Return To Bethlehem - Part 2

October 25, 2018

One-and-a-half weeks later I have returned to Bethlehem.  This morning I started to explore what had changed within me since I was last here.  Interestingly, as I made my way up the 50-degree (maybe steeper) incline from my guest house to Manger Square just a few minutes up the road, I found myself returning to the same little mind game I had played as I had left Bethlehem. Certainly much had changed in me since I had last hiked this road. I had grown in confidence in my ability to help guide people in meaningful travel, I had sparked and developed friendships, I had listened to countless personal, heartfelt stories both harrowing and hopeful, I had gazed upon beautiful vistas, I had touched the sea. Yet, despite all these new experiences, there I was, visited by the same refrain as before, this whisper to my soul for a new vision around me.

So I imagined once again there was no occupation, everyone was free to travel where they pleased without permits, ID cards, and biometric scans at checkpoints, everyone was treated as a human being with equality and dignity.  And again, as I peered around me with that mindset, the same lifting or evaporation, I cannot quite say, met me, externally as well as internally.  This invisible, yet palpable, heaviness, sadness—depression—had gone. I felt, and somehow also saw, my entire environment differently. There was now a brightness that had not been there just moments before.

Playground at Wi’am Conflict Resolution Center, Bethlehem

Playground at Wi’am Conflict Resolution Center, Bethlehem

I find I need to play this little game with myself every once and a while to get a glimpse of what life could be like here if freedom existed.  My imagination helps fuel me forward.  I take steps into this unknown with the belief that if I do the future just might hold something better.  I may not see the end goal, but I believe I will see glimmers of it.  I will witness relationships cultivated.  Tears, hugs, meals, and laughter shared.  Love lit and nurtured.  Healing, perhaps even reconciliation, take place.  Faith strengthened.  Then, one day, prayers answered and dreams beyond our wildest dreams manifested.  Yes, that.  My imagination helps me hope all that—take steps toward all that. 

I say all this and realize this very story—this struggle and hope—is true for my homeland.  We, too, are unquestionably in need of equality, freedom, and dignity for each and every person living in our country.  How much goes unseen?  Unnoticed?  Unattended?  The intersectionality between Israel/Palestine and The United States is undeniable.  So, as I step into the unknown abyss of the future in the direction of wholeness and fullness of life for all, I do so with hope that as I take steps here, I take steps at home.  I take steps toward justice, equality, freedom, and dignity for each of us in need of it.  Let us walk this road together.

Katie Archibald-Woodward