Saturday, March 24, 2012

Where to begin

Haifa, first night in Israel
I have been trying to find the right starting point for my reflections on our recent trip to Israel. I have so many conflicting emotions that at once I want to rant and then just as quickly I want to rave. The Holy Land is simply that kind of place. At one moment you think you understand the way things work, and then you realize you don't have a clue. It is this constant uncertainty of people and place that electrifies the air creating a crackle of tension that affects everyone. You can convince yourself that you are simply a tourist/pilgrim and all is well. No worries. The local "problems" are for some other unfortunate's account. But, just as quickly that comfort evaporates when your bus is halted at a checkpoint and a young man/woman boards to check everyone out, clearly profiling according to some protocol. I guess it seems akin to any tension filled moment, anywhere in the world, when you sense trouble could suddenly erupt. That is as a close as I can get to what it feels like when traveling in Israel. The country is always on heightened alert. No attempt is made to hide it. In reality, this is probably exactly what the Israeli government wants to convey. I am not being critical of this, just noting it. The origins of the conflict and tension, are another matter. These subjects have and will continue to fill books long after we all are long gone.

But, shifting back to my pilgrim mode I have to confess that this trip was remarkable in what it accomplished. The ability to physically be present in the world Jesus knew, where his ministry unfolded, where Christianity was born was priceless. I find that the superficial impacts of visiting new places is always about the immediate experience. Understanding how that experience changes me comes later, oftentimes much later. There are generally just too many things going on during a trip to allow for any kind of meaningful thought processing. Navigating those deeper waters requires time, patience and quiet. Now that we are home I am starting to work through that, and am beginning to understand why this trip was so important. The rough edges are gradually being removed from so many thoughts. For a start, I am obviously reminded how truly thankful I am for the gift of freedom, the separation of church and state, and for the security of peace within our borders. But beyond the obvious, there, gratefully, and more importantly (to me), lies the story of the pilgrim road, our pilgrim road. Let me move onto that in my next post.

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