Journey from the MidWest to the MidEast ...

The Indianapolis-based International Interfaith Initiative (III), in collaboration with the Village Experience, led a trip of a diverse group (including representatives from Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Evangelical, and Hindu religious communities) to the Middle East from December 27, 2009 to January 9, 2010. It was a follow-up to the very successful III Mideast trip of 2008. Read about the adventure on this blog. Look for partnership opportunities for your group at ... and be part of the next trip from Indy to the MidEast.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

JSam: Oh, Little (messed-up) Town of Bethlehem


Nowhere is the Palestinian / Israeli struggle more acute and observable than in Bethlehem. Gaza may have worse living conditions, but it is very difficult to get in and see it first hand. Bethlehem is still actively pursuing the tourists’ dollars and pilgrims are still actively pursuing the site of Christ’s birth so the gates remain open most of the time. The city is safe, the people are wonderful, and the conditions range from residents able to afford Beemers and Benz, to the refugees who are now entering their third generation of births behind the green line and in camps like the one we are staying in and toured today. This temporary facility has grown from about 900 people to more than 2,000 and is now into its 61st year. There are many such places still providing made-shift services and shelter to families who were forced to leave their homes in 1948.

We also visited a medical clinic today that is the only such service available to about 25,000 Palestinians just outside of Bethlehem. There were very few meds on the shelves or working instruments in the building. We did some incidental cleaning, performed a few maintenance tasks, and picked up litter around the outside of the building. Then one of the group went out on their own and--in the name of the group--found a pharmacy and bought a bunch of antibiotics, sterile pads, and other basic medical supplies for the clinic. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to save a few lives and heal a few wounds. It’s more than was there when we got there. It was an amazing moment...

Hear the clinic head's response and comments on peace by clicking the video below:

The day ended with a sneak preview of
Little Town of Bethlehem, a new documentary film featuring Sami Awad who heads-up the local Holy Land Trust. It was very moving and compelling. It is scheduled for an October release in the United States, which seems an awfully long time away in this ever-changing land of things that are always the same. I was also intrigued by the PNN where we saw the film; the Palestine News Network. With ten employees they a

re producing a lot of programming, most if not all in the name of non-violence and peace. I haven’t had a chance to look at much of their work yet, but I’m looking forward to following them at

I continue to be pleased/touched/humbled by the ‘community’ that has developed within this disparate group of pilgrims, seekers, and curious. We have idealists, philosophers, and timekeepers; changers, compulsives, and BSers; liberals, conservatives and re-constructionists; and then there’s that whole Catholic, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and whatever thing. I wouldn’t dare suggest which labels belong where, but THEY know who they are, and they have all become very special to me in a very short time... well... most of them.

P.S. • Day 7 begins here in one of the Refugee Camps of Bethlehem:

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