An amazing trip. I'm still processing it all. I liked the way that we went, as a pilgrimage rather than, say, tourism or education. We were going to see sites that are at the heart of the Christian tradition. There was time in the afternoons for relaxation and reflection. There were some groups there at the same time who drove to sites about 12 hours each day for two weeks. I think that would be awful, all blending together. The way we did it, we certainly missed some things, but I liked the trade-off. A few observations.
- Virtually every site we visited is questionable. However, I enjoyed what's known as a "second naivete," which is where you get beyond questioning the fact of something to embrace the truth of it. This is generally my approach to Scripture, but the sites made things very real to me. Even where it was most likely not the site described, it still gives a feel for the context. In some cases, the geography itself is critically important in understanding the narrative, such as Jesus entry into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives by crossing the Kidron Valley.
- I was off of most Internet communication for the full two weeks. (I sent one email to a professor and friend concerning one of the sites that is very meaningful to both of us.) I did not miss it much. I will probably be around even less now.
- The group I was with was amazing and that made all the difference in the trip. It was a group of progressive ministers from DFW. Very diverse: early career and late career; young and old; big churches and small churches; emergent and traditional. I learned a lot from everyone and set the stage for some partnerships in the future. These are people that I will rely on for the rest of my life for advice and support.
- I don't like the Hassidim very much. I don't think that makes me a racist. Rude. Misogynist. Privileged. The driving force behind the worst oppression of the Palestinians. There were exceptions, such as the lovely man on the plane helping take care of his three children, but not many.
- Our guides were Arab, one a Christian and one a Muslim. They were lovely people who we got to know very well. We met their families. They were extremely generous out of their poverty. The way they are treated is shameful. The Christian lives on the West Bank, in Bethlehem; the Arab lives in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives. People on the West Bank get different license plates, so that they can be easily prevented from entering Jerusalem. For that reason, my guide has to walk through a checkpoint in the wall and then take a bus. Every time he goes through, each way, he has to be fingerprinted, photographed, frisked, and interrogated. It takes an hour to an hour-and-a-half each way. The only way he can come in at all is because he has a permit as a licensed guide. They were followed by the Israeli FBI while showing us around town and they would have been arrested if we had not been with them - just for being Arab. Walking around in the path of Jesus you really get a sense of the role of politics and economics in the narrative of the New Testament. Seeing it play out again in front of our eyes was disturbing.
- Semitic women are hot. FYI.