Friday, December 22, 2006


Post-Trip Reflections

Barbara Hallows, Princeton, NJ

Experience with host family
Linda and I stayed with a Palestinian Christian family, a mother and her two teen-age daughters, living in Beit Sahour outside Bethlehem. It was wonderful to return and relax with that family after our intense experiences during the day. We often met in the evening with sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews in family gatherings at the grandparents’ home and experienced their closeness and comraderie. Family members would laugh and talk together, and the young children would dance to music on the TV. The grandfather showed us his artwork and played his colorful guitar. He gave Linda and me some pictures of the Holy Family and olive wood crèche scenes that he had made.

But we also learned of their difficult experiences negotiating the separation barriers. Our host’s cousin told how he tried to cross into Jerusalem to go to work at a construction site and was detained for several hours by a crossing guard. He said that he needed to return to care for his children, and the guard finally let him go, but said, “Don’t ever come back here again or you will be imprisoned.”

Linda and I especially enjoyed interacting with Andrea, the older teenage daughter in our family. She was interested in everything about us and spent a lot of time with us in her bedroom, where we were staying while there. She showed us her art supplies and was interested in Linda’s artwork. Linda gave her some art supplies and sketched a picture of her and of other members of the family. I made some hanging Origami paper cranes for them and crocheted wrist bands for Andrea and her sister and a cousin. It was a wonderful experience for us to interact so intimately with the family.

How the experience has changed me
Since I have returned I am very tuned in to news of Israel/Palestinian Territories, and I am much saddened to hear about continuing violence there, especially in Gaza. Every day I receive email messages from peacemaking groups that I have connected with, e.g. Israel Palestine Network, and from folks in our own group. I have learned about other people here who are concerned about peace in that area, and I am making connections with them. Also, I am experiencing Christmas in a different way this year. From staying with host families in the Bethlehem area I see beyond the peaceful manger scene with shepherds and wise men visiting the baby Jesus. It makes me sad to know that the area where the Prince of Peace was born is so disrupted now. I want to help in some way to bring peace to this troubled land. But first, I realize that I must go beyond viewing the birth of Jesus as an outside event and bring his birth into my heart, to “prepare him room” there. In this way I may be equipped to be a peacemaker.

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