In December, we gathered our Young Mothers’ Group for their final meeting. This two-year chapter where we participated in frequent meetings to develop friendships and learn about lasting reconciliation has come to a close. It is time for a new chapter. Instead of getting together every four to six weeks as we have done until now, the responsibility to maintain the relationships we made falls on our shoulders. Musalaha will assist in maintaining these relationships through inviting us to participate in our national women’s programs and activities; in between these events, it is up to us what will happen.
As it was the last big meeting for the group, it was bittersweet. Everyone made an effort to come to see one another. The mood was festive as we celebrated Hanukkah and the season of Advent. The children played together as usual, and we mothers had a chance to sit together (mostly) uninterrupted. After light-hearted games of dressing each other up in Christmas wrapping paper, and eating the traditional Hanukkah dessert of cream-filled doughnuts in a blind taste-test of different flavors, we sat down for a time of worship and discussion.
We looked back at all the topics we covered in our 20 meetings together, including Biblical Principles of Reconciliation, the Stages of Reconciliation, Conflict, Listening, and Historical Narratives. We also covered topics we did not anticipate that we would discuss, but found it necessary to address in light of the violence our countries faced in the Gaza War of Summer 2014 and the outbreak of violence in Fall 2015. It was surprising to see how many topics we covered and how much we learned in two years. One of the participants remarked that seeing it all together “made it more clear” what we accomplished.
The leaders of the group prepared a video showing the progression of the group, from the first meetings, through various seasons we lived through together, up until the present. It was moving to see how many pregnancies, births and important life events we shared together. We saw smiling mothers embracing newborns, and how these little infants grew into mischievous toddlers. We also saw some photos and videos of our older children, the friendships they made and the obvious love and affection they have for each other, relationships that they never would have had if we were not meeting together. One lady remarked that seeing this “was a special reminder that life moves on whether or not we commit to the work of knowing and loving one another. We have the choice now to make that commitment and pass it on to our growing families, which is a gift that most children in this land will never receive. It is the gift of seeing one’s parent model some of the hardest teachings of Jesus, in perhaps the most challenging place to do so.”
In the video we also saw photos of how we found ways to bless one another during times of national crisis. Many women from other Musalaha groups contributed toward our group’s coordination of gifts for Gazan children treated in Israeli hospitals. Several of our mothers visited these children to give them gifts, sing and play instruments for them. We also prepared home-baked goods together, putting together plates with cards that we could give to encourage others, to tell them that we are praying for one another during the violence, and that we, Israeli and Palestinian women, meet and pray together for peace.
Afterwards, one of the group leaders shared her desire to come up with a joint statement together, one inspired by a song we heard in the video of our two years meeting together, They Will Know We are Christians By Our Love. She said she listened to this song over and over again, and she saw this as a theme for our group. She challenged us to find ways to continue living out this God-ordained mandate to love one another, even after our frequent meetings end.
We ended the meeting in a time of prayer, declaring the words of the song together,
“We are one in the spirit, 
we are one in the Lord,
and we pray that our unity may one day be restored,
and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
We will walk with each other
we will walk hand in hand,
and together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land
and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
We will work with each other
we will work side by side
and we’ll guard each other’s dignity and save each other’s pride.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
We closed this meeting, ending this chapter, committing to find ways to live this out, to meet one another, and to continue to pray for each other. Afterwards, an observer in the meeting shared, “Living in the midst of an intractable conflict and trying to see through the fog of ongoing injustices and trauma to where Jesus is standing is in itself quite the feat. Finding where he is and then walking towards him to join in his work is an even greater challenge. These women bravely did just that during their meetings.”
By Musalaha Publications Department