Monday, March 10, 2014

Lent 2, Genesis—…so that You will be a Blessing

“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Gen 12.1-2

God’s blessing to Abram is difficult to imagine today, as we listen to the news from the land where Abram journeyed. Abram and Sarai traveled from Ur near the Euphrates, north along the river through present-day Iraq, into Syria and then south. His journey took him near places whose names are now familiar to us: An Najaf, Karbala, Fallujah, Ramadi, Aleppo, Homs, Damascus, Amman, Jerusalem, and Hebron, where he received a gift of land from Ephron the Hittite for a burial place for Sarah. Because Abraham was a sojourner in the land. He did not own any land; he was a nomad, a guest.

Does God’s blessing endure? Is God’s blessing being shared by the descendants of Abraham, the people of the land today? How are they reflecting God’s desire for the land?

I think of Eran Efrati, who was in Colorado last week, telling us the story of his own journey—a Jewish Israeli who served in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), and is now speaking out about the harm being done to Israeli society by the practices of Israel’s military. Like Abraham, Eran’s family also journeyed to the land that is now Israel. They came from Iran, from Iraq, from Hungary. Eran, who is in his late 20s, is a seventh generation Jerusalemite.

Eran began his story by telling us about his grandmother, a holocaust survivor who lived with his family. When she was a small child, her father had been taken away by Nazi soldiers, and she was eventually imprisoned at Auschwitz. He tells how she would awaken in the middle of the night, screaming. From a young age, Eran had a strong desire to make sure the horrors of the holocaust would never happen again and he vowed to guard against such violence.

After high school, like all Israeli teenagers, he served his term in the IDF. His unit patrolled the West Bank city of Hebron—if you’ve been there, you have seen how the city is literally a military zone—500 Israeli soldiers and 300 Israeli police protecting 800 ideological settlers intent on claiming the Palestinian city for Israel.

Hebron is where Abraham received the gift of the land from the Hittites. He buried his wife Sarah here. The Ibrahimi mosque also houses the tombs of Abraham, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah.

Eran tells that during a night raid on the home of a Palestinian family, soldiers in his unit overreact and shoot a small boy. In the confusion, the boy’s father is arrested because he is screaming at the soldiers. Eran hears the boy’s grandmother screaming her grief, and it is the scream of his own grandmother in the night.

Her scream was a turning point for the uneasy soldier, who sought out people who were opposing Israel’s occupation and soon found himself on the other end of the IDF weapons in a protest against Israel’s wall.

Eran joined a group called Breaking the Silence, which records testimony of Israeli soldiers who question what they were ordered to do in enforcing the occupation. He is now touring the US, with  Maya Wind (“TheSoldier and the Refusenik”), telling their stories.

See Eran and Maya tell about their journeys in their own words:

Gracious God, we have not lived up to your promises for us. Strengthen us in our desires to be a blessing to those we live among. Amen.

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