Easter and Passover are busy times for us in the Holy Land, as they are in most parts of the Church and Jewish communities around the world. This Passover and Easter fell on the same week – but Shireen (Women’s Projects Manager for Palestine) and myself (Hedva, Projects Manager) didn’t spend our time making traditional Easter cookies or looking for the Hametz (the leaven) in our homes this year. Instead, we were asked to attend several conferences and meetings in the United Kingdom.
We were invited to speak across England (Lancaster, York, Bradford, etc.) but especially to be on the main stage at Harrogate and Skegness for Spring Harvest (a yearly family conference attended by different streams of Christians throughout the country). This was an opportunity we felt we couldn’t miss, so Shireen applied for her visas, her permissions, we packed our suitcases and made our way to London. The transit should be the easy part, but nothing on this side of the world goes easy. Shireen was at first denied her visa. Then again. Then, just as we were considering who might go in her place, she was approved. The next hurdle was to get permission for Shireen, a resident of Bethlehem suburbs, Palestinian Authority, to travel through Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Traveling through Amman, Jordan is the normal route for Palestinians to leave or enter the Holy Land. Again, Shireen was denied at first and finally approved. This was only several days before flying and we had already bought our tickets. Had Shireen been denied we would have lost the cost of her flights and visas.
Shireen and I enjoy being together, as I hope it was evident on the stage. We started with an introduction, “My name is Hedva and I’m a Messianic Jew living in the Golan Heights, Israel.” “My name is Shireen and I am a Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem.” “Perhaps some of you brought friends and loved ones with you to this conference – I brought my enemy.” Shireen and I traded back and forth stories of our upbringing, our lives through the lens of the conflict and our hope as our families maintain strong ties and we participate in each other’s celebrations and losses. My daughter served last year as the counselor at a summer camp for her daughter. We both lost our fathers last year. We laugh together, we cry together and we seek the best for each other.
We hope that our attendance in these functions brings some hope and insight into the lives of people you don’t see every day on the news. We didn’t throw stones. We didn’t shoot. In my mind, though, our lives are the drama that great works of art are based on.
By Hedva Haymov