The Right of Return:
70 Years of Refugees in
Palestine, Israel, and Beyond
| An Interfaith Journey sponsored by
The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme and
The Islamic Association of Greater Hartford
Over the past several years, images of refugees fleeing war torn zones around the globe have galvanized people of faith and conscience, leading many to enact myriad forms of hospitality. That hospitality, and the new relationships that have emerged as a result, have been transformative for many communities. But one of the most persistent, and largely forgotten, refugee disasters in the twentieth century was enacted against Palestinians in 1948, when nearly 800,000 people were expelled from their homes. Many fled to Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, while others were herded into camps within Palestine. 70 years later, those refugees continue to languish in camps, now numbering close to 6 million individuals. They have no legal or national status, and access to the basic resources needed to survive is severely limited. Moreover, the rest of the world has largely forgotten about the existence of this refugee population. In a time when the plight of refugees has again emerged as a moral concern, and on the 70thanniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, the ongoing refugee crisis among Palestinians dramatizes the struggle for justice among refugees everywhere.
The Tree of Life journey in January 2018 highlighted the ongoing refugee crisis in Palestine and beyond by examining the tragic aftershocks of 1948. We visited refugee camps in the West Bank, communities threatened with erasure in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. But we also explored other manifestations of the aftershock of settler colonialism in Palestine, visiting occupied Syria (the Golan Heights) and other sites throughout Palestine and Israel where those aftershocks are especially visible. Throughout, we be heard from voices of conscience speaking from various social locations (Israeli, Palestinian, Bedouin, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Druze), all of whom are committed to building a future inhabitable by all, and not only a privileged few. The journey was conceived as a way of reckoning with a painful legacy, even as we imagine a hopeful future.
A Tree of Life collaboration between the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, the Islamic Association of Greater Hartford, and the Amistad Church of Hartford, the journey will be led by Rev. Dr. Steven Jungkeit (Senior Minister of FCCOL), Dr. Reza Mansoor (President of the IAGH), and Bishop John Selders (Senior Minister of Amistad UCC). It was an opportunity for travelers to reflect on how Islam and Christianity both speak to the condition of refugees (Jesus and Mohammed were themselves both refugees). It also was an opportunity to learn about and to experience places sacred to Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, while also learning from the wisdom and expertise of fellow travelers. In addition, there was an optional extension to Jordan, where we had an opportunity to witness the refugee situation in a different country, while also visiting historic sites such as Petra and the Wadi Rum. Travel dates were January 2-14 (Palestine and Israel only) and through January 18 with the Jordan extension.