Our bus stopped at a checkpoint, and Israeli soldiers boarded with M-16s slung over their shoulders. The soldiers couldn't have been older than 20. I sat quietly in my seat, held up my passport and wondered what it does to a young soul to be so familiar with a deadly weapon.

We were in the midst of a ten-day trip to visit the Christians in Palestine. Every couple of years I lead a group of seminarians and parishioners to visit what we call "the living stones" of the Palestinian church. Our purpose is not to enter the political fray between the Arabs and Israelis but to give encouragement to Palestinian Christians, who currently make up less than 2 percent of the population. But I have led these trips for 20 years, and I've found that it's impossible to disentangle faith from politics in this place. The deeper our relationships become with Palestinians, the more we have to grapple with the Israeli occupation as the source of their crisis.

Along the way I remind myself that residents of the Holy Land have often struggled under occupying armies. This is a deeply engrained aspect of their understanding of holiness; they have searched for God through the centuries in a land marred by injustice. This becomes clearer when one listens to the Palestinians' stories.