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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

So what's your story?

The word of the month for me here at Tantur Ecumenical Institute is NARRATIVE.   It's a fancy word that simply means story, spoken or written about events, real or imaginary that give meaning.  We all have a narrative, a story that helps define who we are.  And at times we have earth shattering events that change our narrative forever.  The addition of a child or an unexpected opportunity can all add to our narrative.   But we also carry with us a narrative from our family of origin and cultural narratives as well.   What's tricky about narratives is that they have a powerful way of helping us make sense of the world but they can also close us off from others and help keep us isolated from truths or situations we don't want to hear.
Beautiful memorial to give a face to the victims of
the Holocaust.

For instance we spent the day today at the World Holocaust museum here in Jerusalem.  It is a powerful place that tells the story of not only the Holocaust but the history of anti-Semitism and persecution that is a part of the Jewish experience.   It is at times an ugly story that makes you confront the reality of millions of people--mostly Jews--being sent to their deaths and that the world and governments knowing about this, did very little to intervene.  

At any rate we had a guide given to us from the museum and had about a 3 hour guided tour.  At the end one of the women in our grouped asked the guide if there is any concern that a people who had gone through so much horror, including the loss of land are treating others in ways that are oppressive.   She was talking about the Palestinians.   The guide was uncomfortable and said, no we don't treat anyone in those kind of ways.   The women pressed a bit, "Well what about the fact that water is often cut off in the refugee camps for weeks at a time?"  The guide very irritated said, "That is a lie!  A libel statement!  We do not do things like that.  And we don't blow up people at pizza parlors or do suicide bombings."  He then turned off his microphone and that was the end of the tour!  (It was over anyways).
What is the story or narrative 
that defines us?

His narrative had no room for the fact that there are issues such as taking of land and displacement of peoples that are very similar,  He had to dismiss as a lie what we have come to know as a truth.  A lie because it did not fit his narrative.  We are not oppressors....we have been the oppressed.

Now I'm not in anyway comparing the current situation with the Holocaust or in anyway suggesting that the suffering of the Holocaust is comparable to modern problems....but it was interesting that he was unable, unwilling, and unprepared to have his narrative questioned.  I think it ran to deep, it had taken on almost God like status and was not to be challenged.

What about us?  What is the narrative that we hang on to in regards to defining who we are?   Is that narrative always truthful?  Is it willing to be challenged?   Do we feel threatened if others seem to suggest a different political, religious, or cultural narrative other than our own?   It was hard today for me to have my narrative challenged by the story of Jewish persecution and anti-Semitism that seems to be in the very DNA of the western world.  The mirror is not always an easy place to stand; but it's honest, and as Jesus said, "the truth will set us free."  Amen

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