The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Gentle witness

It was one of those hot days, so I walked close to the buildings in search of a little shade. I was headed for Jerusalem, and my briefcase seemed especially heavy in the heat.

Several blocks away from the bus stop, I heard a familiar voice call from a van: "If you need a ride to the checkpoint, hop in back."

It was Zoughbi Zoughbi, director of Wi'am, the Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center. I climbed in, welcoming the ride and the chance to talk, but Zoughbi was deeply engaged in conversation with an elderly Arab. The older man was dressed in the flowing white traditional robe of a Muslim going to Friday prayers.

My friend asked me to walk with the man through the checkpoint. "Maybe the soldiers will let him pass," Zoughbi said. We got through.

When I later saw Zoughbi and his family at Sunday worship at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, I asked about the old man. "Never saw him before," Zoughbi said. "Sensed he'd appreciate a lift. Part of my ministry of transportation."

As we talked, the ebullient Palestinian Christian told me that providing occasional transportation is one way he can befriend Muslims. "[He] knew I am a Christian," Zoughbi said. "He saw the cross around my neck and asked why I offered him a ride. I told him my religion teaches me to show kindness to strangers.

"We also talked about our hope for peace with the Israelis — peace with justice."

Zoughbi works hard at his faith. His Wi'am center combines traditional Palestinian sulha — careful patient listening led by a trusted leader or leaders until a consensus can be achieved — with modern methods of reconciliation and intervention.

I've often thought about Zoughbi's gentle witness and his deep concern for all people of the Holy Land.

Peace with justice is his goal. A cup of cold water, a temporary job or a ride on a hot day is his way. In Zoughbi, I see Jesus who also ministered by the roadside.


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