Finding Common Ground

A first-hand exploration of the conflict between Israel and Palestine


We traveled by bus this morning to the Mount of Olives. From there we had a great view of the Old City (pictured, right). One of the most striking things so far is how close all the holy sites are. The mount of Olives is just up the hill from the Garden of Gethsemanai which is just a few hundred yards from the old city. Jesus and the apostles could’ve walked to these places in a few minutes.

After driving down from the Mount of Olives we traveled back to the Old City. There we saw the Wailing Wall (pictured with McGarvey, above) and the excavations of ancient Jerusalem under a convent. We also walked some of the Stations of the Cross (Via Dolorosa) through the Old City. The narrow streets where Jesus is said to have walked to his crucifixion is crowded with merchants hawking everything from jewelry and candy to electronics. one of our group noticed the sign “Happy September 11” in one of the store windows. I didn’t see it but I can’t say that I’ve felt that sentiment from the Arabs I’ve met here.

We then left the old City and traveled to Bethlehem. We were met by Fr. Michael McGarry a Paulist who runs Tantur, an ecumenical center owned by the Vatican on the border of Bethlehem. Michael showed us a “shortcut” that Palestinians use behind Tantur to avoid the checkpoint. the Israeli army continues to try to close this shortcut down but the Palestinians continue to dismantle the barbed wire so they can go work in Jerusalem. Though it was cloudy/rainy (weather has been bad) we could plainly see the progressthe Israelis are making with the “security fence” in the occupied West Bank. Very large and very imposing (pictured, right).

We traveled to the International Center, a modern training center run by the Lutheran Church. The director spoke to us about hopeful programs for women and children in Bethlehem (pictured, above in title section). In spite of her hopeful message, the parts of Bethlehem we saw looked relativley poor. We then went to Manger Square (pictured, right) and the church of the nativity (marking the place of christ’s birth. Pictured, left)…like the church of the Holy Sepulchre it is shared by many Christian faiths. It is oldest active church in Christendom…very powerful site.

Finally we visited Zoughbi Zoughbi, who runs the Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center which helps promote non-violent mediation. He also spoke of hope but it does seem like an uphill battle for them.