Saturday, July 4, 2009


Small little factoid about myself - the 4th of July is my favorite holiday. I love the celebration of freedom. I love the opportunity we have to think about and appreciate those who have sacrificed to serve our country and defend the MANY freedoms we enjoy. Several people in my family have served in the military and that makes me proud. My own grandfather served in WWI and WWII. I will forever be in his debt, as I am to so many others.

Today this holiday holds a whole new meaning for me. I now live in a country much different than America. I see the differences every single day. Today I'd like to share something that is very near and dear to me, so please take a moment to read and understand the serious subject at hand.

Below is a map of Israel/Palestine. The lighter part is "Israel" and the darker parts labeled West Bank and Gaza are "Palestine". I put quotation marks only because these names are subjective around here. Not everyone agrees on these borders. As you can see, Jerusalem is tucked up into a small area surrounded by the West Bank.


The Gaza Strip has a fence that encircles its boundaries, called the Gaza Strip barrier.

Not far from us, is the West Bank barrier. It is a huge concrete wall still in the process of being built that gets as high as 26 feet in some places. We can literally see it on our walk to church. The efficacy of this wall can be argued for hours so I'm not going to do that here, but it must be known that this wall does take away freedoms. The Palestinian economy is crumbling. You think the US economy is bad? Try living in the West Bank! Many of these people have completely lost their livelihoods. Many of the towns and cities in the West Bank are deteriorating at record speeds. Many families have owned land and businesses in Jerusalem for many decades, and they're no longer able to get to work because they're not allowed through the border! Can you imagine?!?

The reason I explain all that, is first of all, we need to remember all the freedoms we have! We don't have walls that go through our cities that keep us from going to work! Or that keep us from going to church! But people here face that every. single. day.

The second reason I share that is because I believe it needs to become a matter of fasting and prayer. As I've mentioned before, our Sabbath is on Saturdays. Today we were asked to use our "Fast Shabbat" to specifically fast and pray for those members of the church who are unable to come to church because of the barrier, and that hearts will be softened in order to allow them access to church worship. The branch here is currently working on getting them some kind of religious pass that would allow them to come in order to worship. These people NEED this to go through. It will most likely have to be approved by many people, and we need the Lord to soften hearts and allow these wonderful members of the church to worship the way they please.

So if you are fasting this "Shabbat", I ask that you include this issue in your prayers. Pray for my friend Carolyn who is an American and isn't allowed to come to church just because she married a Palestinian! And my good friend Sahar who was born and raised in Bethlehem and ended up joining the church while on a scholarship at BYU. For years it used to take her hours to get to church, hiding from patrolmen, sneaking through holes in the wall, hiding behind trees, praying she wouldn't get shot. And a sweet man named Mohammad. He is the only member in his family, and because of the wall hasn't had work in YEARS! He desperately wants to come to church, but is only able to come occasionally.

Picture of the West Bank barrier.

Men wait for hours in line at checkpoints to be able to get into Israel for work and church.

So if you're one of my many American friends reading this, Happy 4th of July! Take a moment amid the parades and fireworks today to enjoy and appreciate your freedoms! And if you can, take a moment during Fast Sunday tomorrow to pray for those who don't even have the freedom to come to church, both here in Israel, and around the world. We should all be able to worship our God. But not all of us can in the way we'd like.

Happy Freedom Day!!!


Brooke Stoneman said...

What a great post. I'm so glad to hear about the branch's efforts in this endeavor. These good saints will certainly be in our prayers.

Shane and Geana said...

Wow, I had no idea that the wall looked like that or that people had to wait in those long lines just to get in. How horrifying for them and for your branch members. I hope and pray many hearts will be softened.

taylor said...

Yay for freedom! Thanks for your post. I love the 4th of July too! I think it's all Popper's fault, but I can't even sing the national anthem without crying. So pitiful :)

Ted said...

Well Amy, I knew of this request earlier, so in my testimony in my Plain City Ward, I told the story and asked anyone who wanted to, to fast for these dear people also.
BTW, you're incredible (as is Tom Jojo and Jackson)
I hope there's a spell checker on this

Crookshanks said...

Thank you, Amy, for reminding me about something very precious. I probably take all my freedoms for granted because I've never known anything different. I read your post after Fast Sunday, but I will remember your request in my prayers.


Chad and Kristine said...

I always have enjoyed the 4th of July. Be being the 1st 4th we have spent in AZ it wasn't all about the parades (where i don't think we have any), fireworks (only big ones are legal and hard to find), and being without family did not have the huge BBQ. We did focus more on our freedoms and let our children know about it, and why we celebrate this day. I loved your post and I will keep them in my prayers. I don't know what I would do if I would be unable to attend church. thanks for sharing.

Wiski said...

Great post! I wish more people had soft hearts like you.

Weez Whetten said...

Amy, you are amazing. Thanks for this post.