The first stop of the day was at the ancient site of Shiloh.
As we headed north along the Road of the Patriarchs we passed the red roofs of many settlements. Since “peace negotiations” began 20 years ago the population of the Israeli settlements has increased 10 fold. Each new settlement in the disputed territories – deemed illegal by the United Nations – serves to expand and consolidate the Israeli presence in what Palestinians claim as their land.
Many of the new settlements take their name from the Biblical narrative.
Shiloh is the name of one such settlement that overlooks the ancient site of the same name, the place of the ancient Israelite’s tabernacle and the resting place, for many years, of the Ark of the Covenant. It was also here that Hannah prayed for the son who became the great prophet Samuel.
In so many ways the site is a gift for those of us desiring more concrete images of ancient forms and practices.
Part of what remains for me though is the commitment of our guide. Originally from San Francisco she and her husband made the decision to relocate and to start and raise their family, now comprised of eight children. here.
If nothing else, her life is built upon the absolute conviction that this new generation is, like the Israelites of old, called to settle and control the land. She is not unpleasant or strident, in fact the opposite. She communicates very well and the displays, museum and presentation are well done, some state of the art.
Perhaps the memory lingers because our next visit was to the top of Mt. Gerazim, the traditional holy place of the Samaritans. There we met the brother of the High Priest and learned something of the history and strict practice of this most ancient faith. Important information though, again, the presence of the man lingered after his words.
The Samaritans keep a very strict sabbath; their lives modelled on the first five books of the Bible, “no more and no less,” said the Patriarch. And yet there was no sense of legalism about the man, rather a gentleness and humour. He was quite happy to be part of a “selfie” and he carries two cellphones, one with an Israeli number and one with a Palestinian connection. One of his daughters works in the States in the hi-tech section of Hewlett Packard.
Clearly though commitment is not an option but a reality. Like our guide in Shiloh, he is “all in,” even though their perspectives on the ancient and current political realities would vary immensely.
The juxtaposition of the two encounters posed a number of process questions illustrative of the larger land. How does one foster conversation and a just resolution when vastly different and deeply held positions are possessed?
On another level though, the commitment incarnated stands as a profound challenge to lifestyles predicated on consumerism and personal indulgence.
Each person would not say so much that they have chosen their commitments – although that is true – but that their particular path has chosen them. And that because of their willingness to be committed, life, in the deepest sense, overflows.