Strangers in an All Too Familiar Land

I spent the last two weeks in a land named holy by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, seeking peace, understanding, wholeness. My travels took me through countless narratives, religious expressions, political stalemates, cultures, and the lives of people who reside at the center of all that is holy about this part of the world. This was my first time to Israel and Palestine, yet my journey was marked by a chronic sense of déjà vu.

The goals of this trip were multiple, but included learning about the history of this part of the world, the unfolding religious traditions that respect this space, and to understand in greater clarity the complexities involved in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The conflict is not an easy one to solve or it would have been solved by now. Sure, fingers could be pointed to figure out who is to blame, but as one young activist suggested, there are no clean hands.

I looked at my hands. Are they clean? Are my hands involved in international conflicts, in the devastating crises in various parts of the world? Do they have blood on them from Rwanda or Syria? These questions are metaphorical and metaphysical, but they are really important to me because I believe in our sacred interconnectedness as human beings in the universal web of life. As a Unitarian Universalist, I recognize the relatedness of our struggles and triumphs as humans, and thus understand that my hands our capable of working towards justice or sustaining a status quo of injustice.

However, I wondered throughout my trip how I was to participate in this conflict that seems hopeless at times. But, I remembered that my justice work will never be enough, it will be progress. And as someone who seeks to be progressive, I can do what I can to cultivate awareness, humanizing relationships, and partnership building that resemble the Beloved Community.

I reflected with my classmates that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict may not be our priority justice project in our various contexts back in the states, but that we can continue to work against those who dehumanize, divide, and seek to destroy our interconnectedness as humans. This may take the form of LGBT advocacy, working to end hunger and homelessness, or any number of issues. If we are working towards the resolution of separation to reunion and reconciliation, our paths will inevitably meet, weave, and meet again.

I believe that the déjà vu I felt numerous times in this land of holiness is rooted in the fact that I feel connected to this land, these peoples, this conflict, because they all resemble land, people, conflicts that exist in my holy homeland, and holy heart. All of us have a stake in making this world worthy of being called holy. This journey begins when we realize that holiness does not end beyond the familiar, but extends to the lands and peoples that are considered strange. After all, we were all once strangers in this world.

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