Our visit to Palestine was ending and we were in a small town not far from the Ben Gurion airport. The town was named Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam, Hebrew and Arabic meaning “Oasis of Peace.” Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam is no ordinary village, rather it is an intentional community where Jewish and Arab Israelis live together, working to create a place of peace in the midst of the rancor, fears and strife of today’s Israel-Palestine.
We had come to Palestine to take part in the 100th anniversary of the Ramallah Friends meeting house. It was a grand celebration and we had reconnected with some of the friends we had made on previous visits and, of course, made new friends. We also had made time to visit Bethlehem and Haifa before returning to Ramallah for the final few days of our visit. Two of our new friends suggested —no, insisted — that we take some time in Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam to unwind before leaping from the concerns and tensions of Palestine back into the busyness and responsibilities of home. In fact, they would drop us off as they were going past there on their way to their next stop.
Yes, Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam is an oasis of peace. The afternoon and the one full day there were restorative and both calming and energizing. The prospect of a thirty-five hour day spent mostly in airplanes and airports no longer seemed so daunting. In the late afternoon (after our naps) we took something to read and set out to sit in the “reception” until dinner. But there was no hurry so we wandered around the end of the apartment block in which we were staying and out onto a terrace looking toward the west.
Close in, down below is a Bedouin village that shares part of the property of Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam. Their sheep and goats were penned up for the night and the animals were all in good voice. Another couple came along. Uta, with her smattering of English, bridged the distance from their German, and a slow but pleasant conversation ensued. They, also, were on their way home. It was the end of a two-week tour. They had been to Mt. Sinai! As we slowly shared parts of our trips, two more of their group joined us, adding nothing to our linguistic abilities.
We conveyed that we had worshipped in Bethlehem; in the German-built Christmas Lutheran Church. On that Sunday a German tour group was there and they sang for us, in Latin, Dona Nobis Pacem. Our friends burst into laughter. “That was us!” And we all laughed together.
One of them voiced the first note and together we sang Dona Nobis Pacem as the great deep orange sun sank into the low-lying clouds over the Mediterranean.
—Wilbur and Lorie Wood