By the Rev. Scott M. Kershner, University Chaplain
I lead a Global Opportunities trip called GO Jerusalem: Interfaith Encounters. If there is any place on earth known for political tensions, Jerusalem is near the top.
Jews, Christians and Muslims regard Jerusalem as holy. They have competed and fought over this city for centuries. They have also at times in history lived in great and inspiring harmony. Recent times have been a period of marked conflict.
Over the course of our program, we meet with a group who has been marked by the conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians in a particularly painful way.
The Parent Circle is a group of Israelis and Palestinians who are committed to building a future of peace between their respective peoples. The amazing and terrible thing is, to be a member of the Parent Circle one has to have had a loved one killed in the conflict.
This is a group of people who have taken the pain of loss and turned it into a commitment to build a better future.
On the trip last January, we visited the Parent Circle offices in Beit Jalla, just outside of Jerusalem, and we sat at a long table with Rami, an Israeli, and Kahled, a Palestinian. Each had lost a young daughter to the conflict. Rami’s daughter died in a suicide bombing; Kahled’s daughter was shot by an Israeli soldier on her way to school.
Each described the grief and fierce anger that had consumed them. And then they described a realization that they could continue the cycles of hatred and revenge, or they could use this bitter experience to shape a better future.
Then Rami, Kahled at his side, said these words, “And we, the bereaved families, together from the depth of our mutual pain, are saying to you today: Our blood is the same red color, our suffering is identical, and all of us have the exact same bitter tears. So, if we, who have paid the highest price possible, can carry on a dialog, then everyone can.”
I will never forget the force of both the pain and the courageous hope these two men conveyed. I take their example as an inspiration in our own divided political context today. We don’t live in Jerusalem and experience its ancient rivalries, but the sense of mistrust and resentment is incredibly high.
Can we discover for ourselves the fire of hope and the passion of bridge building of Rami and Kahled?
After all, our blood is the same color. No matter our differences, the future belongs to all of us, together.
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