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Israeli Encountering Palestinian Identity
One weekend in October, our newest women’s group decided to meet together. It was a Friday, a generally busy day for many. The weekend is coming, we are making last minute preparations before Shabbat, planning activities for our children, and some of us are still at work. Life gets in the way, and some of the 20 women who were registered began to call, “There was a death in the family,” and “My children need me this weekend.” These all too often last minute cancellations are spiritual attacks that we can encounter in our events. Yet, still 13 of our women were eager to meet. We spent the day discussing our identity.
While a seemingly obvious discussion regarding our national, religious, and ethnic identifications, it’s not so easy to determine which identity we value most. We often hold up signs and ask our participants to go to one or the other, “Jewish” or “Arab,” “Israeli” or “Palestinian,” “Christian” or “Messianic” or “believer.” Yet when we begin to compare these identities and ask our participants to choose between their identifications – for example, “Palestinian” or “Christian” (or “Jewish” or “Messianic”), it becomes more complicated. One participant chose “Palestinian” over “believer,” as she said her faith is between her and God, but her identity on this earth is in relation to others, and she is Palestinian. Yet most chose their religious identity (“Christian,” “Messianic,” or “believer”) as their primary identification.
One of our Israeli participants wrote the following of her experience that weekend.
“Our first small group meeting was challenging and inspiring. After a time of worship, a talk about identity, and a group exercise, we were divided into two groups, Israeli and Palestinian. Our task was to draw a picture of our identity as a group.
The Palestinian ladies drew a picture with a prominent Palestinian flag on the right. Small islands of land, they explained, indicated the cut up portions of the West Bank with Gaza cut off and alone. A large house stood next to a path, representing their homes and family life. On the other side of the path was a gigantic olive tree, representing the land they treasure, and a church similar to one in the home village of one of the ladies. The dividing path was long, seemed stony, and almost looked bloody because of the red marker used to draw it. The path was narrow but clearly divided all that they loved. The path ended near the top of the picture where there was a Bible and a cross.
One of the ladies went on to explain, ‘This is the long narrow path that Jesus said we have to walk on. We are committed to His Word, and the cross and the Bible represent the Kingdom of Heaven, our true home.’ And joy was evident in her expression as she shared.
Yet also evident in that drawing was the pain, the suffering, and the blood shed for the sake of giving up all to follow Jesus. I was so challenged. My Arab sisters had already made sacrifices to follow Jesus, but they were willing to give up everything for Jesus; Am I?
Later we had a precious time of prayer. I am looking forward to getting to know these dear sisters better. For now politics and borders separate us. We will never really be able to share in each other’s lives as we could if we were neighbors. But we can pray for each other, and I am looking forward to the day when I will have eternity to get to know them, and many other precious saints in the only Kingdom of which every person can become a citizen —the Kingdom of Heaven.”
*For more on this meeting, and to hear about the Israeli identity drawing, see our winter newsletter which will be out this December.