My amazing mother-in-law, Claude, recently chided me on how my trip to Palestine/Israel was. I struggle with such broad questions and my beautiful, amazing wife, Helene, was able to ask me several specific questions in responding to her mother’s query. One of the questions Helene asked was what was one thing you learned that you didn’t know before, even though it is my fifth trip? The short answer to that question is Confusion. Below is a slightly edited e-mail to Claude that I felt worth sharing with a large audience on how I came home with a new perspective of confusion.
The focus of our trip is from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew five--specifically Matthew 5:9. This passage states "Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." What can we learn from this passage that will help us to become better peacemakers. Somewhat ironically, one word that I walked away from this trip fixated on is "confusion."
Daoud Nasser and his family are Palestinians who live on a 100-acre farm just outside of Bethlehem they call The Tent of Nations--they have Ottoman Papers showing ownership of their land which has allowed them to, thus far, maintain their land--they have an open court case that they have been fighting in Israeli courts for more than 25 years now. Five settlements surround their land. The motto of the farm is "We refuse to be enemies." They host people from all over the world and the fact that they are well known throughout the world has undoubtedly helped them to keep their farm.
Daoud shared one story with us where the IDF, clad with weapons and their green uniforms came to the farm and broke down their gate. Daoud, calmly asked the IDF what they were doing and they said that we have a reason to visit you. Daoud's response: "Well, here on this farm we have a custom of sharing tea with those that visit us...please come share some tea." The IDF commander was perplexed and confused, but on Daoud's insistence the soldiers came into one of the caves that the family has made habitable to share tea with Daoud. Of course, this was awkward, but at the end of having tea the soldiers thanked Daoud and appeared to have forgotten what their original reason for coming to the farm was. I could not help but think about myself and the last time that I was confused. What went on in my head? My answer to that is that most everything else stops--and I focus on what it is that is confusing me--it flips a trigger. IDF soldiers and soldiers around the world are taught to dehumanize the other--my own father shares that he was trained to kill "gooks" in his Marine basic training during the Vietnam war--gooks not other humans, not fathers, husbands, brothers and sons—no, gooks. When Daoud invited the soldiers to tea, he overcame fear, he took the power out of the soldiers in confusing them in not playing their game of dehumanizing. Rather, he recognized their worth as humans. Let us not forget that the soldiers thanked Daoud for the tea as they left--those soldiers also saw the humanity in Daoud. This is how one refuses to be an enemy—it is how one is demonstrating what it means to be a peacemaker.