Thursday, August 12, 2010

I made it. I'm finally home, and after 43 hours of traveling, have slept in my own bed. I thank God for your prayers and for His traveling graces! Ilhamdilila

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Sea of Death

Weirdest water experience of my life. Seriously.

The other day on Saturday, we had the opportunity as a group to go to the Dead Sea, not only the lowest point on earth but also one of the saltiest. There's actually a legend I was told that attempts to explain this saltiness, that it is the result of when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (It's actually due to all the run-off from the surrounding hills and from beneath where the lake now stands, from what I understand). This increased saltiness has some rather intriguing side effects. Buoyancy, is as you know, the action of stuff floating while submersed (at least partially) in the water. Or as Wikipedia puts it, "... is an upward acting force, caused by fluid pressure, that opposes an object's weight." In a way, it's very similar to Hot Air balloons floating through the air (but not "at the surface" of the air) because the hot air is less dense... there's more stuff in the air beneath the balloon than within or above the balloon.

In the Dead Sea, there is much much more in the water beneath you than you'd ever expect there to be in water: all that salt! As you're walking out into the water, past the rocks and that pricelessly cosmetic mud-slime beneath your feet, it becomes surprisingly difficult to walk, because you find that your legs no longer want to go down. Just as this realization and it's implications begin to hit, there's no longer anything beneath you, legs and body floating while completely upright. A subtle and nearly imperceptible muscle movement later, knees shoot up in front of you, back goes flat, floating on the surface. Buoyant beyond all reason. Inconceivable.

The mud was also pretty sweet, I guess it's the thing to do: cover one's self ridiculously with the nasty stuff and bake in the 107 degrees of sun for a while, rinse, and enjoy baby's-bottom-smooth skin. (I have to say, my Inner Child was quite pleased with this experience!) Upon the writing of this blog entry, my skin still feels like a good thing to be covering my body, more so than usual that is. Don't take me wrong, I'm generally pretty happy to have skin. But these days, when you're only showering once every 4 or so days... it can be nice to throw off the old man in a manor of speaking. ;)

Looking forward to daily showers when I get home... and church. I'll post more on that later, suffice it to say, I finally had the chance to go this morning. The Church of the Nativity. Pretty sweet.

Also, I would have pics from this adventure yesterday, but my camera is being all wonky, doesn't want to charge anymore. So much for pawn-shop treasures.

For now, Mas Salaama! See you all soon! (Such a very strange fact...)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Final Escape

I'm close.

I'm terribly close to being through with this entire adventure, and I'm left feeling all sorts of different things in the pit of my chest, the epicenter of some crazy hurricane. There was a Hurricane Alex a month or so ago, right? Wouldn't be suprised if it had been influanced by events here someplace between my lungs and heart.

Tough, in a word, is how life is now.

Politically speaking, things could hardly get worse here in the West Bank. I had the opportunity to spend this last weekend in Palestine's two largest cities: Ramalla and Nablis, traveling with my HLT group and visiting several NGOs and similar organizations along the way. At each, we heard a similar story of general decay of economic viability, the increasing possibility of the West Bank being split in several places by Settler-Only roads, The Wall, and et cetera, and that essentially the only thing for me to do that is helpful as a so-called International is to spread the word. Refugee camps bursting at the seems after 60 years, an ineffective and compliant government that doesn't get anything done... I don't have enough heart for all that's happening here. For all that's happening in my life in general.

And here, in the midst of all this confusion, I've been getting more and more struck by a particular theological question (It's been a while since I've posted on one of these!). It occurred to me actually in jest after we had visited Hebron last week, after I was reminded once more by someone how all that the Jews are doing is being done in the name of God. All politics aside, I respond that I surely wouldn't want to be serving a God that condoned the purposeful and systematic oppression, killing, and disrespect of an entire ethnic group...and then I had to pause. And...oh wait.

Deuteronomy 2:31-36 (NIV)
 31 The LORD said to me, "See, I have begun to deliver Sihon and his country over to you. Now begin to conquer and possess his land."
 32 When Sihon and all his army came out to meet us in battle at Jahaz, 33 the LORD our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army. 34 At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed [c] them—men, women and children. We left no survivors. 35 But the livestock and the plunder from the towns we had captured we carried off for ourselves. 36 From Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge, and from the town in the gorge, even as far as Gilead, not one town was too strong for us. The LORD our God gave us all of them

This is merely a single example. From what I recollect of my readings through this part of the Bible, there were many such instances as Israel was establishing itself in the Promised Land.

I've heard repeatedly over and over, God is a God of justice[Leviticus 19:15 , John 5:30 , Acts 3:14]. He wants us to care for the downtrodden, the poor in spirit, those who are overlooked[Luke 4:16-21]. God is Love [1st John 4:8]. Neither the Jews nor the Gentiles are above one another [Romans 3:9-19].

How does this go together exactly? Here, I seem to be confronted with the fact that, if the Jews only are referring to the Torah and most of the OT (or is it all of it? I can't recall all that they considered Holy Writ), then they would seem to have ample support for what they seem to be doing today. (Granted, many Israelis are not acting explicitly or with the mentality that they are doing anything for God, but some are) And yet, there is plenty of support for God not wanting to advocate the wan-ton killing of entire peoples. (Not that this is exactly what's going on here either, but still.)  

I find myself conflicted....

... and that I'm leaving for home in 8 days.

Totally weird.

Eventually I'll have more pictures up, it's just an entirely laborious process overhere...