Love Your Enemies

Trip Start Jan 03, 2011
Trip End Mar 26, 2011

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Flag of Palestinian Territory  ,
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I’ve waited too long between blog posts because now I feel like there are too many things to cover. So basically we’re in our last full week in Bethlehem, and then we will be in and out for a few weeks, taking trips to other cities around Israel and the West Bank. 

Today, we met with the founder and president of Holy Land Trust, which is where I’m volunteering, named Sami Awad. He is a Palestinian Christian, but he’s also a US citizen. He was actually born in Kansas City and then his family moved back to Bethlehem. He is truly an extraordinary man. We’ve had two sessions with him now, and he’s probably one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. He is compassionate, honest, sincere, open, empathetic, personable and just the definition of love. I encourage all of you to google him or maybe search his name on youtube and watch some of his interviews or lectures, because he is an incredible human being. He really walks the walk and lives his own message, which is nonviolent resistance, and this is so rare in our world today.

One idea that really stood out to me from Sami’s talk today was when he brought up Jesus’ message, “Love your enemies.” I’ve heard this a million times growing up reading the Bible and in Sunday School. I find it to be a pretty universal idea in most religions, and it has always been explained to me on a level that kids my age would understand. The examples usually varied, but the lesson was always the same. However, when Sami brought that same idea up today that I’ve heard so many times, it struck me in an entirely new way. When Jesus says this in Matthew 5, he doesn’t say “try to love your enemies” or “work on loving your enemies.” It is a very clear and simple statement, “Love your enemies.” It’s a demand, it isn’t optional. He also doesn’t say “love your enemies after they love you first” This is I think is what most of us fall into. We love those who love us, and if someone hates us, then we don’t love them. I know I definitely fall into this. I’m not aware of any one individual hating me, but for political leaders that hate or threaten America, I definitely don’t make any effort to love them. When Taliban or Al Queda leaders threaten the West, my first reaction is NOT to see them as a child of God. But isn’t this exactly what Jesus is asking us to do? If Jesus came in contact with Osama Bin Laden, what would he do? He would love him just like he loved everyone he met, regardless of class, race, or past discretions. He was the true essence of Divine Love, and this is what we are DEMANDED to act upon. Of course, loving someone doesn’t mean excusing what they’ve done. Jesus always held those he healed accountable for their past. These people usually had to take some sort of action to accept their healing or to repent in a way. But love was at the root of it all. I find this so incredibly relevant to the situation here in the Holy Land. This is a conflict revolving around fear and victimization. The Israelis are terrified of the Arab world, particularly the Palestinians, and have been the victim for thousands of years. The Palestinians are scared of Israel and that eventually they will be forced off their land all together, and they definitely feel like the victim of the Occupation. Both sides have valid justification for both their fears and their sense of victimization, but what is the solution? What if they both internalized this idea of loving their enemy? Not waiting until the other side loved them first, but taking a risk and breaking the cycle of violence and fear to bring real love into the situation. What an incredible effect this would have...and what an opportunity for all of us to reevaluate whether we are really living this message on a daily basis! 

Ok, enough with the religious and philosophical, here’s a funny story from this past Saturday: The language barrier here isn’t really as rough as other places. I think I can actually get around here better than I could in France, just because so many people speak english, or at least enough to get by. But what’s really great is when we are trying to talk to two people or more, they will start correcting each other and argue over which word, pronunciation, or grammatical structure is right. Of course no one ever asks US which is right, they just argue amongst themselves. It’s really hilarious to watch. So when we were touring around villages surrounding Bethlehem on Saturday, we had our regular guide, Elias, who’s coordinating everything for us while we here, and a guest guy, Marwan, who is very familiar with all the villages. Elias definitely has the better english of the two, but he’s pretty quiet and polite so he doesn’t argue with people over this kind of stuff. But Marwan is the opposite, very outspoken and he gets excited pretty easily. So when we were in one town, we saw a tree with little green fruit on it and asked Elias what they were. He said “It’s a fig!” Then Marwan said, “No!! It’s delicious!” We had a great laugh about that one for quite a while… :)
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