It is hard to believe that it is already more than a week since I was in the home of a Palestinian Christian family in the West Bank. As part of our tour we were connected with several families who hosted us for a meal with their families, and talked about what life is like for Palestinians in the land today.
This personal visit was the culmination of several days’ discussion, exploring the meaning of biblical Israel, and its relation to the political state of Israel today; of learning about the complex political situation, and witnessing the oppressive conditions imposed on the Palestinian people, both Christian and Muslim. I was hugely challenged by the pacifism of the Christians, which seemed to be manifested across denominations. While surrounded by warlike rhetoric and palpable anger, the Christians we encountered refused violence, while embracing non-violent resistance. My own trek into pacifism moved forward several steps during this visit; a hard journey for a political realist previously compelled by just war theory.
While we were chatting at the table with our host that evening, discussion turned to the wall that is being built around Bethlehem. He described how he will soon be cut off from a small plot of ancestral land where he likes to bring his children to experience the fresh air and open spaces outside of the city. Reminding us that the way of peace is to build bridges, not walls, he showed us one picture of a bridge stretching between neighbourhoods that is now cut in two by the wall.
Soon, we were talking about the Banksy paintings near the wall in Bethlehem that some of us had seen earlier that day. ‘Have you seen the turtle of peace?’ he asked. We laughed at the image this conjured up. How apt a description of how peace comes: Too slowly, too hesitatingly. He showed a picture of what he was telling us about. It was a painting of a turtle dove in a flak jacket. His only linguistic failing of the evening revealed a truth that was bigger than all of us. The turtle of peace.
O Lord God, may it not be too late for slow and steady to win the race.
Godspeed the turtle of peace.