The Holy Land, everyone knows it, is not a peaceful place. Paradoxically, it can also be the most peaceful place in the world.
In Jerusalem, where I live now, I got to know a kind and gentle Russian Orthodox priest, went to a Greek Catholic Mass in Arabic, was too tired to go to a messianic Jewish prayer meeting, but my fellow Catholics did go and enjoyed themselves immensly. I watched an elderly Jewish lady praying from a book, rocking gently back and forth while waiting for her bus, and looking up every once in a while to see if her bus was coming. It was the most beautiful thing ever. I work with an Armenian Catholic lady, and speak about prayer and intimate touches of God with a Muslim woman, who often speaks the words of the Scriptures without knowing it. We begin Mass nearly at the same time when the Muslim prayer calls resonate throughout the Old City of Jerusalem, and finish an evening prayer with Our Father in Arabic.
When I speak with a Palestinian Christian guy, such a beatiful sould who loves Jesus with all his heart, I often feel guilty. I know it wasn't my fault, but I feel guilty for just being in a room where those words were once said (by another friend who loves Jesus - aren't we a people of paradoxes): "If Samson had killed those Philistines then, Israel would have had no problem with the Palestinians now". Yes, here is your Philistine who is so unfortunate to be alive, that he wakes up at 5 am every Sunday and can't wait to get to the first Mass that is held in his church. He would then go to a Christian orphanage in Bethlehem, and maybe play a game of football with some Muslim kids. It's fun, you know...
I saw a grown-up man, a grandfather, a Lutheran minister of around 20 years, so shaken yesterday that he almost wept. He tried to say a coherent sentence, but he couldn't. There were just images and pictures, and impressions. They went to Hebron, because they heard a nun praying in a church they went to: "May the soldiers treat their fellow men like human beings". They called her and went to visit a Christian peacemaking organisation, run by 8 different Christian denominations. I saw him leaving - and saw him come back a different person. His hands were shaking and tears were welling up in his eyes. I thought of Auschwitz, he said. My son is a soldier (he serves in Georgia, as in Georgia with Tbilisi a capital) he said - but he would never do anything like that. He would never do anything like that.
Faced with the impossible, we are all shaken. But I have heard those conversations, have sat with people who said things I even then was shocked to hear. I am faced with the consequence of their choices here and now. Whether these choices were well informed, is another question. My friend - well, my friend is coming for a visit. You may have already guessed we are all preparing the most exciting program ever... But he has to know.