From the Holy Land: reflections on justice and peace
Caritas staff member Anna Robertson is providing a series of daily blogs while visiting the Holy Land with Caritas Chair Mark Richards. They are checking on progress of our healthcare partnership with Caritas Jerusalem, and other work Caritas Jerusalem does for those who struggle in the land where Christ lived, died and rose again.
The visit coincides with the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel (22-28 September) which has the theme 'Jerusalem - city of justice and peace'. Anna starts her blog with a reflection on what is peace in this divided land.
What is peace?
"It is easy to talk about peace. But what is peace and how do you plant the seeds of peace in people’s hearts?"
Claudette Habesch, September 2013 (Caritas Jerusalem Director 1986-2012)
I walked past this sculpture on my way to the Caritas Jerusalem office to look at data, details, budgets and reports. It sat in the back of my mind all day. Who is this man? What is he doing? Is he praying head against ‘the’ wall or is he being held up, forced to face the wall as he suffers the indignity of being under suspicion and searched? Is he part of the wall and the very essence of the place or is this wall containing, detaining and restricting? He is pressed up so close to the wall that either he longs to be one with it or the space for him is becoming more limited until he longer has a place to call his own.
There is an irony about walls in the Holy Land.
In the morning we drove along beside the Wall (Israel’s separation barrier) to reach the Qalandiya check point and cross into the West Bank. Coming through the checkpoint on the other side there were cars parked everywhere as Palestinians made their way to the gap in the Wall – the only check point through which they could enter Jerusalem. People, papers, cars all examined. Only those with Jerusalem number plates were able to pass through.
In the evening, we followed observant Jews winding their way through the Muslim Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem down to the Western Wall for prayer. It was the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles and the way was dotted with soldiers watching over devout families as they hurried down to this Wall, the Torah clutched closely. At the Wall, the men gathered on the left side while the women and children were separated in to a smaller area on the right. The women clustered together, some reading the Torah swaying as they went, others were praying while the rest gathered with friends talking.
Everyone’s life revolves around a wall.
"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…"