Story : Palestine Update

Posted by Dave Clayton on

This blog is written by Jonathon Valentin, who spent time in Palestine this summer.

Well, I've been spending a lot of days lately working  at Al-Basma with my new mentally handicapped  friends. I've especially been helping make the  recycled paper from which they make notebooks and  Christmas cards. I also helped put up some curtains  in their guest house over the last week. Sharing in  the joy and the smiles has been incredible. I wish I  knew how to adequately put into words what it is  like to see music speak to them in such a powerful  way, or to explain how intensely the presence and  grace of Jesus is revealed here through these people.

I have also been working at the Paidia climbing  wall on the weekends. Many nights we go to the  park and watch the World Cup game that they  project onto a big screen each evening. It seems weird to think that something that is such a big deal here is hardly cared about in the US. It is a beautiful thing that this place, which was once a Jordanian military base and then an Israeli military base, is now such a nice park and a place where the community gathers to celebrate the excitement and participate in the atmosphere of the World Cup.

Last night I walked halfway down the valley that sits behind our apartment. Even after 4 weeks here, the view still takes my breath away. I haven't yet gotten used to it or begun taking it for granted. The night before that, Paul and I walked down into the valley. We saw a shepherd leading his sheep in front of us. I told Paul I wondered how different this place looked in the time of Jesus. It is easy to imagine that it looked then quite similar to how it looks now. Perhaps the shepherds were here in this valley when they heard the announcement that Jesus had been born. It seems likely that 1000 years before that David may have brought his flock here, right outside of his hometown of Bethlehem. Maybe he sat on this very rock and wrote a psalm here, long before he ever became king.

I walk back there today. I enjoy the stillness and the quiet. Everything seems so peaceful. I look around and I can see so much of this great world. I see the houses up on the hilltops, the fields down in the valley. There are some children at the bottom, playing under some olive trees. I see a shepherd with his flock over on the side of the mountain. I close my eyes. And I simply listen.

What strikes me first is what I do not hear. I hear no cars, no traffic. Back home, when I try this exercise, even out in the midst of cornfields, it seems I can almost always here traffic in the distance. But here, it is different. I hear children laughing. I can't even see them, but their voices carry from the hilltop on the other side. I hear a soccer ball being kicked. I listen to the sound of sheep and a dog is barking somewhere in the distance. Now I hear a bee buzzing around my head and music, coming from somewhere far off, reaches my ears. The sun sets. The moon is almost full. I see the Big Dipper and the North Star. The same moon and the same stars and constellations that I look at back home. I look toward Bethlehem and I see a particularly bright planet or star that seems to be resting right above it.

A few minutes later I stop at the store to buy some water. Right as I leave a shepherd brings his flock across the street and steps into the store to buy some things. As I make the short walk back to my apartment from the store, the shepherd's dog walks beside me and about 60 sheep and goats follow us. The shepherd catches up in a few minutes, but apparently the sheep dog knows where to guide the animals entrusted to his care. I walk down the dusty road, carrying my groceries, I hear the evening call to prayer in the distance, the fifth and final call of the day, I exchange glances with the dog walking at my side, and look back at our unusual entourage. And we walk on together, under the bright moonlight, down the streets of Palestine.

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