A Message from a Weary Pilgrim

I guess every journalist can remember their first by-line. A by-line is always a bit of a thrill, even after thirty years in the business.

A slightly cooler thrill is listening to a senator deliver a speech or a statement that you wrote for them on statewide television. I’ll never forget that. I’ll bet watching a good theater company perform a play you wrote might be cooler still.

But as a journalist/thrill seeker, I’ve found something way beyond these egocentric thrills — the thrill of helping a weary pilgrim.

Back in 2005 my friend Susanne Hoder went to the Holy Land and spoke with Christians, Moslems and Jews about the problems there. She was part of a peace delegation from the United Methodist Church of Rhode Island, and she asked people in Palestine what kind of assistance would be most welcome. She was thinking they might want stethoscopes, or x-ray machines.

They said, “Tell our story.”

Susanne was raised on a farm in Georgia, and when she was a little girl, members of the Jewish faith came to her congregation to say, respectfully, that racial segregation was wrong. Martin Luther King, in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, acknowledged the work of Herschel Goldhirsch, later known as Harry Golden, in advancing the cause of justice.

I met Susanne when she drove all the way from Rhode Island to address a group of eight people in Hadley, and I could see that she was tired. But I could also see her passion. She was not going to quit. She reminded me of Natalia Solzhenitsyn who came to America in 1979 to ask Christians here, “Where were you when our church was being destroyed?”

So I arranged for Sony Stark to make a video of Susanne that we could show to a wider audience, people like me who know next to nothing about the conflict in the Holy Land. I was thinking it would at least give her some more time to spend with her family.

I know no one cares a whit about my opinions about the occupation of Palestine. Why should they?

But I truly believe every American should hear what Susanne Hoder has to say, and now it’s going to happen. Our video is airing on Amherst Public Television soon, Northampton’s next, and I have twenty copies in hand for public access stations all over the United States.

You can bet I’ll send one to my hero, Rachel Maddow, and don’t be surprised if you see Susanne on Oprah. Susanne’s efforts are supported by true friends of Israel all over the world, including Holocaust survivors.

I you feel like it, you could give me and Susanne and Herschel Goldhirsch a hand with this. There’s a public access station in your city or town, and as a citizen you can ask them to air whatever you want. Email me and I’ll send you a copy.

Peace is possible, but it’s up to us.