Our bus dropped us off at a hilltop above Jerusalem, just as the sun had begun to cast it's evening glow over the top of the Dome of the Rock atop Mount Moriah. We were standing on the same spot where Abraham (allegedly) looked out towards the place where he was told to go to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and he went. It was the same spot where the high priest Caiphas ( again, allegedly!!) lived in a grand palace, and where he made the decision that this Jesus of Nazareth must die. Two major decisions were made on that hilltop that changed the course of history: for Abraham-- his willingness to sacrifice his son assured God that he was worthy to father a new tribe that became the Jews; for Caiphas--his decision to orchestrate the death of Jesus was probably based on his desire to protect and to preserve Judaism from radical influences.
There was a third decision we saw represented from this hilltop. Looking down the hill from this spot we could a brand new Jewish settlement overlooking Palestinian East Jerusalem, with a billboard announcing plans for more luxury 2, 3 or 4 bedroom apartment/ homes to be built. The roads and landscaping around the apartment were well constructed, in contrast to the impoverished Palestinian homes across the hill.
The past and the present stretched before me all at once. (This happens a lot in Israel!) Here were the culture-shaping decisions of Abraham and Caiphas on the one hand; and on the other the decisions of the current Israeli government to shape their culture once again, by building these homes for only the Jews who are part of Jerusalem's people and to marginalize the rest.
After we came down from the hilltop where we had been taken to see for ourselves the new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, our Interfaith Peace Builders Delegation reflected at the end of the day on the stories we had encountered from the people we interviewed, and what they meant to us. The group blog you will see posted here will have some of those stories written by our delegation members, but we wanted to write briefly ourselves about three other decisions we encountered today, by three people from very different backgrounds who share this holy land and struggle together around what it means to them. All three of them made a similar decision in one way, because it was a decision to be a resistor, but what they resist and how they do it is very different for each.
The Palestinian families we met with tonight made a decision to resist the appropriation of their homes to accommodate Israeli settlers. We were deeply moved by their courage and patience and faith that this abuse of their human rights will not go unnoticed or unchallenged by the world, and maybe even by the Israeli legal system. Leaving their home, we had a brief encounter with one of the settlers, a young Orthodox Jew, who we presume lives in one of the houses that has been appropriated. He has made a different kind of resistance decision, to resist the realities of multicultural Israel and to seek a return to a monocultural fundamentalist way of life. Our third resistor was another young adult, an Israeli who was raised in a secular liberal household, and who has become part of the small persistent and passionate movement of Israelis who resist the popular opinion and willful blindness of most of their fellow citizens to the creation of an apartheid society in Israel that is profoundly oppressive of Palestinians. She has thrown in her lot with the human rights activists within Israel who are resisting the policies and laws that result in Palestinian home demolitions, evictions, and separation barriers dividing historic communities.
Three decisions to resist Israel as it is now - which ones show the way forward? For us the answer is obvious. Further reflections on our meetings today from other members of our group will follow.