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BY REV. KAELEY MCEVOY

May 26, 2021
"Declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" (Image courtesy of Tent of Nations)
From Sojourners and Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac, the pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem: “Peacemaking begins by refusing to repeat the common descriptor of what is happening in Palestine and Israel: a conflict. Palestinians are not experiencing a conflict between two parties. We Palestinians are experiencing an occupation: one nation controlling another; the laws, policies, practices, and military of one state oppressing the people of another, controlling nearly every aspect of our lives.”
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now they were staying in Jerusalem, God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?
 
Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  

Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”  Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”  - Acts 2: 1-13
The last night we were on the farm, Daher brought out bottles of homemade wine. We had worked hard that day, removing rocks from the vineyard to clear space for new growth. There weren’t construction machines - only five wheelbarrows with rusted bottoms and squeaky wheels. But a whole group of us - from the East Coast and West Coast of America, from New Zealand, from Denmark, listened to the Palestinian Christian farm owner when he said, “Rocks! You move! Rocks!”
 
After digging and hauling rocks for the majority of the sunny day, with breaks for pita and juice, the group was exhausted. As the sun went down at the Tent of Nations, a 100-acre family-owned farm and peacebuilding center in the occupied West Bank, 15 minutes outside of Bethlehem, the electric buzz from the Israeli settlements on the distant hills lit up the sky. On our side of the green line, however, without electricity and running water, solar panels, flashlights, and recycled rainwater allowed for a spirit-filled (both meanings intended) gathering on the last night, working together for peace under apartheid.
 
On the first Pentecost the fire of the Holy Spirit surrounded a group of people who were unable to communicate with each other and translated their different tongues into understanding. The translating of understanding is a gift and challenge of Pentecost, which the Christian church celebrated this past Sunday.
 
Over the past weeks, death and violence in Palestine and Israel has once again brought the Holy Land to the center of international attention. In Rev. Dr. Muther Isaac’s article from Sojourners, he underscores the importance of calling things by their true names:
 
“Non-Jewish citizens of Israel are not just enduring discrimination. They are experiencing apartheid. Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah are not facing evictions from their homes. They are experiencing ethnic cleansing,” Rev. Isaac writes. 
 
The challenge of Pentecost is translating the love of God into languages that each person, no matter their place of origin, can hear and understand. For the people of Palestine, the translating of their lived reality to the rest of the world is a matter of life and death. As people of faith who believe that the Holy Spirit has the fierce fire to disintegrate human-made divisions, the tears and grief of the Palestinian people who have been undergoing 76 years of continuous Nakba or “catastrophe” must be a rallying cry for unity against oppression. There must be wisdom and intention with how we translate. 
 
When I traveled to Israel and Palestine in 2018 with a group of Christian peacemakers, I felt God’s beloved community alive at the Nassar family's farm. Their slogan, “we refuse to be enemies,” is lived out daily as they invite people from all sides of the conflict onto their land for fellowship. In May 2014, the Israeli Defense Forces illegally bulldozed and buried almost 1,500 twelve-year-old fruit-bearing trees in the lower valley of Daher’s Vineyard on the farm. The next day, the Nassar family went out and planted seeds.
 
Sitting in the West Bank, listening to Daher’s stories, told in Arabic but translated to English, Hebrew, French, and German to accommodate the large international group that was drinking wine and eating couscous together, felt like a Pentecost moment. It felt like the deep understanding that comes when one person bares their soul to another and both lives are changed because of it.
 
The words we use matter. The narratives we tell about other humans, particularly those under the oppression of Empire, have the power to incite freedom. Let us translate clearly and work toward the liberation of Palestine that will come.
On May 21st, 2021 the Tent of Nations farm experienced a tragedy among tragedies: their farm caught fire. According to their Facebook page: “It was appalling to witness the rapid spread of the fire to more fields damaging thousands of olive, almond, and grape trees. Thankfully, we were able to control the situation with the help of family members and nearby villagers after spending seven hours in the smoke. It was very devastating to see that all of the new trees that we planted and watered for the past five months were gone in seconds. To this moment, we do not know the cause of the fire or who was behind it. We will inform you as soon as we know more. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers Blessings and Salaam.”
 
Now more than ever, donate (or even schedule a post-vaccine visit!) to the Tent of Nations and help them rebuild their legacy of translating peace to all. 

You can also sign on here to join Churches for Middle East Peace in calling on representatives to support H.R 2590, which ensures U.S. taxpayer funds are not used by the Israeli government to detain and abuse Palestinian children, demolish Palestinian homes and structures, or to further unilaterally annex Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Or read and share the full, “Manifesto of Dignity and Hope,” a statement of unity out of Palestine.
Rev. Dr. Isaac concluded his article with these words from Elie Wiesel's 1986 Nobel Prize acceptance speech. May we hear them as a prayer and translate our dreams of peace for Palestine into reality.
 
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”
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