As we made our way into the Peace Center for the Blind in East Jerusalem, I was overwhelmed by the reality of meeting this elderly woman, who was clueless to the imprint of her story, her life’s work, and her birth of a community for visually impaired Palestinian girls and women on me. I found myself in awe of this place; it was as Ms. Lydia dreamed, “a place to belong.” At last, I would meet Ms. Lydia, the 80+ year-old woman, who lived without eyesight for most of her life, yet she was living a vision of community in Palestine. She was a petite woman who stood about 4 feet in physical stature with a gigantic spirit visible beneath the dark velvet suit accented with gold buttons; resembling the light of God prevailing amidst the diminishing hope for peace in Palestine.
Our first stop was the classroom of the vivaciously sweet young girls who welcomed us into their place of belonging. The spirit of this community was evident as they confidently engaged us in conversation and entertained us with their songs. After gaining a glimpse of this place of “belonging,” through the girls, we proceeded to another room depicting the comfort of home. I eagerly settled in taking a seat on the sofa sipping the bitter Turkish coffee served to us upon the instruction of Ms. Lydia. The fellowship reminded me of a family gathered around the matriarch to soak up her stories and digest her wisdom. We listened with reverence as she navigated us from one vocational training room to another, watching the skill and commitment of each person perform their trade.
These women and a few men at the Peace Center for the Blind seemed at home. I could feel the warm embrace of this Palestinian community. Yes, I too found myself in this belonging, part of the community Ms. Lydia created! Confirming my belonging to her and the community of peace in Palestine; I concluded my visit with the sweetest and most memorable moment, naturally and genuinely interlocking hands and hearts with Ms. Lydia, a light of the Lord in darkness!
by Kimberly Williams