Someone who may read my former blogs would said: “Poor Tony, he always find himself
obliged to make up new terms for his blog’s titles”. But believe me, this time I am not creating something new, Bethel literally means “House of God”! Its origin go back to the Ugaritic language – one of oldest alphabets in the world – which was discovered in Syria, my country…
It was easy to me to know the original meaning. First, it is very close to my native tongue which is Arabic – Arabic it is also a Semitic language as Hebrew and Ugaritic. In Arabic, Beth (house) is Bet, and El (God) is like Allah in Arabic. Second, I love to read the bible even before I became a Jesuit, and it is still my favorite book.“Bethel” is mentioned several time in the Bible, but one of the most important moments in the history of people of Israel, it was when Jacob dreamt of a ladder stretching between Heaven and Earth and thronged with angels; God stands at the top of the ladder, and promises Jacob the land of Canaan. Then, he called that place “Bethel” because he said: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”; Genesis 28: 10-22.
I am not trying to write a biblical piece on Bethel. How I dare to do this, when I am living with two Biblical scholars at the same Jesuit community? But I like to share you my personal experience, how I realized that Bethel, Alaska was also the “House of God” for me.
– “Jacob took one of the stones there, he put it under his head and laid down to sleep.”
Similar experience happened to me, we lived kind of austerity, we slept on the floor for 13 days, two nights at the airport. Almost the same way that Jacob had slept that night. It is important to take this step to dive deeper in your spiritual experience, it is symbolic gesture more than material. So, with step one, I sent a message to God, telling him that I am ready to receive anything he might want to share me there, at his house.
– “And you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south.”
I wrote earlier on my first blog that Alaska has a symbolic meaning for me, I said: “Yes I like to push my limits and be a man on frontier, as the Church asks the Jesuits to be”. I didn’t know what was waiting for me there. In Bethel I fell in Love, with the nature and particularly with the Tundra, I found myself moved to meet it again and again. Each night my heart was leading me out of the town to the Tundra, where literally I touched the four edges of the world, with 360 view of the horizon, I found myself humming my favorite song, the one I sing each time I leave a place to another, when the Earth becomes my throne, as Metallica’s song says.
– “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go,”
With deep confirmation, I left Bethel with inner peace knowing God is always faithful, and his promise will be fulfilled one day: “and I will bring you back to this land” . What a lovely feeling I have these days. My desires of being a man of frontier, and My belongimg to the Earth as I was always proclaimed. Syria or Bethel… Where I lay my head is home.
Jacob woke up from his dream, and so I am. But dreams have a glimpse of reality, that why we believe in them, and because we believe in them, we are able to make them true. Instead of the stone that Jacob used as a landmark. I left my boots, somewhere there in Bethel, as a symbolic gesture believing in my dream and trusting God, that one day I will come back. I will come back when the Tundra is waiting for me, offers me the best bed to lay down, under the divine sky, before the gate of heaven. Because surely the Lord is in this place, and I was aware of it.