My Visit to Palestine and Israel - 3/05
On the mostly dry rock,
best suited for goats it seems,
a battle rages amidst Angels.
The two leggeds with language,
99% like the ones without,
and even more similar amongst themselves,
kill each other because of their
"great", "essential", "abhorrent", "profound", differences,
and other lies that work as well,
while the Angels tend to the wounded.
This holonic stack of humanity
begging for the birth of compassion;
this human stew of
fear, domination, injustice, and shame;
this land with all of its
promise compromised and misunderstood;
this wasteland, polluted by
hate, great ignorance, and complacence;
out of this womb are born a constant stream of Angels.
The Bethlehem wood carver invites me in for coffee,
squatted on his porch,
our cigarettes only cold stubs now,
he defers to his wife for her 9 words of English
to bring us to a shared heart of smiles
and a memory of genuine laughter
that will now accompany me forever.
Grandpa's rough hand takes me gently to his pigeon coop.
He shows me,
in that way that humans can when language will not work,
that pigeons court with style and finesse,
not at all like the noisy, clutsy chickens he used to have.
I leave, with a now familiar bond,
knowing it a family offense
if I do not visit on my return.
Another meeting with Angels, I believe.
Should I pinch myself?
I can't seem to wake up from this one.
An Israeli Lt. Col., is sitting across from me.
Arabs can now call a military superior,
like a US 911 call,
if check point harassment occurs,
and a call will go directly from a superior
to the harassing youth in uniform and finger on his M16.
The Lt. Col. made this happen.
His men were the ones
who trashed the $100 million renovation
in the Bethlehem Continental Hotel.
Angels are a curious lot, not simple at all.
Checkpoints turn a 15 mile visit to a dying aunt,
into an 8 hour, two day trip.
Some aunts die too soon; and mothers, and children.
Checkpoints are the movies for many,
the site of unpredictable twists of irony and drama.
An Arab daughter gives birth
4 feet before she gets her papers inspected.
An Arab son, gets pulled aside for 3 questions,
and 4 hours of patience practice.
A street smart cabbie,
having provided sandwiches and Cokes for months
to the youth with M16's,
sails thru with a nod
and some joke about something
that I can't understand
but recognize as camaraderie
in the midst of events that all agree
are incomprehensible and certainly absurd.
Another cabbie has learned that using Hebrew,
and waving like a brother,
awakens a bond that almost always
gets him waved thru without a check of anyone's documents.
He is proud of how crafty and successful his role is.
On the day I had on my priest collar,
we were waved thru with a bow of deference.
No, I am not a priest, only an Angel wannabe.
Checkpoints are the commas of life.
Those without papers,
calculate the comma will not be a period.
While I was there, they were all correct.
An error could be 6 months detention, again.
So we take books,
we watch the rocks turn to sand,
we learn to not hurry,
make appointments where punctuality is not expected,
and get acquainted with helplessness,
domination, suppression, occupation, capriciousness,
and death at the end of our left arm.
We are all so close to being Angels.
Most men I meet in Palestine
have been in prison for 6-20 years.
All have watched the blood emerge
from a dying friend;
not always a soldier, too often a child, a woman,
a not so minor tally
of collateral destruction,
etched into the psyche
of a people unwilling to die or disappear;
a people with not much else
than the power of Angels in their hearts.
No, they do not all know this.
They are humans like all collections of us.
And the people I meet are not hateful.
I laughed more in Palestine,
a genuine, gut-level, family of humanity, laugh
than I have laughed ever in my life.
What is this freshness
that battered spirits can bring to my heart?
In a perfect story book,
one could not visit an Arab country,
without being hosted by an Arab family.
Being a host, in such a setting,
is Tradition, is required by religion,
is the basis for pride and self esteem,
is what all authority requires,
and requires without restraint,
in order for the Being of Human
to be reciprocally honored and set free
in its fullest, shining, mystery of the moment.
I lived this perfect story.
We were the first to stay in a new family condo,
our transportation was handled for us,
our laundry was done,
we were fed,
almost each time we opened our mouths,
with the best food,
the food for special occasions,
the goat only killed when children return
from being gone too long,
the grape leaves
wrapped with endless time and care,
the stuffed zucchinis
crafted with the love of mothers,
the best-in-the-world olive oil
pressed from the families orchard,
the eggs fresh from the family chickens,
the spices, herbs, drinks, desserts,
that crowded every table each time we entered a room.
The Arabic coffee that punctuated
an always too long sentence of gustatory indulgence.
Would this all not be enuf
to leave a visitor with a new sense of blessing?
Ah, it was just a diversion.
Having our attention so focused
on the physical nourishment,
the abundance of delicious delicacies,
sitting right below the hole in the wall
from the tank cannon,
made it easy for our hosts
to reach past our weakened defenses,
and embrace our heart
with fondness, recognition,
and the healing of light smiles and carefree laughter.
We were at home.
Mother, father, brothers, sisters embraced us.
Well, mother and sisters, shook our hands.....
it is still the Arab culture.
And, our hearts were touched none the less.
This is a love we all could benefit from learning more about.
Not like we are missing something and here is the remedy,
but here is truly something worth adding to any body of goodness.
We lived with Angels.
Angels do not see boundaries.
There were the 150 Texan church women
protecting both the too young M16 experts
and the people who needed papers
to prove they merited transit;
women posted at the Check Point Shrines,
those places of Holy Cross Cultural,
most intimate, communion,
reporting on immature, harmful behavior.
The Israeli Arab who brought
Israeli and Arab students together,
and produced two large books of plans
on how to run an integrated Jerusalem
once the Peace comes.
The Israeli woman
teaching peace skills to her students,
and developing an evaluation scheme
to ensure peace activities get more and more effective.
The Palestinian who believes
there is no chance of peace,
has cataloged all the environmental damage
done to his country,
and wont let his opinion get in the way of working for Peace.
The Palestinian government leader
who sees that when Peace comes
the peoples will be friends and neighbors
and we must plan for that.
The stories abound,
the people multiply,
the deep waters of peace activities
running under the waves of disruption,
They are holding the possibility
for a thriving, creative pair of cultures,
nurturing each other,
bringing out the best in each other,
bowing in homage and love to the immeasurable beauty of each other.
There are Angels in legion in the Middle East.
When not in my family’s condo in Bethlehem,
I stayed in a hotel owned by the Pope, Notre Dame.
I did not wear a watch,
and relied on the clock tower,
demanding my attention as I looked out my room window,
spearing the sky across the wall with arrow slits in it,
(telling a story of ages of righteous bloodshed here)
up and out of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The clock spike, quite reminded me of a hat pin,
much too large for the flat bit of haberdashery it adorned,
and still quite useful.
(Why does an icon of Semitic culture remind me of English hat makers?
Why is a Norwegian-American meddling in this Semitic tribal war?
This whole experience screams to me
about the senseless cost of most boundaries.
Discernment seems our genius;
discrimination our curse.
Why is discernment of our humanity
so delayed by lessor judgments?")
The hotel feel was quiet and simple,
familiar I suspect to the many celibate visitors
the gracious structure hosts.
The employees soon became familiar, and
were a reliable source of laughter, teasing, and.....
well, as I review it.....spiritual refreshment....
what a surprise to recognize this, so late.
More Angels.....see, they are everywhere.
Travel was tedious
and I will not bore you with more than a list:
Check points (have I mentioned these?),
more review of documents,
unpacking of tightly packed baggage,
review of docs (did I mention this?).
As we would say in my military days,
"In-county was not so bad."
But travel to and from CONUS was a boring,
uncomfortable, tiring, exposure to everyone's
viri, bacterii, snores, and strange behavior.
And in the end, all baggage accounted for,
connections made, rides met,
and diseases caught. Cough, cough.
Would that we could choose to be vectors!
And, not have to be reminded
that in ways we will never control,
we are animals,
elements of our biosphere,
never to be other.
Yes, Angels carry viri.
Maybe even built on a foundation of viri.
What's a mitochondria anyway?
but a bug that makes an Angel possible.
I have left out a novel or two....for real.
The ones written by a prison leader.
I have offered to search
for a translator into English for him.
And figuratively....endless stories to share.
But can I put a proper end to this review?
The situation....this is how the Palestinians defer to it.....
“ah, this is the situation.”
The situation emerges out of fear and injustice.
There is fault merited everywhere.
Blame is appropriate nowhere.
In the context where the Middle East Conflict is defined,
there is no solution.
This problem cannot be solved
at the level that the problem exists.
If the view of Angels can be awakened across the lands,
the primacy of humanity over ethnicity,
the generousness of love and connection
over hate and separation,
the reality of regional trade agreements
over border protections,
the respect of a shared bioregion,
over domination of a section of rock,
the attunement to poetry, art,
and the common human spirit,
over rules, unalterable tradition,
and walls of separation,
all will be well with us.
Let us all bow to the Angels,
provide food to the Angels,
protect and nurture the Angels.
The Angels are among us.
Let us hold hands with the Angels,
put on their clothes,
speak their words,
carry their candles,
and birth the Angel that lives within us.