Israel / Palestine: Tradition says…

So many things happened in History throughout the little stretch of land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

When our team was there, tour guides would take us through streets and say “It’s believed that Jesus would have come up this way while carrying the cross.”  Or, they would say the repeated phrase that became a joke among our team, “Tradition says…”

(My absolute favorite location we went to is at the end of this post…but first, some of the more “tradition says” moments from the trip).

Tradition says this is where Mary gave birth to Jesus.




(We had to go down some stairs, since by now it’s basically a cave with a church built on top of it – it was hot, humid and sweaty)

This is the Church of the Annunciation – or the place where, Tradition says, the angel visited Mary to tell her she was going to give birth to the Messiah.




We also visited a church that was built upon the place Tradition says Jesus rose from the dead.  There’s another location that many people visit (the Garden Tomb), and depending on who you talk to, they’ll say it’s the “actual” location of the resurrection.

This brings up the tension I feel with “Tradition Says.”  Was it here where this church was built?  Was it at what’s now called the “Garden Tomb”?

This picture shows people praying over a piece of stone that was believed to be a part of the original tomb.


Are these the exact locations?  Probably not.  Are they close?  Maybe.  In the 4th Century, when Constantine became a Christian, his Mom visited the Holy Land, and began building churches where these historic events were said to have taken place.  So chances are good the churches were built somewhere in the vicinity…but we’ll never know for sure. So we go with what Tradition says.

My favorite place we visited?

The Sea of Galilee. There’s no “Tradition says” with this one.  It’s a body of water. It’s been a body of water for as long as maps have been around.  You can’t build a church on top of it and make it a tourist trap (although, you can sell boat rides!).

When Jesus called Peter out of his fishing boat and into ministry, it was on these shores.  When storms swelled up and Jesus came walking on the water – it was these waters.  After the resurrection, Jesus came to Peter and restored him back into ministry…again, it was on these shores.

Maybe it was my love of water, or maybe it was just the aura that this place held…but it was different than any other location we visited. Being able to spend some quiet time on the shores reading & journaling was extra special.  Then being able to take a boat out and spend extra time ON the waters – I was elated.


Another one of my favorite places?  The Dead Sea.  I know, another body of water!


I did go in, by the way.  And it’s true – you float!  It’s also true that any open wounds (even a paper cut) will hurt VERY badly when introduced to the dense salt water.


Just over those mountains is where the Israelites were approaching the Promised Land…Moses would head up a Mountain, see the land, and then pass away leaving Joshua the task of crossing the Jordan (which is to the left of the picture).

There’s nothing inherently wrong with having traditions, and making a big deal over where certain events probably took place.  But if we lose sight of the “Who” of those traditions, and only focus on the “Where,” then we’ve lost something.

Hundreds and hundreds of years ago, God was at work amidst this piece of land.  However, I don’t think His goal was to make the land famous.  I think His goal was to make the person who walked on this land famous.


Israel / Palestine: My Story

It was a few months ago that I was invited to be a part of a team from Willow that would visit Israel/Palestine.  If I was honest, it was a bucket-list trip for me, and when I was asked it was hard for me to contain the excitement I was feeling.

The trip’s purpose was two-fold:  Experience the Holy Land & Experience the Conflict.

What I didn’t expect was to feel overwhelmed with emotions due to my own heritage – being a Palestinian, with roots still in the West Bank (Ramallah).  Both sets of my Grandparents came from Ramallah, as immigrants to the USA.  My dad came to the states when he was 12.  My mom and her sisters were born in Kentucky as first generation Arab-Americans.  As Americanized as I am now – I’m the product of immigration.

Over the next few posts, I’d love to bring you into that trip – what I was thinking and how I was feeling, and how I’m still processing everything I experienced.  But to start, I want to introduce you to some of the people I met while there.

Meet Todd.  He’s the co-founder of the Telos Group.  An organization committed to spreading the “Pro/Pro/Pro” movement:  Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestinian, Pro-Peace.  It’s the organization that we went with – and their perspective has truly helped me change the way I think about the conflict between Jews and Arabs.  Oh…and that’s the Mediterranean Sea.


This is Jack, and our tour guide for a few of the days (forgot his name – my bad).  Jack works for Telos, and our tour guide gets contracted to show us around.  I post this, because all three of us are Palestinian, with roots stemming from Ramallah.  It’s incredible the connection you feel to someone you just met when you know you share the same heritage.


This kind man is from the Tent of Nations, a farm sustained by the Nassar family.  The Tent of Nations will be a separate blog post, but this man….oh, the joy he has for life, loving people and serving God.  He’s been through hell and back due to the conflict…but the smile on his face is genuine.  He’s also a Palestinian…and his face LIT UP when he learned I was as well.  It made the connection I was feeling already that much stronger.


And these people – the team I went with from Willow.  We laughed, we cried, we enjoyed great food, and we journeyed together through what it means to be “pro-humans” in a world that would try and convince us it’s better to create division.


Group shot on the Sea of Galilee (above on Shore, below on a boat).


Group shot at the Tent of Nations.