Dear Hyde Park Family,
A modern-day parable of hope, straight out of recent news headlines:
- Last summer, a woman named Dr. Elaine Soloway harvested 111 dates from a date tree, then she sampled one. She said it had a “honey or caramel aftertaste.” Nothing really remarkable about that.
- Those dates that she picked? They came from a pollination that occurred six years ago between two date trees, a male and a female. Nothing remarkable about that, either.
- Those two date trees? One was named Methuselah, and the other Hannah. Why? Because they were each germinated from seeds that were lying dormant, discovered in part by an archaeologist named Yigal Yadin back in the 1960s.  Now it’s getting interesting.
- Those seeds? They were discovered in the Holy Land and were dated (no pun intended) back to between 35 B.C. and 65 A.D. Hmmm.
- So, imagine: These were 2,000-year-old date seeds, that were around at the time of Jesus, in the very land where Jesus walked, left to decompose for millennia, only to be rediscovered, germinated, and nurtured back to fruitfulness. But that’s still not the most remarkable thing.
Dr. Elaine Soloway? She works at the Areva Institute for Environmental Studies, which sits near the border of Israel and Jordan, along with students from different countries from throughout the Middle East. Picture young Jewish, Christian and Muslim students working together alongside Dr. Soloway and her colleagues to bring new life from the land, even from seeds that survived against the odds.
SEEDS OF HOPE
The Arava Institute reminds these students that there is much more to the land than the geo-political wars that are fought over the possession and control of its borders. When the land is viewed through the lens of environmental stewardship, people can come together, and the seeds of peace, beauty and hope that may have been lying dormant can be recovered, revived and rejuvenated.
Rabbi Michael M. Cohen, who teaches at the Arava Institute, put it this way: “Following the example of Muhammad, Muslims traditionally break their daily fast during Ramadan with a date. In the Jewish Torah, dates are considered one of the seven most important species of the Land of Israel. And Jesus was reportedly welcomed into Jerusalem with his supporters waving date palm branches.”
“Grown on this campus steeped in faith, the dates of Methuselah and Hannah, like all the great redemption stories, remind us that what today appears to be dead or beyond reach can in fact be revived to help create a better, more just, and redeemed tomorrow.” 
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
In all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, “the smallest of all seeds.” Yet, by God’s grace, and with enough attention, diligence and cooperation, that seed can bear fruit that will be a blessing for others.
These may be hard times. Hope can be hard to find, for many reasons, on many levels. But there are still seeds. Seeds of peace, justice, equality, joy and promise. They may be hidden under the surface, out of plain view. But if we keep digging, keep searching, keep believing, keep nurturing – and tear down the walls that would divide us so that we can work together – then new fruit can still be born, into a future that can be as sweet as honey and caramel.
So, don’t give up. Keep on digging. Together.
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist