A Moment to Reflect

3 September 2020

A Moment to Reflect -98

PALESTINIAN PIGEONS

“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life

It’s not just migratory swallows that are able to navigate across huge distances, nor is it only cranes that know their way home …what about the humble homing pigeon? 

Here’s how one website describes the birds:

“The Homing pigeon is a variety of domestic pigeon which has an innate homing ability, meaning that the bird will usually return to its nest using magnetoreception. This bird has derived from the rock pigeon. And these birds were selectively bred for their ability to find their home over extremely long distance.” [https://www.roysfarm.com/homing-pigeon/]

I should perhaps point out that the doves/pigeons in the photograph are not flying across the skies above Carluke. (It’s not so often that Carluke skies are as blue as that.)

There is, however, an interesting story behind the picture.

Away back on the 22nd of May, I wrote briefly about the Bedouin village of Uum al Khair in the South Bethlehem hills and the constant harassment the Bedouins suffer from the residents in the adjacent Israeli settlement, and from repeated visits by the Israeli Defence Force to destroy their homes. (https://kirktonchurch.com/a-moment-to-reflect/76/)

While we were visiting the village, one of the men wanted to show us the “pigeon loft” that they had created. It was a strange construction of scaffolding poles, odd pieces of wood and a hotch-potch of plastic bottles, drums and other containers that had become home to their flock of doves.

I was content to photograph the strange ‘doocot.’ But the villager had other ideas and with a heavy stick banged on the scaffolding poles. Instantly the pigeons shot out of their resting-places and took to the air in a spectacular aerial display.

Our host explained that one of the things they liked most about the pigeons was their freedom. The birds were able to fly over the barriers that surrounded the settlement.  They could go wherever they pleased, unlike the Palestinians themselves.

All around the world there are millions of people displaced from their homes and homelands, with no right (or ability) to return. Millions more seek a new home in another country, sometimes out of fear for their very existence, but they are denied that opportunity.

Should our homes, and homelands, be castles to be defended at all costs, or should they be places of hospitality and welcome?