The Words of the Strait Family
A group of pilgrims, including MEPI leaders and advisors, prayerfully address some of the human and spiritual issues at the root of the Middle East conflict.
Led by Ye Jin nim, the forty-second Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI) pilgrimage uniquely focused on understanding the often-forgotten or under-appreciated role of women in biblical history and on redressing the imbalance in our concepts of the masculine and feminine within our Heavenly Parent. "Every MEPI has a special character," says long-time MEPI secretary general Dr. Antonio Betancourt, "but the forty-second MEPI stands out for opening a new approach to addressing the historical grievances of the Middle East. In other MEPIs we have had many deep experiences of spirit with biblical figures. Our focus this time, however, contrasted True Parents' vision of the age of women with the male dominant culture portrayed in the Bible. These efforts opened the way for prayerful appreciation of forgotten or aggrieved women in the Bible such as the unnamed Samaritan woman Jesus met at a well. I believe that the effort of our small group to plumb the depths of these matters is an important foundation contributing to peace in the Middle East."
In comparison to other MEPI pilgrimages, the forty-second was indeed small -- with only sixteen people, balanced equally between men and women. Ye Jin nim's twenty-one-year-old daughter Shin Hwa nim represented youth and the third generation of the True Family. The other participants were primarily seasoned members of the first generation. Dr. Andrew Wilson brought a scholar's historical knowledge, Bill Selig smoothly arranged all the logistics, and Rev. Betty Tatalajski of the Temple of Universality (who has attended every MEPI) contributed the wisdom of her mature spirituality.
At the dry and dusty Garden of Gethsemane holy ground, we prayed as we encircled the gnarled olive tree into which True Father in 1965 drove three nails (now rusted and overgrown with bark) representing Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There at the site of Jesus' anguished prayer we sought to envision and touch in our own prayers the multiple dimensions of regret and remorse of Jesus, the parents of Jesus, the Jewish people, Father and Mother God, and the True Parents. We further sought to understand this all in the context of the current advanced stage of the providence as declared by True Father on January 15 of this year that we should "no longer be ensnared by the principles of restoration through indemnity."
At the UPF Peace Center in Jerusalem, Hod Ben Zvi, secretary general of UPF-Israel, reviewed the important steps toward peace already taken by the earlier MEPI tours.
Visits to the Western Wall, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, churches in Jerusalem, in Galilee and in Bethlehem drove home the multi-layered and fragmented history of the area. The beauty and peace of the Church of the Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount contrasted with the ugly scar across the land that is the separation wall. Seeing all around us the bittersweet results of God's investment through history and people's conflict over the fruits of that investment, we could understand that conflict can cease only when people experience God's personal love as a son or daughter, regardless of their religion or nationality.
On the Temple Mount, Ye Jin nim led us in a ceremony to welcome Moses and Zipporah to the Holy Land, ending the days when Moses by God's decree had to stay on the other side of the Jordan. In this age of Cheon Il Guk, no one needs to be kept out, least of all a saint like Moses, who through the centuries had dedicated himself to preparing for the advent of the Messiah and who had ministered to Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration. We prayed as God embraced Moses and Zipporah in His/Her bosom, that they can stand as a strong, empowered and confident couple in Cheon II Guk. We prayed that the Heavenly Parent would likewise embrace people of all faiths -- and, in this part of the world, particularly Jews, Christians and Muslims. There should no longer be the concept that certain people are denied access to God's kingdom.
This MEPI sought to establish this new conceptual reality as a basis for bringing peace and reconciliation to the region.
Much of the discussion focused on the role of female leadership in the providence of salvation. We recognized the lack of respect for women and their divine dignity throughout the biblical narrative as problematic. For example, in the case of Moses and Zipporah, the Divine Principle hints at God's original plan for her as a leader embodying God's feminine virtue, in the statement that "Moses' family would have become the bearer of heavenly law."' Ye Jin nim led us to consider what kind of Israelite society might have been built if Moses and Zipporah had been able to jointly set an example of true family leadership.
For one thing, it might not have been a legalistic society governed by harsh commandments -- a masculine approach. Maybe there would have been other commandments reflecting the feminine perspective on human relationships.
For another thing, the example of Moses and Zipporah might have created a different kind of a messianic expectation in Israel, one that looked not just to a male Messiah but to a man and a woman, that is, two "Lords" at the first advent.
A concluding evening at the home of ambassadors for peace Dr. Eliezer and Mrs. Rachel Glaubach provided Ye Jin an opportunity to share a bit of her heart and vision. Recalling that evening, Donna Selig says, "One scene that comes back to me clearly over and over is of Ye Jin nim talking with four beautiful, strong Israeli women sitting around her. They were relating naturally, laughing; and their sisterly rapport and understanding was precious to see."
Overall, many of us felt that this MEPI took a significant step toward fulfilling the ambitious goal expressed in its theme: "Liberation of God, the Parent of Heaven and Earth, to welcome all people of faith into His/Her bosom and to bring peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land."