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The Holy Land II
Thursday 14th September 2017 @ 9:13 am

There are always tears when I travel with a group to Palestine and Israel. 

Usually the tears are a combination of tiredness, hotness, beauty, the conversations and the sheer overwhelming nature of the whole experience. They are never tears of depression or anger – they usually seem to be tears that simply flow from being human.

I’ve seen a young man have no words  – only tears – after sitting talking to an Israeli settler in the West Bank. The sellers there by their own ambition, and are there illegally by international law. They don’t care about law.

I’ve seen a young women shed tears because she sensed hopelessness in the voices of young women in the West Bank trapped under occupation – again, illegal according to international law.

I’ve seen tears from young Israelis about to enter military service, because they don’t want to die. They know that is a real possibility. 

I’ve seen tears from Israeli religious leaders, passionate about their faith and their right to live that faith – and anxious about the actions of radical politics in their land. 

I’ve seen an older woman walk out of a conversation with a settler, crying, because he suggested that he wanted Muslim mothers to love their children as much as Israeli mothers do.

I’ve seen Rabbis who work for justice and human rights cry at the suffering being experienced in their holy land.

On this last trip we also had tears.

One of the most memorable moments was a tear inducing one … I shed a tear, but other leaders were properly leaking! 

It was a moment on the sea of Galilee. 

We had just shared some biblical reflection, and we sat in a brief moment of silence.

Then, over the chugging of an old engine, and the sound of small splashing waves against the side of the old boat, came the sounds of ‘I will follow him.’

The Sister Act version.

Slowly, quietly gaining strength, the all female choir coming to us over the sound system harmonises perfectly. The song affirms there is nothing stronger than love. 

And then it kicks in.

Brash and loud, with a 1960s rhythm pushing it into Gospel energy wildness …

… the feet start to tap, the heads start to bob, the faces begin to smile, a shoulder dips in time … then another … 

… and then one man gets up, and grabs a dance partner, they begin to jump around the boat .. another joins them … then another … each one realising they are in a moment 

that won’t come back, 

so why not jump around a boat singing songs from Sister Act, 

on the sea of Galilee. 

It doesn’t take long before they’re all up.

For 4 songs they dance. And clap, and sing, and smile, and laugh. 

Another leader sits with tears down her cheeks.

I ask her what she’s thinking. 

She paints the picture beautifully as she simply says, 

“Look at them! Their ability … to listen to what they have listened to this week, to experience the confusion and the suffering they have experienced, to see what they have seen, and go through all they have … and then to be here now and exude such joy?! They are amazing.”

Yes. They are.

As I get ready to welcome 1000 new neighbours over the next few days  – as the student Halls where I live fill up with a mixture of people, nerves, excitement, expectation, fear, power battles, identity questions, courage and hope – I hope that a lot more students arrive like the ones I had the joy of being joyful with last week.



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