I stumbled across Adam Hamilton’s blog, Seeing Gray. For those who don’t know, Rev. Hamilton is a Methodist superstar. He pastor’s Church of the Resurrection in suburban Kansas City, which is the biggest church in the denomination. Anyway, it looks like a big group of CoRers are in doing a lenten pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Today, the group visited Bethlehem after staying near the Dead Sea and concluded their night in Jerusalem. Before going to bed, the 150 or so Methodists (and hanger-ons) heard from a Palestinian and an Israeli and their views on the “conflict.”
I spent alot of time in Bethlehem when I did my study abroad semester in Isreal/Palestine. We lived with a family for three weeks in Beit Sahour and would take the five minute bus ride over to the University of Bethlehem everyday.
I loved Bethlehem and Beit Sahour. My host family were gracious hosts and made us feel as part of the family. What I had a hard time with, though, was the Christian pilgrims.
They would fill up the Church of the Nativity (the alleged site of Jesus’ birth though it is probable that Jesus was actually born in Nazareth), grab some lunch, and leave. They never took the time to understand modern day Bethlehem.
The pilgrims never saw Dheisheh refugee camp as they went to go worship at the site of the Prince of Peace’s birth. There are 11,000 people living in this “camp” and it is less than 240 acres in size. (I grew up on a farm larger than that). If Jesus was born in Bethlehem today there chances are he would be born in Dheisheh.
So to the good Methodist pilgrims from suburban Kansas City, I urge you to go visit Dheisheh. Learn about the “refugees” and how their families ended up there. Learn about how Dheisheh’s citizens do community and support each other and dream and organize for a better future. There’s a good chance that you might find Jesus there.