The View from the Window

Mosaic of Peace Reflection

by Mark Goodman-Morris

I’m looking out the window of our hotel room, and I can see a statue on top of some religious building at the top of the hill to our left. It is maybe a statue of Jesus, or maybe it’s Mary, or an angel. Any of those three will do just fine thank you.

This is as good as it will get this weekend. Cheryl and I are COVID bound in our hotel suite. Rather than being out with the Mosaic of Peace conference folks, twelve of us who tested positive are confined to our rooms. We have a lovely two room suite on the seventh floor with a good view, a good bed (we are sleeping a lot!), good food, and the prayers of good people. We are not suffering, but we want to be well and we want to be free.

Freedom is precious, and freedom can be tricky. I have a three generation aversion to being unfree and confined to anything. (My great grandfather was trapped and killed in a coal mine collapse 100 plus years ago, and the trauma has been passed down. We Morris’ get claustrophobic in tight places. Sorry to pass that on to you, Noelle.)

The good news is I’m writing this. And the good news is I have time to reflect on some things for the first time in a while. And the good news is that I’m confined with my very favorite person in God’s wide Realm, and when Cheryl is around I’m okay. All of this is good news. Here is what is sitting in front of me: 1) almost drunk cappuccino, 2) chocolate options, 3) types of fruit — though I discount the canned option, 4) a water cup, and 5) Cheryl’s sketch pad. Cheryl is working on characters for an upcoming book for her favorite granddaughter.

Here is what I know about this situation. I have everything I need — especially the capo and the chocolate. I also have everything a person of white privilege can have — I’m not bragging here — I’m just aware, and it makes me pause. As an American tourist with resources I have freedom, guides who inform and keep me safe (especially with Covid), connections with church and state, and most importantly I have options. Lots of options.

I’m looking out our window. I see Palestinians on the crowded noisy Bethlehem streets. Having experienced their hospitality and resiliency it makes me cry holy tears. People of Bethlehem have limited freedom at best. I could walk a couple of blocks from here (if it weren’t for the
damned Covid) to see the ugly scar of the wall of separation that artists and activists of Palestine have turned into a work of stunning street art.

They are not safe. They are not secure. They are treated like terrorists. Overwhelmingly, they are not terrorists. They are tired and angry and impatient, but their strategy is much more about engaged resistance than violence. The Israeli government controls everything from
movement in and out of the West Bank to how much water the town gets. More and more Palestinian land is being stolen by Jewish “settlers,” many of them immigrants from the US. The Israeli government controls pretty much everything of everyday life, and they enforce the controls with a US funded military. (BTW—US funding for Israeli military in 2022 is $38 billion. Without US support there would be no occupation. I need to let that sink in.) There is an attitude and, more importantly, there are policies that squeeze the Palestinian people tighter and tighter. The current government desire is for the Palestinians to leave their homeland and let Israel move in. The UN including most every nation on the face of this earth (and, as of this last General Assembly, the PCUSA) call it apartheid, and so it is.

I am not optimistic about the future in this part of the world. None of the voices we are listening to on this trip are optimistic either. So I find myself going to our faith. The people of these lands— Jews, Christians, and Muslims — are all held in the palm of God’s hand. They are all loved and blessed by God. I’m going to be hanging on to that in the middle of this mess. Hope is different than optimism. Hope is about living in God for the long haul. All of this mess belongs to God — All of the longing. All of the loss and grief. All of the brokenness. All of the anger. The dispair. All of the potential. All of the broken peace promises. All of the history. And now that I’ve been here I’m a part of the mess too. I can’t unsee what I have seen.

The Jewish people deserve a nation. The Palestinian people deserve their own land and country. Yes, it’s very complicated. No we cannot turn away.

When I looked out the hotel window this morning there were four Palestinian men directing traffic to move buses in and out of the hotel parking lot. There were six buses in a space big enough for two buses. There was jostling, and horn honking, and loud words, and slow micro
movements, and horns blaring, and held up traffic, and a little more swearing in a language I don’t know, and a cacophony of horns. There was no way all those busses would get into that space, get loaded with hotel tourists from all over the world, and get back out on the barelytwo-
lane-road that runs behind the hotel. But within a half hour the lot was empty.

I don’t know — maybe even the impossible is possible in ways we can’t yet imagine. God, hear our prayer.

As I’m writing this in the late afternoon light, the horns have started up again. The busses are coming home. I think I’ll order a couple more cappuccino for Cheryl and me and keep looking out this window. My limited view is allowing me to see more clearly.

I think the statue is Mary. Maybe.

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