Whether it came from the high visibility that the Middle East had in my childhood, sadly because of all the warring there, or whether it came from the beguiling performance by Yul Brynner as Rameses II in The Ten Commandments (it holds up – am I right?), from childhood I longed to see Egypt, and made the first of many trips there in 1996. “The gift of the Nile” was way better than the movie. The site, fuhgeddaboudit: the pyramids, the Nile, Khan Eh-Khalili, the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, the temple at Luxor, and on and on. What I hadn’t counted on was falling for the people, who a colleague affectionately called “the Italians of the Middle East.” Egyptians are funny, hard-working, hospitable, quick to anger and quicker to forgive, spontaneous and stalwart. By the time a trip finished (I went a lot for business, to Cairo, and to the Red Sea resorts) I was exhausted and maybe more than a little fed up, but the next time I saw that I was ticketed to go I grinned.
The treaty between Israel and Egypt has to date fostered only a “cold peace;” flights are limited, trade is strangulated, and cultural contacts are rate. After a bombing at a resort in Taba, at the top of the Gulf of Aqaba where Israel, Egypt, and Jordan come together, followed by more attacks along the Red Sea coast of the Sinai Peninsula, Israelis stopped heading south for the holidays and now go much farther, even to India and South America. Thus, they rarely meet Egyptians, so how can peace build?
Why the stalemate? Your poor deacon puts it to a failure of imagination, loss of hope, and a lack of faith in the future itself, which by definition is unknown. It was the image of a beautiful yet unknown future that moved Isaiah, and that stirred hopes in President Sadat, Prime Minister Begin, and President Carter, and it was faith that put those hopes into action. This progression, of imagination begetting hope begetting faith begetting action what is at work in the Incarnation, which we as Church pray on and prepare for in the weeks of Advent. I look forward to embracing them with you.