A letter from Victor and Sara Makari serving in Israel/Palestine
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Dear family and friends:
Despite uncommonly cold temperatures that penetrate to the bones in these stone buildings, Bethlehem’s winter has been replete with warm celebrations: Christmas (December 25 for the Roman and Western Churches, according to the Gregorian calendar; January 6/7 for the Greek, Oriental and Armenian Orthodox Churches, according to the Julian calendar), Epiphany, the Baptism of our Lord, and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Now we can look forward to the spring and its commemorations: Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter.
Those are special times here. Besides the inspiration, joy and renewal they infuse in the life of the churches and Palestinian Christians, many Christian pilgrim groups and church delegations from around the globe come and share in new reflection on the meaning of these festivals for our common faith. New depths are discovered in the familiar stories of the Scriptures, and new dimensions of the unity and diversity of the Body of Christ are recognized.
This spring as we look toward a renewed term of service in the Holy Land we are taking time (a little over three months) for mission interpretation in the United States (and possibly the Toronto area in Canada), as well as for self-maintenance (routine health check-ups, connecting with family, etc.). Already we realize this will be a very busy time but hope it will also be a good opportunity to recharge our batteries. Since we are jointly appointed by the Common Global Ministries Board of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) [CGMB] AND the PC(USA), and since the CGMB is paying for our overseas travel this year, our focus for interpretation will be on churches of the UCC and the Disciples. By mutual agreement our plan is to return to the U.S. next year for mission interpretation primarily with the PC(USA). However, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like for us to visit this spring, should we be in your vicinity and can work it in. We want to share more with you about our church partners’ faithful work in Israel and Palestine.
God’s life-giving and life-renewing Spirit revives our souls in the midst of living conditions arising from a conflicted and sometimes chaotic situation. We cannot fail to give thanks for the faithfulness of God’s people amid their struggles here, the steadfastness and resiliency of peacemakers who “refuse to be enemies,” the beauty, giftedness and joy of children, and the strong bonds of families—these continue to inspire us. We can also count blessings others might take for granted—the reliable work of various service providers: garbage collectors and street sweepers who, day or night, clean up thoughtlessly strewn trash, heating and cooking propane gas distributors, drinking water delivery drivers, farmers who bring their fresh fruits and vegetables every day to the local market, a bread bakery only a 30-second walk from our apartment building, nearby small grocery stores that stock almost everything we need, and even a weekly fair-trade market set up by a Palestinian non-profit organization named “Adl” (meaning, “fairness” or “justice”) … Like many of our neighbors, we “refuse to be defeated” by all that could drive one to depression or despair.
It is a struggle to refuse to be defeated when one hears or views news of a flurry of unsettling executive orders issued by the new U.S. president, or of the bulldozing ahead with more and more discriminatory legislation by the current Israeli government (see, for example, https://www.adalah.org/en/content/view/7771 and the right-wing Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post article at http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Ministers-prepare-to-vote-on-academic-boycott-bill-480587). A quote from a recent article by a human rights activist is sobering; it reads: “much of the world now sees that there was never a ‘two-state solution’ to a colonial-anticolonial struggle.” The hope for a peaceful end to the chronic Israeli-Palestinian conflict is growing progressively dim. Yet, refusing to be defeated is the firm stance of those who believe in and work peacefully for a just future. Professor Mazin Qumsieh, author of the just-quoted article, concludes with this statement:
Our job is to stay vigilant and respond to the bad news (like Netanyahu’s visit to Washington to push for more wars for Israel). But another and perhaps more important endeavor is to build a new society based on RESPECT (for ourselves, for others, and for the environment). In other words, work for the future by challenging those who want to and destroy it, by actually doing positive things for achieving sustainability, peace and justice.
We pray for Israel and for Palestine—and for all who have resolved to pursue the paths of a just peace, wisely and courageously, here and elsewhere, that they may not resign themselves to defeat.
Finally, we extend our deep gratitude to all those who pray with us and for us, and to all who contribute to the churches that support us and many others in God’s mission.
Victor and Sara Makari
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