Rebuilding Homes & Rebuilding Hope
Today I went to visit some families whose homes were demolished by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Thankfully, I was on the tour with Marwan Al Fararja – a non-violent community organizer and much beloved member of the home rebuilding project. As we walked through the village, it was clear that Marwan is a local favorite. Everywhere he goes he is greeted with a warm embrace, a wide smile, and an offer of sweet arabic coffee. By extension, I was warmly received as well and people quickly began telling me their stories.
The home rebuilding project was started by the Holy Land Trust to help rebuild the homes of the victims of Israeli home demolitions. On our tour, we heard many stories of pain, many stories of fear, and many who longed for renewed hope. “We worked so hard” a woman cried, ” and then in one moment it was all swept away.”
As the stories poured out, I found myself struggling to take it all in. . . struggling to keep a level head. . . struggling to make sense of it all. On the verge of tears, I heard a voice cut through the air around me – words so sharp I was sure that something was wrong. In fear, I looked to Marwan for direction. He looked back at me with a with a smile and a laugh:
“A lamb is being born!”
You have to be kidding me! A lamb is being born? Really. Really. I’m standing in the rubble of a demolished home, on the edge of conflict, surrounded by the skeletons of human greed and ignorance, and a lamb is being born. A lamb is being born? I didn’t know how to react – wasn’t sure whether to fake a smile or shout out: WHAT THE HELL IS A LAMB GONNA DO TO CHANGE ALL THIS SUFFERING!
Thankfully, I’ve travelled widely enough to know that loud angry outbursts by foreigners are rarely appreciated (make that, never appreciated). So instead of shooting down the overly-apparent joy of my hosts I decided to smile and join in the throng headed to the field below. I’m glad I did. The scene was bustling, shepherds shouting, sheep bleating, neighbors peeking. . . all surrounding the arrival of this new life. My first impressions you ask? MESSY. Second impression? BEAUTIFUL. Indeed, this new life has no connection to childhood visions of cute-little-Disney-lambs-being-left-by-storks. No, the hope of new life that I witnessed today was a messy, bloody, dirt-staining-wool-type of hope. It was nothing short of amazing.
I want to end this note like hollywood movie. I want to tie up the loose ends all nice and neat. Problem is: this experience doesn’t wrap up nice or neat at all. This conflict still exists, the injustice, the intolerance, the fear that undergirds it all is still pervasive. Lamb-or-no-lamb. Even so, I feel compelled to write of hope. I write to report that today new life burst onto the scene when I least expected it. I was on the verge of tears and hope found me. It was a reminder of the hope that is eternal and unquenchable. A reminder that this too shall pass. For me, todays birth was a reminder of another lamb born in Bethlehem: a man who refused to meet violence with violence, a man who preached about loving one’s enemies, a man who was detained and killed without cause or justice, a man of forgiveness. Today as I walk the streets of his birth, sharing stories with real shepherds in their fields, I am reminded of the messy, bloody, dirty-staining-wool-type of hope that is the person of Jesus.
A man who is for everyone but belongs to none. Hope Incarnate. Emmanuel.