Visit to Bethlehem: Our Hearts and Minds Were Opened
by Kathleen Campbell and Rani Murdoch Zappa, Westminster members
Sometimes travel opens our eyes wide, and we gasp. Sometimes travel breaks our hearts. Always, travel changes us. In late March, six members of Westminster’s Palestine Partnership Ministry Team and Associate Pastor Alanna Simone Tyler spent a week in Bethlehem and experienced those reactions. We were warmed by our time with two welcoming communities: the pastor and congregation of Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church, and faculty and students of Dar al-Kalima University. We traveled to sign the 5-year relationship covenants we renewed last year and to explore how we could deepen our relationships.
We began to understand what Palestinians experience day-to-day. What is it like to live under Israeli occupation? How do our Christian brothers and sisters, now a tiny minority, survive emotionally, economically, and spiritually? What is their source of hope as they continue to make Palestine their home?
One moment we were preparing cabbage rolls (“Malfouf”) with women of the church, participating in a lively bible study, or learning about the university’s sophisticated design programs. The next moment we were traveling through checkpoints, experiencing the ominous separation wall, witnessing the breathtaking beauty of Palestine now marred by massive illegal Israeli settlements, and listening to a young Palestinian who is mourning the deaths of 25 friends and acquaintances killed in recent months.
These two resilient Bethlehem communities seek our active friendship. It sustains them. And their friendship will sustain us. We are eager to share stories from the Bethlehem partnership trip later this year. Come hear our stories. They may change you.