In February I was blessed to participate in a United Church of Christ trip to Palestine and Israel. This trip was an amazing experience and I learned so much. I’m putting together my writings and my photos from the trip and am looking forward to sharing them with the Bay Association at their meeting in May. (And, the invitation is open to come to other Associations to do the same, if you are interested!)
There were a couple of things that really stood out for me during this trip and today I want to talk about one of them: Water. In the United States we just take it for granted that when we turn on the water, it is going to pour our of the faucet and we can use as much of it as we want without fear that it will ever run out. I pay my water bill every two months so I know this isn’t entirely true but it’s almost as if water just magically appears whenever I have a need.
This is not true for the Palestinians living in the West Bank and in Gaza. They have a fraction of the water available to them that the Israelis do, even if they are hooked up to the city water line because the water is diverted from their homes to the homes of the Israelis. When water is flowing to their homes, they try to fill the tanks on their roof so they have water available when it is turned off. Sometimes, especially in the summer when water is not plentiful, they have to pay for water trucks to come and fill their tanks because their water is rarely turned on. They pay for this water in addition to paying for water that is not always piped into their homes the way it should be.
In Gaza, it is even more difficult. The little water available is compromised by sewage and sea water that has seeped into the system. Attempts at creating a desalination plant is hindered by Israel’s refusal to allow the materials needed to build the plant into the country.
While I was in Israel and Palestine, I wrote emails home to my family each night. On the last night, I wrote about about water and homes. (I won’t go into the demolition orders given to Palestinians because their homes are built too close to the road or because they have built unpermitted structures because Israel will not respond to their requests for building permits.) I told my family that as I thought of my own home and my kitchen and bathroom sinks that pour out water with the flip of a handle I realized how much I take for granted what I have come to believe are basic rights of all human beings. Although I have heard that this is not so, I saw it with my own eyes and experienced it in raw and real ways. I have always had compassion and outrage for what the people of Flint, Michigan, have had to endure and now I can appreciate it even more as I have had this experience in Palestine. But even in this example, the outrage and call to action on behalf of the people of Flint, while it could be done better and louder, either doesn’t happen in Palestine or is silenced, leaving the people of Palestine to live with a hope but not an expectation that things will change.
I’ve been thinking a lot these days about Imago Dei. As Christians we believe that we are all created in the image of God. And, as beings created in that image of God we are equals and partners in caring for God’s creation. How can we see what happens in the world around us and not be affected by anything that treats any person as less than a human being created in that image? How can we see first-hand the struggle of our brothers and sisters in Palestine—Christians and Muslims—and not speak out to call on others to allow them the basic rights to water and a place to live—rights that we enjoy every day?
Every time I take a drink of water or bathe or wash dishes and clothes, I will think of the privilege I have and will fight for the rights of all people to enjoy those same privileges.