"I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees." —Ecclesiastes 2.6
BETHLEHEM, West Bank - We sit beside the ruins of King Solomon's Pools, backlit by a large and modern conference center that has only been used once since it was built. Behind the center, a fight has broken out and gunshots echo in the streets. It's graduation day, and revelers respond in kind with firecrackers. Surrounded by thirsty olive trees and broken glass—and despite all the odds—a single, purple wildflower grows: a symbol of what is still possible in this land so full of bloodshed. At least that's what Sami Awad believes. Sami is the founder and director of the Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian NGO in Bethlehem working to provide Palestinians with the means to build a future founded on the principles of nonviolence, justice and peace.
With a view of the world as one body, Sami reminds us that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not unique, and we all suffer because of it. The real question, he asks, is how do we begin to heal? His answer is that we need a new vision for the Holy Land. "There is a light in humanity and every single human being has this light. Only, for some, it is covered in layers of dust." The dust of history, for example. "History puts nails in one's feet and doesn't allow for change. But the future is actually void and empty. We are all standing on a groundless ground."
His words are powerful and surprisingly full of hope. Like the purple flower growing in this barren landscape, near the springs that have long dried up, his words remind us that the future hasn't been written yet. Anything is possible.
When the camera stops rolling, he admits that in fact a little craziness is needed too—not only to hope but to dare the impossible to happen. Walking back to the car, I ask him how he raises the spirits of those who have given up hope, and his answer reminds me that—especially in this land—we are not alone with our struggles. "Maybe the spirit moves us," he says.
Later, while sitting together over fresh lemonade, an ex-Israeli soldier who was present at the interview expresses the value of what Sami has shared. With deep sorrow and the weight of meaning, he tells us how rare someone like Sami is, and again I remember something he said earlier: "A simple cease-fire is not enough, we also need the human spirit."