US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Nothing to worry about? On the way to Israel

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As Cathleen Chopra-McGowan packs her bags for Israel, she prepares herself for ordinary life in the midst of violence.

By Guest Blogger Cathleen Chopra-McGowan

In preparing to leave for Israel, I have spent a good deal of the last few weeks reading Israeli newspapers online. Last week, I didn't have to go online to read the headlines--the New York Times carried a sobering image on its front page of two Israeli law enforcers on horseback, sharply silhouetted against a large column of smoke in the background.

Violence erupted after an Israeli policeman opened fire on a young Palestinian man in Silwan, a hotbed of tension in East Jerusalem. The street where the photo was taken is one I am familiar with. Located in the Old City, the cultural and historical center of Jerusalem, I have been there many times. It was a frightening picture.

In the United States, we frequently hear about violence in the Middle East but it's a world quite removed from our everyday existence, so most of us don't worry too much about it. This past summer, when I was working at an archaeological excavation in southern Israel, only a few miles north of the Gaza strip, the image of "violence" started to become a little bit clearer.

Every day, a military supply plane would fly overhead in the early hours of the morning. Helicopters would follow routine surveillance routes, crossing directly over the excavation area, and large ships remained permanently anchored in the water. Some of us would pause in our digging, and remark at the incredulity of the situation, and how there was something very surreal about carrying on with our archaeological conundrums in an area that seemed so volatile.

When I read the article in the New York Times last week, I paused again. What struck me was not just that riots that ensued in Jerusalem but the fact that people continued going about their everyday tasks. Parts of the city shut down and police patrolled the streets, but eventually, people returned to their jobs, to the markets, to school. Violence is unpredictable and frightening but it isn't possible to live in constant worry.

One of the leading Israeli newspapers carried an article debating whether the events of the last week might be the beginning of the next Intifada, but they cited economic concerns as a leading reason why few people would want to engage in such a costly (ethically, socially, politically, and economically) fight. I hope they are right.

packingIn the meantime, I will say a prayer, take a lesson from the Israelis, and continue packing my bags, planning my research, and reviewing my vocabulary cards. 




Guest Blogger Cathleen Chopra-McGowan is a Fulbright fellow in biblical studies and a recent graduate of Boston College. She will be blogging about her experience as a young adult Catholic studying in Israel for the My Generation blog. Her posts can be found at "A year in Israel."

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.