These past three weeks, I have been settling into my new home while learning to become a Vermonter. Last summer, amidst the whirlwind of moving and jumping into a new job, I most certainly had an unsettled feeling. We then moved again to our more permanent home, which marked a solid step towards being more established. With this latest move, there were boxes to un-pack, change of address forms to fill out, and utilities to change over to my name. It was not until these last few weeks, that my sense of unsettlement seemed to be coming to an end. I think one of the first moments of finally feeling some stability came when I found the time to fill up my propane tank for the grill. It was, by God’s grace, at the U-Haul just a ½ mile from where I lived. The man who filled up my tank was most gracious and helpful. I was then able to spend important time cooking and eating with my family in the place we now call home.
The very beginning of my time away was wonderful. I would not, however, characterize it as a settling experience. I traveled with my son to Israel/Palestine. Together we saw and experienced many things. We went to the Sea of Galilee. We saw Nazareth where Jesus grew up. We went to the conflicted town of Hebron where one can find the tomb of Abraham and Sarah. We lit candles for loved ones at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where purportedly The Resurrection took place. We prayed at the Western Wall. I experienced the grandeur of the Dome of the Rock. I saw Shepherds Field in Bethlehem complete with a real shepherd with his sheep. Actually seeing these places put some of the romance and wonder back in my faith while affording me wonderful opportunities to talk with my son about justice and the meaning of life.
Throughout our travels, however, Alex and I were constantly made aware of the unsettled experiences of many we met. My itinerant days spent going from one hotel room to the next paled in comparison to so many others who live continually on edge. Historically, this region of the world is marked by stories of exile, return and exile once again for people of many cultures, faiths and nationalities. This is also land which was traversed many years ago by a certain itinerant Jewish preacher who said “foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” For Israelis that feeling of instability was partly relieved by being afforded a homeland in the wake of the Holocaust.
What sometimes gets lost in this quest for a homeland, however, are the stories of Palestinians who experience displacement in disturbing ways. In Eastern Jerusalem, exorbitant amounts of money, often from American donors, are offered to Palestinians for their property making it possible for Israelis to gain greater possession of the city. Other times homes are taken by force with no compensation. In the old city in Hebron, many Palestinians have lost their property to Israeli settlers. Those who have managed to keep their property must leave their doors open so settlers can walk through their home at will. The prospect of a two state solution becomes dimmer by the day as more settlements are built. As Israelis assume more land it is evident that less and less land usable land can be claimed by Palestinians—thereby weakening the Palestinians bargaining position in any talks. This said, I am encouraged by the announcement this week of renewed peace talks between Israel and Palestine. As those talks move forward, however, settlement activity will be a huge issue that must be addressed.
As I give thanks for my opportunity to settle down, I feel unsettled knowing that in our world many people live a precarious existence and long for their own sense of home. They want to feel settled but cannot. Many people in our own country also live on the edge as they must move from place to place because of a family situation, lack of resources, or their legal status. As we live into the promise of an improved economy, I am ever aware that there are many, including our very closest neighbors, who do not share in the economic upturn and are in precarious situations. I find myself wrestling with how I may respond as a disciple of Christ and how we best respond as a faith community to these needs and injustices in our unsettled world.
May we give thanks for our blessings but, at the same time, cultivate in our souls a holy impatience with injustice. May we work to make it possible for others to settle down and find a home.
May the Peace of Christ be with you.