Discovering Seeds of Peace in the Holy Land

Interview With Milanese Journalist Rosangela Vegetti

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MILAN, Italy, AUG. 30, 2005 ( Journalist Rosangela Vegetti’s trip to the Holy Land, which she described as an «ecumenical path of peace to Jerusalem,» led to a book.

Entitled «Where Peace Seems Impossible: Seeds and Signs of Hope in the Holy Land,» it was published in Italian by Ancora.

In this interview with ZENIT, Vegetti explains what is at stake in that land, «where humanity engages and disengages with the history of God.»

Q: Does the Holy Land continue to be «holy» after so much blood has been shed, so many conflicts and daily terrorism?

Vegetti: That piece of land, promised by God to his people, which Moses was only able to see from Mount Nebo, without being able to set foot on it at the end of the long pilgrimage of the people of Israel liberated from the slavery of Egypt, continues to be the land of God’s promise.

Therefore, it will be the Holy Land until the end of time and only then will humanity find peace and the abundance of fruits for all. The earthly Jerusalem recalls God’s promise of the heavenly Jerusalem, the promise of salvation and the coming of the Messiah for Judaism; fulfillment of the Kingdom of God for Christianity, the gate to heaven for Islam.

A land so charged with eternal meanings for the three monotheist religions, which go back to the patriarch Abraham, has always been the land of great human contradictions: violence, injustice, cruelty and abuse of power.

Everything is at stake in that land, in the good and the evil, precisely because it isn’t any land but the crucible of the whole of history, where humanity engages and disengages with the history of God.

Q: Was it easy to find seeds and signs of hope in the Holy Land, or was it necessary to do much digging?

Vegetti: Both in Israel as well as in the Territories of the Palestinian Autonomy, people are suffering this period of conflict, terrorism and continuous violence. Too often the news of the media gives an image of a people accustomed to war. But it’s not like that.

There is the awareness of the need to combat above all the culture of violence, to surmount the prejudices of one group against another. Not all Palestinians are suicide terrorists, and not all Israelis are prepared to kill a Palestinian because he is Palestinian.

From whence spring the attempts to create channels of knowledge, of reciprocal communication, of cooperation, beyond and outside the political strategies. This land is a laboratory of experiences of interreligious and multicultural dialogue. Everything remains to be discovered.

Q: After having followed the «ecumenical path of peace to Jerusalem» together with Milan’s Council of Christian Churches, have you returned more optimistic than previously?

Vegetti: It is difficult to speak of optimism because the political and military solutions in the short term are fragile and contradictory. What is lacking are radical positions of meeting and the will to peace, beyond the fundamentalist minority.

But there is a new radiance, in my opinion, precisely in the lives of people who are more aware that the complexity of the problems will not be resolved only by the instruments of politics but that all will have to find ways of mutual coexistence.

Within Israeli society itself the diversities are such that it will be necessary to build an inner peace between the more traditionalist Jews and the more recent arrivals from Eastern Europe, and also with the numerous Asian immigrant workers: It is a state that will have to be re-established on a multiracial and multireligious basis.

For Palestinians, only the surmounting of divisions, which deep down still have a family-tribal character, will make possible the establishment of a democratic unitary state. To be able to enter the world of globalization, full collaboration with the Israeli front will also be necessary; otherwise, it might be a sort of national suicide, namely, imprisonment in terrorism without future horizons.

Q: Catholic communities exhort the faithful to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Are there other ways of helping them?

Vegetti: The Catholic Church encourages its communities to undertake pilgrimages to the Holy Land again, surmounting fears and insecurities.

As the ecumenical «path of peace» has shown, the other Christian Churches also feel involved in the fate of the Christian communities in Israel and Palestine, because there is the risk that Christians will disappear precisely in the land of Jesus Christ. The majority of Christians are of Palestinian origin, and the impulse to emigrate is ever stronger in order to survive and to guarantee a future for their own children.

At present Christians in the Holy Land do not exceed 1%. Soon only «museum guards» will be left, as the Christian witnesses sadly say, Who still reside there? Hence the responsibility of all Christian churches to share the uneasiness and difficulties of the Christians of the Holy Land.

Pilgrimages are an important way to touch the situation with one’s hand and to come close to those who work and suffer, because it isn’t enough to touch stones and relics to find Christ today in the streets of Judea, Galilee and Samaria.

In my book I wanted to point out some opportunities to future pilgrims so that they can enlarge their field of observation and become protagonists of meetings that are closer to the history of those persons and peoples.

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