By Tony and Jenny Duncan
In the week before Palm Sunday this year, Rev Tony Duncan and his wife Jenny travelled to Palestine. They chose specifically to stay in the West Bank, at the Lutheran Guesthouse in Bethlehem, and were interested to see how the Palestinian people were coping behind the 700 kilometre separation barrier with Israel. The couple were overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality of the Palestinian people they met. The following are some reflections Mr Duncan sent back to his church, Pilgrim Uniting, in Launceston, during the trip.
On our last Monday in Palestine, Jenny and I went up to Jerusalem. Travelling from Bethlehem, however, you have to negotiate an Israeli checkpoint with young Israeli soldiers checking each car that leaves Bethlehem for Jerusalem.
Off to the Mount of Olives and our 75-year-old guide, Naiim, was there to take us on a Palm Sunday – Holy Week trek into Jerusalem.
Naiim seemed to know everyone and it was quite obvious he was a respected elder in the guide community. This became clear when we arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre when he indicated that he might be able to introduce us to the Custodian and Doorkeeper of the Holy Sepulchre Church.
This is the Muslim man whose family has held the position for centuries. He attempts to keep the peace between the four Christian groups that hold services in the church.
On hearing we were from Australia, he immediately went to a cupboard and produced two framed photos of first his father and then himself with two groups of Australian soldiers a generation apart.
We were able to touch the place where Jesus was crucified. We also gained access to the Greek Orthodox Museum in the church and to see the icon with pieces of the original cross placed there by the Empress Helena in the fourth century.
The experience was surprisingly emotional for both of us.
But the highlight of our day was the invitation we received from our driver, Abu Hani, to come to dinner at his home.
We heard the story of how he and his wife worked all hours to build the small house they live in and how, during the Intafada, an Israeli rocket had landed on their roof doing considerable damage.
It was a memorable night with lots of good Palestinian food. One of the things we will not forget is Palestinian hospitality.
World Week for Peace in Palestine–Israel
The World Council of Churches has requested its member churches across the globe participate in the World Week for Peace in Palestine-Israel from 22-28 September.
The aim of the week is to advocate for action in support of an end to the occupation of Palestine and a just peace for all in Palestine and Israel. Visit www.worldweekforpeace.org for a wealth of worship and educational resources. The resources include the Jerusalem Prayer from the Heads of Churches and an ecumenical liturgy by Palestinian clergy and laity entitled ‘Jerusalem, the City of Justice and Peace’.
It also contains links to Palestinian and international organisations working for a just peace in the region.