If anyone is looking for an amazing summer experience for 2011, or know of someone who might be interested in traveling to the Middle East, I would highly recommend the Palestine Summer Encounter program. Many of you know that in the summer of 2005, I went and lived in Beit Sahour (a small town right next to Bethlehem) and spent the summer living with a Palestinian family, working for a Palestinian non-profit and learning (or attempting to learn) Arabic. I was able to afford it because of my grant from the Fund for Theological Education and will be forever grateful for that grant (primarily because it was at the first FTE conference that I met my wife Sarah…).
My friend Adam Copeland has started up a meme about faith and tattoos. Being someone who has faith and a tattoo, I feel compelled to participate (and because he used a photo of my tattoo in the initial post). So here are Adam’s instructions from his site, and below are my responses to the questions.
In a few sentences, respond to the questions below. When you’re done, share, tag a few friends, and pass on the questions. Keep the title, “Meme: My Faith, My Tattoo” for easy searching. For background on what the heck a “meme” is, see this article.
1. Describe your tattoo(s):
I have only one tattoo (seen in the above photo) and I got it in a small tattoo shop in West Jerusalem. I was in the Middle East in the summer of 2005 and knew that I wanted to get a tattoo. My original plan was to get the coptic cross tattoo from a cathedral in Cairo. Egyptian Coptic Christians would flock to a specific cathedral once a week and get the tattoo. However, I arrived in Cairo on the wrong day.
So, one day after some friends and I worshipped with Palestinian theologian Naim Ateek at Sabeel in East Jerusalem, I mentioned to his daughter Nevart that I wanted to get a tattoo. She said she knew a great place and so off we went. The picture on the right is of me and the tattoo artist. He wasn’t real thrilled to be getting his photo with me, but…oh well.
Today I received an email from my buddy Keas Keasler, who is currently on a study trip in the Middle East with Princeton Seminary. The email directed me to a post he wrote entitled “A Pilgrimage (of many sorts) to Israel.” Reading through Keas’s post, as he was exposed to the stories and lives of Palestinians, reminded me of my time spent in Bethlehem and Beit Sahour in the summer of 2005. It seems like such a long time ago and I’m realizing how easy it is to forget. I made friends there. Lived with a family (I recently found out the husband of the couple I lived with passed away a few months ago). I hung out with youth who are probably in their late teens now.
My life went back to normal upon returning to the US. I certainly thought a lot about them…for the first few months. I did a few events on campus at Princeton Seminary…but it was too easy to just let my life slip back into my regular routine and not remember and think about my friends who continued to experience suffering and politically-backed (by both the Israeli and US governments) oppression.