A personal reflection from my time in Israel
With no goal, plan or expectation set before me, I took to the streets of Israel each day, allowing myself to get accustomed to daily life and routine of the local people.
I started to get into a daily rhythm and even managed to get to know some of the local citizens on a deeper level. These locals included Shop owners, Taxi drivers, a construction worker, waiters, and some ground staff of a local NonProfit called, ‘House of Hope’.
I spent 2 months living in Bethlehem and even took some day trips to explore the city of Jerusalem.
I had my routine in check, not visiting places just to see sites through ‘tourist eyes’, but more importantly to walk away from this experience having made some close friends and experience tangible memories.
As time progressed I became more focused on sharing with and getting to know the people from the Palestinian territories. For me, it was not about choosing which people groups I like more or support. More important to me was ‘chance encounters', the forming of natural and effortless interactions with the local people and perhaps even to form some friendships. I hope that in sharing some images, I can hopefully paint a better picture to show these everyday encounters I had along the way.
I had the privilege to intermittently volunteer at House of Hope. I went on a day trip with them to small villages meeting some of the parents from the special needs children of the House. To be part of and build friendships with these kids also challenged my own understanding of what we truly need to be happy and satisfied in life. The effects of these friendships instilled within me a big heart change and genuine thankfulness for the life I am blessed to live.
I came to know Sami Badra (on the left) over the course of my involvement at House of Hope. Sami is one of the ground staff members and has a longstanding involvement at the house. He has such a good spirit towards his work and an unselfish nature in the way that he does the daily rounds. After he had finished his daily chores we spent many nights eating together and sharing stories from our lives and past experiences.
Another welcome surprise was to meet up with a South African organisation called 'Global Challenge'. They travel the world over the course of one year serving different communities and reaching out to people in need.
Most of their time in the country consisted of preparing a cave which eventually was converted into a small 'Grotto Church’. The ladies from the team put in some hard physical work in preparing the garden area outside the venue.
The person whom I visited the most was a man living in Bethlehem, also with the name Sammie. Sammie is definitely one of a kind. He is so passionate and literally always walking around with a smile.
Sammie gets up early each morning to open his small shop. At this shop he prepares tea and coffee for locals and tourists that pass by. What makes him special is his attitude and manner in which he does this simple but serious task. He not only serves people from this tiny shop but also walks up and down the streets to personally bring his customers their beverage orders.
Saliba Bandak, is another dear friend whom I had connected with along the way. We had many deep discussions about shared experiences, expectations and dreams for the future. There were some days when he would lock up the store for an hour or so and we would go grab a coffee together at his favourite cappuccino spot.
The following images show more of my daily encounters, visiting the locals.
I met Khader at the House of Hope, he was part of a group of builders on the site. Khader works both day and night jobs to help support he and his family.
I even had the honour of being invited by Khader to his family’s home to share in a meal together. I spent the day mostly with him and his brother. They took time during their day to show me around the Dheisheh refugee camp.
Shepherd's of Bethlehem
While spending countless hours every day walking through various places in the country and observing the society as a whole, I could not help but be reminded of many stories I heard when growing up. Most of these stories are connected to historical biblical events that took place in Israel. An especially poignant collection is that of Psalms written by King David.
David was an appointed King of the nation of Israel and grew up as a shepherd tending to his father’s sheep in the hills and valleys of surrounding Bethlehem.
There are some powerful analogies to be found in authentically observing the life of a shepherd. This is seen in the shepard’s devotion to his sheep and how this relates back to our lives with or heavenly Father.
Today, one can still find a uniquely different and deeply involved lifestyle of shepherding in Bethlehem than that of which we find in western cultures. It is truly a special sight to observe in reality this bond and trust between sheep and shepherd.
I could go on and elaborate more on these experiences, but most significant for me in this case, is the realisation of our inability to love selflessly, trust and break down walls of separation formed as a result of humanities multiple differences.
Without intimate relationships and mutual understanding, an unselfish kind of love and care, we are just as good as a bunch of lost sheep without a shepherd.
My sheep story might sound a bit umm, ‘sheepish’, but for me, it caused many breakthroughs in my heart, I experienced these breakthroughs in my own spiritual journey while walking through Israel. I could relate to my own ‘walls’ and feelings of judgement towards other cultures, religions and ways of living.
The most significant and maybe more personal breakthrough for me was how these stories strengthened my belief and trust in Jesus Christ as my good shepherd.
To see more of my street images please visit the gallery: REFLECTIONS OF ISRAEL