Having returned Thursday evening from a six day tour through Jordan, I’ve found myself scrambling to finalize preparations for my return trip home. Yesterday afternoon I left JUC before making my way across town with my friend Ryan. I had been graciously invited to stay the night at the ministry where Ryan volunteers, a home for Kurdish children who have holes in their hearts. They (and usually their mothers) come from points all across the Arab world (Iraq, Morocco, etc.) and prayerfully await a call from doctors in Tel Aviv who volunteer their time to heal kids who can’t pay a dime.
You can find more about this ministry by visiting the Shevet Achim website.
I was invited to hang out with a couple of the kids yesterday afternoon before the staff, Ryan and I shared in a Shabbat meal together–a VERY welcome surprise just a day before I leave Israel. It’s rather fitting that my final 24 hours in this country overlap with the weekly Shabbat, a time set aside by the Scriptures, a time when men are invited to share in the restfulness of the finished work of God. We don’t Sabbath well (or ever) in the US, but here, on Saturday mornings, the streets are empty. Jerusalem (or at least West Jerusalem [since most Arabs don't celebrate Shabbat]) slows to a crawl. I spent the morning in a park under the shade of a massive pine tree reflecting on the past five months. Deep in thought (as often happens) my eyes scanned the horizon line. Suddenly, applause erupted from the other side of the park as a group of parents sat with smiles while little girls took turns dancing barefoot on the grass.
I turned the page of my journal and wrote a poem, an ode to Shabbat:
Beneath the jade tree, Shabbat spins
a little girl all bangs and bows
Bowing to the pregnant wind
Waxing poem and waning prose
I smile from my vantage point
A pilgrim cast upon her dance
I rise and fall with every twirl
Filled with love and bled of chance
Irony is earth and sky,
Her wasteful dance, the heart of heaven
And high atop my rubbish heap,
I pick through years of toil and leaven.
‘Till tumbled down and wild-eyed
I seek my jade tree harbor
My clumsy feet, my life and home,
And I, Shabbat’s martyr.