Holy Places and DisplacementsImmersions

Holy Places and Dispersements an Immersion in the Middle East

Winford Horsley is an M.Div student at the Pacific School of Religion.

My immersion trip to the Palestine/Israel was both exhilarating and heartbreaking.  As a practicing non-denominational Christian Minister and an Interfaith Hospital Chaplain, having the awesome opportunity of visiting sacred holy sites made Biblical Scripture come alive.  For example visiting the Jordan River where Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist was a surreal experience.  We also spent a couple of days in Nazareth which is where Jesus lived and thrived for almost twenty-seven of his thirty-three years on earth.  Walking the streets of Nazareth caused me to reflect and reimagine what his life might have been like for Jesus Christ as a child and young adult long before he would be known by some as the Messiah or the King of Jews.

Tracing further the steps of Jesus from his birth to his crucifixion, as the stories are told in the Gospels, was a dream come true.  It was a deeply moving religious experience.  I was blessed immeasurably and greatly humbled to be able to share this experience with so many people from all walks of life.

The heartbreaking aspect of my immersion excursion involved witnessing firsthand the many types of racial, economic, and religious disparities that exist in the region.  For instance I saw the devastating consequences of some of the indigenous Palestinians being dispersed, displaced and left without land and homes that had been in their families for decades.  This was due to the often violent takeover of their land by the Israeli Government in order for the government to make room for Jewish settlements and communities.  Hearing people describe so many of these stories left me feeling sad, confused, angry and heartbroken.  Witnessing a region of the world so utterly divided by strong lines of demarcation such as walls and roadways was difficult to witness and absorb.  As we navigated throughout Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jericho, and Bethlehem security check points carried out by Israeli soldiers with assault weapons were common place.  So much of what I witnessed was very reminiscent of the racism against African Americans during pre and post slavery as well as the Jim Crow segregation laws that existed in our own country not too long ago.

This immersion trip to the Middle East left me with so many conflicting emotions and feelings that quite frankly I am still trying to process and understand.  What I am clear about however, is that I have an even stronger resolve to treat people the way I would want to be treated.  I plan to share my thoughts and experiences with some members of my local church congregation and with some of my patients within the context of my work as an Interfaith Hospital Chaplain.

I still believe in a two state solution for my brothers and sisters in Israel/Palestine.  I am stubborn enough and have faith enough in God to believe that God can do anything under the sun.  I purposely choose to believe that all things are possible.