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Home  >  Features  >  The Coronavirus Diaries: A Landscape of Broken Dreams


The Coronavirus Diaries: A Landscape of Broken Dreams

The Coronavirus Diaries: A Landscape of Broken Dreams

Wednesday November 11 2020

Continuing the series of updates from Church of Scotland partners around the world, the Rev John McCulloch, minister of St Andrew’s Jerusalem & Tiberias, reports on the challenges facing Palestinian communities across the West Bank.

It was the French author Jean-Paul Sartre who once said that 'life begins on the other side of despair'.

The challenge for many of our Palestinian friends trapped in the occupied Palestinian Territories, is that Covid has turned an already desperate situation into an impossible struggle. There is real despair amongst the Palestinians, as everything seems to be stacked against them. With a collapsed economy, no government furlough scheme to help those who are out of work, a fragile health system, and surrounded by walls and checkpoints; it is little wonder that many are losing hope.

On a geopolitical level, the normalising relations between Israel and other Arab nations is serving to entrench the injustices of Occupation, and the Palestinians feel abandoned and trapped. With fewer internationals here because of travel restrictions, settler violence and house demolitions have been on the increase.

A few weeks ago, after a month of lockdown in Israel, I was able to travel from Jerusalem to Area C of the West Bank to visit and accompany some of the Church of Scotland’s partners there. On three consecutive days, I visited communities which are struggling under the double blow of occupation and pandemic.

On one of the days I travelled with Rabbis for Human Rights, a long-standing partner of the Church of Scotland. It is a group of Rabbis who are advocating for an end to the Occupation. They rebuild Palestinian homes that have been destroyed, offer protective presence from settler attacks, and fight for their human rights.

We drove through the scarred landscape of checkpoints, walls, and barbed wire, to an olive grove which is situated between two illegal settler outposts. During this year’s olive harvest, this Palestinian farming community have been attacked by armed settlers. Some of their trees have been burnt and destroyed.

We spent the day listening to their stories and picking olives with them, as the army and settlers looked on from a distance. We then sat under the silvery green shade of an olive tree, and joined in an act of worship. A Jewish Rabbi sang a song, a fellow Christian minister said a prayer, a Muslim leader shared some thoughts.

The following day I was with a Palestinian UN worker, visiting a family just outside Bethlehem whose home had been bulldozed. All their belongings were lying outside. As we sat on plastic chairs with the family, drinking Arabic coffee amidst the rubble of their home; on the hill opposite, Israeli settlers were watching us. We listened to the story of the family, who not only have lost their home, but now have no work, no income, no help from the local authorities. The father told us how his leg had needed to be amputated, and with no money for a prosthetic replacement, it now made it impossible for him to work. Not that there is work in any case.

The third day that week, I visited the Tent of Nations, in the hills to the west of Bethlehem, to help them with their olive harvest. Surrounded by settlements on all sides, we harvested the olives with a group of young Jewish volunteers. In the afternoon we shared communion at the Olive Grove Chapel, amidst the threatened olive trees. As part of our communion liturgy, I included these words:

And on the night before your crucifixion,
you sweated drops of blood amidst the olive trees.
You chose to drink the cup of suffering for our sake,
and when the soldiers came and arrested you,
you refused to meet violence with violence,
to teach us a better way,
and to establish a new kingdom here on earth.
A kingdom where love conquers all.
A kingdom where all dividing walls are brought down.
A kingdom where love extends, even to our enemies.

These three days in the West Bank took me to a landscape of broken dreams.

If there is any small sign of hope, it is to be found by those who are willing to reach out beyond the dividing walls and embrace the other, and in remembering that we worship a God who is not distant from human suffering.

The Coronavirus Diaries: reflections from Church of Scotland partners around the world

Nepal: So Many Premature Goodbyes
Malawi: We Must Hold Each Other Close
Nigeria: A Fresh Spiritual Connectedness
Egypt: 'This Is A Time To Witness God'
Guyana: The Strength of our Connectedness
South Korea: A Harsh Reality
Zimbabwe: Convenience or a Wake-up Call?
Sri Lanka: Service is the Highest Form of Worship
USA: Testing Positive
Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'