Thursday, May 04, 2006

like myself

this afternoon and evening have been really really good...something I needed. I need to feel like I'm not trapped in the school complex, like it's okay to go outside and do things and be a normal person.

Well, I decided on Tuesday to just prove to myself that I could...I walked home from the seminary instead of taking a taxi, and didn't have any incidents. Granted, that evening on the way to choir i had a man say to me "i want sex you" on the sidewalk. I so wish i had been quick enough to say "i want punch you, but it looks like neither of us will get what we want." I wasn't, but it made me feel better to think about saying that! LOL.

Well, today has been excellent. No school for me because of the final rehearsal for the talent show (which is on saturday). So I slept in, did laundry, read. I went out and did some grocery shopping--for about 15 minutes. And then this afternoon I did something so incredibly normal, it's bizarre in this place:

I went to a stimulating lecture by someone I really respect, at a place I've never been before. Then I went out to dinner with friends. After dinner we did a little shopping. Then Jason and I grabbed a taxi home. I've been outside the school complex for nearly 8 hours today, and it was very very good.

I know you have a ton of questions, like:
"what are you reading"? (see the sidebar)
and "what do you think of it?" (so far, so good...more complete review to follow later)
and "which friends were you with and where did you have dinner?" (Sarah and her boyfriend Khalil, and Jason...and we had the best pizza in Cairo at Maison Thomas in Zamalek)
and "what did you buy?" (a silver bracelet with my first and middle names carved in)
and, of course "who is this stimulating lecturer?" This one deserves more than a parenthetical answer. This weekend are the Cairo Lectures, and the lecturer is Elias Chacour, a Palestinian-Arab-Christian-Israeli, Archbishop of the Melkite Catholic Church in Galilee. He is the author of two books, We Belong to the Land and Blood Brothers. He is lecturing this weekend particularly on "Living the Haunting Words of the Man From Galilee: 'Blessed are the Peacemakers.'" Today's lecture was about "the way forward" in the Israeli/Palestinian situation. In a nutshell, what he said was this: the only way forward is to recognize that each person, regardless of race/ethnicity/religion/family/social class/political party/etc, is made in the image of God. No more, and definitely no less. As soon as we claim that someone "is" one of those other things (especially if it is something opposed to what we want) then we think of them as less in the image and likeness of God than we are. In order to move forward, every person needs to recognize that every other person is made in the image and likeness of God.

One is not born a Christian, Muslim, or Jew, but is born a baby bearing the image and likeness of God.

He said many other things, which I will probably write about at some point, but that is what's standing out. That and his assertion that we need to bring hope because that is the only way to stop violence and suicide bombing and whatnot--people need to have hope, to see a purpose to living, because otherwise these other options appear as good options rather than as the curses they really are.

One more really memorable thing he talked about, and that really resonated with conversations I have had with Palestians (both inside and outside Palestine/Israel) was about wanting to go back to his village. Every Palestinian I have talked to just wants to go back to their homeland, to live in their homes (or, in many cases, to build new ones because Israel destroyed villages), to live their lives in the land of their ancestors and their memories. When the Chacour family and their neighbors and friends were told they could go back, they walked there and just as they arrived, "planes came from nowhere and the Israeli army destroyed every building, even the church." It's a heartbreaking story. Elias was only 8 or 9 then. (in fact, he said "I didn't immigrate into Israel. I am older than Israel! Israel immigrated into my country." hmm, i never really thought of it that way.)
Well, Elias Chacour and Shimon Peres know each other quite well because of the work Chacour has been doing. One day he said "I want to go back to my village, Biram. When will we be allowed to go back?" And Peres said to him "it's been 58 years. You have made a life here, you have work and friends, you live here now (only a few miles from his village, actually, which is still off-limits to him). when are you going to forget Biram?" Completely aghast, Chacour told him, "you left this land nearly 2,000 years ago! And now you are back and want it. when are you going to forget your homeland? You are here because you remember. and that is what we do too." wow.

As I said, it was a stimulating lecture. He's lecturing again tomorrow evening, and I plan to go. I'll let you know how it goes.

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