(this post is a part of a series of stories from a trip I took with my mother and nine other women to Israel and Palestine in April 2013)
One evening found us back at the Austrian Hospice in the old city of Jerusalem, sitting at table with Dalia Landau, who lead us through a Shabbat Seder - a ceremony that welcomes the Queen, or the feminine divine through song and prayer. Dalia is the subject of The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan, which tells the story of her discovery that her adopted family home, in Ramle, Israel, was the family home of Palestinians who were forced out in 1948. Her family were Jews who fled to Israel from Bulgaria. As a teenager, she met the boy who grew up in that house, and their families have together turned it into a peace education center for Jews and Muslims, called the Open House Center.
This Seder was one of the most moving moments of this trip for me (and with all we saw that is saying a lot!). We had heard so much about politics and dividing lines, that to sit in prayer and ceremony together felt like peeling away the machine guns and surveillance cameras, the wall, the barbed wire, and getting back to something living and divine.
We washed each others' hands, sang together, broke bread and drank wine, doing our Midwestern best to sing the beautiful Hebrew prayers. It was part ceremony and part theology. Dalia talked about the Torah as being both a book and the discussion that continues, not something to be taken literally; a text to be held up to constant interpretation.
As we finished our evening with tea and apfel strudel, Dalia encouraged us to confront our prejudices and keep open hearts and minds.
If you are pro-something, you are against the other side.
If you cannot contain both sides in your heart, you are a part of the oppression.