By Hedva Haymov, Musalaha Women’s Programs Manager

The AHLAN Group (Attitude of Hope, Love, and Non-Violence) ended the year on a high and hopeful note. Recently, thirty women took the day off to be together and discover the challenges and beauty of the Judean Wilderness between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

It is not without trial and cost when we come together. Once again, we had to navigate the bureaucracy of a country divided: no permissions to enter Israel, no permissions to enter Palestine, different work schedules, and physical distances. We were expecting permissions for the Palestinian women to enter Israel, as we had heard that rumor (that's normally how we know that permissions are coming), and so we planned a day together touring a local biblical site and having a relaxing walk in the woods. When permissions did not come the day before, we had to choose to either cancel or change the plan.

We decided to go full in with a day in neutral territory, between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. We quickly organized a new tour guide who knew where we could go legally, and he planned our day. We notified the women of the change. It would be more difficult and a longer distance to travel, but we hoped to stick to our original time schedule. Everyone agreed and we were off.

From the Golan in the north to the West Bank, our homes are four to five hours’ drive from each other. The bus started in the north, picking up people along the way until finally arriving at our first stop in the Judean Wilderness. Here, we discussed all the Bible passages where God spoke to people in the desert. It was a quiet place, away from the normal fast pace and noise of our communities. We prayed that God would speak to us and inspire us.

I asked the ladies, "Who are we?" Several answers came quickly: "Children of God," "Servants," "We are a witness of God's love when we love each other"….Ah, now here's a key. WHEN we LOVE EACH OTHER we are a witness of God's love and His desire to reconcile the world to Him. God has called us as witnesses to be connected. So I asked another question, "This is important to know here in this place, but what happens when you go back to your community and you're pulled into your national corners by others? What do we do then?" Several women said they tell their neighbors and friends, “I am uncomfortable with your pressure and feel that you are wrong. We are the same, we are family." Another answered "I am commanded by God to love everyone. No exceptions."

This group continued the day in various times of prayer for one another. We each picked up a rock and painted our name on it and traded with another group member. We prayed for each other and took the rock home as a testament and reminder, something like the twelve stones placed in the Jordan river when the Children of Israel crossed over.

AHLAN – An Attitude of Hope, Love, and Non-Violence stood today where the prophets stood and proclaimed their love for one another. I pray someone is listening.