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Tue 19 Jan

The Sounds of Palestine

“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie” (unfortunately not the case in 2015)

In November I had the privilege of spending two weeks behind the separation wall in Bethlehem, listening to the heart-wrenching stories of the people of this land. The birthplace of our Saviour is no quiet village today, but is instead one of numerous flashpoints of conflict between the occupiers and the occupied in the Holy Land. As I walked along the peaceful shores of Lake Ontario this afternoon, I reflected on the sounds of Palestine:

* Incessant beeping of car horns as vehicles communicate with one another in order to safely negotiate the jam-packed, narrow, twisting streets.

* Rapid-fire bangs of exploding tear gas canisters, occurring with alarming regularity most afternoons. (One of the shop keepers across the road died of tear gas exposure on my third day in Bethlehem.)

* Raucous French worship music as the Cameroon football team joined our group for a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.

* Gentle pitter-patter of olives hitting the drop cloths spread beneath the trees, accompanied by much chatter and laughter as family members of all ages gather to harvest their crops.

* Murmur of fervent prayers at the Wailing Wall suddenly interrupted by the strident chanting of a couple hundred teenage Israeli settlers.

* Sweet and resolute voice of a 12 year old blind, disabled Palestinian boy singing the anthem “We shall live in peace, we shall live in peace, we shall live in peace some day. Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall live in peace some day.” (He resides at the “House of Hope”.)

* Call to prayer sounding insistently five times per day from the nearby minaret. The 4:36 AM call to prayer proved difficult to sleep through.

* Arabic rap music, documenting the hopes, fears, despair and dreams of teenagers born and raised in the concrete jungle of one of the refugee camps in Bethlehem. (An enterprising young man built a tiny recording studio right in this refugee camp.)

* Sound bombs fired by Israeli soldiers that assault your eardrums and reverberate in your gut. While they can’t harm the body, they do inflict terror on the soul.

* Angels singing, as our group of eight lifted our voices in praise to our Sovereign God of grace. Yes, you read that right, a multitude of angels sang with us at St. Anne’s Church in Jerusalem, in the most beautiful, indescribable sound I have ever heard.

Last night at a Christmas party, we sang Christmas carols, including all three verses of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”. The third verse gave me a jolt. It says:

Yet with the woes of sin and strife, the world has suffered long.
Beneath the heavenly strain have rolled two thousand years of wrong.
And man, at war with man, hears not the tidings which they bring.
O hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing!

This November I heard the suffering of the church in the Holy Land. And I heard the angels sing. There is hope in Christ! I pray that men of strife would hush the noise. And I pray that Christ’s message of love would resound in Bethlehem, throughout the Holy Land, and around the world.

Anna Heidebrecht-Hogg is a follower of Jesus currently worshiping at The Meeting House Downtown Toronto. 

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