Hope in spite of drought

A PC(USA) mission letter from Israel- Palestine)

November 25, 2014

The entrance to Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, the oldest hospital in Gaza and Gaza's only Christian healthcare institution.

The entrance to Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, the oldest hospital in Gaza and Gaza's only Christian healthcare institution. —Kate Taber

JERUSALEM

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit—Jeremiah 17:7-8.

You have seen in the news of the destruction and death that resulted in Gaza after Israel launched Operation Protective Edge: more than 2,100 people killed, including 500 children; 500,000 people displaced; more than 11,000 injured; 15 of 32 hospitals damaged and 6 closed; 133 schools and universities damaged, as well as significant damage to factories, power plants, and water facilities.

Now that the bombs have stopped falling, Gaza has dropped out of the world’s headlines. Yet the suffering continues. Injuries have left 1,000 children with permanent disability; 1,500 children have been orphaned; 373,000 children require direct and specialized psychosocial support; 100,000 people are homeless; 1.8 million people are food-insecure; thousands of explosive remnants of war are scattered all over Gaza; and virtually the entire population is without adequate services, including electricity, clean water and quality healthcare.

While the realities are overwhelming, I have been reminded of Jeremiah’s promise regarding those who trust in the unseen power of God rather than the apparent power of people and nations. Despite the drought of mercy and peace this summer, there are those who are still managing to bear fruit.

I had the opportunity during a ceasefire to visit Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, a longtime partner of the PC(USA). Hospital director Suhaila Tarazi told me that already there were immense public health consequences to the war, as a result of displacement, overcrowding, lack of access to clean water and hygiene facilities, and lack of access to healthcare.

Yet, despite the dangerous conditions and unrelenting need, the staff continue to serve the suffering. As Tarazi told me, “We are here as an instrument in the hands of God to show the love of Jesus Christ for all people. We are proud that in all conflicts, this hospital was there to eliminate the suffering of the injured, the poor, and to help those in need of a compassionate heart. This hospital will continue to be a place of reconciliation, of love. The history of this hospital tells the story that we are all children of one God — whether we are Christian, Muslim or Jewish.”

I had the opportunity to visit Daoud Nassar at his farm, known as Tent of Nations, which last May was the victim of a devastating military action. More than 1,500 mature fruit trees were destroyed.

Even more recently Israel announced the takeover of 1,000 acres of land belonging to five Palestinian villages, all surrounding Tent of Nations. In the accompanying photo you can see Daoud pointing out the confiscated land, which will even further isolate the farm and leave it more vulnerable to settlements and the military.

Yet, despite these threats, he and his family continue to plan for their future. They have been harvesting grapes and figs. They are building a new campsite for volunteers. And they are in the midst of planning the re-planting of their fruit tree groves this winter.

Surely the hospital staff and the Nassars, like so many of our steadfast partners here, are examples of Jeremiah’s green trees bearing fruit in the midst of drought. I pray that we might find ways to support these actions of love, hope, and faith.

I invite you to pray for our mission partners and all those affected by this conflict. I invite you to be in communication with me and our mission partners, that we might show that our attention spans are longer than the news.

I invite you to consider a partnership between your congregation or group and a mission partner here. I invite you to give to this ministry, that we might be better equipped to provide accompaniment and solidarity to those who live, worship, celebrate, and suffer in the Holy Land.

May God’s hope sustain us all in our times of drought.

Kate Taber is serving on the ministry team of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem. She assists U.S. Presbyterians visiting the Holy Land and facilitates Presbyterian involvement in volunteer opportunities. 

To visit the web pages of all Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission workers, visit Mission Connections.