I think the picture above speaks for itself: it's the wall between Israel and the Palestinian Territory. You have to go through a check-point to get to places like Bethlehem or Bethany, where my friend Kalil lives (and of course where Lazarus and Mary and Martha lived before him.) It took us over an hour to get through the checkpoint when we traveled to Bethlehem, it takes Kalil about 45 minutes to get to work each day (he's at St. George's by 5 a.m) and the trip is all of 3 miles. It's easy of course to condemn walls whether built through Berlin, on the Mexican border, around gated communities that keep out the riff-raff, or in Israel. As I have mentioned, however, there is a lot of fear and some of that fear is legitimate. I know angels are always saying in the Bible "be not afraid" and I'm glad they do. But there is a difference between misplaced anxiety and healthy realistic awareness, even when the line isn't always clear. People are afraid in Israel on both sides of that wall and with good reason. We take our shoes off in airports and are getting ready for full-body scans and all the rest because we'd rather be humiliated than blown-up. In Israel they live with all of that 24/7, not just at the airport.
But walls aren't going to bring about peace on earth and good will to all. Ultimately safety and security can only ever be penultimate goals that shouldn't be confused with Shalom/Salaam. It doesn't seem like any good can come of this wall, at least as I see it. The view from each side speaks volumes: Ministry of Tourism posters on the Israeli side and protest graffiti on the Palestinian side.
So, yes, it's a cliche to say that Christians are called to tear down walls and build bridges. And yes, I took this photo while we were waiting at the check-point for over an hour to go to Bethlehem. It is honestly hard to know where to begin, with so much fear and mistrust. In ministry, both at the personal level and the congregational level, I've often felt that more information, more accurate information, eventually helps people move toward reconciliation. But not always and even when it does people have to be open to that new information and it can be very hard to filter that through "what we know." Sometimes people (including me!) become so entrenched in their own "truths" that they cannot see or hear anything that contradicts that reality. I see it over sexuality issues in my own denomination and in the wider Anglican Communion, and I saw it in Israel as I listened to people like Ophir and Xavier. They literally inhabit different worlds, see from totally different angles, and it is not merely new "information" that will bring about transformation, or peace with justice.