Come And See | Day 6

By: Parker Green, Pastor of SALT Churches

Photo by: Justin Posey, Photographer

The most significant event in Christianity was the resurrection of Jesus. Without this nothing he said or did makes sense. Paul the Apostle would tell us to essentially pick up, go home, forget about it, if indeed the resurrection did take place; "we are of all men, most to be pitied".

Today we visited the site of Jesus' tomb in Jerusalem. But how does the western mind perceive the empty tomb? Usually at metaphorical distance, formal, maybe even factual; but effective in bringing God's promises to fulfillment in our everyday lives? That super-natural kind of everyday existence where at every turn the resurrection is available to us through the work of Christ?

It cannot be about willing or forcing this to take place. We've tried, and quickly found that our strengths become weaknesses when faced with the task of transformation. To be honest I think its about making room for it; giving room in our hearts and lives to The Resurrection and The Life.

It's the person of Jesus that makes all the difference. Not the principle.

Today's experience was never about the tomb. It was about the man that made the tomb famous by leaving it after being dead for 2 days. That's the kind of strength that can lay hold of the places in you that feel dead, and bring them to life.

After all, our narrative as followers of Jesus stays the same as his original followers: He's alive, and only a living person can transform your life.

So turn now from your old life, for the Kingdom of Heaven is now one of your options.

The door is open to life, the locks shattered by the king. 

He says simply as he said at the start, "come and see".


The Layers of the City | Day 5

Words by: Kohl Crecelius, CEO & Co-Founder of Krocket Kids Intl.

Photography by: Gareth Pon, Photographer

Jerusalem is an absolutely incredible city. Throughout our time here we have been able to experience a wide array of what this place has to offer. Visiting crowded holy sites, bustling markets, and little known restaurants have filled our days. Even more, we’ve had the pleasure of hearing from a number of speakers that have helped to shed light on the overwhelming complexities that exist in an area that is so important to so many people from a religious and geopolitical standpoint.

One of the things you learn while spending time in Jerusalem is that history isn’t pretty. Each new civilization that claimed authority over this region, brought with it conquest and destruction. New occupants would destroy existing structures and re-arrange the layout of the city in an attempt to prioritize their ideologies and make the city their own. The desecration of temples, walls, and houses became the literal foundation new civilizations and kingdoms were built on. Archaeological excavations have uncovered these layers and many of the stories they hold.

Now, it's important to note that the complexities that find their home in this region of the world don't only exist vertically in the layers of earth below the city, but horizontally amidst the people as well. The modern day climate of Israel is one of palpable tension. We spent one morning with a gentleman by the name of Dr. Danny Tirza. He was the main figure responsible for the plan and construction of the current wall that separates Jerusalem from the West Bank. (You can learn more about Dany in a recent Forbes article that features him HERE)

The wall itself is constructed from concrete walls that reach nearly 30 feet high, as well as a network of smaller chain-link fences that stretch for miles. The first thing that stands out when you view the wall is that only about 5% of it is made up of the tall concrete barriers whereas the rest is made up of the network of chain-link (a fact you would be hardpressed to find in communication by today’s global media).  

There are dangerous and competing narratives about the purpose this wall serves, and due to the fact that I am far from an expert on the issues I wanted to focus on two hopeful facts that stood out to me from this portion of our trip:

  1. In the end, the decision to build the wall was made after a barrage of attacks on people in Jerusalem that left hundreds of innocent people dead. Since the construction of this wall, the Israel Defence Forces continues to catch people headed towards Jerusalem with explosives, thus hundreds, if not thousands, of lives have been saved as a result.

  2. The wall was constructed in a way that makes it removable if and when the leaders of the Israel and surrounding regions can come to peace agreements.

On every level, this trip has been completely eye-opening. Amidst all of the new learning, the most important thing that I'll be taking away is clear: CONTEXT. I don’t leave with clarity on all my questions, and in many cases more questions were raised. I am not able to see pathways to clear solutions for the layers of issues that pervade the Middle East. However, I am leaving with a better understanding, a more complete awareness, and a heightened sensitivity for the challenges that face Israel and this region of our world.  

My hope for all of us who were on this trip is that we can take this context and information to engage in the issues more fully and lean into productive conversations and solutions.
 


Beautiful Resilience | Day 4

Words by: Joel Bear, Photographer

Photography by: Michael Matti, Photographer

Israel is marching forward. The Arab world is marching backwards. It’s not about a wall, a border or fence but coming to terms with Israel’s right to exists.
— Khaled Abu Toameh, Israeli Arab Journalist
Socality Israel - Day 6 - MichaelMatti-1.jpg

Dignity is the cry from both sides, the cry for the right to be heard. From the outside perspective of the news there's a solution to everything they see in the Middle East yet, from the voice of the people there's a constant problem longing to be solved. Some long to solve it, others deter the problem by perfection, yet it's both sides that need a savior.

Today we spent the day learning about the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives by venturing in Bethlehem, the Dead Sea and St. George's Monastery. All three have this in common, they are holding on to life.

The morning started off by hearing from Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab journalist living in Israel, speak about 'the situation' as he calls the conflict surrounding Israel. "Israel is marching forward. The Arab world is marching backwards. It's not about a wall, a border or fence but coming to terms with Israel's right to exists." With this there are two Palestinians perspectives on the Israeli occupation. The 'radicals' who believes that Israel doesn't exist and shouldn't exist and the 'moderate' camp, stating you must give us 100 percent of Israel and only 100 percent. One camp doesn't want to make peace, the other can't make peace.

With that view we stepped in the the bus and headed to Bethlehem, a city that has expectation. We met with Christian pastor Dr. Naim Khoury who teaches in a mostly Muslim city. He opened his talk sharing: "To be blessed you really need to bless my people Israel... as a Christian my life didn't belong to me, if I live I live, if I die I die"

"Only God, only God can keep his promises to us....It is God and only God who can prosper. God be the glory and God is able."

"You can't hate the Arabs and love the Jews nor hate the Jews and love the Arabs." When you love Arabs and bring them to the Lord, you help the Jews."

As he's speaking this, we sat in the church in which he has placed speaker on the steeple, to share the Sunday message that reaches out over the city of Bethlehem, a Muslim city. The Muslim religion sends their prayers out over the city over speakers five times a day and this brave pastor shares the love of Jesus to those who want his demise.

Our third perspective was that of a Palestinian refugee.  With incredible love in his eyes he opened his talk with the statement: "You have two options as a refugee either to side with the problem or to be the few and strive to be the solution."

There are humans on both sides of the wall. There are victims on the other side of the wall. Bombs know no race. There are many perspectives about the refugee crisis but to hear his heart of bringing change through love and education was inspiring.

As we left, our mind dwelling on all three perspectives, Jews, Muslims and Christian's, the defining fact was the love for the people. Do you believe that this person has dignity? Is this person a human? Such conflict, yet such love.

One government caring for both sides existence and the other government looking for ones extinction.

As we stepped into the Dead Sea one can only think of the bleakness of the situation, but as I looked around at the growth and vegetation of Israel, there was resonance and resilience that was beautiful, a love that was overwhelming and a passion for peace that was inspiring. 


Loving our neighbor and the stranger | Day 3

Words by: Elena Baxter, Co-Founder of Conscious Magazine

Photography by: Ben Prescott and Zack Melhus, Photographers

We woke our tired bodies to seek the Israeli dawn. Not even the stars had yet retired as our small army of image bearers marched to climb the dusty hills of the Negev Desert. There are few wonders that can compare to a desert sunrise: she brought peace and promise of new mercies. We found the light, embraced the new morning, and were onward to Jerusalem. 

The Mahne Yehuda Market was mayhem, but it was honest and echoed generations of history and culture with the occasional nuance coffee shop. The excitement for the beginning of Shabbat was like hot neon racing through the tight quarters. We were amazed to find that in just hours, the market would empty out to just a quiet stone street without a trace of the former.

The Western Wall was a quick and powerful pause. It is a place of remembrance for Jewish people from the destruction they experienced. We became Israel in prayer and celebration. And we experienced the place of hope that is Israel. Shabbat dinner hosted by Nattie and Michelle of Shabbat of a Lifetime was miraculous. Collectively, we embraced the traditions as we revealed a little more of who we are to one another. Our hosts' unconditional hospitality taught us that we are to show love to our neighbor and to the stranger. We sang and broke bread, and then we toasted, and then we toasted some more and entered into rest together.


From Galilee to the Wilderness | Day 2

by: Jamie Out

Sweaty, covered from head to toe in fine desert dust, and the biggest smiles on our faces; the best ways to arrive to your bedouin style camp tucked away by a long since dormant volcanic crater.

On day two as we headed south towards Jerusalem, leaving the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the scenery changed dramatically from green vineyards and olive groves, to desolate rock fields and moonlike landscapes. The weather changed too. The spring weather in Israel was more relatable to our hottest summer days back home in Vancouver.

The first stop on our itinerary was to Ein Avdat, a nature reserve located in a the heart of the Israeli desert and Zin Wilderness. As the sun beat down overhead, we packed our camera gear, water bottles, and sun screen and walked the mile long trail snapping photos along the way. The highlights were certainly the views of the expansive canyon that looked like a scene from a Star Wars movie and the small Ibex that skirted across the steep hillside cliffs.

As we boarded back onto the bus, the air conditioning was a welcomed friend. Fortunately, we were about to get a lot more wind blowing through our hair as we drove up to Ramon Crater and were greeted by fifteen 4wd razors ready to transport us through the desert.

You could almost hear the anticipation and adrenaline beginning to flow as engine after engine roared to life and we drove off in single file along a twisting dirt track. The dust immediately began flying in our faces, but it didn’t stop the smiles from growing on our faces. As we got more comfortable with our vehicles, the gas pedals were pushed a little closer to the floor and the turns got a little tighter. It was the most fun I’ve had on four wheels. We stopped at some breathtaking viewpoints along the way which shared similarities to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Although I could have stayed the rest of the evening ripping around the desert, it was time to head to our camp site for the night.

We arrived to camp just as the sun was setting. Many of us ran off to photograph the last light dipping below the mountains and found ourselves in awe again of the beauty around us. Dinner was served in a comfortable open air tent and we talked late into the night around the fire. As I drifted off to sleep in my tent I reflected on the amazing day and opportunity that I was given to be here on this trip. We’ve only been here for two days, but it has already been incredibly impactful, not only with the places we’ve visited, but with the people who have come together to make it so unforgettable.