looking for God in the Holy Land

Sometimes I get questions from people in the US about what it's like to live here, whether my life is affected much by the Occupation, and so on. I haven't written publicly about it in a while, but I had some conversations with a few friends yesterday that helped me to articulate some of the thoughts and feelings I've been having. This is a re-print of an email I sent to a colleague back in the US who asked what things were like here.

Being who I am, with my car and my passport, the Occupation affects me a lot less than it does the general population. I get waved through checkpoints largely without hassle, I can go to Jerusalem and back whenever I please, and even though I might pay more in shops because I'm a foreigner, life here is fairly manageable from a purely logistical point of view. The things that really get to me are the settlers (especially the ones in Hebron, who are a whole different brand of crazy), the Wall, the home demolitions, and what's going on in Gaza right now, to name a few things. I was actually feeling really down yesterday after a conversation I had with the seminary intern at Redeemer in Jerusalem, about looking for God in people, even those who do terrible things. He had done his clinical pastoral experience in the ICU of a children's hospital, and once in a while there would be a kid in the wing who had obviously been put there by her abusive parents, who were also there in the room, and it was Mike's job to go in and minister to them and find some way to love them. I almost burst into tears. This is how I feel about the settlers and soldiers who harass and persecute my friends – how am I supposed to find God, or even any humanity in them? How can I love them when what they do is so hateful? My heart is heavy when I think about things like this. I know that I give into the temptation to vilify settlers and call soldiers fascists, instead of trying to see the humanity in them, but then at what point do we get to actually stand up and say no, this is wrong, this is not a matter of difference of belief, this is a matter of human rights, and of oppression and collective punishment and war crimes, and this is wrong?

Below are some media and UN updates on the Gaza blockade that got circulated on a Yahoo groups mailing list I'm on. Ma'an News has offices in several locations in the West Bank and also in Gaza, and is a great source of local news, written by people who live and work here. I also read Ha'aretz to see what "the other side" is reporting (it's especially interesting when Ma'an and Ha'aretz cover the same event, to see how each source tells the story), and also to read progressive writers like Amira Hass, Uri Avnery, and Akiva Eldar. I also like Isabel Kershner of the International Herald Tribune. The only thing about Ha'aretz is to stay away from the comments section at the bottom of articles, unless you're in the mood for a blood pressure spike.

BBC: a guide to Gaza under blockade: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7545636.stm

UN Head fears over Gaza blockade: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7737243.stm

UN Gaza Humanitarian situation report: http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/EDIS-7LGNWE?OpenDocument

UN HR Commissioner on the Gaza blockade: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/media.aspx

Video - Impact of blockade: http://news.google.co.uk/news?hl=en&q=gaza%20blockade%20un%20shortage%20fuel%20humanitarian&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wn