Our Israel adventure ended exactly where we began: in Tel Aviv. When first looking at the itinerary for the trip, one of the first questions a Jewish friend of mine asked was “Why are you not spending more time in Tel Aviv?” (originally, we’d only planned to fly in and out of this city). The simple answer to this question was, “It’s not a religiously driven city.” Our trip sought to focus on places where religious conflict played a strong role in people’s lives and the ever evolving religious landscape in Israel’s conversations with its neighbors. Thus, Tel Aviv, as a thriving Miami Beach like town, a center for business and pleasure for Israel just didn’t seem to fit the requirements for our travels.
However, on this the last day of our time in Israel, I found myself glad that we had some extra time to spend in this city and take in another perspective of this great land.
As had been our custom the entire journey, I began taking in the city as we first laid eyes on it from our mini-van from the perspective of those who lived there. As a mostly Israeli inhabited town, I thought about what were their hopes, their fears, their dreams for their nation as they dwelled in this place that is generally viewed as insulted from the rest of the national conflict. After seeing all that we had over the course of the week– being in Palestine towns, Israeli settlements, speaking with Imams in East Jerusalem, I wondered if the folks I traveled with on the street had seen what I saw, felt what I felt or even had friends in the part of the country where our group had visited?
My guess was probably not.
I was told by our guide, Elad, that Tel Aviv is considered to be a city where people feel safe to walk on the streets, do business as they please and meet friends without cares of what might happen as they journeyed to restaurants, bars, or places of worship. I remembered that my American passport had taken me over the course of this journey to places where many Israelis either can’t go or are lectured not to go, persuaded by fear.
In those moments of walking around Tel Aviv’s bustling consumer-driven life, I took in the blessing of what the 10 days of being in Israel had been for me. With the golden passport, I had seen with my own eyes sites and homes which told the story of great hope for this nation. With great opportunities, come great responsibilities and so I knew more than ever of my responsiblity to be a light of a different kind of story about this land, a story where peacemakers were the central voice.
Simultaneously, I also realized that the hearts and minds of those in Tel Aviv were probably more closely aligned with mine than I gave them credit for– for it is so easy in the United States to live in an insulated place of thinking that the conflicts of the world do not affect you. How easy it is to work and play and care about your own family without seeking the good of the global community in which you live!
I know the excitement of a trip such as this is one that has its own natural journey of high and lows, but my prayer as my plane takes off from Tel Aviv is that the people and places I encountered here will not escape me. My prayer is that they will stay in my spirit and keep enlarging my view of the Great God whom all the faith seekers of this world also are seeking to know as well. I pray that the new friendships I’ve made on this journey and those I hope to make more of in the future will continue to challenge me and encourage me not walk on the streets of my hometown with blank stares, but full of promise and conviction to be a peacemaker wherever I am planted.
Who might want to join me?