Monday, November 26, 2007

Thoughts on Israel.. and her settlements in the West Bank.

Jeremiah 22

Thus says the LORD, "Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and there speak this word
and say, 'Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, who sits on David's throne, you and your servants and your people who enter these gates.
'Thus says the LORD,

"Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor
Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
"For if you men will indeed perform this thing, then kings will enter the gates of this house, sitting in David's place on his throne, riding in chariots and on horses, even the king himself and his servants and his people.
"But if you will not obey these words, I swear by Myself," declares the LORD, "that this house will become a desolation."'"

For thus says the LORD concerning the house of the king of Judah:
"You are like Gilead to Me, Like the summit of Lebanon; Yet most assuredly I will make you like a wilderness, Like cities which are not inhabited. "For I will set apart destroyers against you, Each with his weapons; And they will cut down your choicest cedars and throw them on the fire.
"Many nations will pass by this city; and they will say to one another, 'Why has the LORD done thus to this great city?'

"Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness
And his upper rooms without justice,
Who uses his neighbor's services without pay
And does not give him his wages,
Who says, 'I will build myself a roomy house
With spacious upper rooms,
And cut out its windows,
Paneling it with cedar and painting it bright red.'

"Do you become a king because you are competing in cedar?
Did not your father eat and drink
And do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him.
"He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy;
Then it was well

Is not that what it means to know Me?"

Declares the LORD.

"But your eyes and your heart
Are intent only upon your own dishonest gain,
And on shedding innocent blood
And on practicing oppression and extortion."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Israel...Occupied Palestine... ah!!

Ah! It's crazy, the tension here. I'm in Israel. Also known as Occupied Palestine. War zone. Almost. I keep wanting to say "after the war".... to refer to the invasion of Jews. But.. It wasn't a war. It was simply stealing land and systematically shoving the residents out. Cause they needed a place to make a state.caugh caugh.. I mean.. Cause God promised them the land. So it's their duty to go back. Sorry. I wanted to keep politics out of this post. But alas, this place is saturated with politics, there's no way I could talk about being here and not refer to it. I'm pretty confused about my opinion about it, actually. Which is bad because I need to write a 6 page paper about it. But at the same time, I'm not confused about my opinion that it's wrong for a people to come in and force the residents to leave. Descrimination is wrong. Terror is wrong. Terror in the form of terrorizing people so that they leave a land, and terror in the form of suicide bombs. Both are wrong. It's wrong and bad for the US to be supporting Israel the way we do, and not keeping her accountable for her actions. Regardless of whether it's morally wrong or not, it's bad for our image abroad. Really bad. I hear it from people's mouths every day. Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians, and now Palestinians. Our credibility is really low in this area of the world. Our foreign policy is so messed up. I know that we need to look out for our national interests, but at the same time we could be doing so much better. Changes are possible for the good. It's not an impossible situation. We need to correct our foreign policy or we'll pay deep concequences for it.
Today I went to the West Bank and had lunch with Palestinians from the Al Quds University. The West Bank. I was there. My gosh, it's so surreal sometimes. I truly can't believe I'm here. It was sweet talking with them. They like DAM, the Palestinian rap group that I listen to on youtube. And they like soccer. They're more into the Spanish liga though. They don't prefer FC Porto. Clay from my group is my soccer buddy. We went to a pub in Istanbul and watched a Real Madrid game. It was pretty sweet. He knows more about it than I do, so I'm learning a lot. We're going to try to find a pub or café here that shows futebol games. Porto plays Liverpool on the 28th. Back to the West BAnk... We talked a little about politics. We couldn't go into the school because there had been demonstrations earlier between Fatah supporters and Hamas supporters, so we stayed in the wooded area outside the school and eat on covered picnic tables. It was more pleasant there anyways. Though if I had my choice I would have gone into the school to talk to people. The people we talked to were staunch Fatah supporters. When I asked him what group he supported he said it in such a "Hello, of course Fatah" way. He said that only people with their heads on straight were supporters of Fatah. What else did we talk about.. He's in his fourth year at school and he's studying computer science. I asked him if he would have a job when he graduated and he said that he wouldn't. He would have to open a shop and all he would do is fix kids' broken cumputers and sell cheap cds. Unemployment is high in the West Bank. I asked if the wall was down and he could go into Israel would he be able to get a job? Yes, definately. There are jobs available in Israel. Another guy said he couldn't go into Jerusalem if he wanted to. Do you recognize the state of Israel? No. He said that he had nothing wrong with the Jewish religion, but that the state of Israel should not exist. There are actually Jews who don't agree with Zionism and the settlements. They're the Ultra-Orthodox Jews. They've been in the Middle East area since foever. They're not the one's who've come from abroad. They believe that the Israeli state really shouldnt exist. They work with it, since it's already founded, but they don't truly agree with it. They piss off the Orthodox and the Traditionalists, because they wont serve in the military. Military service is mandatory for all Israeli's, male and female. It's odd and kindof sad to see 18 year old girls walking around in olive green suits with huge guns slung over their shoulders. It's wrecking a generation, really. It's militarizing them. The military changes you. It changes everyone who serves. What about the 20 year old soldier who has to turn away a dying pregnant Palestinian West Bank resident from entering Israel to give birth to her child at a hospital? That's messing with minds. It's going to effect this generation thats coming now. My generation of Israelis. Behind the picnic area where we had dinner there's a wall separating the West Bank. It doesn't separate Israel from the West Bank, but it separates the West Bank and anyone who wants to get to the other side has to sit in long lines to then get harassed and searched before crossing over. Someone said it takes at least 30 minutes at the gate. And that's not the wall leading to Israeli territory. It's just a West Bank check point. These people live walled in. What does that do to a mind? There are no jobs, hospitals suck, there's no power to make change, there's no one fighting for you... That's just the West Bank. Not Gaza. Gaza is hell. It's far worse. Years in these conditions cooks a lot of desperation. Desperation in young boys who have a long bleak life ahead of them. Hopelessness leads to desperation. Desperation leads to desperate acts. Such as suicide bombings. Israel's making it's own mess. And right now I have little sympathy for her. She's needing to correct a lot of wrong that she's been doing. Granting right of return? It's never going to happen. But she needs to do something to restore hope to the Palestinian people if she knows whats good for herself. And the international community needs to pressure her.

So! =) Onto happier things. Lets see.. I wrote about Istanbul. Amazing place. After that we went to Ankara, the capital of Turkey. It was sweet because we were able to talk to some really interesting people. And that's all I can say about it. Basically it really interested me because of my faith. And to protect them thats all I'm allowed to say, but please ask me about it cause it was so amazing, and I'd love to share it with you. There are some super stars out there living some crazy lives for Jesus. Ankara reminded me of DC kindof. It's not so pretty, but busier. We went to the tomb of Ataturk, Turkey's hero. He introduced and fought for nationalism and secularism in Turkey. He's the Father of Turkey, actually. It's what his name means. It was more of a shrine than anything. They had his toothbrush displayed, for goodness sake. And it talked all about the history of Turkey and their war for indepence. Turkish people are SO nationalistic. In the first 15 minutes we were on the bus, Linda and I counted over 100 Turkish flags. They're everywhere.
Onto Syria... I foget almost. Ah! We were only there for a little bit. 2 days, I think. We went to Demascus and they have the sweetest markets. I got a neat clock with Arab numbers. Things are very cheap there. Plus I ate 200 year old ice cream. Well, the ice cream itself wasn't 200 years old. The shop was. It's the oldest ice cream shop in the world. Craziness. Actually, Demascus is the oldest still inhabited city in the world. And I was there! I walked down the .........
Oh gosh the call to prayer just started. I can hardly hear myself think. ......
I walked down the "Straight Street" Where Ananias walked down and met Paul. It's true. I went through the gates he would have gone through. I feel I'm going backwards in my faith. Syria where Paul was, then Jerusalem where Jesus was tried and crucified, then I will be in Bethlehem where Jesus was born... It's really special. It's not like you get this amazing transformation in yourslef and your life changes forever just because you've been here.. Although praying at the Waliing Wall yesterday was pretty meaningful. Just pressing my head against the wall and talking to my God. The temple.. the temple where JEsus prayed. Where people for generations went and sacrificed, to my Lord. This whole trip I've been to temple after temple to all these gods, and mosque after mosque.... Finally I was at MY God's temple. And it was pretty amazing and personal. I felt a little bad because I loved it so much and then when I asked people what they thought of it and if they prayed hearing their reaction that was like, "No I didn't pray. I'm not going to pray to a wall" made me feel a little bad. It's not a wall... It's a part of history. A history of our faith. I'm not Jew but I pray to and love the God who was once prayed to and loved right there by the wall, thousands of years ago. Sometimes I feel like openning up and sharing things and moments that are special to me is like casting my pearls before swine, cause people just don't get it. "Big deal". Idiot, it is a big deal to me. So yeah. I loved the wall. But being in Jerusalem is not as emotional and significant as I thought it might be. The political tension is really visible and felt and overpowers the history of the place a little.
So Damascus was really fun, and I got to do a little shopping and got my Wiekert cousins some cute gifts. If you're reading this, I miss you Jack, Belle, Henry, Courtney and Dave! =) We went to an amazing mosque as well, to the tomb of Hussein and Saladin. We saw Shias hitting themselves there and crying and touching his tomb. I didn't get to touch it (neither did I really want to) because the crowd was SO tight. There were a billion people in a kinda large room with a little doorway that functioned as an entrance and an exit. Fire hazard. Bout got squished to death. Hussein is important to the Shias because he was from the family of ALi, who was a family member of Mohammed. Shias believe that the line of power should go through Mohammad's family. Sunni's believe he should be chosen and doesn't have to be from the Mohammad family line. Any way, Hussein lead a battle and his followers retreated and abandoned him and he died. And now, a thousand years later, they've almost deified him and beat themselves because their ancestors abandoned him in battle. This revolts the Sunnis, that they would beat themselves and act so heneously. So this is a big source of division between the sunnis and shias. So I was there. It made me cry a little, just how much they love him and how they beat themselves and the anguish that they feel. Gosh I'm so sensitive. In Demascus we went to Ananiases'church and house, and that was pretty sweet. To see where he possibly lived. It was underground, which added to the effect. Speaking of underground, a couple days later I went to Cappadoccia. It's where Christians hid from persecution. They made this sweet system of underground houses and tunnels and basically made an underground city there. You know the sign of the fish that I love? It's there. =) It is CRAZY. We went down into the city and explored and then the lights went out and we had to just feel our way around and use flashlights. Then Bob got clausterphobic and we had to leave. But before that we got to sing "Come Thou Fount" down there. How many other songs to Jesus were sung down there hundreds of years ago? How cool is my life? =) I am blessed, I am.
So Capadocia was real. There are some weird rock formations there as well, not related to the underground city. Some people think it's aliens. I think it's weird rocks. I'll post pictures later. This post is gonna be really long. Speaking of singing, I've been convinced by my flat mates to go into singing when I go back to the US. I love singing but am rediculously shy about it. Singing alone in public is just so intimidating. But alas, I do love to sing and my friends like my voice so I'm going to take a shot at it when I go home. What that means, I don't know. I'm not changing my major, but I'm taking singing lessons. And that makes me really, really happy. So Syria was Demascus, and Jordan was Amman. We stayed at a Days Inn and shopped at a Safeway. No kidding. The place is a mini America. ish. Security is nuts. We had to go through security in every building we went in. Including Safeway. I bought Colby Back cheese there. É maluco! I miss speaking Portuguese. We didn't do much in Jordan. Though we did stop by an amazing church in the only town that still speaks Aramaic. Aramaic like the language that Jesus spoke. Yes, amazing. And then I got to listen to the Lords prayer. Prayed in Aramaic. Ah! Are there words to describe..?! It was an experience to remember. I felt like I was listening to Jesus himself.
Then we arrived in Jerusalem. Security was long and crazy. It's like airport security. But a bit more rigorous. They wanted my dad's parents names even. Here in Jerusalem we stayed at a youth hostel for a couple of nights until there were rooms available in a nicer place. We're there now. And there's wireless. Ahhhhh. It's on the Via Dolorosa. THE Via Dolorosa. Where Jesus walked with his cross. Amazing. I love the old city Jerusalem. Day before yesterday we went to the Holocaust museum. Wow. It was really, really good. Wow. So many people. I loved it. Well done. But it's like.. Not long ago you were abused to harshly.. Now you turn around and abuse? Last night was shabbat and we watched the Jews at the wall. And today is today. And so I think I'm (kindof!) caught up! And now I need to go study. =)
Love to all.

Hm. I miss home. Less than a month!

Saturday, November 03, 2007


I wanted to blog about my homestay week before I went on to blog about the travel component, but it's going to have to wait. I'm too excited to tell you about Turkey.
We arrived here on the 1st of November. The flight was only 2 hours or so long, and pretty uneventful except that I sat by two awesome MESP friends and had good conversations. Random thought.... After they gave us our food (fish.mmmmm) I was thinking about what it means to bless the food before we eat it (lately I've been doing that.. instead of praying for the food I think about why I should pray for the food. I'm not going to do it if my heart isn't into it) and I became enlightened by the words from a song... "This is my Father's World". I've been reading about how the world is God's and everything in it, and it occured to me on the flight, that if the world and all good things therein are God's, anything we enjoy and benefit from in the world, everything that blesses us, He allows us to have: He gives us. We deserve and truly possess nothing, yet He provides us with enough from His huge stock of everything. We thing things are ours, but they're not. They're GOd's that He's giving us. We don't tithe because God needs our money for His church. He has more riches than we could ever give. We tithe to show that we are love Him. So anyways, I thought about not only the food I was eating, but the friendship I was enjoying and the clothes I was wearing and the journey I was making.... They are a gift from Him, and my heart was truly thankful.
We arrived at about 2:00, and I could tell from the beginning right in the airport that there was something very different about Turkey. It's very modern and not as backward-looking as Cairo. It's not dirty and it's not crowded. Thank God. There's space to breathe. We got our bags and headed out. Cold. Oh, the chill was AMAZING, it felt so fresh and clean and freeing. I wore my sweet black coat and my dark red comfy scarf and I felt SO good. I was in my element. It's been chilly here but not enough to not want to go out side or for it to snow, though it's rained a couple nights. I'm so glad it hasn't rained during the day, preventing us from exploring the city. We rode in the bus for about an hour and a half till we came to the sea. It was beautiful. This place reminds me A LOT of Germany. So much. It's so European. The way people dress (classy, darker colors, Paris-ish), the architecture, the people, the way they view and practice their religion (there are mosques but the call to prayer isn't overbearing and I haven't heard it once since I've been here. People arn't praying on the corners and there are much fewer head scarves, at least here in Istanbul).
I have to go soon because I need breakfast before our first speaker this morning.
Being in Istanbul has been so amazing, and so realiving. I feel like the moment I stepped off the plane I left certain things I was struggling with in Cairo, back in Egypt. I feel like a new leaf has turned and finally I have found relief from those inner conflicts. Other issues have come up to take their place, of course. We're never without burdens on our mind and heart. But here, things are different, and I am happy. I've gotten over this wall that was so hard to climb, and now I have relief. This is going to be one of my favorite cities I've ever been to. I havent felt so happy in a long time.