Revealing encounters on recent trip to Israel 

 

Rev Peter Timothy
Pastor
 
The Tent of Nations is a literal light upon a hill. Surrounded by Israeli settlements, one Palestinian farmer and his family refuse to give up their land. Refuse to counter violence with violence. Refuse to be enemies. They are the last ones standing
 
For over a century, Daoud’s family has farmed olives, apricots and grapes. But, since 2002 they have become the target of violent actions from Israelis desperate to claim their ground for themselves
 
Legal bills have topped $150,000 as Daoud appeals through the courts, but it doesn't stop the pain at seeing 250 olive trees destroyed and huge boulders piled into the road to prevent access to vital farm machinery
 
But, whilst sitting in a cave, perched on a rock, he perfectly articulates a vision of hope. Determined to not be a victim, he maps out the use of solar energy, green fuels and a connection with the soil that Palestinians must engage with in order to stand on their own two feet
 
My encounter with Daoud took place during a recent 10-day study trip to Israel and Palestine. It was the kind of experience that took everything you thought you knew, and turned it upside down
 
Politics, religious differences and notions of entitlement; all weave together to form what appears to be a colossal knot, impossible to untie. The mere mention of ‘Israel-Palestine’ is virtually a buzzword for ‘never-ending mess’
 
Yet, in the midst of this, I found myself face to face with people like Daoud. People like Ali and Hanan; a Palestinian Muslim and an Israeli Jew who are working together to encourage dialogue and understanding between the two sides
 
A key part of the Christian faith is the teaching of Jesus to “love your neighbour as yourself.” Whilst “loving” may seem a big ask, such journeys begin with firstly trying to understand your neighbour
 
Encounters like those mentioned above are both inspiring and humbling but also incredibly relevant to us, as we live in an increasingly diverse community where it is too easy to resort to stereotypes or to play the blame-game
 
To forge a better community our challenge is to move beyond the rhetoric and to engage with real people. Understanding always trumps isolation, but to see Great Yarmouth progress, we will need to put our assumptions aside and listen to the voices of our neighbours - whoever they may be