Updated: Jan 12, 2020
Similar to the living water, the living stones meant both literal stones and metaphorical stones. The literal stones were at the archeological, biblical, and historical sites we saw. These stones made history come to life in a real and material way. Studying these stones, we learned about political and cultural events and the way of life for those who lived in the past. One of the amazing aspects of these stones, in my opinion, is the way they portray the resourcefulness of people of history. Beit Shean, Tel Hazor, Tel Dan, Tel Megiddo, Tel Jezreel, and other sites stood out where laborers had built the cities upon other cities because the materials were there for them to use. The stones were used in different ways to build different styles of buildings, representing different cultures. These cultures each had people who were living stones through the way they shared and lived their lives. Living stones are people who live out their faith through loving their neighbors and getting involved in the fight to defend those who have injustices done against them.
In the midst of conflict and turmoil that has lasted for many years in Israel, there are those who would be considered “the least of these.” These individuals are the Palestinians who have become living stones in the Holy Lands. Most people do not realize there is a group of Palestine Christians and Muslims who are not allowed to live in the land their ancestors lived in. Even in the areas, they are allowed to live, they are deprived of the basic necessities of life. The Jewish community controls the politics, economy, and natural resources. I have learned, through different readings and conversations I have had since we returned, that our experience as pilgrims was unique because we were able to meet and hear from some of these living stones. Dr. Mitri Raheb and Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway were two of the living stones we met.
Dr. Raheb is a pastor, an author, a theologian, and the founder and President of Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem. He is a passionate, busy man who canceled a meeting to come back to share a brief version of his lecture with us after lunch because our group was late to hear his lecture and missed it completely. His work is all about creating a sense of hope through building programs that promote peace and provide space for people all over the world to realize their dreams. In response to a question about what we can do in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, he shared with us that we can follow the 5 P’s:
-Pray for Palestinians in order to help them stay motivated, show that we care, and to guide all of us in developing a message to share with others.
-Remember that a pilgrimage is not just about visiting the Holy Lands and seeing the conflict but also bringing stories back to the U.S. with us.
-Creating a creative, clear, and concise message that has a central focus to use for political advocacy.
-Working on projects that include facts and that aide in resistance.
Although Dr. Raheb lives in Bethlehem, he is a living stone for the world.
Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway is a professor of Philosophy and Islamic Studies at Al-Quds University and an Imam at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. He promotes interfaith dialogue between Palestinian Muslims and Christians in Europe and the United States. His response to how we can be witnesses in the world is by:
Although Dr. Sway may not always be viewed in a positive manner when they share about him, he is a living stone for his people. He is passionate about protecting the environment and fighting to end the occupation.
As I engaged with these living stones, I saw these words of Peter come to life, “Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5).