Insight from Lee Sterling - one of our Dual Narrative Travelers
When HOP announced its Dual Narrative 2016 trip to Israel/Palestine, my wife and I both recognized the unique opportunity to visit a world we learned about growing up, AND
which we read about in our current newspapers or saw on TV.
Growing up in a Christian home, Lynn realized that we could visit the birthplace of Jesus, and view the 14 Stations of the Cross; and we would have the chance to see other sacred places she had studied and read about as a child in Sunday School. Raised in a Jewish home, I looked forward to seeing the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and Masada; and, most important of all to me, was be a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, located in the complex City of Jerusalem. At Yad Vashem, my fellow travelers helped me honor Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese Consul in Bordeaux, France, in June of 1940, who, against the orders of the Portuguese Government, issued thousands of visas to refugees so they could escape the Nazi hordes invading from the North - including visas to my family and me so we could get to America. The Children's Memorial, a darkened rotunda with blinking spectral lights, and the somber announcement of the names of children lost in the holocaust, was for me the most moving part of the museum.
The old city of fabled Jerusalem is only 0.35 sq.miles within the current City of Jerusalem, but what an important piece of real estate! It's home to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims, and the Temple Mount and Western Wall for Jews. You can feel and see how important these sites are to the various groups following their tour guides. Our group was individualistic, but we had earpiece microphones that enabled us to hear our terrific tour guides: Husam and Yuval; fountains of knowledge about the holy sites of the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religions, and about the ancient and current history of this troubled land; they are both arcane and poetic. We learned ancient history dating to the pre-Romans, and we discussed the modern political conflict and its impact on Israelis and Palestinians. We visited an Israeli kibbutz just outside of Gaza and went down into a bomb shelter, and we looked across the security area and fence into the distant territory of Gaza. The population is about 13,000 per sq. mi.; in San Diego the population is 4,250 per sq. mi; and in Chicago the density is about 12,000 per sq. mi. Now imagine that you live where there is no airport, no seaport, and it doesn't matter because you can't leave the area in which you live. We were exposed to the troubles on both sides of the "fence"!
Along with the history lessons, the view of the sacred places, and the discussions about the current politics of the area, we also got a chance to air our impressions with evening reviews led by an experienced Hands of Peace facilitator. And, best of all, we had a wonderful evening meeting past Hands of Peace participants and their parents. Participants shared how their Hands of Peace experience helped shape their lives, and it confirmed that the organization is having an important impact on the future leaders of this area.
As we approached the end of our trip, we agreed that this was one of the most meaningful trips we have ever made. It has reaffirmed our commitment to the goals of Hands of Peace; confirmed our resolve that we need to support efforts to settle the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians; and convinced us to highly recommend the Dual Narrative Trip to Israel/Palestine sponsored by Hands of Peace!