Trip to Israel Broadens Perspective for One Covenant Pastor

Post a Comment » Written on March 20th, 2007     
Filed under: News
WEST PEABODY, MA (March 20, 2007) – Community Covenant Church pastor Joel Anderle says a recent educational trip to Israel proved “a powerful journey of encounter with history, politics, religions, and people.”

AnderleWhile there, Anderle met with people from different ethnic, religious, political and social backgrounds. “I sat with chief rabbis and Palestinian archbishops,” he recalls. “I spoke with folks who work with at-risk immigrant adolescents and folks who advise the Prime Minister. It was a fabulous kaleidoscope of exposure to a remarkably complicated nation, region and people.”

Anderle traveled across the country February 4-13 as a guest of Project Interchange, a program administered by the American Jewish Committee. He was chosen to go on the trip because of his local and statewide ecumenical work, he says. The project has sent about 4,000 people from the United States to Israel to learn about the Middle Eastern country and regional issues.

“My exposure was intended to make the issues more complicated than they are frequently explained in the U.S. media, or broader evangelicalism,” he says. The trip fulfilled those expectations.

“Most of us went with an inclination to believe that Israel has oppressed the Palestinians, that there is a real human rights crisis. It’s much more complicated than that.”

Anderle calls the relationship between Jews and Palestinians, especially in the disputed West Bank area, “a circus of misunderstanding.” Mistrust also runs deep, he adds, explaining, “Both sides believe the other side doesn’t want peace.”

Anderle-2Imagining a future is difficult for many in the region, Anderle says. College students in the Palestinian section of Jerusalem always have lived under Israeli occupation. “They can’t wait for the end of the occupation, but when you ask what it would mean to have an end to the occupation, they don’t have an answer.”

He adds, “They think of it as a perfect place. They don’t think about establishing a government. They also don’t necessarily mean that all the Jews are gone.”

Even Palestinian and Jewish close friends still live different experiences, Anderle says, noting the relationship between the CEO of a Jerusalem hospital and the head of the hospital’s emergency room as an example. The CEO, who was educated in West Virginia and carries a United States passport, must live in the West Bank and has to show papers before he can get to work each day. The process through multiple checkpoints can be daunting. The head of the emergency room has a quick drive.

Despite the misunderstandings, many people do want peace, Anderle says. He was surprised when he spoke with a couple who had emigrated from the United States to live in a kibbutz (an intentional Jewish settlement), and learned their community gets along well with the Arab Muslims who live nearby. The couple said they opposed Israel’s ongoing construction of a “security fence” along the pre-1967 border between Israel and the West Bank in an effort to stop terrorism.

Despite news reports that connect Muslims with terrorism, many seek peaceful resolution to the conflicts, Anderle says. “They say, ‘How wonderful it would be to have our kids live in a different kind of world.’ Some of the most eloquent discussions of peace came from Muslims.”

Now that he has returned, Anderle is considering ways to bring what he calls “a transformative experience” to his ecumenical work.

Editor’s note: The top photo shows the group meeting in Haifa with Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen and Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour. The lower photo shows Sufi Sheik Ghassan Manasra, Catholic Bishop Boutrous Marcuzzo, and Jewish settler Dina Jehuda in Nazareth.

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