Bright Lights in the Land of Promise

Posted on March 8, 2018 by Pastor Todd Buurstra

First, let me thank you, Temple Beth-El, and Rabbi Arnie for making it possible to share this trip through CCAR and Da’at. It was a very great blessing. Adding to the fun of a run around the Old City was the rich religious dialogue. Poor Arnie had to put up with my longer legs and constant questions, which he ably answered while we huffed and puffed. I have learned so much, and feel full and blessed.

In Israel, I saw both bright signs of peace and dark shadows of conflict.

The dark shadows of conflict included security checkpoints and fences that divided Jewish from Arab neighborhoods. While they may be necessary, they are evidence of the firm divide. And although I recognize the issue of settlements is complicated beyond what I understand, growing settlements seem to make a two-state solution even more complicated to negotiate. And lastly, I learned much about the futility of the Palestinian leadership that never misses a chance to miss an opportunity, and serves more as a dictatorship than a just representative of its people.

But not all is dark as the sun rises. The lunch at our Muslim host’s house in Shfaram nourished not only our bodies but our souls, as our host shared how he is leading his community towards accepting “the other,” as evidenced by his warm hospitality. And then there was Rabbi Noa Sattath’s presentation of the work of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) at the Reform Seminary, Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. I was encouraged by how the Reform movement is a leader in justice and peace initiatives in Israel, and how your congregation is donating generously, that the Israeli Reform movement might grow. And while I could add more, the joint presentation between Rabbi Hannan Schlesinger and Palestinian Noor A’wad regarding befriending the enemy, as part of the Roots/Shorashim Project, was nothing short of a bright light. While they acknowledged the many rejections they receive, the growing acceptance was heartening.

I come back home with a much deeper commitment to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6), and I hope to take more members of my congregation to Israel one day, so that we can more fully enter into what God has done, and is doing, in this land of promise.

Pastor Todd Buurstra

North Branch Reformed Church

Originally published in the March-April 2018 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.