A lot will happen in the next six weeks.
Our institution still has one and half weeks of class yet, which means that in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament class we need to get from Solomon (1 Kings 1) to Jehoiachin (2 Kings 25): the monarchy has to be divided and two empires need to wreak havoc on the ancient Near East before we can call it a day. In the Psalms seminar, students and I need to integrate a wide range of study with our own beliefs, interests, and vocations. From both classes, I’ll receive papers and projects, all of which deserve careful attention and evaluation.
End-of-semester tasks, of course, will intertwine and spill over into the holidays. My daughter will be home, her last Christmas as a college student. In one really busy week, she, my husband, his daughters, and I will experience the joys and complications of getting together with a blended family scattered over 2 states and 2 countries.
But perhaps the biggest event looming is my departure on January 6 to Israel/Palestine. A seminary colleague and I are leading a group of 21 students on a crosscultural travel and study experience. Although we will visit Holy Land sites, our primary goal is to spend time listening to and learning from real people—Palestinian Christians and Muslims, Israeli settlers and peace activists. We’ve already read the work of Elias Chacour, Mitri Raheb, and Jean Zaru, but we are ready to be challenged and surprised by what we see and hear face-to-face.
This will be my fifth trip to Israel/Palestine, but only my second focused in this way. My earlier trips (two Holy Land tours and one stint as an amateur archaeologist) encouraged me to view the land as an historical treasure reclaimed and given new life by the state of Israel.
“Look over there,” the tour guides instructed. “That’s where biblical events took place. And over there is where pioneers after 1948 brought an empty land to life.”
It all looked very different on my last trip, when I spent time with the people and villages not on the tourist routes. We met with Israeli peace organizations, stayed in Palestinian homes, experienced check points with a Palestinian tour guide, and experienced first-hand the despair in Gaza.
I drank homemade wine from a vineyard that had been in one Palestinian family for generations.
I am eager and anxious to see how things look now, ten years later–after the building of the separation wall, after the building of more settlements, after the failure of more attempts at negotiating peace. What stories will our hosts tell of school, of holidays, of family, of travel? What will have made their lives complicated for the previous six weeks?