Books and Resources That Give Empathy Toward the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

I have had trouble reading the news lately. My heart breaks for what is happening in Israel-Palestine, not because I want to take a side but because it seems that peace is farther and farther away.

I have a lot of complicated feelings about the region, and I know I’m not alone. As I learn more and more about Liberation Theology, I truly believe that God calls us to stand with the oppressed. I’ve become friends with a Palestinian immigrant this year; our dear friends and neighbors are Israeli-Jewish; Frank’s family is Jewish. Personally, I have a lot of trouble figuring out what I think and feel about this decades-old conflict. (Yes, I say decades-old. I do believe what we are seeing now is a direct result of decisions made in 1948.)

I wanted to share some of the books that have helped me on this journey. These have helped me see the humanity on all sides. I think, regardless of your own conclusions, the longer we create an us-vs-them attitude, the less of a chance conversation and peace will really happen.

UnknownThe Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan

This is the first book that opened my eyes to the complexities of this modern conflict. If you only read one book about the history and impact of Israel-Palestine, I’d recommend this well-researched piece. Tolan’s command of storytelling makes it easy to forget you’re not reading a memoir or narrative but this is deeply researched and incredibly balanced. Tolan takes no sides but simply tells stories. (I wrote initial thoughts back in 2015 when I first read it.)

41haVpeNLjL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour

This incredible memoir, written by a Palestinian Christian brought a new depth to my understanding of the region. A Melkite Greek Catholic, Chacour has devoted his life to peacemaking in the region. A refugee from his home nearly his entire life, Chacour chooses to engage in discussion and relationship rather than deepening the divide of oppression. I hadn’t ever thought about the generations of Christians in the region and how this conflict has impacted them, so Blood Brothers gave me a deeper understanding of just how complex all of this is. (Last year, I wrote a post for the Red Couch Book Club if you’d like a more detailed discussion.)

51Fu5TQSL1L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Sharon and My Mother-in-Law by Suad Amiry

This short memoir was an interesting look at what life during the forty-day curfew of Ramallah was like. Amiry is blunt about her feeling of cabin fever, the unfairness of her dog receiving an identity card from Jerusalem when her family could not, and the daily struggle to maintain identity in the midst of a helpless situation.

51X-WC6f9UL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Sadness is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher

This novel about the friendship between an Israeli soldier and Palestinian siblings is a relevant look at what many of the next generations are feeling. Inheriting a conflict creates different perspectives and Rothman-Zecher does a masterful job at remembering why the State of Israel was so important for that first generation of Holocaust survivors and why a “land without a people” is a myth. I will give the caveat that I wouldn’t recommend this novel to my grandmother, as there are some scenes that may make more conservative readers uncomfortable but, as so many novels do, this creates empathy and depth of character in ways that nonfiction can’t.

Other Resources

For a quick overview of the modern conflict, I’d recommend this 12-minute video:

(In short: Let’s not forget the effects of Colonialism!)

Last fall, I took an enrichment class at the University of Denver about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our professor founded an organization called Meet the Middle East, aiming at humanizing Palestinians and bringing about conversation. I’d recommend following along, especially if you’re local to the Denver area.

Global Immersion is another organization whose mission is to train “everyday peacemakers.” They frequently host free webinars focusing on the complex issues surrounding peace in the region and I have learned a lot through those.

Ultimately, I’d recommend digging into the “other side.” I’ve learned so much from remembering that there are no easy answers and that actual people are living in both Israel and Palestine.

What would you add to this list? What books or resources have most impacted and helped your understanding of this particular conflict?

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Searching for Moments and Space

I’ve been writing and thinking a lot about pause and creating space lately. Mostly, this is because I’m not doing a very good job at actually creating these places in my day and so, I’m looking for moments that already exist.

IMG_8829From walking to school to the poetry I’m reading and all those other little moments, I’m learning to find what is already there.

It’s hard. In my mind, I know that every Tuesday, I have an hour and a half to write. And then it takes some time to settle in and I switch a quick load of laundry and… There’s always something else. For the most part, I’m pretty protective of my time. But I also love meeting up with friends because, without those face-to-face connections, community is hard. I use some of my “me time” to volunteer in Bea’s classroom because creating relationships with her teachers and classmates is a high priority.

In my imagination, I’d love to have a little writing shed in our yard or a weekend cabin to retreat to. Really, that shed would go unused because the reality of this phase of life is that all my work happens in the middle of everything, at the dining room table. And weekends are filled with all those little moments that create our family’s culture, not retreating somewhere on my own.

We were talking about this balance the other day in my MOPS group. Of loving these years and struggling to create time and space. Of pouring ourselves into our kids and families and recognizing those outside things that fill us with life and joy.

I’m leaning into these small spaces. It’s still frustrating on some days but the more I look for those moments that are already here, the more I seem to find.

How do you include moments for yourself in a busy day? What seasons did you find this easier or harder to do?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “include.”

Creating Space for Poetry

Even though I try to do a good job of balancing the books I read between memoir, nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, sometimes things get off. A bunch come in from the library all at once or I have a particular commitment to read a specific book. Maybe one book just leads naturally into another which, in turn, leads me down a rabbit trail.

Last month, I read both We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates and When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors. While one was a compilation of articles about race during the Obama administration and one was a memoir culminating in the founding of the Black Lives Matter Movement, both dealt with some heavy and uncomfortable topics.

I finished When They Called You a Terrorist feeling overwhelmed. I thought, perhaps reading something completely different would help clear my head while I processed Khan-Cullors’ story. After several starts and stops, I just wasn’t connecting. The stories and information I had just spent time with needed more time to absorb.

A friend suggested poetry to help me pause, breathe, and give space to what I had just read. The library came through and Counting Descent by Clint Smith arrived just in time. These are not light poems, by any means. They deal with the realities of being a black man in today’s world. And yet, by the very nature of the medium gives space for really big topics.

It reminded me of the importance of always having a book of poetry on hand. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite collections.

513UrUn5-yLThe Gift by Hafiz

I kept this volume of poetry in the playroom when Bea was small. As she toddled around and explored, I sat in a chair by the window and snuck in a poem or two a day. Frank’s aunt gifted me my copy and told me to open it at random – this would be my poem. I opened to page 139, “Muhammed’s Twin.” It continues to be one of my favorites in this collection.

 

 

41JMBgNaRgLLeavings by Wendell Berry

This volume by America’s farmer-poet was one I loved reading first thing in the morning. As a city dweller, I can easily lose sight of nature and Berry kept me rooted in the land. His poetry reads like a prayer, helping me to pause and notice my surroundings – from the chirping of birds to the rustle of leaves.

 

 

61S1ynjaEwL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Selected Poems by e.e. cummings

I’ve had this since high school and keep returning to it. I love cumming’s style and his ability to help me re-notice the most ordinary of things. One of the first postcards I mailed to Frank when we were dating was a cummings poem. I feel like he’ll always have a special place on my shelf of poetry.

 

 

 

When I finish Smith’s powerful collection, I already have Hagar Poems by Mohja Kahf ready and waiting. I’m remembering to always have poetry on hand and part of my reading routine.

What about you? Do you regularly read poetry? What is your favorite collection?

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

What I’ve Learned By Walking to School

Nearly every school day since mid-August we’ve had the same routine: Get up, eat breakfast around 7:00, head upstairs at 7:30 to get dressed and brush teeth, leave the house no later than 7:50 (but 7:45 is better) to walk and arrive at school by 7:55 as the kindergarten lines up to go inside. It’s a routine that works pretty well for us. If we eat earlier and the girls have time to play a bit before getting dressed, it can throw off our entire routine.

IMG_8633Really, anything can throw off our routine. It can quickly go from a well-run schedule to me nagging and asking sarcastically if Bea has ever seen a pair of pants before and if she knows how to put them on. (Model mothering right there…)

On the mornings that unravel, I’m tempted to buckle the girls in the car and drive. Even with the parking lot chaos, it would increase our chances of arriving on time. But more often than not, we still walk. It might mean we miss the second bell and Bea has to go in through the office. But it also means we have some breathing space between the rushed chaos and the start of school. It means we get some fresh air, a short walk, and time to hold hands and talk about the day.

I have to be intentional about putting aside my frustration on those walks. If I remained upset, they would do no good for a reset. I breathe, too, and remember that starting school excited and calm is much better than starting it with a grumpy attitude. So, I leave my last lecture at the door and as soon as we step onto the sidewalk, we talk about the blossoming trees, which specials Bea will have, and who she’d like to play with at recess. We talk about books and activities and notice our neighborhood.

By the time we reach school, even if we do have to go through the front doors rather than the kindergarten entrance, we are calmer, happier, and ready to give hugs and kisses. Elle and I wave to Bea, play on the slides for a few minutes and walk back home, ready to face the day.

This practice was especially important during those cold winter walks when our five minutes to school was a chance to see the sunlight and get outside. Now that it’s spring, it makes sense and this routine has taken on new life.

It’s reminded me that, even though it may make us late, building in space for pause and recalibration is so important. I know this is nothing new – that pause and rest and breathing all help me make better choices. They give space and perspective – both physical and mental. And yet this is something I forget over and over again.

I love May for many reasons but a big one is that it feels like a walk to school. After tax season and winter and going into head-down, hibernation mode, we’re coming up for air. We have a chance to recalibrate before summer when our schedule changes again. We are still in the school year routine but with all the hope and promise of dinners eaten outdoors and playtime extended after homework is finished.

This is the last week of Eastertide, this season of celebration. We are entering into Ordinary Time soon, which I love as much as any feast day. This year, I’m giving space between these seasons. I’m remembering to celebrate, yes. But I’m also remembering to look forward to a season of rest and recentering.

What ordinary habits have taught you extraordinary lessons? How do you pause and breathe during the changing seasons?

Squeezing Thousands of Years Into a Minute

I’m reading a book about the history of food and modern farming. I find it incredible that, even though we’ve been farming since 8500 BCE, it’s still a blip in the history of humanity and digestion. Our bodies still haven’t adapted to a sedentary, grain-based diet. (See: An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage, pg 4.)

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Photo by Kees Streefkerk on Unsplash

If 150,000 years can be compared to a minute and a half, I need to rethink my view of adaptation. I ask the girls to adapt all day long – from an unplanned errand to a switch in who picks up Bea from school, teaching flexibility is a surprisingly big part of the parenting process.

Or maybe it’s part of the human process. I like a predictable schedule and often wish I could adapt to surprises and changes with more grace and ease. The reality is that I need time to process new ideas and perspectives. I often read the news or a book and then need to dig deeper, figuring out this (new to me) information.

I’ll emerge and want to talk about it with Frank, only to realize that I’m unloading a bunch of internal processing in the course of a conversation. Essentially, I’m asking him to squeeze hundreds of thousands of years into a couple minutes.

Ok, my analogies are mixing but what I’m remembering is that adaptation takes time. Yes, in the course of human history, 150,000 is a blip. We haven’t been farming all that long so of course our digestive systems haven’t had time to adjust. And yet, we’ve been farming long enough that none of us have any ties at all to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. We wouldn’t know how to survive, even though it’s the foundational norm.

I’m giving myself grace as I deconstruct and rebuild foundational norms, whatever they may be. When I get discouraged at the slow pace of society in general, I’m remembering that these long years are a blip in history. I need to stretch back and remember that life is a slow process and adaptation is often imperceptible.

Are you able to adapt quickly or do you need time to process? How do you ground yourself in history?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “adapt.”

Books Referenced:

51INTf4BPsL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Delighting in New Creation

Last weekend was our first normal post-tax season weekend. We went out for brunch with my parents on Saturday morning, headed to Home Depot for gardening supplies, and spend Saturday and Sunday outside digging in the dirt.

garden-1176406_1920Well, Frank spend Saturday and Sunday digging in the dirt. The girls “helped” and played with neighbors. I watched them, reconnected with our neighbors after wintertime, and squeezed in bits of writing and editing as I could.

I love watching Frank prepare our garden each year. After long hours indoors, the weather is cooperative and his schedule is free to be outdoors. Every year he plans our vegetable gardens, moves the pots and redistributes the soil. We decide how many tomato plants we really need and if this is the year cucumbers will grow. After watching our peach tree succumb to frostbite our first year, we’ve tended it and have spotted the first blossoms. I play more of a consulting role – affirming that we’ll probably use five different types of tomatoes; wondering if we really need to try peppers again.

I like gardening but I like reading a book in the hammock better. Frank comes alive in the garden. Watching him this weekend gave me a glimpse into our retirement years: Me with a lemonade by my side watching Frank putter around. I think he’ll be one of those old men who has a magnificent garden, living up to his patron saint’s attributes.

This weekend reminded me of N.T. Wright’s book, Surprised By Hope. When talking about building God’s new kingdom he says,

“You are – strange though it amy seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself – accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world. Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation… every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support for one’s fellow human beings nad for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures… all this will find its way throug the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make” (pg 208).

Wright is saying that when we create and grow and use our passions and gifts, we are bringing about a new heaven here on earth. When I think about my own passions, I sometimes wonder how lounging in a hammock will bring about a shift in our broken world. And then I see Frank happily turning the earth, bringing new life to our garden, teaching the girls about soil and seeds, and I see a glimpse of this new heaven here on earth. I can completely imagine Frank for all eternity teaching others about the magic of our earth and delighting in what life springs from a mix of compost, soil, and water.

Remember, we are still in Easter celebrations. Jesus has risen from the dead but he has not yet ascended into heaven. We are still in the midst of rejoicing and awe. As we continue to emerge from winter and bask in the spring sunshine, I hope to keep this at the forefront – that what we are planting and creating now is a small glimpse at what will be planted and created when our earth is restored.

I am remembering to celebrate and hold this awe of Easter present as we participate in this new creation.

Are you still celebrating Easter? When is the last time you caught a glimpse of God’s redemptive creation?

Books Referenced:

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Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Trust God And Do the Work

I was part of an interesting discussion on platform building in one of my Facebook writing groups. This particular group is populated by Christian bloggers so the discussion was mostly around promoting one’s work without promoting oneself. Many people said that they don’t promote but trust that God will put their words before the people who need to see them.

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Maybe it’s because, after four and a half years of blogging, I’ve recently decided to make more of a platform-y effort. For a variety of reasons, I want to start moving this from a pure hobby to the potential for something more. So, I’ve created things and followed steps and started plotting more intentional ways to engage with online communities.

About a month after I first started blogging, all the established and serious bloggers declared that blogging was dead and they were done. Similarly, about a month after I decided to start being more intentional about creating a platform, an established blogger-turned-author-and-podcaster declared that platform building is dead and that we just need to enjoy the work. I suppose if I had several popular books under my belt and a loyal and engaged following, I’d feel similarly.

Two things have come to mind from these recent experiences.

First, we are all on our own journies. I need to remember this in so many areas of my life. So, to the established and successful author, I say Yes! Stop building your platform! Sit back and enjoy the years of hard work! And to the new blogger, just getting the courage to take words from journal to a public space, I say Yes! Enjoy the process and don’t overthink it! (In fact, read this piece by Richard Beck on the anti-platform. I love his unique perspective because he never played the game.)

Second, trust God but do the work. As someone with perfectionistic tendencies, I like to practice. I didn’t mind blogging quietly for years before starting to get serious. But once I decided to get more serious, I appreciate people helping me understand what actual next steps are. And so now I’m taking methodical steps to do this next phase right. (Or as right as anything can be.) I love learning from those who know what they’re doing, especially in areas I don’t know anything about. I love having a plan and trying new things. I don’t think it means I’m any less trusting, but I’m learning that trust and hard work are not mutually exclusive.

In MOPS last week, we focused on Hebrews 12:1-3. The verses are about running the race set before us and keeping our eyes on Jesus. The part that hit home for me are verses 1b-2a,

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

I know that I’m taking this out of context – that it’s about a faith community and the idea of living out our faith. But I needed to hear this in my own writing journey, too. To remember that this race is marked out for me. That I don’t need to compare myself to the race others are running. I’m trusting that those markers make sense for my journey.

I’m thankful for the writers who have gone ahead – who have created platforms and systems that I can learn from. And I’m thankful for writers who are alongside me and who remind me that we’re all doing this a bit differently, and that’s what’s so beautiful about creative endeavors in the first place.

I feel like this is a conversation that goes beyond writing. How do we build our businesses and retain trust and integrity? How do we balance trust and hard work? What gives you inspiration?