After a scheduled, rescheduled, and then rescheduled (again) attempt at holding our National Women’s Conference, we were finally able to meet this past February in Area C between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The aim of this conference was to challenge our ladies to be much more active in our respective communities. We want to give them the tools they need to deal with the differences between us, and then move on – reach out – together.
After years of teaching about our differences in order to understand each other, we feel, finally, that this group of women is ready to take control of the situation and actively respond to situation by taking more constructive steps toward being agents of change.
We spent some time with an introductory exercise to recognize that each of us, at one time or another, is either in the mainstream or the margins. No one people group is always the mainstream (calling the shots) or the marginalized (taking orders). Depending upon who is in the room, you can be the mainstream right now, but walk into another circle of people, and all of a sudden become the minority. This is important to remember because everyone in this conflict thinks of him or herself as a victim. And sometimes we are the victims, the marginalized, the minority – but other times we hold the power, we are the mainstream, we are the majority. We made a list of the things we wish the majority would do: 1) listen to those in pain, 2) protect the marginalized, 3) try to be relatively fair. When we find ourselves in the mainstream, we need to respond by remembering how it feels to be marginalized.
We then moved on to the more specific feelings we have about our conflict, and how to address them. On one hand, we could look at the same picture and feel completely opposite emotions. On the other hand, it was interesting to note that graphic pictures of bus bombings or home evictions raised the same painful feelings whether we come from Israeli or Palestinian communities.
On the last afternoon together, we spoke about Kingdom Ethics and what we are called to do as members of the same community of Heaven. We spoke about unconditional love – and the problems of loving someone in that way. Unconditional love seems to say, “When you’re abused, take it! Love without condition.” But Jesus died for us for a reason, to justify us (save us from the consequences of our sin) and put us into a community. He did not just die for us without there being a purpose for justice.
When we love someone, do we love them enough to correct them when necessary? True justice is intricately connected with love.
Before the end of the conference, we spent time together in prayer. We discussed and argued and cried and embraced. We came up with a plan of things we can do in our communities – both together and as individuals. We reject the notion that we cannot change anything. We can. We will.