Katharina Beeler came home from a recent trip to Israel and Palestine with a passion for justice and a concern that her nation’s government is “supporting some awful things.”
Beeler, a member of First Christian Reformed Church in Ripon, Calif., traveled with Hope Equals, a program of Christian Reformed World Missions.
A recent graduate of Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, Beeler was excited to be part of the inaugural team of 11 people because of her studies in missions.
During the five-week Hope Equals trip, participants spent time in the Bethlehem area. They joined forces with reconciliation groups, toured, lived with host families, and rebuilt the house of a Palestinian family.
As Beeler talked with people in the area and learned more about the Israeli occupation, she came to a conclusion: “This is an apartheid system.” Israeli extremists establish settlements in violation of the Israeli Supreme Court and take over Palestinian land, said Beeler.
There are injustices on both sides, but Israelis and Palestinians aren’t able to build relationships to bring reconciliation because they are physically divided by a wall, she said.
Anna Vogt, a Canadian from Langley, British Columbia, is also concerned about her government’s involvement. She said, “Many Canadians have no idea about the actual reality on the ground. People I have spoken with are interested in learning more, but our media does not often provide a complete picture and we end up supporting injustices without being aware of what we are doing.”
Vogt said, “I knew that I would see situations of injustice but I had no idea that I would be so moved by the courage and dedication of local people working to bring peace in situations of extreme oppression.”
Mariano Avila, director of Hope Equals, describes the program as “a ministry that connects college students and graduates to peace and reconciliation efforts among Israelis and Palestinians.”
Avila said, “The greatest success of the trip was that people saw both sides: not all Israelis are oppressors and not all Palestinians are violent terrorists.” Avila told of one participant who had met Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and knew much of the Israeli story. “He didn’t lose his heart for Israel,” Avila said, “but he developed a heart for Palestine. Now his heart aches for peace.”
Beeler hopes more people will pray, go visit, and get educated. Hope Equals has numerous groups starting on campuses all across the country and they hope to host two or three trips next year.
The only hope in the situation is the living Christ, said Beeler. “Be light in the situation, because there is so much darkness.”