, offered a lot of insight into the problems faced by the region - problems that aren't just related to the environment but also human rights as many Palestinians are denied access to water.
Like the visit to the Holy Land Trust, however, the visit to the Auja Eco-Center offered hope for people of different faith traditions and nationalities coming together to solve common problems and search for peace.
Participants on the trip have been invited to offer morning reflections. My turn came today and I spoke from the top of Masada. What I focused on was a common theme we've heard from Jewish, Christian and Muslim peace activists: the power of hope.
In the background, you can hear Israeli fighter jets flying overhead.