Written by Jordan Bailey
Harding graduate Jonathan McRay returned to Palestine Feb. 28 through March 28 to work with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, assisting medical residents from the U.S. travelling in Palestine.
Last summer, McRay, who earned a bachelor’s in English, worked with the “Palestine Monitor,” a news Web site dedicated to telling Palestinian stories about the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and he is currently in Palestine working with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society.
McRay said he planned on returning to Palestine in January, but he decided to remain in the U.S. for the semester. After he made that decision, the opportunity to accompany his father and three medical students to Palestine became available.
McRay’s father, David McRay, is a doctor in the Family Medicine department at John Peter Smith hospital in Fort Worth, Tex. David McRay organized the trip as an elective medical rotation for JPS residents.
McRay said he feels fortunate to be able to help his father coordinate the trip and serve as an unofficial tour guide for the two third-year residents from JPS and one medical student from Northwestern with the group.
“I am also documenting this trip, writing about the experience for a Web site that is geared toward introducing university students to global situations and ways in which to be involved,” McRay said.
The team spent a week at Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva to learn about Israeli healthcare and see their facilities before moving to occupied Palestine for three weeks. According to McRay, the students have been able to see a stark contrast between the healthcare systems in Israel and Palestine.
“Walls and checkpoints, and other disastrous effects of the Occupation, have made it very difficult for people to receive adequate healthcare [in Palestine],” McRay said.
McRay said another reason he returned to Palestine is to explore future possibilities, including a trip later this year to work for three to six months. He has been offered a job with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, which the medical group is working with closely on this trip.
McRay is also considering the option of working with Musalaha, an organization dedicated to bringing people from different backgrounds together to deconstruct stereotypes, and the Al Basma Center, a facility for developmentally disabled young people outside of Bethlehem.
Musalaha, which means ‘reconciliation’ in Arabic, creates a structured environment for Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians and Christians from both sides to restructure worldviews. The Al Basma Center is run by Palestinian Christian friends of McRay’s.
“When people ask, ‘What are you going to do with an English degree?’, I respond ‘What am I not going to do with it?’, so I don’t plan on limiting myself,” McRay said. “Plans are always apt to change, but that’s my agenda right now.”
McRay said that after he returns to Israel and Palestine for three to six months, he plans to move to India to work in orphanages and then live in South America or the South Pacific to work on organic farms with current Harding students Josh Robertson and Josh Nason. After that, he might live in Mozambique for a while.
“Peace, justice and reconciliation too often become ideological abstractions; I want to be involved in practically enfleshing and embodying those things, putting skin on them, wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, and these places here allow me to do that in various ways,” McRay said.
McRay said whatever his future holds, he knows he will never stop writing, and he will return to Palestine.
McRay and his father will be presenting a lecture in April through the Honors College about their trip and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He said he wants students to be informed about the subject because he thinks too many American Christians have only heard one side of the story.
“Also, there are endless amounts of opportunities here, in so many fields, and there is far too much injustice and oppression to go around,” McRay said. “But wherever you are and whatever you do, wash people’s feet, because in every place there are people who need their feet washed.”