we spend our life trying to become, but the beauty is in the unbecoming

October 22, 2017

Syria: Why it's Holy Land on My Trip to the Holy Land (March 2017, Israel)

We had another successful day on the road, pimping it in our coach bus with wifi. You’re not supposed to eat snacks on the bus, so obviously I spilled my Mike & Ikes on the floor, which rolled as we climbed through the hills around the Sea of Galilee. 
Today, we visited the ancient gate of Dan and its ruins – pic posted earlier today. The gate allegedly dates back 4000 years to the time of Abraham, the grandpa of our common religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam).
We then climbed the Golan Heights and received a history lesson on the borders of Israel, why they are so contested, and why they continue to be disputed today. That’s a good conversation to have in person rather than via a blog, so more on that next time I see you.
Our Golan Heights experience culminated at Kofi Annan (Coffee in the Clouds, loosely translated), a café located at the top of the Heights at the site of a former Israeli bunker. UN soldiers still occupy this site, keeping watch on the Syrian border as they sip their local brew, chat with tourists, and smoke cigarettes.
Our guide pointed out the Road to Damascus (its general direction) as well as the bombed remnants of Syrian towns at the border. The views of this lush land swept for miles, and it was apparent why the vantage point of these Heights was so important to Israel and its neighbor Syria.
You guys. Syria. The group gathered around our guide–and she relayed the basic facts of the refugee crisis. A million refugees in Turkey. A million in Lebanon. A million in Jordan. Another million or so dispersed among Egypt, Iraq, Europe and beyond. No one wants them. No one cares much about the crisis because Syria is poor and does not have oil.
I sat at this privileged view of Syria with a fancy coffee shop behind me. At that point in space and place, mere miles separated me and my fellow “pilgrims” from rape, death, torture, war, and destruction. The sun felt warm on my cheeks as I squinted to see how far I could see into Syria. I could see this neighboring country, but I could not see the war from this high place. I thought, if I could get to the ground, drive a bit, then I could see. Obviously I did not do that, but it reminded me that the greatest problems cannot be observed from high up, away from the suffering. You have to go down to truly see.
Well, you people know me well enough to know that tears flow out of me in times like this. Thank God our dear family friend was by me. He let me cry and didn’t tell me it would be okay, because it’s not. Brother saw me from afar, and he knew why I was crying even though we did not exchange a word. He went to the coffee shop and ordered me a cup, giving me the gift of time to sit and wrestle this.
Friends, I don’t know how to go down to Syria. I think money given to solid organizations helps, but it’s not the only answer. Prayer to whatever higher power you entrust the great restlessness of life helps too, but what is prayer without the feet to accompany it? God gave feet to his mission in the form of Jesus, so why would he expect our feet to stay put?
I think back to the Beatitudes, and I firmly hold to the idea that the refugee is blessed. My prayer is that, just as we are undeserving of the general wellbeing we have been given, we are reminded that the Syrian refugees are equally undeserving of their suffering. That the death of one part humanity is the death of us all.
(Photo is of Syria, and of a sign at the Heights, pointing to Washington DC, reminding me that we are not as far from this crisis and we think.)
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