Palestine has always rung the bell of curiosity in my mind, & with it an irresistable lingering pull to explore since childhood. A distant white flag beckoning me to come forth. Maybe it has something to do with the legend the land holds, & the Prophets that once walked through the the old streets.
The lives of Musa (Moses), Ibrahim (Abraham), Dawood (David), Sulaiman (Solomon), & Isa (Jesus) were once here. So long ago. Yet walking through the same places, brings it so near. It draws me in. History has that effect on me. Especially the history of a blessed land, the land of the Olive tree. Transported into the folds of time, the sandstone alleyways, centuries old, echoes the bustle of the marketplace, & the drive to survive in mankind’s misguided struggle for power.
I finally came upon an opportunity to visit Palestine, with a great organisation called CADFA. From Jerusalem, we drove through the West Bank at night and day. The tragic stories of scores of people filled the car & our hearts with a silent heaviness. There we were, pondering over the brutality of life, moral dilemmas, the lack of compassion, with momentary admiration of the passing vistas, beautiful old Mosques & Churches. But there was also light, and laughter on that trip. And I shall never forget the generosity & kindness that I witnessed under this mediterranean sky.
Although the experience was quite a difficult one given the suffering I had witnessed, it was also one of the best experiences of my life. And yet on my return, I was unable to write about my Palestinian trip for some time. I found it difficult to write about something that felt so close to my heart. There was a sense of being overwhelmed by the tragedy of the situation, & also the feeling of being powerless to make a real difference. Families torn apart, trapped in a life with no promise of a better tomorrow. Unable to move forward. Farmers stripped of their livelihoods; the lack of water, or basic amenities. The isolation that the elderly face that comes with losing family members to tragic circumstance. And the list doesn’t end here.
Life has allowed for some slowing down, & with contemplation I finally find myself writing to share the mirror view. Of you & I looking in, & looking back at ourselves.
The struggle is real. Their souls are deep, the kindness overwhelming. And courage & resilience in the face of tragedy immense.
Wherever I went it was there. A gracefulness. An inner quiet. Kindness like a soft blanket. The genuinity, elegance, & strength of a people who have suffered, laughed, & loved. Despite the odds. A broken vase, put together. And in all that was broken, the spirit was still very much alive.
There was a sense of togetherness. In the wrinkles around their eyes. In the way their eyes looked back, the way the men engaged with one another. Friends like brothers, with deep concern, & real embraces. Neighbours like family. A community. Kindred spirits like pearls on a beautiful necklace.
As an onlooker, the interaction & obvious warmth of connection was both refreshing & touching to see. The way they carried themselves, to the way they approached the difficulties of oppression spoke of an inner strength & dignity. These were some of the kindest people that I have ever met, if not the most. Having almost nothing, but so giving, even in the face of oppression & injustice.
The worried eyes of an anxious Mother, restless Father, praying & waiting for their missing teenage son to return. Looking at the door, and then at the phone. Troubled hands, holding one another. And even in that moment asking if you’d like tea, gracious hosts even in moments of darkness.
One of best things in life is to be able to say a prayer for another, and to have one made for you. And sometimes that may be the only thing one can offer to another. In the face of the impossible, prayer brings hope for possibility. A hope of a higher kind. And I suppose it lends an inner resilience. What else can give you that kind of strength? But the knowledge that the One who made you, can save you.
What else can give you the courage to go on in the face of oppression. To keep smiling, to keep working & maintaining your hope in a better tomorrow?
I went in search of something out there. One thing that struck me was that you don’t need much to lead a happy life, and that one is stronger than one thinks.
Have you ever been somewhere that captivated your heart? In your hardest moments what keeps you going? Do share in a comment below…
Ps. Part 2 coming soon..