One of my guilty favourite films is Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray, Andie McDowell, and of course the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. All focussed on Feb 2nd, Bill’s character Phil Connors gets stuck in that day on a seemingly endless repeat, until having learnt some kind of inner and cosmic lesson he moves into Feb 3rd. Much hilarity as he tries to change things within the ever repeating Feb 2nd, then, totally trapped by it, he tries all kinds of ways to escape until as he re-assesses his life priorities, he pleads to move onto the new day of Feb 3rd. The film ends, as all good Hollywood does, with his prayers answered, the snow falling, the girl by his side, and Feb 3rd arriving.
I have been regularly visiting and walking in the lands, and praying for and working alongside the peoples of the Middle East for nearly 20 years, although I first visited Israel/Palestine as a pilgrim/tourist in 1988. Here I am again in Israel/Palestine, in a region seemingly stuck in Groundhog Day. The TV today is an endless loop of clips on repeat looking at potential threat, or actual destruction, depending on your channel. Trained on the sky the cameras follow a rocket smoke plume above a Jewish town, and on the ground in Gaza we see individuals picking through the rubble of their houses and pointing to blood on the ground. Again and again the same clips, compounding the storyline. There is no other news, and the warning sirens keep wailing out. Commentators from both sides shout and point the finger in languages I still do not understand. But the meanings are plain, ‘they’ are to blame, ‘they’ started it, ‘they’ must be punished. Fire rains down, and further walls are built as more stories to overcome in the future are told. A seemingly perpetual loop. At least we have defaulted to the usual status quo – I mean, God forbid that we get to Feb 3rd and a new day. To do that would have meant reassessing our priorities, and wishing for a new day for everyone.
Israel/Palestine caught in Groundhog Day. But this isn’t remotely a comedy, and it doesn’t feel like Hollywood. Feb 3rd is still possible. It must be. Shalom / Salaam from Nazareth.