I have seen the television news reports of the Israel/Arab conflicts for as long as I can remember – bombs and terrorists, screams and crying mothers.
I have been driven through a Palestinian refugee camp where whole generations know only this way of living.
I have seen the walls and the barbed wire that separate two groups of people.
I have watched the soldiers pace at the border and carefully check the papers of each one who crosses.
I have read the names of those who have been killed by each side.
I have stared at the graffiti on the wall that shows my country’s flag on the planes that drop the bombs.
I have been looked at scornfully by men as I walked through the streets because I was a woman in the company of men.
I have been avoided by women because I was a woman without her head covered in public.
I have been told that each side is wrong, that each side is the aggressor, that each side should leave the land.
I have heard parents tell the story of their grief because their child has been killed by someone from the other side.
I have been chastised in languages I don’t understand because I am obviously American.
I have been viewed in a certain light because of the way I dress / speak / look.
I have had women who did not speak my language and did not dress like me, smile at me and offer to share their picnic lunch with me, making sure that I was told by the interpreter that it was homemade, not store bought.
I’ve had these same women pose with me for a picture with my camera, and then ask for a picture with me using their camera.
I have begun to question the simple answers that I always assumed were correct since I have been confronted with individuals rather than just ideologies.
I have seen so many examples and consequences of the conflict in this land. And yet I think the biggest conflict in Israel right now is the conflict within my own heart. The struggle to see beyond the foreign clothing and to hear beyond the foreign languages. The struggle to not immediately judge those around me because they are different from me. The struggle to hold back tears when I think of how easily my mind and heart revert to assumptions and stereotypes. The struggle to love others who are different. The struggle to understand why I struggle, since God has not only loved me unconditionally but has put His power within me to do the same to all those around me.
I think the greatest conflict in Israel today may be the conflict within my own heart – a conflict that only the love and grace of God can resolve. If it’s this way in my heart, could it be this way in the hearts of others? And if God can solve the conflict within me, perhaps that is the conflict that will end all the other conflicts I have seen.