24 April 2009
It was with some anxiety that the Israeli, Palestinian and Third Side women participated in our women's conference in Petra, Jordan at the end of March. The previous conference on brokenness, seen through the examples of the Holocaust and the Naqba, and the war in Gaza this past January, stirred feelings of pain, anger, frustration and fear in us. Many did not know what to expect this time. Would we have to deal with the traumatic experiences of the war? Would we be able to relate to our sisters from the other side without anger? Would our relationships be strong enough or had the war destroyed them? But because we are determined to continue on our journey of reconciliation we would not allow the world around us break the bond of unity that we have worked so hard to build. And, so, 38 women attended this conference.
The reconciliation process is not linear, but a journey that takes place in stages. Many of us today find ourselves in the very critical stage of choosing between withdrawing or continuing onward. We are pilgrims in this world journeying on our way to another and better world. The road sometimes leads us into deep, dark and frightening valleys and other times leads us on up liberating and exhilarating mountain tops. God commands us to continue on our journey and not remain idle. If we stand still, we will never reach the other world. As we reach the valleys of reconciliation it can be tempting to find a way around them, but even when we attempt to bypass a valley we were intended to go through we so often find ourselves in the midst of a different valley. We simply cannot avoid the difficult, painful and challenging parts of reconciliation. We are on a journey and must move forward.
We cannot walk alone in this journey of reconciliation. We need each other to help us along in the process. At this conference, we reminded each other of our commitment to walk together. When someone falls, we help them up. When someone wants to withdraw, we try to bring them back. And when we reach the mountaintops of our meetings, we rejoice together. We have established relationships enabling us to really stand by each other and support each other as we continue our journey onward. I have never felt our bond as strongly as in this conference. The atmosphere was positive and soothing, with many moments of laughter.
In reconciliation there are also many amazing moments, many mountaintops. It is there that you have a clear view of what you’ve gone through. The more you tackle the valleys and mountains the better you become at it. You have a new spurt of energy to take the next step. Because the women focused on strengthening their relationships rather than being weighted down by the intensity of the conference we were very determined to stand together.
While at the conference we set out to explore the beauty of Petra, trekking through valleys and touring through the ancient ruins of Petra. And deep in that valley of rock-carved designs we were faced with a monstrous mountain to reach our destination, the monastery. We took the challenge physically, climbing upward on the steep mountain with the sand blowing in our face, but how beautiful it all looked from the top. What a feeling of victory and satisfaction.
Now that the bonds of unity, trust and the relationships between the women are even stronger, we are ready to take the next step on our journey. On June 5, we will continue onward with a workshop dealing with death and the fear of death.
By Louise Thomsen
*Mark your calendars: Salim will be in the UK in the London and Bolton areas from June 25 until July 2, 2009. If you are interested in having him speak to your church or group please contact us.
We would, at this time, ask for you to pray for our new women’s group, which will be flying to Cyprus next weekend for their introduction retreat as they meet their sisters whom they will share in the reconciliation process and study the stages of reconciliation.
Meanwhile, our women’s department continues to play an active role nationally, locally and socially. We have an upcoming meeting with our women from the Galilee region on May 22, a Third Side Meeting on May 23 and a workshop for women on how to deal with death and fear of death on June 5. Also, in June, the women of Bethlehem will organize a day of fun for the handicap as a social project in their community.
We would like to praise God for his goodness as our youth and youth leaders returned from a blessed Youth Galilee Encounter. The teens walked away with new friendships and a basis for beginning the reconciliation process. However, we are gearing up for our Youth Leadership Training Conference for Israeli and Palestinian youth leaders. The first of a three part conference will take place in Turkey, June 25-29. We ask that you uplift us in your prayers as we are in the recruiting process that God would help us reach our goal of having an equal number of Israeli and Palestinian youth leaders attending our training.
It has been 7 months since our young adults ventured on out into the deserts of Wadi Rum, forming lasting friendships. Since then, they have had one follow-up in Nazareth and met together on their own for prayer specifically during the Gaza conflict, which impacted both sides last December. The young adults will be meeting again for an additional follow-up June 5 & 6 as they move forward in their journey of reconciliation.
Contributions to Musalaha can be sent to Musalaha directly, or to the following organizations in the USA and Europe. Please write the checks to the name of the organization (e.g. The Andrew Christian Trust), and in a letter designate the funds to Musalaha.
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Salim J. Munayer, Ph.D.
Director of Musalaha