Reflections on a Recent Visit to Palestine and Israel
It is March 1, 2017. A breezy chill greets us as we step off the bus in the Israeli settlement next to Daher’s Vineyard, just southwest of Bethlehem, Palestine. We walk down a two-track through the expansive Judah mountains, framed by deep and terraced walls on each side of our path. Beautiful, and depressing.
We are in Bethlehem to visit those we refer to as “living stones” (from 1 Peter 2:5): Christians in this tortured “holy” land who are proactively standing up to poverty, brokenness, and injustice in holy ways. As we approach a compound on the top of a windy hill, the welcome sign reads, “We Refuse to Be Enemies.”
Daoud Nasser, ruddy and handsome, is part of the third generation of Nassers to farm this 100 acre property. His grandfather Daher purchased the land in 1916 and has registered deeds from the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate, and the country of Jordan to prove it. Despite being within the internationally recognized West Bank of the Palestinian Territories, in 1991 the Israeli occupying authority declared Daher’s Vineyard to be Israeli “state land.” Despite the Nassers’ clear claim to the land, they have spent more than $170,000 in legal fees to prevent their land from becoming part of the encroaching ring of illegal (according to international law) Israeli settlements.
“We refuse to be enemies,” Daoud says. He reflects on the three basic reactions of most of those in Palestine faced with great injustice: despairing, hating, and running away. “Our challenge,” he says, “is finding ways to be Christian while standing up for righteousness.” In the past five years, Israeli settlers have made two attempts to build settler roads right through the Nasser property, and destroyed more than 1,000 of Nasser’s olive trees one month before harvest. But, “We refuse to be enemies.”
In response, the Nassers have patiently, and with great expense, fought the road incursions in court. In response to the destruction of olive trees, they gathered international volunteers, including from the State of Israel, to replant more than 1,500 olive trees. They refuse to despair, refuse to hate, and refuse to run away.
In reaction to our visits to these “living stones,” many of our responses include a desire to help those in our Christian family in their struggle in Palestine and Israel. Fair enough. However, an equally significant response is to consider how we can apply these same principles in our own lives, to the challenges we leaders face in our schools. May I say that if in your role as leader you have not yet been drawn toward despair, contempt, or “chucking it all,” you just may need to give it a little more time.
More importantly, we need to consider how we move beyond biblical worldview integration. (Certainly it is necessary. Just as certainly, it not sufficient.) How do we both model and teach the Christian practice of these “living stones” while also presenting our staff and students with competing liturgical practices that rival those of our secular culture? How do we find ways to be like Christ as we stand up for what is right and good?
For more information on Daher’s Vineyard, please see tentofnations.org.
– Bart Den Boer, worldview specialist