Some preliminary reflections on the Inter-faith Pilgrimage to Israel/Palestine.
We’ve been on holiday, hence the delay, though I think I will spend a long time processing the whole experience.
My first word is gratitude for it all. It was a bold venture, and those who conceived the plan, secured funding, brought people together, organised and implemented the arrangements are much to be thanked. These visits do not happen by accident, and there was a huge amount of work done behind the scenes that most of us were not aware of. So, thank you.
And the experiment worked: and any comments I make now or later are in that light.
The responses submitted so far have all commented on the strength of the group, and I would echo that. It was by any standards a quite remarkable group, and I’m sure some lasting friendships will have been made. There was an unusual capacity to be tolerant, open and creative.
Ephraim’s and Eliyahu’s contacts and contributions meant that we met people and saw places that otherwise we would not have – the Knesset, David Wilder, the four holy cities, the rabbis. It did mean that there was a weighting towards the Jewish community, and gave us insights I am grateful for.
The programme was probably too full for us to digest adequately, and it would have helped if we would have programmed times for de-briefing during the week. We might also have had quiet time together daily, recognising it was a pilgrimage: most made their own arrangements for devotions. But for all of us, we believe that God is part of the solution.
When we meet for our de-briefing session, I think we should invite an external facilitator, someone with skills to ensure every voice is heard.
We never imagined that we would do any more than be better informed ourselves, and perhaps give encouragement to those who are sincerely seeking to find a means of peaceful co-existence. We all brought out own perspective (baggage?) to the situation, and observing the blind spots in others does not necessarily help me to see my own. It’s not just talking to each other that matters, it’s listening: and listening with the heart. I think we began to do that. Though of course some of the loudest statements are not expressed in words. I am still trying to get my head round the Government’s decision to cut off water to Bethlehem: it seems to me to put the whole problem of the Middle East in a nutshell.
Peace is everyone’s desire: the differences of opinion are all over the means by which we pursue it. As Jeremiah declared, saying ‘Peace, peace’ is not enough. We have to lay the just, caring and honourable foundations on which shalom can be established. ‘without us God will not, without God we cannot.’
As the Psalmist bids us, we pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
David Lunan is a Minister in the Church of Scotland, most recently Clerk to the Presbytery of Glasgow, and currently Moderator of the General Assembly.