I recently returned from a Bright Stars trip to Palestine. Allow me to share my take-aways with you-
Although I previously visited Israel, this trip was different.
During the past trip, we mainly focused on historic and Biblical sites in Israel.
During this trip, however, we spent much of our time in and around Bethlehem, Palestine. In this walled-off city, we had the opportunity to interact with many families in the region and to listen to the everyday struggles of Palestinian people. We also witnessed, first hand, the hope that resides in the dreams and talent of the youth. We visited local schools and colleges, attended cultural performances, and enjoyed laughter-filled moments with these young people.
We saw worlds that were supposed to be separate, come together.
One Friday when I was in Bethlehem, I wandered the streets looking for a barber to trim my beard. As I stopped at a local shop, the barber asked me if I would be okay waiting for 30 minutes, until their prayer time ended. I watched as young and old men gathered in the square, kneeling and praying. I had never witnessed a Muslim call to prayer. Across that same square, amidst the Muslim call to prayer, pilgrims and worshippers gathered to visit the Church of the Nativity, the believed site of Jesus’ birth.
After the prayers ended, I sat down in the barber’s chair. In the midst of this mundane task of getting my beard trimmed, I contemplated the rich intersections of those who live in Bethlehem. Intersections of religions, intersections of hope and pain, intersections of oppression and determination.
As an African American pastor, I don’t presume to know the depth or breadth of the Palestinian experience, but I walked away sensing a deep connection to the struggle of Black America. A shared struggle of oppression and liberation, hope and determination. Even as I recall watching Palestinians wait in line at a crowded checkpoint, a refrain from a familiar gospel song comes to mind, “Deep in my heart, I do believe, that we shall overcome someday.” This is the shared cry of a people longing to be free.
By Rev. Everett Mitchell
Everett Mitchell is the Senior Pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Madison, WI. He was formerly Assistant District Attorney of Dane County, Wisconsin.
Rev. Mitchell and Rev. Raheb spoke together in Madison, WI last May on this shared struggle of African Americans and Palestinians. View the video here-