A Week in Palestine: Sunday: Back in Bethlehem

I am back in Palestine almost exactly a year after last year’s transformative trip with Elaine.  Again it is speaking at a Sabeel conference that brings me.  This time it is a group of a hundred Swedish independent church leaders, members of the Diakonia and Bilda movements.  The organizers hope to strategically impact church (and even Swedish government) policies concerning Palestine.  It seems to be a lively group. 
I’ll be leading an intensive study of Luke 19 with the group, the final part of the gospel account of Jesus’ ministry prior to the Jerusalem/Passion narrative.  Beginning with the story of Zaccheaus and ending with Jesus’ action in the Temple, this sequence articulates all the economic, political reasons the authorities wanted Jesus dead.  The week will culminate for me with marching on Palm Sunday in Jerusalem—and the resonances will be haunting.
Above photo: The wall at Bethlehem.  For more, read on.
I was detained at the airport, but just as I settled in for what I figured would be a long wait in the secondary room, my name was called and my passport returned.  I’m grateful it wasn’t more drama, as I come into this week already very tired, and the 20 hour plane trip didn’t help.  But just driving from Ben Gurion airport to Bethlehem reminded me of all the reasons it is important for us at BCM to do our little piece of the solidarity work.  The walls, the settlements, the siege mentality are all so profoundly depressing.  The warmth of my Palestinian hosts is, of course, a strong counterbalance; it was wonderful to see Sabeel staff again and reaffirm our connections.  Still, my overwhelming emotion returning is sadness.  
I’m off this morning for an opening worship in front of the wall here in Bethlehem, in the peace plaza constructed by the amazing folk at the Wi’am Center.  I’m looking forward to seeing Zoughbi and the others there.  I appreciate any prayers of support you might send my way this coming week.