Trip to Jerusalem was learning experience
Written by By BILL RYAN Sentinel Religion Editor
Tuesday, 29 December 2009 08:20
An area man is taking an active role in learning about and educating others on the history and fragile situation in Israel and Palestine.
|Jim Bailey stands beside one of the separation walls
Jim Bailey, a retired educator who taught government and history, recently made a two-week trip to the area as part of an Interfaith Peace-Builders delegation.
He has had an interest in the area since 1956, when he was only 15.
More than just a religious dispute, the Fostoria resident agrees with many experts in regarding the Israel/Palestine situation as a land dispute.
"It boils down to two groups of people claiming the same piece of land as their homeland, and at different times in history, they are both right," he explained.
Rather than taking a stand for either Palestine or Israel, Bailey, who served one term as Fostoria's mayor, says he is merely "pro peace."
"Though I have a long time interest in the area, I was not an expert before I left. I am not one now. I can only share what we heard and learned," Bailey wrote.
"The Israel/Palestine issue has been an issue all of my life," he added.
The Interfaith Peace-Builders is an organization based in Washington, D.C., and through his peace efforts learned of the opportunity to accompany members on the trip.
"A just opportunity to go to the Holy Land as a Christian is a wonderful thing," he said.
He also noted the area's potential to improve relations between America and Muslims.
"If we learned anything it was that the widely-held American and Israeli stereotype of typical Palestinians being 'terrorists' is wrong," Bailey notes as one of his significant lessons he learned from his two-week trip.
During the delegation's visit to the area, Bailey met people from both camps who have lost family members. What was inspiring were those who have forgotten about their loss and the bitterness and have instead focused on peace.
He noted Israelis who have lost family members to suicide bombers as well as Palestinians whose family members have been shot by Israeli soldiers.
"We sat in a room side by side with these folks who could have hated - yet turned the other direction and are working together for peace," he said.
His trip took him to Jerusalem, including the Palestinian area of East Jerusalem. He was only a few hundred yards from the Ancient City of biblical Jerusalem, as they stayed at the Holy Land Hotel.
One troubling sight which was seen frequently was the huge "security" or "separation" wall.
"While its stated purpose is to separate Israelis from Palestinians for security reasons, very often it separates Palestinians from their schools, fields and employment," he states.
The trip also took the delegation to Hebron, Tel Aviv, Gaza, the West Bank, and overnight in Bethlehem. While there they met with people in a refugee camp in the Bethlehem area. They visited the Jordan River valley and Nazareth. They also visited the Church of the Nativity, the site of Jesus' birth; as well as the mosque in Hebron which has the grave of Abraham.
"It really was a trip of a lifetime," he summarized.
"You do the best you can and hope it's a better world in 50 years, and maybe it will be better next year," he stated summarizing that Americans are the best hope for the area.
Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis have confidence in their political leadership.
"The situation is unbelievably difficult and could soon explode again," he concluded.
Bailey's concerns go beyond the Israel-Palestine situation. He is dedicated to doing what he can in preserving the Earth, which he says he regards "as both holy and threatened."
As such, he indicates he is focused on peace-making and environmental issues at all levels.
He is also involved with gardening and volunteers with the Seneca County Park District and his church, among many.
Bailey is available to speak to any church, community or civic group. He can be reached by e-mail at
; or call him at (419) 435-2165
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Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 December 2009 09:29