A Journey Toward Hope
On a previous Tree of Life Journey, we met Ibrahim Khalil, a Muslim Palestinian olive farmer from a small town in the West Bank near Nablus. He shared with us the tragedies he had recently suffered. Militant settlers had built homes above his farm, and one day as his wife and two young children were waiting by the side of the road, one of his children was intentionally run over and killed by a settler.
Just a few nights before this devastating tragedy, settlers had come down from the hillside and drilled holes to insert poison into hundreds of his 300 year old olive trees, killing them all.
As we stood on his rooftop and listened to these unspeakable heartbreaks, he talked to us about hope and how he felt a moral obligation to keep hope alive for his family and neighbors. Then, to our astonishment, he said he especially loved the poetry of Emily Dickinson and there on his rooftop, as we looked out over his olive orchard, he recited one of her poems:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.
Our next Tree of Life journey will be a journey toward hope. If those such as Ibrahim Khalil can endure suffering and the tragic loss of loved ones and still speak of hope, what right do we have to be hopeless? What right do we have to wash our hands of our responsibilities by saying, “well, you know, the situation in Palestine is hopeless?”
On this journey we will meet those who no matter their dire circumstances continue “to sing the tune without the words and never stop at all.” We will meet Palestinian mothers and fathers who work and struggle in order to provide outstanding educations for their children. We will meet former Israeli soldiers who, despite being called traitors and liars, work hard to expose the human rights violations they have witnessed.
We will meet Palestinian farmers who, despite being tormented by Israeli settlers, still have a sign that says, “We Refuse to Be Enemies.” We will meet dreamers and visionaries who by what they say and do are helping to write a new and more promising script for the future of the Holy Land. We will meet with those who teach Palestinian songs and dances to younger generations, resisting demoralization and defying hopelessness in spite of the harsh realities of the inhumane military occupation they are forced to live under. All of these voices of hope are apparent contradictions, and that’s exactly why we need to meet them.
The German theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, in his book, A Theology of Hope, said:
“Faith, wherever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience. Those who hope can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it. Peace with God means conflict with the world.”
On this Tree of Life journey, we will have the honor of meeting a number of those who exemplify what it means to be a contradiction to the violence and injustices of this world. By their example, we hope that we might join them in our collective effort to contradict the world as it is.
In the Quran, it says, “Let there arise out of you a group of people, inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones who attain felicity.”
This is the noble task set before us. In this journey, by the example of courageous and hopeful Palestinians, Syrians and Israelis, we hope to be inspired by their example to become a part of that “group of people”, sometimes called, “the beloved community”, those who work to bring “felicity” into our human family.
Sadly, Ibrahim Khalil succumbed to cancer a few years ago, but he will travel with us in spirit. His story will remind us that now we have the moral obligation to be the keepers of the hope he shared with us, to contradict the world as it is, and to “sing the tune without the words and never stop at all!”