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Toine van Teeffelen (ed.)
Culture and Palestine Series, Bethlehem ARAB EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTE
Copyright 2007 by AEI-Open Windows All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher. Requests for permission to reproduce selections from this book should be mailed to: AEI-Open Windows, firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Bethlehem, Palestine, by the Arab Educational Institute (AEI-Open Windows) as part of the Culture and Palestine series. ISBN data: Challenging the Wall: Toward a Pedagogy of Hope Edited by Toine van Teeffelen Illustrations by James Prineas, Leo Gorman and Alrowwad Cultural and Theatre Training Center Includes biographical references. The “Culture and Palestine” series explores expressions of Palestinian culture, including popular customs, arts, and traditional stories, as well as writings and reflections upon Palestinian daily life. www.aeicenter.org Printed in Bethlehem, Palestine
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Acknowledgement Introduction PART 1: REFLECTIONS Mary Grey Deep breath - Taking a deep breath: spiritual resources for a pedagogy of hope Mitri Raheb Culture - Culture as the art of breathing Toine van Teeffelen and Fuad Giacaman Sumud - Resistance in daily life Jacobus (Coos) Schoneveld Sacrifice - “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him” Henri Veldhuis Solidarity - How ethnic tendencies of a protestant Israel theology undermine solidarity Dick de Groot Ubuntu - I am because we are Pat Gafney Women-peacemakers - Crack in the Wall Nikki Thanos and Leo B. Gorman
Pop-Ed - From ‘cha-ching’ to ‘ahhh-oh’ in popular education: Beyond the banking model Abdelfattah Abusrour Nonviolence - A story of beautiful resistance Susan Atallah Voices - The power to have an impact Gied ten Berge Imagination - Mene Tekels on the Wall Brigitte Piquard Space/symbolic violence - Paintings, murals, and graffiti on the West Bank Wall: Coping mechanisms and acts of resilience Ido Abram Identity - Communicating identity across walls James Prineas Photography and Internet - Virtual means to defeating the Wall
PART 2: INTERVIEWS Terry Boullata Bit by bit, the Wall became more tangible Maha Abu Dayyeh As long as there is a society that resists, there is hope Jizelle Salman Life in Palestine: The magnet that draws me home
Hania Bitar I have to divide hope into stages to make it more realistic Alexander Qamar Jerusalem was once a cosmopolitan city Abdalla Abu Rahme We lock ourselves up in barrels, boxes, jails, cylinders, and cages Claire Anastas We are imprisoned, buried alive in a tomb
ACKNOWLEDGMENT The contribution of Mitri Raheb previously appeared under the title, “Culture as the Art to Breathe” in This Week in Palestine (TWIP), September 2006. We thank TWIP for permission to republish the article in this book. Four of the seven interviews – those with Maha Abu Dayyeh, Hania Bitar, Jizelle Salman, and Terry Boullata – were originally conducted for the Dutch peace organization United Civilians for Peace. We are also thankful to them for their permission to reproduce the interviews. All interviews have previously appeared on various websites, including www.ElectronicIntifada.net. Gied ten Berge’s contribution was originally written as a speech that was delivered beside the Separation Wall during two ‘solidarity pilgrimages’ undertaken by Pax Christi Netherlands during the Christmas holidays in 2004 and 2006. Coos Schoneveld’s contribution was originally written for a seminar about international story exchanges. The seminar was organized by AEI-Open Windows and IKV (Interchurch Peace Council) of the Netherlands, and took place in Beit Sahour on May 14, 2004. Finally, we are very grateful to James Prineas, Leo Gorman, and Alrowwad Center for allowing us to reprint their photos in this book.
This book grew out of despair. During the years 2004–2006, several members of the Arab Educational Institute (AEI-Open Windows) were directly faced with the horrifying consequences of the building of the Separation Wall in the Bethlehem district of Palestine. The situation of Claire Anastas – a member of AEI’s women’s group – and her family, was especially dreadful. Her house was destined to be surrounded by the Wall on three sides. Like the Israeli settlements, the building of the Wall seemed to be – and, for Israel, is intended to be – an irreversible, unstoppable process. We remember well that our women’s group staged a sit-in in front of Claire’s house to protest the Wall, but we also knew that there was little else that anyone could do about it. People felt that the Rachel’s Tomb area was a lost cause. Neighbors came to give their moral support but had already prepared themselves for the inevitable. Then the Wall was built. Two years ago. Like a hammer blow. The area, previously one of the liveliest in Bethlehem, became desolate. Whenever possible, people, shops, and businesses, left the area. There was no way to work or bring up children in the shadow of the Wall. There was, however, one remarkable development. Some journalists, including international TV reporters, came to visit the area to show its degradation to the world. At Christmastime, they included Rachel’s Tomb in portraits that presented the plight of Bethlehem and the Palestinians. The Anastas house was visited by journalists, groups, and delegations. Nothing changed – at least not visibly. However, international visitors and members of pilgrimage groups showed an interest in adopting a presence there as a sign of solidarity. Visiting groups started to put graffiti and drawings on the Wall. We were suddenly faced with the question: How to create hope in a desperate situation? It was decided to establish a peace house to help revitalize the area and to conduct advocacy on the issue of the illegality of the Wall. Building a peace house in a dead zone requires sources of inspiration. The present book was set up to provide such inspiration (as a complement to the inspiration that springs from the activities that are currently being undertaken at the house). A range of scholars and
activists were asked to contribute their reflections. The common denominator of all contributions is reflected in the title of this book: Challenging the Wall: Toward a Pedagogy of Hope. On the one hand, we were looking for inspirational ways to challenge the Wall, and on the other hand, we were trying to see how such ways could serve a pedagogy of hope. In the end we received a rich yield of approaches, conceptualizations, case studies, comparisons, and stories. The contributions are illustrated by a recent series of interviews, conducted by the editor, with Palestinians who live close to the Wall – interviews about their suffering but also about their sources of hope and energy. We summarize both sections of the book. Reflections “Taking a Deep Breath,” by British theologian Mary Grey, introduces a concept that stands in opposition to the suffocation that many Palestinians feel as a result of the restrictions on freedom of movement. Her plea for the “breath of life,” for a renewed spiritual and cultural energy precisely under the most desperate circumstances is complemented by the contribution of Mitri Raheb, pastor at the Lutheran Church in Bethlehem. He calls for “the art of sustaining one’s breath,” with special emphasis on the nourishing role of culture so as not to lose “hope and heart.” The same long-term focus is characteristic of the Palestinian concept of sumud or steadfastness, combining the characteristics of rootedness and perseverance. Toine van Teeffelen and Fuad Giacaman of the Arab Educational Institute elaborate why this concept was chosen to be included in the name of the peace house at Rachel’s Tomb. They point to the danger that a symbol such as sumud may become rigid and absolute. Whereas symbols and general calls for sacrifice and solidarity may be beacons of hope, a precautionary warning is in order. Coos (Jacobus) Schoneveld, a theologian of the Netherlands, warns that even though sacrifices in the form of giving one’s life to a cause may be required at certain moments and in ultimate situations, it should be made clear that it is not God who asks for the sacrifice of people. Henri Veldhuis, also theologian, critiques the Dutch Protestant Churches’ choice to stay in “unrelinquishable solidarity” with Israel, and warns that solidarity should be ‘solid’ and built upon honest involvement as well as inner freedom.
Realizing values in desperate circumstances cannot be without community building. Throughout the book, this element is highlighted over and over again. Dick de Groot, an educationalist, explains the African community concept of ubuntu. He casts his net wide: Ubuntu is needed not just in situations where the community is threatened because of such artificial obstacles like the Wall, but also as a correction to the pervasive and extreme individualism that coincides with globalization. Pat Gafney, of Pax Christi UK, writes that community building implies the peacemaking role of women as connectors who are strong as rocks and able to “make cracks in the wall.” American popular educators Nikki Thanos and Leo Gorman tell about their experiences with grassroots community-building in the Americas – a concept that counters a ‘banking’ model of learning and living. Both Abdelfattah Abusrour (from the cultural center Alrowwad in Aida Camp, on the western side of Rachel’s Tomb) and Susan Atallah (from the Terra Sancta School for Girls/St. Joseph in Bethlehem), point to the need for a community context when initiating communicative projects in the spheres of the media, drama, and diary writing. They show how communicative work among young people serves not only to release tensions but also to give them a voice that is aimed towards the outside world. In the process, they help to break stereotypes of Palestinians. The communicative aspect of hope-inspiring actions is further worked out in relation to the Wall by two contributions that specifically deal with writing and drawing on the Wall as a technique of creative nonviolent resistance. Gied ten Berge of the Dutch peace movement recalls his memories of creative graffiti on the Berlin Wall and explains its relevance in challenging the present ‘Sharon Wall’; while Brigitte Piquard, a lecturer at universities in the UK and France, studies the popular expressions on the Wall that assert identity and reclaim space. There are two more contributions that focus on the way in which audiences can be reached through communicative projects. Dutch educator Ido Abram discusses the possibility of empowering forms of communication and narrative between Palestinians and Israelis across walls (understood both as a reality and a metaphor). Australian James Prineas, several of whose photos are incorporated in this book, shows how digital media, including the website www.palestine-family.net, can make a crucial difference in communicating a human Palestinian message to western audiences.
Interviews The second part of the book consists of interviews with Palestinians who live (or who are being threatened with the possibility of living) close to the Wall. The interviews raise three questions: How is your daily life influenced by the Wall and the checkpoints? What does freedom mean to you? What are your sources of energy? The persons who were interviewed show how the presence of the Wall creates an enormous burden on daily life and traveling, and has a pervasive negative influence on family life, face-to-face contacts, and mentality. The sources of hope differ from person to person but are never absent, whether it is (the laugh of) one’s children; the presence of family and friends; the feeling of homecoming despite checkpoints; the persistent anger about injustice, which serves to keep hope alive; the simple, good deeds that are offered to others; the memories of cosmopolitanism in the Holy Land; or the search for an interested audience. In fact, the interviews show how each Palestinian – sometimes desperately – is searching for sources of life and hope against all odds. The editor October 2007
PART 1 REFLECTIONS
Deep breath TAKING A DEEP BREATH: SPIRITUAL RESOURCES FOR A PEDAGOGY OF HOPE Mary Grey It is impossible to describe the shock and disturbed emotions on first seeing the Israeli ‘security’ Wall snaking its inexorable way around villages and towns and turning the land effectively into a vast fortress. It is equally hard to grasp the full implications for the lives of Palestinians. For a traveler with the option of going home to a country without war, it is one thing; for the people of the land who are trying to carve out a life of dignity and hope for the future – especially for their children and young people – the Wall presents an almost insurmountable challenge to resist. And more than to resist, the imperative for Palestinians and those in solidarity with them is to discover a way to live so as to ground hope in a changed future. It is often said that in order to be happy, human beings need community (a network of meaningful social relations), a relationship with nature (or the land), and faith. In this context I want to explore the spirituality of ‘taking a deep breath’ as part of a pedagogy of hope. The Spirit as breath of life Spirituality in its simplest meaning is the life of the Spirit, embracing the human spirit, the human dynamism for life, the human zeitgeist (spirit of the times), the energy-grounding hope, itself linking with the Divine, the Universal Spirit of life that is shared by people of all faiths and people of no official faith. But the meaning of spirit that unites us in the most literal way of all is the Spirit as breath of life that grounds hope. Taking a deep breath in this Dark Night of the Palestinian people, means connecting with this Spirit, calling on resources for the long haul, and refusing to give way to the suffocating effects of daily violence and humiliation. Not an easy option. Yet the most ancient meaning of ‘taking a deep breath’ is drawing deep on the Spirit, the breath of life, the breath that keeps hope
alive and energizes the hope of new life, as the Divine Spirit has been actively doing since the dawn of time. Taking a deep breath brings the gift of living peacefully when there is no peace: this means calling on a type of imagination that is prophetic in remembering and seeing differently – an imagination that summons us to live from a new reality that does not yet exist but that can be embodied in every act of nonviolent resistance, of giving thanks, of praising God – in acts of simple kindness, moments of joy, beauty, singing, and dancing. In so doing we draw strength from ancient traditions that form Palestinian identity, such as hospitality, love of the beauty of the land – the olive trees, the fruit trees in blossom – the myths and poems that celebrate this, the stories that we want our children to remember. It is more important than ever, during times of persecution, tensions, and daily harassment, to draw strength from cherished traditions. The seasoned Mennonite peace campaigner, Jean-Paul Lederach, tells in his recent book of making peace in Tajikistan through the initiative of a professor who climbed a mountain to challenge an obstinate Mullah, a warlord who was blocking the peace talks. However, their conversation did not focus on obstacles to peace but on their shared love of Sufi poetry and mysticism. After several months of journeying up and down the mountain, the Mullah consented to descend and face the warlords. This was a peace that was made through friendship, through shared love of beauty, not by forced agreement1 and not through bloodshed. Flourishing Taking a deep breath also means turning round the notion of future salvation to mean flourishing – a concept that refers to more than the attainment of human rights – a state of peace where a new, nonviolent symbolic order is enabled and embodied here and now, not in the future. Hope is grounded here in history, not endlessly deferred to some utopian future state of events. Not for nothing does Bethlehem mean ‘house of bread’. Taking a deep breath means to believe that the Spirit is working to make new realities – this House of Peace, this House of Bread, this new peace group and movement for justice. The Spirit gives energy to sustain the daily rhythms of life – of feeding people and sharing meals,
Jean Paul Lederach, The Moral Imagination: the Art and Soul of Building Peace, New York: OUP, 2005.
watering trees, caring for animals, enabling laughter, telling stories, and keeping festival. Planting trees, sowing seeds, and baking bread are all activities that literally embody our hope. I see all this happening in the remote rural villages of northwest India, in the desert state of Rajasthan, where I have been involved for twenty years with a small NGO, Wells for India, which I helped to found. Wells for India seeks to ensure water security and dignity for vulnerable rural communities.1 During the drought years (latterly drought and flood have become interchangeable), it was haunting to see groups of women and young girls, water jars on their heads, walking ever longer distances in search of water. How did they find the energy to work sixteen-hour days, not only searching for water and wood for fuel and fodder but also tending cattle and goats, caring for small children, cooking, and toiling in the fields? Often their menfolk became very frustrated with the failure of agriculture and would take to drink and to drugs – Rajasthan is on the opium route from Afghanistan – and sink into deep depression. On a fundamental level, it seemed that the women’s energy was spiritual; that sustaining the rhythm of life for their families brought strength and meaning to their own lives and even gave them the capacity to celebrate the many religious festivals and to be faithful to their tradition of hospitality. Love of the land, the desert trees, and their ancestral villages (if they hadn’t been forced to migrate because of drought) all contributed to grounding hope in the present. In taking a deep breath, we share God’s hesed – steadfastness and faithfulness – and God’s vulnerability to our suffering. We keep God’s presence dynamic in our lives when (it appears that) God does not seem to be able to do much to help us: except to be Emmanuel, God with us in our struggles. But somehow, through sharing this steadfastness, a wider vision is kept alive, a hope that there will be a common future, that as human beings we belong together – Palestinians and Israelis, Muslim, Jew, and Christian – and that at some point in history reconciliation will be enabled, even if at this given moment, it appears that a common, shared, peaceful future lies beyond the horizon of possibilities. Space between people
See our website: www.wellsforindia.org.
Taking a deep breath is trusting that the Divine Spirit moves between opposing peoples as ‘The Go-Between God’.1 If hope is to be kept alive, it is vital to keep space open, space to breathe, making room between opposing violent factions. The Spirit keeps open possibilities of connection and relating – as recounted in the above-mentioned story of the Mullah who loved Sufi mysticism. This idea of the space between people, being either the ‘I-Thou’ of deep connection, or the ‘I-it’ of objectivity (and therefore separation, then objectification, even demonization), derives from the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber who, at the creation of the state of Israel, argued strongly against the two-state division and solution to the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.2 Keeping open the space of interconnectedness is another way of embodying hope. Refusal to block memories of solidarity, friendship, and neighborliness is part of this. In other contexts we have learned that forcing people to violence is partly caused by blocking these memories of neighborliness. Before the war in the Balkans, Serbs and Croats, Muslims and Christians lived in harmony. Before partition in India, many Hindus and Muslims also lived in harmony. Today we can see that harmony still existing in the project areas of Wells for India, even if in other places it has erupted into violence. Hope allows wider horizons to blossom. This leads to my final point. Movements of hope extend beyond faith communities: hope that the killing systems can be transformed is what connects all people of good will. The deeper the breath, the deeper the possibilities of connection – the connection that brings possibilities of justice. The great spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi believed in the intrinsic goodness of human nature. His message, his pedagogy of hope, was to educate people in alternatives to violence, to offer them real possibilities for transformation. He hoped that they would respond positively. Life in his ashrams sustained the daily rhythms of spinning, sowing seeds, sharing simple food, and creating a life of dignity for the poorest people. He was killed embodying this hope, but his vision lives on. Is this mindless optimism? Or deeply rooted hope in life itself – that fundamental love that moves the earth, the heavens, and the stars?
The phrase is the late John Taylor’s, The Go-Between God, London: Collins, 1972. Martin Buber, I and Thou, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1935.
This great affirmation of hope comes from Chile, but its message celebrates resistance to the Wall and the belief that dreams of freedom will prevail: I believe that beyond the mist the sun waits. I believe that beyond the dark night it is raining stars ... I believe that this lost ship will reach port. They will not rob me of hope, it shall not be broken, it shall not be broken. My voice is filled to overflowing With the desire to sing. I believe in reason not in the force of arms; I believe that peace can be sown throughout the earth. I believe in our nobility, created in the image of God, And with free will reaching for the skies. They will not rob me of hope; it shall not be broken, it shall not be broken.1
“Confessing our Faith around the World,” South America, WCC 1985, in Janet Morley ed., Bread of Tomorrow, Maryknoll: Orbis, 1992, p.113.
Culture CULTURE AS THE ART OF BREATHING Mitri Raheb There was a time when people thought that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was like a 100meter run. Participants behaved accordingly; they made a concentrated, short-term effort to muster all the strength they could. When they reached the goal, they were out of breath, but they could afford it for this brief race. However, people are increasingly realizing that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one of the longest ongoing conflicts in modern history, is more like a 36-kilometer marathon. If participants were to behave as though they were taking part in a 100-meter run, they would perish. They would resign quickly, lose hope and heart, and emigrate either physically or psychologically. During a marathon, people need to breathe differently, to prepare in another way, and to run at a well-trained yet more relaxed pace. The key is to sustain one’s breath. For Palestinians who live in this ongoing and seemingly unending conflict, culture is the art of sustaining one’s breath. I often meet people and donors who think that culture in this context is a luxury that we Palestinians cannot and should not afford. For these donors, relief is what the Palestinians need under occupation. They need bread to eat – to fill their stomach – so that they can think. This is usually the logic used. Our tragedy as Palestinians, since the Balfour Declaration, has been that our struggle has often been portrayed as a humanitarian crisis rather than one that has to do with identity and self-determination. But people “shall not live by bread alone.” Culture is one of the most important elements for people’s survival. Under immense constraints and in the most immoral situations, culture is the art of learning how to breathe normally. In contexts of conflict, people concentrate mainly on those who “kill the body” but often forget about those who “kill the soul,” i.e., the dignity, creativity, and vision of a people. Without a vision, nations “cast off restraint.” Culture is the art that enables the soul not only to survive but to thrive. Culture is the art that enables one to refuse being solely on the receiving end, to resist being perceived only as a mere victim. Culture is the art of becoming an actor rather than a spectator. It is the art
of celebrating life in a context that is still dominated by forces of death and domination – the art of resisting creatively and nonviolently. Sacred place However, culture is a necessity not only at times of conflict. Culture is crucial not mainly in resisting occupation but as an essential, positive way of expressing oneself the way one is and communicating one’s story the way one wants. Culture has thus to do with selfdetermination. Culture is the arena where we determine who we are – according to our own definition and not that of others. Culture is the medium through which we communicate what we really want in a language that is different than that of political semantics and religious formulas. Within the Palestinian context, people have reached a stage where they feel that political rhetoric no longer represents what they think and desire. Also, people often feel suffocated by certain forms of religious expressions that have too much religion and too little spirituality. Culture is a sacred space where people can learn how to breathe freely in a context where the fresh air seems to get thinner by the minute. Culture is one of the most important pillars of a future Palestinian state. The role that is played by culture in our future state will determine whether Palestinians consider Palestine to be their homeland only by birth or by choice as well. What happens in the cultural zone will indicate the direction in which Palestine is heading: toward a democratic state where there is not only freedom from occupation but also a state-guaranteed freedom of expression and allocation of resources to ensure that the cradle of the three monotheistic religions becomes a major cultural hub for humanity. Last but not least, culture is an important bridge between Palestine and the rest of the world. Although culture has to do with expressing oneself as one is, this is always done in relation to others. Encountering the other is always important in understanding oneself. It is in the light of meeting a different context that one realizes one’s own unique context. Culture thus becomes the space where people can meet others and themselves, where they can discover a language that is local yet universal, and where they realize that in order to breathe, one has to keep the windows wide open to new winds and fresh air that blow in from across the seas and oceans. Simultaneously, what Palestine needs are ambassadors of
its culture who can express the unique spirit of the land and its people. Culture is the means that empowers us to give a face to our people, to write melodies to our narrative, and to develop an identity that, like an olive tree, is deeply rooted in the Palestinian soil yet whose branches reach out into the open skies. For these reasons, our team at the International Center of Bethlehem decided in 1997 to focus and invest most of our resources on culture. In 1999 we opened “the Cave” Arts and Crafts Center, which houses workshops, a gallery, and a gift shop; and in 2003 we dedicated Addar Cultural and Conference Center that includes a state-of-the-art multipurpose auditorium. Out of this same conviction, we are planning to open the Dar alKalima College in September, as the first college of its kind to offer vital, accredited, and comprehensive higher education in arts, multimedia, and communication. This is our contribution to the efforts to strengthen civil society, cultivate talent, and communicate hope so that a fresh spirit will continue to blow within, throughout, and across Palestine to enable us to breathe deeply and to “have life and have it abundantly.”
Sumud RESISTANCE IN DAILY LIFE Toine van Teeffelen and Fuad Giacaman Hope can find powerful expression in symbols. Gaining a central place in Palestinian political discourse during the 1970s, the symbol of sumud (steadfastness, persistence, endurance) points to two characteristics that can be ubiquitously found among Palestinians in Palestine and elsewhere: On the one hand, preserving deep roots in the homeland; on the other, stubbornly going on with life and keeping hope for the future despite all the adversities that are faced, including occupation, discrimination, expulsion, and international negligence. At its core, sumud refers to the refusal to give up on Palestinian rights and dignity. Despite sumud’s focus on the here and now, it bespeaks the vision of a human and just solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A typical artistic expression of sumud, found in a great many Palestinian paintings and logos, is the image of the olive tree with its roots deep in the land and a life span stretching over hundreds of years. The Palestinian mother is also a characteristic symbol of sumud: she is said to protect the home and cultural identity while at the same time transmitting to new generations the quiet power of people’s persistence. Sumud has deep spiritual and social sources of inspiration that include the history and memory of the Palestinian national struggle but also other cultural and social sources. Think about the influence of religion, which gives to many Palestinian Muslims and Christians a deep motive to continue to live and to struggle. Religion sustains essential values of care, connectedness, and solidarity without which sumud cannot exist. The Palestinian family and community are probably the most important sources of steadfastness because of the supportive social environment they provide. Challenging the isolation in which many Palestinians find themselves, the ongoing expressions of international solidarity provide another essential source of inspiration and support. Despite the severe internal difficulties Palestinians presently face, the joint influence of memories of the Palestinian struggle, spiritual sources, the family, the
community, and international solidarity nourishes the inner strength and the inner peace that are so necessary for people to go on with their outer struggle and daily commitments. Historical background Initially the symbolic use of sumud was rather top-down, official. In 1978, the term was given to a fund in Jordan that collected contributions from Arab and other countries to support the economic conditions of Palestinians in the occupied territories. As a motto in speeches and political texts, sumud served to bring out the defiant spirit of Palestinians living in Palestine. With its ‘inside’ perspective and focus on staying on the land, it was felt to complement and enable the struggle of Palestinians from the ‘outside’ to return. One reason for its appeal was the fact that the Zionist movement, from its beginnings on, has marginalized or negated the presence of Palestinian civilians on Palestinian land. The practice and communication of sumud have enabled Palestinians to oppose this aim or tendency. In addition to being a symbol or motto, the notion of sumud has been employed for more analytic purposes as well: to refer to a stage of grassroots institution-building in the occupied territories at the end of the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s. This stage was said to be primarily aimed at keeping people and communities on the land in defiance of the wave of new settlement building in the occupied territories and Jerusalem that was conducted at the time by the new Israeli Likud government. The somewhat defensive sumud stage was distinguished from, and seen as a preparation for, the more challenging stage of nonviolent struggle against the occupation that started with the first Intifada in 1987. In looking back to the recent history of the Palestinian movement – in Palestine, but also in Palestinian communities in Israel and in exile (to which we cannot pay attention here due to lack of space) – the symbol of sumud expresses the value of staying put while confronting an overwhelmingly stronger military and political force. As any national symbol, expressions of sumud face the risk of becoming ‘frozen’ and rhetorical. But it is our contention that it remains a very relevant concept for a hope-based nonviolent strategy, certainly so at a time when Palestinians are pushed once again, even literally, to stand with their backs against the ‘wall’. The main reason for the usefulness of
the sumud concept is that it puts common citizens center-stage. Nobody is excluded by the concept of sumud, which is a characterization of, and an appeal to all Palestinians. It is the Ramallah-based lawyer Raja Shehadeh who brought the concept from a rhetorical level down to the realities of civilian life under occupation. In his 1981 diary, The Third Way1, he situated the meaning of sumud in opposition to two extremes. On the one hand, the samid (the steadfast person) refuses to accept or become subjugated by the occupation, whereas on the other hand, he or she refuses to become dominated by feelings of revenge and hate against the enemy. In fact, Shehadeh seemed to present sumud as an example of life against two kinds of death – a death from inside and a death from outside. In his writings, sumud expressed citizen agency; the will to carve out an existence and a home – not necessarily through heroic actions but in a spirit of human dignity. A democratic concept The form that Raja Shehadeh gave to his understanding of sumud is significant: a diary. A diary is not the vehicle of speeches or rhetorical symbolism but rather conveys the rhythm of ordinary life. Within the diary genre it is possible to recognize the various voices and stories that show how Palestinian citizens persist. Although there are certain prototypical stories of Palestinian sumud – for example, the man or woman who stands in front of the bulldozer and refuses to go away, or the family who rebuilds its ‘illegal’ home for the fourth time – the most salient feature of the concept is simply that it can be realized in innumerable different ways. With all its difficult demands, sumud is a democratic concept that allows for participation in diversified meaning-making. The concept can be employed to point to typical Palestinian realities that every person will experience in a slightly different manner. Think about the very common feeling among Palestinians of being continuously tested; the ongoing guardedness against misfortune despite fatigue; the bittersweet happiness after having tricked a soldier at a checkpoint; the abovementioned connectedness to community and family life as ultimate sources of rest and nourishment in the eye of the storm. The stories of such experiences have a typically Palestinian feel. Many diaries that depict life against the odds – such as the various
See: Raja Shehadeh, The Third Way: A Journal of Life in the West Bank. Quartet, London, 1982
published diaries from the time of the prolonged curfews in the West Bank, 2002–20031 – at times convey not only an understandable rage but also a tragic-comic, even absurdist mood. The diaries picture realities in which everything that is normal becomes abnormal, and vice versa. Going to school, finding work, traveling outside town – all tend to become personal or family ‘projects’ that require flexible planning, uncommon imagination, and enormous endurance. Given the absurd reality, the diaries sometimes bring to mind a broader literary genre that centers on the naive anti-hero who manages, often in seemingly funny ways, to preserve humanity while living the ‘normal abnormal’ daily life of conflict, war, and occupation. Examples are the Czech ‘good’ soldier Schweyk of Jaroslav Hasek, or, in the Palestinian context, the Saeed character in Emile Habibi’s novel, The Pessoptimist2. It is no coincidence that dry humor is an essential part of this genre. Despite the dire situation, the steadfast, too, feel the need to laugh. Humor creates lightness in an unbearable situation. It may even be part of a kind of silent communicative code among those who share similar experiences. Edward Said once wrote in a travel reflection that Palestinians employ a code that is only known among Palestinians3. If such a hidden code exists, it will surely express those various shades of life, barely perceptible to the outsider but typical for the sumud stories. The most fundamental value of a diary is honesty. It is, of course, a most difficult value to realize. In fact, in later diaries Shehadeh showed himself to be slightly skeptical about the concept of sumud precisely because he felt that it can become a rather meaningless symbol that is distant from the all-too-human realities on the ground. Truth, being open to reality, is essential to keep focus and clarity. A diary can show ambiguities and doubts but, if true to its form, remains focused on a reality not blurred by excessive fears, uncontrollable
See: Suad Amiry, Sharon and My Mother-in-Law, Ramallah Diaries, Granta, London, 2005; Mitri Raheb, Bethlehem Besieged: Stories of Hope in Times of Trouble. Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2004; Raja Shehadeh, When the Bulbul Stopped Singing: A Diary of Ramallah under Siege. Profile Books, London, 2003; Toine van Teeffelen, Bethlehem Diary: Living Under Curfew and Occupation 2000-2002. Culture and Palestine series, Bethlehem, 2002. See also the diaries developed as a result of some Bethlehem based projects: Susan Atallah and Toine van Teeffelen (eds) The Wall Cannot Stop Our Stories: A Palestinian Diary Project. Terra Sancta/St Joseph School for Girls, Bethlehem, 2004. Toine van Teeffelen and Susan Atallah, When Abnormal Becomes Normal, When Might Becomes Right: Scenes from Palestinian Life During the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Culture and Palestine series, Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem, 2001.
Emile Habibi, The Secret Life of Saeed: the Pessoptimist. Translated by Salma Khadra Jayyusi. Interlink World Fiction Series, Northampton, MA, 2001
Edward Said, photographs by Jean Mohr, After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives. Columbia University Press, New York, 1998.
anger, or wishful thinking. Any hope to bring to life a new reality should go through the detailed observation and understanding of the existing reality. That, too, is part of the groundedness of sumud. Social functions In its communicative expressions, such as in diaries, sumud can fulfill different social functions. The stories of sumud provide a learning moment for anybody who wants to read about, listen to, or view the Palestinian experience of daily life. The stories may elicit a liberating laugh for the reason mentioned above – such as Suad Amiry’s diary Sharon and My Mother-in-Law. They can inspire people. Communicating daily life experiences can be consoling, as morning coffee meetings among Palestinian staff who have been traumatized by the experience of being closed up, or the stories told in the teachers’ room of Palestinian schools or in the evening among the family. They can enrage when they describe routine humiliation and oppression. But whatever their impact, the stories are typically dialogical in the sense of being oriented towards sharing experiences and informal learning. If we use sumud as an umbrella term for the stories of daily life under occupation, oppression and dispersion, we should also not forget that these stories – together with letters, interviews, and whatever comes to us on the Internet – are significant sources for future historical documentation. They show the small stories and memories woven on the threads of the national Palestinian story. The sumud stories are excellent materials for learning about Palestinian identity and the reality beyond the very general lines of history. Oral history projects that bring out the details of daily life in the past and allow for surprising cross-connections with the present are an example. Collecting and understanding sumud stories are active ways to engage the learning process, in and through the community, and can thus contribute to new ways of education. They show the diversity of the Palestinian experience within an overall connectedness and national unity. Sumud invites Palestinians to learn about the identity of the land through the little stories of the land and its beauty, such as the memories and stories of people and communities living on it; the popular practices on/in the land including agricultural work, religious worship, and traveling; and the meaning-making associated with those practices. Hearing about,
discovering, and also reconstructing the detailed stories of the land are types of learning about Palestinian identity and roots that are not usually provided in formal education. Sumud as resistance But there is a question posed by many. If sumud is a positive expression of the continuity of the many different threads of Palestinian society, history, and relation to the land, how then do we look at the discussions among Palestinians that have frequently flared up in the past and have cast doubt on sumud as an expression of national resistance? Is keeping on with daily life not different from actively and nonviolently challenging the occupation? Does sumud not come close to the ‘survival mode’ – just preserving life without nourishing the desire to change the oppressive reality? Is there no need to add an adjective to sumud so as to give the concept a more challenging and dynamic quality, as provided for instance by the expressions ‘resistance sumud’ or ‘active sumud’? Sumud is a struggle to preserve one’s home and daily life. For Palestinians, home is usually an extremely precarious reality, often put in question or brought under legal or military pressure. A not uncommon Palestinian experience is to literally become an exile in one’s own homeland. The very effort of preserving one’s home and going on with ordinary life can be viewed in the Palestinian context as a refusal to give up on one’s home and a willingness to make sacrifices. In brief: to exist, to go on with daily life, is to struggle. But, again, is sumud in its meaning of living such a struggle similar to sumud as ‘resistance’? The notion of ‘resistance’ implies the development of a broader view that goes beyond preserving daily life and keeping one’s head high. In fact, viewed in a more critical light, the sumud struggle can seem to point to a rather inflexible defensive and protective posture, reminiscent of the hardiness, the ‘steeling’ property of a peasant culture with its somewhat inward orientation towards ‘staying where you are’ and ‘never giving up’. Sumud points to a stubbornness born out of a history in which, each time anew, conquerors and occupiers took control over Palestine and in which common people had to find ways to protect themselves against the dominating powers. Without many other options than staying on the land, the sumud of peasants can be extremely hard to break but may also have been tactically, inspirationally immobile.
We think that this criticism holds true, by and large, especially at a time when means of communication and mobility are radically different from the past. Staying sumud in the Palestinian land should not necessarily mean staying wherever you are. In fact, doing so can sometimes be a maladaptive response (called ‘perseveration’ in psychology). This is especially so when there are no conditions that allow one to stay put in a meaningful way, or when there is a better way to contribute to the community’s overall persistence by taking on another role or position. Examples are not difficult to find. A study or work experience abroad may do wonders for Palestinian youth who want to make a creative contribution to the national cause (even though the experience of not being able to find appropriate work or study in one’s homeland is deeply disturbing in itself). It should thus be possible to define the qualities of sumud in different ways, less purely affirmative and defensive, and more flexible and dynamic (and containing even ‘light’ and ‘humorous’ ingredients). Such qualities are perhaps more suggested by another word also used to characterize the Palestinian mentality: ‘resilience’ – the veering back from adverse experiences. From the perspective of protecting the community and maintaining a presence on the land, sumud can be viewed in the context of a resilient, pro-active advocacy that uses the powers of modern means of communication. As a form of resistance, sumud can, for instance, be shown to take on a more energizing, challenging, and imaginative view of the concept of home, or of the practice of making a home, or of giving new meaning to home while protecting it. A home or the daily-life environment that characterizes or surrounds the home can be recreated for tactical purposes in a struggle against expropriation of land and the building of the Wall. For instance, the nonviolent movement in the village of Bil’in to the west of Ramallah used to place playground tools in front of the bulldozers and the soldiers in order to show how the building of the Wall there jeopardizes the fabric of daily life. The movement also put caravans on land that was threatened to be disowned or excluded. House and home can be moved to the ‘frontline’ as part of a challenge. Less courageous but also extremely valuable is the documentation and publishing of home and daily life under threat of disappearance, such as in the form of family stories and family trees available on the Internet.
Other inspiring and imaginative examples of a more ‘mobile’ expression of the spirit of sumud can be taken from the artistic sphere. Take the following description of the painting The New Walk of Samira Badran: In her piece almost five meters long, The New Walk, meandering images of artificial limbs reflect on the universal conditions of oppression in face of the onslaught of manmade tools and barricades, which result in all forms of incarceration. In this work the prosthesis is a metaphor for the indomitable spirit of the Palestinians who seem always to find alternate routes to crossing barriers. The congested artificial limbs – some broken, others bandaged – do not beg for sympathy, instead their seemingly frenzied march portrays boundless determination and resilience, a tribute to the Palestinians’ steadfastness in the face of military and political domination, and that despite all constraints, they continue to cross artificial boundaries and barricades1. Here the essence of steadfastness is seen as the ability to keep the spirit moving on, crossing boundaries along alternate routes, despite pain and sacrifices. Another point is in place here. Much of the value of the spirit of sumud is related to its communicative power. Communicating Palestine by showing practices of sumud helps to provide a human image of Palestinian reality that breaks through the familiar media stereotypes of passive or angry victimization and terrorism. Showing and communicating sumud thus contributes to the important task of creating an international image of Palestine that is beyond rhetoric and seen from an internal Palestinian and human perspective rather than interpreted and distorted by others. Comprehensive contrast An active understanding and communication of sumud apply to the so-called sumud peace house, which AEI-Open Windows has opened opposite the northern watchtower at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. The Wall there snakes through the area of northern Bethlehem in such a way that the neighborhood has lost its vigor and life. Families move away whenever possible. How can local people resist a Wall? At first sight there is no way. A wall is not an adversary; it is a block of concrete. As it once was said, the only thing you seem to be able to do after the Wall is erected and you live inside, is to walk around in
This Week in Palestine, ed. 114, October 2007.
circles like mice. In fact, one reason that the Wall has been built may well have to do with the reduction of human contact points between Israelis and Palestinians (from the West Bank), because such contact points are essential for any active and challenging forms of nonviolent resistance, individually or collectively. Active resistance while in confinement may thus sound like a contradiction. However, through the peace house and similar initiatives near the Wall another ‘contact point’ is created – one between humans/humanity and the Wall. Sumud can be communicated directly in front of or even on the Wall through any media genre or practice that one can think of: diaries, video, film, visual memories, drama and plays, (inter-)religious rituals, traditional customs and festivals, even dinners. By communicating daily life and the ‘art’ of life lived against the odds, normal life is put in opposition to the oppression of the Wall. By showing, even celebrating, life and by creating and reclaiming spaces of life next and in opposition to the Wall, the relation between human life in Palestine and the Wall is defined as one of comprehensive contrast. Think about a piano concert under the military watchtower with children around, or a Rap concert next to the Wall, or artistic, festival-like life that is created near a house surrounded by the Wall on three sides (as is the case with the house of the Anastas family opposite Rachel’s Tomb). Performance artists often make use of contrasts to create surprising effects. Here Sumud will communicate to a worldwide audience contrasts between beauty and ugliness; fragility and massiveness; dignity and disdain; thanksgiving and military arrogance; voices and suffocation; life and death. Essential to this resistance is communicating a reversal of the Israeli image of the Wall as a protection of Israeli daily life against Palestinian violence. Instead, the Wall is shown for what it is – the killer, expropriator, and divider of Palestinian life, land, and community. The involvement of media, including the use of media by the civil community itself, will be extremely important. Publicity about sumud practices is needed to shame the adversary as long as he persists in disregarding the humanity of the other. Of course, the final goal of the nonviolent struggle cannot be other than the removal of the Wall itself, making possible the concrete vision of a new reality. Mezzaterra
There is also another, final side to sumud. Even with the Israeli adversary it is desirable to have human relations, if only to challenge him or her to help end the occupation; to jointly see the possibility of a different reality – a transformation of the status quo on the way to equality and justice -; and to allow for honest (self-) criticism. For Palestinians, the Wall kills communities by separation. Refusing that separation, an initiative such as the sumud peace house is designed to be an open house, a place of conviviality and sharing food, and thus a sign towards peace – in line with the slogan: “Not walls, but bridges.” The house will point to liberating, border-crossing experiences to some extent characteristic for that neighborhood in the past, when many Israelis used to come over to shop or visit a restaurant (even though Israeli-Palestinian interaction under occupation has inevitably been tainted or corrupted by power inequality). The concept of sumud will be applied in an open-minded, flexible, imaginative way. The house’s activities, including in the field of inter-religious encounters and prayers between Muslims, Christians, and Jews, will aim to create a mezzaterra, an inter-zone, in which surprising connections will help to create a different order and community life, and defy Israel’s obsession with separation. We started with the statement that symbols can contribute to or express hope. But as we tried to make clear, the attractiveness of the concept of sumud is located in the fact that it not only touches a basic Palestinian ‘snare’ but also that it is potentially much more than ‘just’ a symbol, left to be admired but out of touch with lived realities. In our opinion, it can best be realized by living and communicating people’s experiences in daily life in both its embodied and spiritual-imaginative dimensions. The practice of sumud helps to communicate people’s and citizens’ voices, open up the diverse memories of the land and its people, and make the nonviolent struggle to preserve home and community against occupation more deep and encompassing. Last but not least, it shows the human dignity of a people that has been continuously dehumanized, here and internationally. Sumud is a choice for renewal of life.
Sacrifice “DO NOT LAY YOUR HAND ON THE BOY OR DO ANYTHING TO HIM” Jacobus (Coos) Schoneveld Sacrifice is a term often used in the context of the present conflict and war between Arabs and Jews, or Israelis and Palestinians. On both sides we hear leaders call on their followers to make sacrifices for the sake of the cause for which they are fighting. And when people, whether military or civilian, are killed during this war, they are – in the eulogies given at their funerals – called sacrifices, victims who have lost their lives in this terrible struggle. In accordance with their national, political and, often, also religious views, both sides give entirely different interpretations of the significance of the present confrontation and war between both peoples. On each side, the mourners will stress the ideals and aspirations for which their loved ones sacrificed their lives. Sacrifice is a religious concept. It is a word borrowed from the language of religion. In the present war, people who belong to one of three religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – are taking part. Many of them are inspired by ancient and deep-rooted beliefs that form the very essence of each of these religions and have shaped their respective societies and identities. They are deeply influenced by their respective Sacred Scriptures – in Judaism: the Tanach or the Hebrew Scriptures; in Christianity, the Old Testament (which is the Christian name of the Tanach) and the New Testament; in Islam, the Qur’an. In these short reflections, I will concentrate on one sacrifice story that takes a prominent place in all three religions: the story of Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son. In the Jewish Tanach – the Christian Old Testament – it is found in Genesis, chapter 22. In the Qur’an of Islam, it is mentioned in Sura 37 (Al-Saffat), verses 99–113. It is a story that was apparently already familiar to the first hearers of the Qur’an and is therefore shorter than the Genesis story. The story is that God gives Abraham the horrific command to take his son and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on a mountain. Abraham sets out to fulfill God’s command, but as he is about to kill his son, an angel of God calls to him from heaven and says: “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear
God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me”; and then a ram is provided to serve as the sacrificial animal to redeem the son. In the Qur’an, the name of Abraham’s son is not mentioned in relation to this story. (The Qur’an does not say whether it was Ishmael or Isaac; the opinions of Islamic exegetes differ as to which was the intended victim; the majority opinion at present is that it was Ishmael.) Abraham says: O my son. I see in a vision that I will sacrifice you. So look, what is your view? The son said: O my father! Do as you are commanded. If God wills, you will find me patient and enduring. So when they had both submitted, He lay him unto his forehead. And we [God] called out to him, “O Abraham you have already fulfilled the vision.” Thus do we reward those who do right. For this was a clear trial. We redeemed him with a magnificent sacrifice. And we left for him [this blessing] among others: “Peace upon Abraham” (Sura 37, Al-Saffat, verses 102–109). Not a will-less victim The story plays an important role in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions. An important feature in later Jewish tradition and in Muslim tradition is that the son whom Abraham was about to kill was not a will-less victim but one who offered himself voluntarily to be sacrificed. In Jewish post-biblical tradition – already as early as the second century before the Christian era – Isaac is portrayed as a young adult who was told by his father of God’s order and then gladly consented and ran joyfully to the altar and stretched out his neck towards the knife in his father’s hand. There is even a Jewish tradition that holds that Isaac was actually sacrificed and was subsequently resurrected. The story was also associated with the Jewish feast of Passover. According to a Jewish midrash (exegetical commentary: Exodus Rabbah 44:5), Isaac’s willingness to be sacrificed was transformed into a redeeming act of permanent validity for all his children until the arrival of the Messiah, as is said in a prayer: “If the Jews are guilty and are on the point of being slain, remember
then Isaac their father who stretched out his neck on the altar for your name’s sake. May his immolation take the place of the immolation of his children.” In Christianity, the story serves as one of the prototypes or ‘prophesies’ of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in which Isaac serves as the prefiguration of Jesus. Also the ram offered in Isaac’s place is a prefiguration of Jesus. When John the Baptist, at the beginning of the Gospel of John, pronounced about Jesus: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 2:29), everybody who knew the Holy Scriptures was reminded of the story of Genesis 22. And when in the Gospels, a voice from heaven says about Jesus: “This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17; 17:5), everyone well-versed in the Holy Scriptures associated these words with the beginning of the story in Genesis, when God said to Abraham: “Take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac” (Genesis 22:2). The voice from heaven that said to Abraham, “you have not withheld your son, your only son from me” (Genesis 22:12) is echoed in the New Testament in Paul’s saying that God “did not withhold his own son, but gave him up for all of us” (Romans 8:32). Thus Abraham was seen by Christians as a prefiguration of God the Father. And drawing on contemporaneous Jewish interpretations of this story, Paul saw the freely accepted death of Jesus on the cross as the perfect fulfillment of the self-sacrifice of Isaac. Shift in religious consciousness Thus in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, this story is of major significance and is the subject of many various interpretations. In this short paper I only want to draw the reader’s attention to the remarkable contradiction between the two times God speaks to Abraham in this story. First, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his firstborn son, and then he prohibits it: “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him.” Many interpreters see in God’s change of mind the indication of an important shift in religious consciousness and in the understanding of who God is and what He wills. In ancient times, both in Israelite religion and in religions of surrounding nations, offering one’s children to God or to gods was an acceptable and even praiseworthy deed. It expressed the awareness that there are values in life that have absolute priority over
anything else, even over one’s own flesh and blood and that true dedication to these values may require readiness to give up everything else for their sake. It was seen as the very essence of religion. It comes to expression in a passage in the Book of Micah (6:6–7), where a religious person asks: With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Abraham is on the verge of doing what many religious people before him have done and is giving up his son whom he loves and who embodies the splendid future promised to him. And so have many individuals and peoples sacrificed their loved ones in wars for the sake of many lofty and not-so-lofty ideals: for the sake of their people and homeland, for the values of religion, nationalism, socialism, liberation, democracy, independence, etc. In our memorial ceremonies, we praise them for the ultimate sacrifice that they made. They are glorified as heroes and saints, often even more than mourned as tragic victims of violence who were driven as sheep to their slaughterers. Test In this story God prevents Abraham from carrying out the awful deed he was about to perform in the name of religion. In later Muslim versions of the story, Abraham hears a voice from heaven that says: “O Friend of God, how can you not be compassionate to this small child?” When Abraham nevertheless continues with his deed and raises up the knife to bring it down to his son’s throat, God’s angel turns the blade over to the dull side and protects his throat with a sheet of copper and says the words that occur in the abovementioned Sura of the Qur’an: “O Abraham! You have already fulfilled the vision” (namely the vision seen by Abraham in which he was to sacrifice his son), because it was
only a test to know whether Abraham would perform that extreme act in obedience to God’s command. Thus the Bible and the Qur’an are telling us that this extreme act is, in fact, against God’s will, even if the command to carry out this awful deed comes from God himself. It is based on a false understanding of who God is and what He wills. In the Qur’an, God praises Abraham after this terrible trial: “We redeemed him with a magnificent sacrifice and we left for him this blessing among others, ‘peace upon Abraham’. Thus do we reward those who do right.” In the Bible, God praises Abraham with the words: “You have not withheld your son, your only son,” and God renews His promise that Abraham’s offspring will become numerous and that through his offspring all nations of the earth will gain blessing for themselves, “because you have obeyed my voice.” Which voice? The voice that called from heaven: “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him.” It was the voice that prevented Abraham from the terrible deed that he was going to carry out in the name of religion. “Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” was the question of the religious person quoted by the Prophet Micah. Micah answered: He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to be humble in walking with your God? (Micah 6:8) Not withholding oneself or one’s child from God – i.e., loyalty to God and walking in His ways – does not mean death, but life, not sacrifice of oneself to God or to any high ideals and values. What God requires is service of God in the pursuit of God’s purpose for the world. That means doing justice, loving mercy, and being humble in walking with God. Sacrifice and self-sacrifice Nowadays the question becomes more and more pressing: Should we condone, admire, or encourage the self-sacrifice that young people on Israeli and Palestinian sides are ready to
make for the sake of causes that are noble and good? These forms of sacrifice and selfsacrifice – terrible as they always are –may at times be necessary and unavoidable but, according to the prophet Micah, they are not what God requires. God does not require the death of young people but their life in service to God. The story ends with the promise of a life of abundance for the children of Abraham and, through them, of blessing for all nations of the world. It is the reward that Abraham receives for dedicating not his son’s death to God, but his son’s life. It is a message that speaks against destruction and self-destruction at a time in which such sacrifices seem to be the only option. The words of the angel: “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him” and the subsequent promise of a great future are an affirmation of life rather than resignation to tragedy and death. What this affirmation of life means is said in the three words that Micah uses to describe what kind of life is good and worth striving for: justice, mercy, and humility. These words also form the basis of the House of Peace that will be opened in Bethlehem. In the face of the Wall of Separation that has been erected between Palestinians and Israelis, the House of Peace will challenge the Wall’s message of death, which sharply contradicts Micah’s message of life. May young and old in Palestine and Israel dedicate their lives to establishing justice in the relations between the two peoples and, if necessary, make sacrifices that promote life and open a new future for both sides. May they further become aware that this can only be achieved in a spirit of mercy, endurance, reconciliation, and forgiveness. And may they do this in humility in walking with their God. It is remarkable that Micah says: “Be humble in walking with your God.” Why doesn’t Micah say “walking with God”? I would like to interpret this in terms of our present religious situation. As Jews, Christians, and Muslims, we each have a long tradition behind us. On the basis of our Sacred Scriptures, our religious communities have developed their own understanding of God and God’s will, and therefore we each walk – so to speak – with our own God in our various communities, with the God whom we have encountered in our tradition and whom we worship. In the present conflict, many people walk and behave according to their own deepest religious convictions and beliefs. What is required is that this be done humbly,
out of the awareness that God, the Eternal One, may have opened ways for others to walk with ‘their God’ – the One whom they have encountered in their tradition and whom they worship – in a different manner. Humility in walking with our God, then, means that we respect the honest beliefs and practices of the others, even of our enemies, and do not impose our own understanding of God on others but try to find common understandings of what God requires of us in the present circumstances. May the House of Peace develop as a place of justice, mercy, and humility, and may no sacrifices be mourned here or anywhere in Palestine and Israel.
Solidarity HOW ETHNIC TENDENCIES OF A PROTESTANT ISRAEL THEOLOGY UNDERMINE SOLIDARITY Henri Veldhuis Writing a contribution about ‘solidarity’ is not without risk, especially within the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The word ‘solidarity’ quickly arouses the suspicion of onesided involvement with one of the parties without taking into account the interests of the other group ‘behind the wall’. But especially when an important word has become suspicious, it makes sense to search for its genuine meaning. A word’s meaning is not only related to its use but also to the historical trace it has already drawn. It can therefore make sense to rediscover its etymological origin. ‘Solidarity’ is derived from the Latin words ‘solidus’ and ‘solidum’. The term ‘solidum’ means ‘the total sum’ of everything that is joined or added together. ‘Solidus’ means ‘solid’ or ‘reliable’. During the late-Roman Empire, it was also the name of a coin – a name intended to suggest solidity of value. The meaning of ‘reliability’ and ‘solidity’ resonates in words like ‘soldier’ and ‘solder’. Against this etymological background, two aspects of meaning can be discovered in the word ‘solidarity’. Together they evoke a meaningful polar tension. On the one hand there is the meaning of a close connectedness of parts which together form an unbreakable unity. The parts or members of the whole cannot be disconnected and are indivisibly tied to each other. On the other hand, ‘solidarity’ refers to the reliability and stability of the value of an independent unit, such as the coin or the soldier. The reliability of the individual member forms the basis for the reliability of the group. It is exactly this dialectic of unit and whole, and the reliability of both, which can upgrade the concept of ‘solidarity’ in political and theological language use. Both aspects of the meaning of ‘solidarity’ assume a moral-political involvement with others, which can be very strong but which is not at the expense of individual independence and freedom. Solidarity is about a strong connectedness with others that does not suppress but rather
assumes individual inner freedom. Understood in this way, ‘solidarity’ is a helpful mirror in which we can see how we as western outsiders deal with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which so intensely polarizes the worlds of politics and religion. Especially in this conflict, the combining of honest involvement and inner freedom seems to be an impossible task. Solidarity of a bad conscience I wish to focus this test of western solidarity on the policy of my own church, the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PCN), a 2004 merger of the Dutch Reformed Church, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. For decades these churches have been engaged in discussions about how solidarity with Israel should be expressed. Two concepts equivalent to ‘solidarity’ – ‘connectedness’ (verbondenheid) and ‘loyalty’ (loyaliteit) – play a central role here. The essence of the Dutch discussion touches theological questions that are regarded everywhere in the world church as fundamental in relation to the IsraeliPalestinian conflict. Since 1948 the aforementioned Protestant churches in the Netherlands have been closely allied with the state of Israel. This of course has everything to do with the centuries-old Christian anti-Semitism – the persecution of Jews that resulted in the Holocaust and the shame felt about it. But it also has to do with the happy surprise about the return of so many Jews to ‘the promised land’ and the establishment of a new Jewish state. That this ‘miracle’ was at the expense of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost all possessions, however, received almost no attention. Motivated by guilt feelings and religiously-inspired admiration, a large part of the Netherlands – first of all the churches – were straightforward in their support of the new state of Israel. Most outspoken in its pro-Israeli stand was the synod of the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1970 this church published “Israel, people, land and state, assistance to a theological reflection,” in which the church not only declared its faith in the lasting loyalty of God to the Jewish people but also provided a theological justification of the new state of Israel. According to the memorandum, the Jewish people have a right to their own state in the land given by God by virtue of the Biblical promise. Some theologians reacted
critically toward this far-reaching stand, and other churches were more cautious in their positions. However, the vision of the Reformed Church expressed a feeling that was experienced broadly in Protestant circles. Although the discussion flared up each time anew, the Protestant churches did not come to a more nuanced vision of the state of Israel that would also do justice to the situation of the Palestinians. Viewed in the mirror of the concept of ‘solidarity’, it has to be said that, on the one hand, the churches excelled in their solidarity with the new state of Israel but, on the other hand, they were unable to find the spiritual freedom to understand the dramatic consequences that the new state would have on the native inhabitants of the Holy Land. It was a form of philo-Semitic solidarity that, in fact, caused the Dutch churches to remain prisoners of their bad conscience. Double loyalty In two smaller church circles a more critical attitude existed: the diaconal department (the World diaconate) of the Reformed Churches and the Dutch Council of Churches. Because of the many international contacts, including the Christian churches in the Middle East, they were much more open to the situation of the Palestinians. They also saw how the current Israel theology worked as an ideological veil that blinded the church members to the real situation of the Palestinians. World diaconate therefore looked for another policy, which found expression in the new term ‘double loyalty’ – a loyalty directed toward both Jews and Palestinians. In other words, a choice was made for a two-sided form of solidarity. This solidarity was not based on an apolitical form of charity, but on a universal search for law and justice. Personal diaconal contacts enabled the growth of an inner freedom that allowed them to also face the ‘enemy of the other’ openly and critically. Unfortunately, this new approach of ‘double loyalty’ – one can also say: real solidarity – did not receive much hearing among the church leadership. As a result the average church member still does not know much of the history or the present-day situation of the Palestinians. ‘Unrelinquishable’ solidarity
In the Protestant churches, the word ‘connectedness’ (verbondenheid) came into currency to denote church solidarity with Israel. In fact, the expression ‘unrelinquishable solidarity with the Jewish people’ became the unassailable motto of Protestant Israel theology. In this motto, the state of Israel is not explicitly mentioned. However, church policy papers include the additional opinion that the present state of Israel is essential for contemporary Jewish self-consciousness, a fact that should be fully respected by the churches. This again comes down to a theological justification of the state and policies of Israel. Moreover, a later discussion memorandum (2003: “The Israeli-Palestinian-Arab conflict: Contribution to opinion-making in the ‘Samen op Weg’ [together on the road] churches”) explicitly discards the expression ‘double loyalty’. Instead, it is once again stated that the Church only keeps an ‘unrelinquishable solidarity’ with the people of Israel, while it holds a ‘diaconal relationship’ with the Palestinians. The memorandum does not discuss what kind of relation the churches hold with Palestinian Christians – a significant lapse. This theological and diaconal policy was confirmed in 2004 in the new church order of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. So PCN still adheres to the same line it had in 1970, and its Israel theology still works as an ideological veil. This makes an open meeting with Palestinians and Palestinian Christians very difficult. Tree and branch There are always two important factors that determine whether authentic solidarity can grow in situations of conflict and struggle. Of primary importance is the personal meeting in situ with different parties involved. Only those who allow themselves to be genuinely touched have the right to speak. But that is not sufficient. A fundamental reconsideration of the individual ideology or theology is often equally important. Despite many contacts and information, PCN has stayed ideologically entangled in both its guilty past and a new philo-Semitic theology. I want to discuss here briefly some fundamental elements of this theology and formulate in part an alternative. After the Second World War, two important insights evolved in the Dutch churches which, for me too, cannot be conceded in the coming future. The first insight is that it should be realized much more than before that – to use an image of the Apostle Paul – the Christian
church is grafted on God’s covenant with the Jewish people and on the Jewish Bible (the ‘Old’ Testament) realized in the context of that covenant. Because of this Jewish origin, the Church has always to make itself accountable in theology and preaching. Without these Jewish roots, the Church will always misinterpret the Gospels and itself. Secondly, most Dutch churches have now principally distanced themselves from ‘substitution theology’, which assumes that the Church took Israel’s place. The churches now fully accept that the Eternal One has gone His own way with the Jewish people. Ethnicity and covenant What do these two starting points mean for the attitude of the Church in relation to presentday Jewry? PCN believes that God’s loyalty to the Jewish people implies that Christians should never concede their loyalty to all Jews in the world, whether these are believers or not. In other words, it chooses a faith-based solidarity with one specific ethnic group. In my opinion, this is a serious theological error with significant ethical consequences. First of all, it is rather pretentious to promise, after centuries of anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews, an ‘unrelinquishable solidarity’ with the Jewish people. Moreover, such a pretentious promise seems nothing but a new, and now, philo-Semitic annexation of Jewry by Christians. An even more basic point is the nature of this solidarity with a whole ethnic group, including believers and nonbelievers. Time and again Moses and the prophets made it clear that Israel as a people of God is only safe in the context of the covenant established by God Himself with his people. Israel has privileges on the basis of salvation history only within the framework of that covenant. The Eternal One has started a special history with this people, in which He, from the very beginning, kept His eye on the world as a whole. He is eternally loyal to this Jewish people, who can repeatedly make an appeal to His covenant if they are willing to believe and live within that framework. This hermeneutic primacy of Israel on the ground of salvation history has to be fully respected by the Church, especially when it explains the Bible as a Jewish book. This however does not imply an unrelinquishable solidarity of the Church with the Jewish people outside the framework of the covenant and the Bible. Such a special solidarity is a
religious solidarity based on the Bible; it exists between Christians and Jews only insofar as both can be addressed in reference to their faith in the Biblical writings (or the Old Testament, the Tanach, which is part of them). An unrelinquishable solidarity only exists through the Scriptures – a solidarity that goes beyond the significant differences in interpretations of those Scriptures. Nonreligious Jews can rediscover their religious identity and return to the covenant and the Scriptures, which the Eternal One first gave them. But insofar as secular Jews do not wish to be addressed with reference to a faith in the Biblical texts, it is not possible for Christians to claim a special solidarity with secular Jews based on faith. According to the laws of the present state of Israel, a secular Jew from Alaska has more right to live in many parts of the Holy Land than a Christian Palestinian whose ancestors have lived there for centuries. According to the present theology of PCN, Christians have a deeper faith-based solidarity with the secular Jew in Alaska than with a Christian Palestinian. The conclusion is that the Israel theology of PCN in fact has an ethnic base and contradicts the message of Moses and the prophets. The recent history of the Balkans or the Middle East shows how dangerous exactly that confusion of ethnicity and religion is. Christian freedom and solidarity That PCN is hijacked by its own Israel theology is painfully revealed by the fact that it never declared to be also in unrelinquishable solidarity with Palestinian Christians. In this way, fellow Christians in the Middle East have been referred to a second place in favor of believing and also nonbelieving Jews. This in fact means that the central meaning of Christ, in whom we are unrelinquishably connected together with all Christians throughout the world, is eroded. But it is precisely Christ who can liberate us from any ethnic favoritism and open our eyes and minds to every person as our equal in a common humanity. Christ has been given to us on Israel’s road; that hermeneutical primacy based on salvation history should not be negated. However, the Apostle Paul understood the meaning of this Son of Israel in its
deepest sense when he liberated the Gospels from Jewish-ethnic boundaries without negating the Jewish base of the Gospels. The message of the Church has grown on Jewish soil and can only be understood in this way. But it is on this Jewish soil that the Gospels have reached a universal scope, with promises and prohibitions that are equally valid for all people. Touched by the resurrected Lord, Paul reached the conviction that the Gospels should not be uprooted from their Jewish soil, but that they should be freed from Jewish-ethnic frames of understanding and have a universal meaning to be translated into the languages and traditions of all peoples. From a hermeneutic viewpoint that is based on salvation history, the privileged position of the Jewish people remains untouched. However, on the level of values, when we talk about love, justice, and righteousness, there is no primacy at all, whatever persons or people are involved. In Christ’s light we are able to discover every human being and every people – regardless of ethnic background – as members of a common humanity. In Christ each and every human being, believing or not, is our ‘neighbor’ in the Biblical sense of the word. Christ’s community knows an unrelinquishable solidarity of faith between Jew, Greek, Samaritan, and Palestinian. Only out of our closeness with Christ do we find a solidarity that frees us from ethnic and emotional preferences and gives us the power to be in far-reaching solidarity with this Jew or that Palestinian on the way to justice and righteousness. This universal perspective inevitably leads us to question whether the concept of ‘unrelinquishable solidarity’ based on faith is useful in the first place. It may suggest that in matters of love and justice a hierarchy exists. This conclusion should not be drawn, in my opinion. Solidarity on the basis of faith can mean only that co-religionists can expect much from each other, and can challenge each other on their special responsibility, on the basis of shared beliefs, shared holy texts, and shared traditions. To the extent that an awareness of shared beliefs also exists between Christians and Muslims, such faith-based solidarity will also exist between them. Solid solidarity
What are the consequences of this viewpoint for the attitude of the churches with regard to the Jewish people and the state of Israel? First of all, there can only be a special faith-based solidarity insofar as both of us can be addressed in reference to the Scriptures. Outside that framework of faith-based solidarity, God gives us every human being, Jew and non-Jew, as a sharer in our common humanity to whom we are fully obliged to give love and justice. The state of Israel is a secular state, in its own understanding, and it should be seen as such by the churches; that is, it should be viewed within the framework of international law and international solidarity. There cannot be a preferential treatment on special grounds of faith. The churches will otherwise inevitably come under the spell of dangerous ethnic sentiments. From an historical viewpoint it is understandable that modern Israel wants to preserve the Jewish character of its own state as much as possible. But on the basis of its own conviction, the Church should ask whether this Jewish-ethnic foundation of the Israeli state can be democratically expressed in a way that brings about an end to the apartheid policy that is imposed on Palestinian citizens, both in Israel and in the occupied territories. Finally, it is perhaps the most important test for the Israel theology of each Christian church to show how the special position of the Jewish people based on salvation history goes hand in hand with a solid solidarity towards the Palestinian brothers and sisters in Christ. Meanwhile, we can expect that Palestinian Christians will always draw our attention to all the members of their people, the majority of whom are Muslim. After all, real solidarity knows neither borders nor walls.
Ubuntu I AM BECAUSE WE ARE Dick de Groot Throughout my career in education I have kept in contact with people in other countries who work in the field of education. In the mid-seventies, I worked in Zambia at a secondary school in the bush. We discussed educational reform based on Cuban and Chinese models. During the following years, I visited schools in England and Scotland which were at the time a lot more advanced in everything concerning ICT than many Dutch schools today. In Portugal I went to schools that had achieved a great deal in teaching arts or in integrating special and regular education. In 1996 I was involved in restarting schools in Rwanda after their closure for two years because of the genocide. We saw schools that had been completely robbed of everything they possessed; where at least half of the pupils were orphaned. In the following years, from 2000 until 2005, I was project manager for school development and educational innovation in three South-African regions. In 2003 and 2006 I was invited to contribute to a reorientation of Palestinian schools on the subject of ‘new learning’. In the meantime I reflected on my work in Dutch schools through the prism of these experiences. Such a career is a journey along paradigms. Because of the African experiences I am now ready for a new paradigm that I have called ‘communal constructivism’. The ubuntu principle Initially I tracked it down in KwaZulu-Natal. At first in the manner of greeting. If you meet someone, you say: ‘Sawu bona’, which means: ‘I see you’. You return this greeting with: ‘Sikhona’ or ‘Here I am’. This shows the ‘ubuntu’ culture, which is found throughout southern Africa. Ubuntu is derived from a Zulu proverb: ‘Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’ or: ‘A human being only becomes a human being through other human beings’. We are who
we are because we are seen, because those around us respect and acknowledge us as persons. The phrase, “I think, therefore I am,” of Descartes has been translated in Africa to: ‘I am because we are’. Viewed from a developmental perspective: ‘I become because we are’. This sounds like ‘knowing and being known’, but the African way of looking at people is essentially different from the Western way. A South African schoolbook says it as follows: “In fact it is impossible to translate the word Ubuntu. There are direct equivalents of this word in all African languages. The word means love, benevolence, altruism, mercy, benignity, respect, preserving one’s dignity – just to mention a few possible meanings. Only in ubuntu a human being can demonstrate to be ‘umuntu’, a person in the holistic sense of the word. The ultimate meaning of ubuntu lies in the ability to love the unlovable: the enemy who is shown good-heartedness, love, and respect, although he or she does not deserve it.” Community development is a process of rediscovering essential moral values. When a community gives fundamental attention to a set of moral values as a guiding principle for its actions, its learning orientation will change. Education will become learning as community. In actual practice I ran across this way of learning when on my way to Nongoma, some 60 kilometers north of the kingstown Ulundi. There always used to be people along the road waiting for a lift. One of my hitchhikers was a young teacher who was on her way from her parental hut to school. She started telling me about her daily work. One of the problems she faced was that schools hardly had any teaching materials and books. So she went into the nearby villages with her pupils to look for people from whom they could learn. And they never stopped learning. There was so much to tell, to do, to investigate that they always ran out of time. The week before, she had walked with her class to a neighboring village to see, hear, and try out a piano. And with the requirements of the ‘matric exam’ in the back of her mind, this teacher and her colleagues imperceptibly adjusted the process of teaching according to every day’s progress. In turn the village people learned from the children. It was the best example of a learning community I have ever come across. And everyone regarded this practice as normal.
Communal constructivism Also in South Africa it is thought that pupils are able to construct their own reality on the basis of their learning questions. The educational environment plays a determining role. The richer the environment, the more stimuli you find to become curious, to discover new areas, to ask questions that you initially would not think of. But also: the more options there are to choose from. The better a teacher manages to improve the learning environment, the more inquisitive the pupils will become. In many countries the provision of facilities that promote learning at school is not a simple matter. In South Africa most schoolbooks were abolished in 1994 after the end of Apartheid. In Palestine books had to be ‘borrowed’ from Jordan and Egypt, and the struggle to publish Palestinian schoolbooks for all grades took a lot of effort. When there are no schoolbooks, pupils have to rely even more on their teachers. However, many teachers in a country like South Africa belong to the first generation of literates. They have a limited frame of reference and limited access to sources of knowledge. There are few or no reference books or magazines. Most pupils have no schoolbooks. Is it still possible to preserve a school, or more precisely the learning process, under these difficult circumstances? It certainly is, if you are convinced that you can learn from anyone. The extent to which teachers are able to organize knowledge and expertise for their pupils determines the quality of learning. Is not the boundary of what a person can learn always determined by what can be learned from and with others? Teachers who are able to look beyond their own boundaries open up new worlds for their pupils. The one who teaches you is the one who widens or limits your learning. On the basis of which values do pupils give meaning to the knowledge they acquire? From a social-constructivist point of view, learning is a process in which the student builds up an internal representation of knowledge, based on personal experience. All human beings construct knowledge in their own way. In doing so, they are strongly influenced by the reactions and views of the social environment. The weaker the social environment, the more difficult it is to give meaning to knowledge – even more so when individuals become marginalized under circumstances of oppression or poverty. In a situation of social
disintegration, it becomes relevant to ask the question: from which perspective are personal experiences viewed? In Western society the perspective seems to be: everyone for oneself and no one for us all. If the goal of education is to humanize young people and to prepare them for a constructive role in the community in the broadest sense, then this goal should determine the perspective through which we work in education. If we can manage to see education as the founding process of our community, we will offer counterweight to the extreme individualism characterized by phenomena such as disorientation, isolation, loneliness, inability to enter into relationships, and even suicide. We should become aware of the danger to contribute to this increasing individualism in our schools. According to the Ubuntu principle, it is the community that should determine the perspective, not the individual. Communal constructivism asks for an active connection between members of a community in order to improve everyone’s circumstances, not only the circumstances of those who can be regarded as belonging to one’s own community. It urgently calls for a deep sense of mutual dependency in the rediscovery of the significance of the community. In this way ‘I am because we are’ does not only apply to the relation between the individual and the community, but inevitably also to the relation between different communities. Community and individuality In Palestine ‘sumud’ represents a strong image of resilience, of steadfastness. It is said to refer to the image of the olive tree which lives hundreds of years and is deeply rooted in the land. Or it is likened to the image of the cactus that even with little water and nutrients is able to survive under severe conditions. ‘Sumud’ clearly means that there is a strong belief in the future, that there is hope, even in desperate times. I would add to the metaphor that even when the olive tree grows, it needs other trees to survive. It needs other trees to develop into a community. Only a community gives meaning to individual existence. In this way a clear connection between ‘ubuntu’ and ‘sumud’ can be drawn.
What is ‘community’? If the idea of community is considered in the wrong way, communalism and tribalism will become synonyms: group interest will become an absolute goal. This can even lead beyond the point of recognizing other human beings as equals by denying them the characteristics we count as ours. The word ‘minority’ loses its quantitative meaning and will be used in the qualitative sense of degrading others as ‘minors’, as inferior people. Not only Palestine experiences this shameful reality. In many parts of the world this phenomenon threatens many human beings. As a result of a process of constant acculturation caused by large-scale media exposure and the migration of many to all parts of the world, people get confused about their communal belonging. Very often we do not know any longer what our community is, because we belong to many communities. At the same time there is a growing awareness that we all belong to the global community. The interdependence of humankind in relation to the limited means of subsistence and the confined living space must be considered in a worldwide perspective. If not, then even more parts of the world’s population will lose their chance for survival. Emphasizing community does not imply that the value of the individual does not matter. A community is composed of individual members who all have a potential to develop themselves. The question is whether the community is beneficial to all the conceivable potentials of its members. If the individual human being determines his own values and tries to develop all his own potentials, who decides what is destructive or beneficial for the community? The future of our global community stands at risk when left to individuals or individualized communities. If human potential is developed in the interest of the community, a new perspective opens up – a direction of development that is open for achieving what is good for us all, of what is morally right but closed to all threats to the community. There are nowadays many (potential) communities that require attention or loyalty, or that can be constructed. Not all of them are diverse in what they offer or inspired by positive values. When strong positive communities disintegrate, new communities emerge that may be negative or even genocidal. Communities can also restrict people’s learning potentials, for instance, by fostering conformism and stifling initiative – one of the drawbacks in much education.
Every community forms part of the global community. Leadership reaches beyond one’s own community, and there is a deep awareness in communities of the multiple dependencies in relation to other communities. The community should not have an exclusive relation with a territory. Land ownership is a recent feature in human history and a major source of conflicts and wars. The community has no time limitations. It is a living organism that grows for the benefit of all members in an inevitably close cooperation or interaction with other communities. The community splits when it becomes too large and anonymity leads to disinterest and disintegration. It relates to other communities in evergrowing interdependence. Ubuntu as a movement The principles upon which ubuntu is based are universal. However, the extent to which we have lost our communal embedding differs. The loss of communal embedding is a great risk for education in Palestine, as educators there know. Precisely because the Segregation Wall in Palestine fragments Palestinian communities (as well as Palestinians and Israelis), it may be one of the challenges for educators working there not to resign to the loss of community but to put all their talents and skills in finding or re-creating communities across borders. From the work of reformers Maria Montessori and Helen Parkhurst, we know that education has a role to play in community development: coaching children so that they will become who they are; guiding and developing the whole human being in head, heart, and hand; giving education an emancipatory function in the development of communities. If a community has lost its cohesion, the only thing that ultimately remains is the hand that wields the machete or a firearm that kills fellow villagers or people who are not regarded as members of the community, whether in Rwanda, South Africa, or Palestine. Education should always be in touch with the community, because nothing of what one learns has value unless the community values it. Everyone’s learning contributes to the existence and progressive well-being of the community.
This also implies a reversal of our perspective on differences, with which we struggle so much in the field of education. In our individualizing approach, we have trouble attaching value to both principles: ‘equal opportunities’ and ‘appreciating differences’. This refers to the discussion whether to organize learning heterogeneously (accepting and utilizing differences between people) or to teach homogeneously (offering one program, regardless of differences between people). It is about the struggle with differentiation and selection, with esteem and status. In the meantime we tend to solve our educational and pedagogical questions by giving organizational answers. In this way, structure is embraced and content denied. Viewed from the perspective of ubuntu, differences between people are enrichment. We learn because we are different, and it is a great shortcoming if we fail to learn from and with others. Although acquiring knowledge and skills individually is of fundamental importance for enabling development, what really matters is inspiration, stimulating imagination, challenging abilities, encouraging self-confidence, offering responsibility, and enabling choice. And those values can only be realized in the context of a community. From the ubuntu point of view, what matters is keeping in touch with and strengthening the community to improve the well-being of all. Learning in and as communities will prove to be the most valuable addition to this process, because it adds the moral dimension. Communal constructivism means helping to calibrate our individual concepts of norms and values in relation to those of the community, and vice versa. Since we are members of many communities, this calibration is an ongoing process of mutual transfer of culture, of acculturation. Five principles of ubuntu Ubuntu in education can be translated into five aspects of communal learning. These five principles are: 1. Learning is a communal process. Learning in schools is not confined to students only.
2. The community is characterized by diversity, not by divergence: we learn because we are different. 3. The community determines the direction of the communal learning process, because learning time is too valuable to develop all individual potentials in an undirected manner. 4. The members of the community are responsible for its organization. In schools students should be involved at all levels of organization in accordance with their abilities. The school is a model community. 5. The members of the community utilize knowledge and skills of other communities and offer their own skills and knowledge to others in the awareness of ultimate global interdependency.
Women-peacemakers CRACK IN THE WALL Pat Gafney with ideas from conversations with Virginia Moffat, Barbara Kentish, Joan Sharples, Ann Hemsley, and Rosemary Read . “Women hold up half the sky.” “You have struck a rock, you have struck a woman.” These are two phrases that were frequently used to describe the experience and role of women in the global south in the 1980s. They captured the spirit of the moment – the start of the UN Decade for Women and Development and, in particular, the struggle of women in Apartheid South Africa and war-torn Central America. These phrases reflect images of strength, determination, and persistence in the face of a myriad of adversities. Twenty years on, how might we describe the place and role of women as peacemakers in our new world order? Do women have a distinctive contribution to make? Does being a woman/mother/sister/daughter/wife offer insights into the task of peacemaking? Do women across the globe share common experiences in peacemaking? I shared these questions with a number of women friends and co-workers for peace to help me glean some insights, and these are reflected in this contribution. First an ambiguity. Women are peacemakers, as are many men; but women can also be part of the problem of violence in our world as can men. This may be when we foster and deepen divisions within the community under the guise of family or cultural honor or religion and so fan the dangerous flames of vengeance and retribution. Such postures remind us all that an important starting place for the task of peacemaking is with ourselves: self-awareness of our own prejudices, of our ability to manipulate and be manipulated by others towards choices and actions that perpetuate a cycle of violence. No boundaries
As peacemakers, then, we need to understand the dynamic of violence in order to be better placed to transform it. At the time of writing, I hear that knife and gun crime in the United Kingdom is now four times as frequent as it was a year ago. Almost every week we hear of a young boy (and it is boys) being murdered by other boys for no apparent reason other than that they were not part of the ‘gang’ or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The mothers of those killed and those doing the killing are both victims of the same violence and will carry fear in their hearts for other children. Similar experiences will be shared by the mother in Israel or Palestine who is afraid that a child will be convinced that violence and counter-violence are the only ways to bring justice to a broken society; or the mother in Africa, afraid that her son may be taken as a child soldier or that her daughter will be kidnapped to ‘service’ the soldiers; or the mother in Sri Lanka or Iraq, afraid that her children, on their way to school, may be caught in the cross-fire of weapons that have been traded in far away places. Such realities tell us that violence knows no boundaries. It happens within the family and at local, national, and international levels. Violence is personal and political, private and structural, physical and psychological. These experiences tell us that being an ‘outsider’, for whatever reason, can leave one vulnerable to the family, the clan, the community of the other. They tell us that those with interests in power and wealth have no scruples when it comes to holding on to their positions and power. So where are we women in all this – as mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and friends? Some of my women friends tell me that becoming a mother has heightened their awareness of their role as peacemakers – giving birth to new life crystallizes the wickedness of violence and warfare and deepens empathy with other women for whom the very fact of their being a woman, a mother, makes them particularly vulnerable. Think, for example, of those who are victims of rape in times of war, those who cannot give birth in safety because of conflict and human-made controls and barriers. How can a woman be so tortured at the moment of creating and bringing life into the world? A negative, although real, response to this might be, “Well, women have always had to pick up the pieces left by war and violence.” Like Rachel in the scriptures, women will always cry because their, and other, children are no more. But another, more proactive cry will say, “Enough!” We do not accept that violence and war are inevitable. We are not passive bystanders or victims. If
we live in a culture that breeds and encourages violence, if we live in a culture that uses fear or violence to control relationships, we have to change the culture, whether it is in the family, the school, the community, the nation, or the religious tradition to which we belong. Creating a culture of peace and nonviolence Some women believe that they should – but often fail to – play a role in helping their menfolk break through their gender expectations, the ‘tough guys taking on the tough guise’. Others allude to something similar when they talk of women not being so infected by the macho-ness of society. This might mean having an ability to know that we do not have all the answers and that we are not afraid of losing face. It might include being able to see the bigger picture, holding on to what may be important for a longer-lasting deep peace, and letting go of things that allow wounds to fester, fail to restore relationships, and cause bitterness or revenge. These approaches support an understanding of peacemaking that requires people to take personal responsibility for words and actions as well as responsibility for the ‘other’. So across the globe, we see women actively challenging the myth that violence works as a means to bring justice and security; women who challenge the role that military or paramilitary violence has played in the lives of their communities – working to prevent military recruitment, working to challenge the often inflated and glamorous language and images of war and war games; women working to challenge the myth of redemptive violence so that when sons, husbands, or brothers are killed, the women mourn the human tragedy rather than celebrate some act of glory, honor, or sacrifice on behalf of a group or state. The role that education can play here is crucial. Women should ask for, and create, opportunities for schools, institutions, and religious networks to teach the discernment and analysis that is needed to understand the dynamics and consequences of conflict and violence. They should demand that resources be invested in developing the tools and skills of peacemaking and nonviolence – conflict resolution, dialogue, mediation, negotiation, and nonviolent problem solving. They should create non-hierarchical models of working at all levels so that each person is truly valued and roles, skills, and experiences are shared. In
these ways each person begins not only to see the distinctive role that she or he can play in naming and speaking out against injustice and violence but also to feel empowered to act with others to create new opportunities for change and transformation. From the personal to the structural Experiences of injustice and violence – firsthand or as shared through the lives of others – can lead us into action, and throughout history we have wonderful stories and models for this. In the play Lysistrata (She Who Disbands Armies), the non-cooperating women of Greece had had enough of their menfolk going off to war. The midwives in Egypt did not want be part of a system of repression and death. In both cases, the women organized around the power they had at the time. Withdrawing sexual favors to their husbands and refusing to have their skills used in a destructive way were models of active nonviolence. Such ‘acting up’ continues today. Think of the Mothers of the Soldiers in Russia who, sick of their boys being used as cattle fodder in endless wars, took on the military laws of their war-mongering state; the Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina who brought their pain and anger into the public forum by walking weekly through their city centers carrying images of the lost ones and refusing to allow the perpetrators of violence to forget their acts; the women working in Sudan and Kenya, who traveled from refugee camp to village with their simple message, “Get the guns out of our schools, our churches, our marketplaces”; The Women of the Black Sash in South Africa and the Women in Black all around the world, who act in solidarity with one another and with those trapped in conflict and violence, faithfully taking their silent witness into the streets, opposing militarism, mourning violent deaths, saying “Enough!” in a challenging but non-threatening way. All these models show women who work against the stream within their own communities, vulnerable – as many experience abuse and ridicule – yet speaking truth to power and allowing their personal insights and wisdom, their solidarity with one another, and their common project to give them strength. Solidarity without boundaries – ways to connect
In 1996 I was invited to East Timor to visit the church and other groups that work in an occupied country. I met with women whose husbands had been imprisoned for years – women who had been tortured and raped by their occupiers; women who were working to weave their own cultural and traditional approaches to reconciliation and peacemaking with their Christian faith in preparation for the time when East Timor would be liberated. This happened to be at a time when four women in England were in prison facing trial for an act of nonviolent disarmament. They had entered an airbase to try to disable a jet aircraft, which was partially built in the United Kingdom and which they knew would be used by the Indonesian military to attack villages in East Timor. This act of nonviolent intervention, to prevent a greater crime from taking place, was undertaken after great preparation, at personal risk to the women themselves, and with complete willingness to accept the consequences of their actions. In the aircraft cockpit they left images of children from East Timor and letters about the motivation for their action and prayers. I took their story with me, together with photographs and press cuttings, but was surprised to discover that the news of this action had already filtered through to East Timor. Some were amazed at such actions of solidarity and others challenged me as to why more people were not protesting the UK’s military support of Indonesia. A good question for us all. When we know of acts of injustice or violence and realize how we are implicated, yet do nothing, does our indifference and silence become another form of violence? I recall a similar experience to that of East Timor when, in 2004, I took part in a Pax Christi peace visit to Palestine. We went with our Palestinian partners to the almost fully constructed wall near Rachel’s Tomb. We were from Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. Part of our time together was to tell stories of other walls in other times and places. Using poetry, images, and prayers we spoke of the Romans building a wall to protect the border between England and Scotland; the Berlin Wall, such a graphic feature of the Cold War; the so-called peace line that divides Catholic and Protestant communities in Belfast; and the Separation Wall in Palestine. The first three failed to bring true security and peace to the communities in which they were constructed. Over time, through the actions of ordinary people seeking security and peace through encounter, dialogue, and cooperation on projects that build justice and care for the earth, the walls had come down – first and foremost in hearts and minds. We hoped that this
sharing would provide a source of encouragement and solidarity for our Palestinian friends – and be a spur to us all to act and lobby for peace and justice in our home countries for the peoples of Israel and Palestine. In these and many other cases across thousands of miles, connections have been made between people, some of whom will never meet. Connections have been made between the political, economic, and military visions and actions of people and communities in one country and the suffering and repression in another. Whether in East Timor, Chile, Argentina, Palestine, or Zimbabwe, women are making connections and are taking part in acts of public witness, advocacy programs, vigils, educational initiatives, and interventions that show solidarity and enable us to see the humanity of the other in order to help us all become more human. The power of symbol and faith As Christian women, our spiritual and liturgical life and our symbols and feasts can also contribute to our ability to bring hope to our peace work and not be downtrodden and disempowered by violence and injustice. In the early 1980s Pax Christi women in the United Kingdom, working at that time to challenge the placement of US nuclear missiles in the United Kingdom, would regularly gather at a US airbase for times of prayer and action. They developed a process that brought together women’s experiences with the scriptures and applied these to the place where they prayed. Themes included watching and waiting – at the Cross with the others who followed Christ to his death and outside the gates of the air base, trying to prevent weapons of death from taking to the roads; exclusion – the disciples rejecting women around Jesus, failing to listen to the women who were messengers for Jesus and women being marginalized and vilified for their presence at the base; empowering others – the Magnificat, turning power systems upside-down, the nonviolent power of the cross and the rejection of hierarchy among the women working at the base. These were just some of the experiences that encouraged the women to engage in some theological reflection on their role and their presence.
Similar actions continue today in resistance to the ongoing militarism and culture of violence in our world. Using traditional liturgical days – such as Ash Wednesday and a theme of repentance and change or the feast of Holy Innocents and a theme of the destruction of innocent lives – and celebrating them at places of violence or conflict can communicate a powerful message about the Christian option for peace and nonviolence. Symbolic acts such as planting, watering, and nurturing the seeds of new life in places where violence or war are planned can help to reclaim such places and return them to the community. Liturgies that call on and honor the names of those killed in violent ways or that recall the names of the saints and martyrs of peace and nonviolence who have gone before us can give us great strength and remind us as a community of our desire to say a clear ‘no’ to death and hatred and ‘yes’ to life and hope for the future. A crack in the wall One traditional way in which the world recognizes peace work is the Nobel Peace Prize. Since it was established in 1901, only 12 women have been recipients of the award. Ask most people to name a recipient and they would probably come up with Mandela and Tutu of South Africa, Arafat and Rabin of Palestine and Israel, Trimble and Hume of Northern Ireland, or Henry Kissinger of the United States. If you are lucky, they may also recall Mairead Corrigan of Northern Ireland, Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, and Wangari Maathai of Kenya – three of the twelve. Such awards, for the most part, still operate from a power base that has a limited understanding of peacemaking and is often out of kilter with what happens on the ground. Indeed, one might even question the worthiness of some of the recipients. In 2005 an attempt was made to change this when a project entitled 1000 Women for Peace was introduced – a project that called on women around the world to nominate ordinary women going about the work of peace. One purpose of the project was to emphasize that peace does not come about through the efforts of one or two people alone. It is a cooperative and highly participative process. Another was to encourage women to continue in their work for peace and to use the opportunity to educate others as to the breadth and depth of peace work. Unfortunately, the Nobel Committee could not
work with such a framework and remained limited to an approach of recognizing one, or at most two, people in their work for peace. They really missed the point! Writing in 2005 of these peacemaking actions of women, the South Asian economist and sociologist, Kamla Bhasin, said, “I am not a wall that divides … I am a crack in that wall.” Not very poetic but nevertheless descriptive. A crack creates space and lets light through to illuminate things that are unclear. A crack offers an opening for something different to be heard, seen, experienced, shared, and responded to. So perhaps this is the phrase we might add to the others, “Women hold up half the sky,” and “You have struck a rock, you have struck a woman.” When placed together they create a powerful recipe for peacemaking and nonviolence. To strength and persistence we can add wisdom and patience, an ability to connect and be in solidarity with the ‘other’, a readiness to ‘keep on keeping on’, and a desire to resist violence and hatred with love and nonviolence. I am not a wall that divides … I am a crack in that wall.
Pop-Ed FROM ‘CHA-CHING’ TO ‘AHHH-OH’ IN POPULAR EDUCATION: BEYOND THE BANKING MODEL Nikki Thanos and Leo B. Gorman Can you think of a moment as a teacher when you did not go home feeling that you had learned something – something intimate and revealing about your life and work – from your students? And as a student receiving instruction, was there ever a period when you did not feel that you also contributed a teaching? The true, fluid nature of what is normally conceptualized as a teacher-student dichotomy is foundational to the pedagogy of Popular Education. We are all both teachers and students, all the time, from the most visionary leader to the greenest novice. Many Latin American social movements have embraced a Popular-Education-inspired, liberation approach to their education and organizing work. But what is the contemporary relevancy of the Popular Education pedagogies that have been popularized by Brazilian Paulo Freire’s 1971 book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed? Why is it crucial to privilege a model that favors slow, systemic transformations to the strategies that grab headlines, lure funders, and make us feel as though “we really did something today”? Lastly, what lessons of Popular Education (PopEd) are applicable to Palestinian movements that are committed to nonviolent struggle? After participating in a ‘Nonviolent Barometer’ activity that we facilitated in 2003, one woman shared that although she had “focused on nonviolent theory in graduate school (…) for the first time, [she] really felt like [she] had to take a stand on the issues [she’d] been studying.” As we fed scenarios to the group, folks positioned themselves on a violent-tonot-violent spectrum that spanned the length of a room. Fighting back in self-defense when attacked? A lack of health care for your children? Eating meat? Shopping at WalMart, the US-based ‘superstore’? Throwing a rock at a tank? As discussion erupted, one participant inevitably pleaded, “Can I change my position?” We smiled. Indeed, isn’t that the whole point?
Transformative action Freire argued that we must strive to unify theory and practice, laying out a praxis for transformative action that begins with an experience, deepens through a process of critical reflection, and eventually produces a transformation (first personal, later societal). In this article we will try to honor his unified praxis, using personal stories to highlight the theoretical beams that have framed and supported our work as Popular Educators in the Americas. ‘Cha-ching’ (the sound of coins being dropped in a metal bank box). As though she were entering a bank, a student steps into the classroom, opens her hand, and futilely catches several droppings of knowledge from her teacher. She closes her hand and her mind, losing even more content, and is rewarded for spitting back the same information her teacher just imparted. She is an empty bank account, and her teacher must fill her with ‘deposits’. Chaching. She exits ‘the bank’ – our schools and churches – where learning is as dry and as inapplicably transactional as a bank deposit. She has been dehumanized and undervalued. She has not received instruction that relates to her life or experiences, but she has learned the most important lessons of her life. She has learned subservience, acquiescence, and servility to the pathetic wisdom of a status-quo ‘expert’. She has learned to be content with her oppression. How many of us were taught in this way? How do we, as social-justice educators, transcend what Freire coined the ‘banking model’ of education, particularly when we ourselves are in the process of becoming ‘recovered receptors of deposited knowledge’? We grow up, learn, and get busy – oftentimes ‘too busy’ to critically think through our approach to our work. The stack of papers grows like kudzu (a fast-growing vine), the e-mails keep accumulating, and the last thing it seems we have time for is a three-hour session to think through our curriculum. We already know the material, right? Haven’t we done this a thousand times before? Sure, our students/audience would probably be more interested if we brought in some visuals or made the session interactive, but it is so easy to stand in front of the group and lecture. After all, isn’t that what they are expecting?
People’s history – Rosa Parks And yet instinctually we know that our pedagogies must reflect our own circumstances and histories. We have to relearn our ‘people’s history’ to unearth the rich legacy of Popular Education in our social movements. From the histories of our families, villages, and nations come the stories, voices, and strategies that compose a deep fabric of wisdom for social change. They inspire us to investigate and tell the ‘histories from the bottom’ – the hidden or lost voices of immigrants, refugees, women, youth, and other historically sidelined stakeholders. Moreover, Pop-Ed seeks to deconstruct the limitations of how histories are created and told while opening spaces for community engagement with the past. Cha-ching. Another bank deposit. In the United States, every student can regurgitate the momentary history of Rosa Parks, the ‘mother of the Civil Rights Movement’, whose nonviolent refusal to move to the back of a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, ignited the bus boycott that evolved into a nationwide movement. But Mrs. Parks wasn’t just a seamstress who one day randomly decided, as we were taught, that she “was tired and had had enough.” Parks was the secretary of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and had trained with the Highlander Folk School in August 1955, four months prior to boarding the bus. The Highlander Center, a Popular-Education adult training school in rural Tennessee, has quietly churned out thousands of committed social-justice leaders since opening its doors in 1932. Their graduates include Septima Clark, Martin Luther King, Esau Jenkins, Bernice Robinson and, more important, hundreds of other ordinary people who, in the words of the Center, “worked with others to do extraordinary things.” The Citizenship Schools started by Highlander in 1954 trained a base of literate black leaders who backboned the Civil Rights Movement. Parks fondly recalled her first workshop at Highlander to be the first time she’d ever lived in “an atmosphere of equality with members of the other race.” How would the US Civil Rights Movement have been different without the critical, yet often behind-the-scenes support of Highlander? Do we fully understand how crucial story-based, multiracial, participatory gathering/training centers are to our social movements?
The lesson that the Highlander Center provides for effective social movement building is clear: yes, it is Popular Education based. Yes, it is rooted in an anti-oppression framework. But most important, the model trusts that the people most affected by injustice will, provided with the right space, come up with the best proposals to move toward true liberation. “The answers to the problems facing society lie in the experiences of ordinary people,” reflects Highlander. “Those experiences, so often belittled and denigrated in our society, are the keys to grassroots power.” That’s where traditional aid organizations err in their ‘empowerment models’ – the methodology almost never mirrors the values to be cultivated. Whereas the ‘banking’ climate seems friendlier – after all, aren’t all nonprofits designed to be helpful? – the casualties are the same as those in the school systems. Cha-ching. Even the do-gooders continue to perpetuate a cycle of structural oppression. Critical community forums Contrast that to the work of organizations such as the Chiapas, Mexico-based CIEPAC (The Center for Economic and Political Research for Community Action). CIEPAC has opened critical community forums to dissect the dangers of the new militarism, which has accompanied free-trade policies such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the Plan Puebla Panama. In a region where autonomous indigenous movements have pulsed a colorful vibrancy back into organizing work, we don’t often pause to reflect on the base-level trainings that produced a critical citizenry in the first place. It takes more than just a meeting. Or ten. Or fifty. Too often we focus on getting people out to meetings/events without putting a corresponding level of attention on the pedagogies employed in shared spaces. If we are to truly cultivate what Freire called a ‘critical consciousness’, we must make long-term commitments to accompany people/communities in building skills as well as analysis. Highlander has continued this work with its US ‘descendents’, including the Center for Participatory Change in North Carolina, The Jefferson Center for Research and Education in the Pacific Northwest, the National Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and the Texas-based Colectivo Flatlander.
There are riveting examples of how to apply the model to cross-border work as well. For several years we both worked with Witness for Peace (WFP), a member-based movement of people working to change US military and economic policy abroad. Through PopularEducation-based, experiential delegations that were created to examine the human face of US policy, WFP has politicized more than 10,000 people – the majority of whom are US citizens – who return to their homes equipped to effect change. Contemporary Venezuelan organizers are calling this a form of ‘lateral solidarity’ – the idea that effective cross-border organizing does not pedestal the rich in parasitical ‘learning’ on glorified poverty tours, but rather starts from a place where all parties are recognized as teachers and students. A Guatemalan feminist, smirking during an interview in 2000, put it this way: “Developed countries do not always produce developed people (…) they [citizens of developed countries] too have a lot to learn.” In that spirit, we openly confess that we have a lot to learn about Palestine. The blossoming Palestinian leadership, who is practiced in the teachings of nonviolence, is considerably better positioned to weigh in on discussions about Palestinian movement-strategy and direction. The construction and continued extension of the Israeli-built Apartheid Wall and military checkpoints, which physically divide Israel from the West Bank, offer unique opportunities to build a Popular Education-influenced pedagogy of sumud (steadfastness). Because the Wall impacts a variety of Palestinian communities in terms of religion, class, and life experience, a Palestinian-developed Pop-Ed could effectively bring together and create consensus among affected stakeholders. Unlike academic theorists, we try to avoid the temptation toward formulaic advice-giving; by nature, Pop-Ed requires a localized expertise to apply and adapt the model. We are able to contextualize our experiences in innovative ways through the simple act of telling old stories and listening to new ones. A good story is often an appropriate, and arguably crucial, place to begin rethinking a social movement. Colombia-Palestine Take, for example, the product of a 2003 workshop with nonviolent faith activists in Colombia. Participants first shared the realities of the war in their communities. As in
Palestine, limited communication between regions creates a dreadful sense of isolation inside Colombia, particularly in rural communities. After the session, one farmer commented, “I no longer felt alone once I told my story (…), and then I heard my testimony repeated over and over again [in other participants’ stories]. Everyone here is like me, facing the same (…) horrors.” In classic Pop-Ed fashion, facilitators then began to bridge the power of each individual story into a more structured diagnostic. The analysis that was generated during that meeting revealed striking parallels to Palestine. The Colombians identified a series of commonly held community values/beliefs as obstacles to effective organizing – obstacles that are often on par with tangible manifestations of war, including fumigations, para-militarism, and territory battles between armed groups. The following concepts were included among these challenges: Power comes from charismatic strongmen, not collective community power: the ‘weneed-a-new-leader’ syndrome. It is not a priority to do work with long-term paybacks in the face of urgent, short-term needs: stuck-in-emergency mode. Our participation in meetings that challenge militarism brings too much risk to our families: scared into impotency. Nonviolence isn’t an option in a high-conflict zone: there is too much violence to be nonviolent. There’s a reason people stick to their own races/faiths; we are too different to get along: faith/race as insurmountable divider. We have been at war forever and have tried everything, but nothing ever changes: the normalization of war. The gringos are here to help; they bring us aid, or money, or accompaniment: foreigners in perpetual ‘helper mode’ – limited potential for lateral solidarity. I don’t have anything valuable to contribute; I’m not a leader; I’m just a simple [fill in the blank – farmer, teacher …]: dehumanized self-perception. Social-justice organizers can’t be trusted – they’re out to get something just like everyone else: social-justice organizers care more about their personal agendas than ‘the cause’.
We hope that you found yourself thinking, as did we, how incredible a dialogue would be between these Colombians and a group of Palestinians. Excitingly, some of those conversations have already happened. More are in the works. But that’s only part of the point. Even more exhilarating is the recognition that a Popular Education model is one of the only ways to move through such an abundance of knowledge and shared experience into a stage of widespread, informed, community-wide critical consciousness. Palestine is ripe for a model that has branded itself as an education that ‘favors the poor and oppressed’. Cha-ching. But before we can get out of ‘the bank’, those of us already ‘critically conscientized’ must deepen our commitment to cultivating (in ourselves and others) a highly evolved class of facilitators. How do we perpetuate a colonizer-colonized or teacher-student dichotomy in our work? So let’s introspect – long and hard – and as we do, the ‘coins’ of the banking model will continue to get passed across borders and generations. No worries. We all recognize that it is time to move beyond cha-ching to what we like to think of as ‘ahhh-oh’ – an affirmative, almost silent ‘ahhh’ – because we know that solid organizing begins with a wildly inclusive passion for listening. And ‘oh’ because we don’t have to do the hardest work. We don’t have to have all the answers. The path is already laid, and the answers already there, dormant in the wisdom of our communities. Ahhh-oh, yes indeed. Now then, isn’t that a better sound?
Nonviolence A STORY OF BEAUTIFUL RESISTANCE Abdelfattah Abusrour The peoples of every nation in this world look forward to living in freedom and safety and sharing the beauty of their cultures, traditions, and civilizations. This is what allows peoples to be appreciated and respected by other nations. In the Middle East, and more specifically in Palestine, the incessant propaganda that is diffused by the international media portrays the Palestinian people as the aggressors, the criminals, the barbarians, and the terrorists, even though they have been oppressed and uprooted from their lands that are still under occupation, and even though they have suffered from the moment that Zionist forces occupied Palestine in 1948. Mahatma Gandhi said: “If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.” That was my starting point when I began to volunteer in various refugee camps, including Aida Camp where I was born. Aida Camp is home to approximately 5,000 people who came from 40 different villages that were destroyed by Zionist forces in 1948. During the Nakba (the catastrophe of 1947–48) and the Naksa (the occupation of 1967), more than 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed by the Zionist and Israeli occupying forces. Entire village populations were uprooted and evacuated from their lands. Presently, about 66 percent of the Aida Camp population is under 18 years old. Aida Refugee Camp is located to the north of Bethlehem and is surrounded by Israeli military posts and colonies/settlements. It is exposed to frequent military incursions and curfews. At the same time, the camp does not have green spaces or playgrounds for children. Since 2005, it has been shut off by the nine-meter-high illegal Separation Wall along its northern side. In 2006, the eastern side of the camp was also caged in by the Separation Wall. This Wall has created a huge environmental and health crisis for the people in the camp, especially the children. The area next to the Wall on our side became a garbage area. People, even from outside the camp, throw all their garbage there, including
the leftover building materials from repair work that was done on some of the homes that were damaged due to the previous shootings and incursions into the camp. With the frequent military incursions, the children are in almost daily confrontation with Israeli soldiers. We value our children, and we want them to be safe and live long lives. We do not want our children to be killed by Israeli bullets and be numbered on lists of martyrs, or handicapped for the rest of their lives, or perish in prison. Nor do we want to continue to reproduce the same stereotypical images that are diffused in the media and that represent Palestinians as only capable of throwing stones or responding only by violence to all the violence imposed on them. Safe space My idea was to provide a “safe space” within which our children could learn to break stereotypes by being allowed to defend and illustrate their beauty and humanity through creative artistic activities as a way to resist the ugliness of the violence forced upon them. I wanted to allow them to express themselves in a positive and constructive way via theatre, arts, education, and sports, and to find peace within themselves in order to make peace with the world. With a group of friends, I founded Alrowwad Cultural and Theatre Training Center in 1998, and initiated the idea of the arts and culture as a form of “Beautiful Nonviolent Resistance.” The arts, in general, and theatre, in particular, are very powerful means of expression and effective methods of change at the level of the individual and the community. The children are the actors and artists. And since we are still under occupation, the arts are also a nonviolent way to resist the ugliness of the violence of this occupation. Though I am actually working in Aida Camp, where I was born, I have also worked in other camps, and theatre and arts programs are now multiplying. The idea of beautiful, nonviolent resistance is actually on its way to different countries. The theatre and dance performances of Alrowwad in Europe, the United States, Egypt, and Palestine have made a great impact. On one hand, the audiences saw another image of Palestinian humanity, beauty, and culture. Many said: “When we watch the news now, we will watch it with different ears and eyes.” On the other hand, these tours have allowed our
children to see other people and other countries and to experience how it is to live in a free country without checkpoints, teargas, or occupation soldiers – and without a Separation Wall. These tours created a possibility for them to meet with others and to break the stereotypes of the others, whatever their origins or religions are. We are all human beings and equal partners in building a better future for ourselves and the generations to come. We all work so that the future will be more beautiful than the present that envelops our lives. These international tours have gained Alrowwad an international reputation and support. Increasing numbers of international volunteers are interested in helping Alrowwad in its projects and activities or in organizing international theatre tours. Some have volunteered to animate workshops on playwriting for women and children, puppetry for children, or photo and video training and film production for children and women. Alrowwad was the first center to initiate the concept of “beautiful nonviolent resistance,” and the first to create a sports fitness program in a refugee camp in Palestine. Alrowwad was also the first center to create a two-year professional video and photo training program in a refugee camp in Palestine, and probably also outside Palestine. Alrowwad was the first center in a refugee camp to start the enhancement educational program for children with learning difficulties. The program, which was begun in 2001 on a voluntary basis, offers courses in Arabic, English, mathematics, and computer skills, and it provides a traditional library and a games library. The approach that is used focuses on teaching basic skills for reading, understanding, analyzing, and developing the imagination through play, the arts, and roleplay. This program is essential because of the social and psychological impact that the frequent Israeli incursions into the camp are having on the children: the learning difficulties, the psychological problems (aggression, bedwetting, fear, stress, and anxiety), as well as the heavy economic burden due to unemployment – in addition to the international boycott of the Palestinian Authority after the election of Hamas in 2006. All these factors have created an environment that puts pressure on the children and forces us to move forward and respond. This program provides hope for children who find the care and attention that encourage them to stay in school and avoid becoming street children or child workers. During incursions and curfews, Alrowwad Center is immediately transformed into an emergency medical clinic, since there is no clinic in the camp. It also becomes a media
center to diffuse news worldwide. During such difficult times, Alrowwad was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During the invasion of 2002 (from March 30th to May 12th ), Alrowwad was full of life and volunteers, working like bees in a nest – foreign volunteers from eight countries together with numerous local volunteers. Pioneers for life As “pioneers for life,” the people at Alrowwad work in a spirit of social entrepreneurship. Whether funding is available or not, we continue to do the work and try to respond to the needs of the community as best we can. When we received donations to help us buy equipment that the Israeli soldiers destroyed when they vandalized the center in May 2002, we chose to allocate two-thirds of this donation to scholarships for high-achieving students. We recognize how important it is to encourage young people to study at university. During the summer of 2007, we conducted a theatre, dance, and clown-show tour in Palestinian cities, villages, and refugee camps in the West Bank, without any funding from local or international organizations. Our earlier focus was to build bridges on the international level. We are now focusing more on collaborative work on the national level as well. In August 2007, Alrowwad presented a festival of silent movies, which were projected on the Wall around the camp. This was the first street-cinema in Palestine. Our future project, “Moving movies,” will present movies in various villages and refugee camps throughout the West Bank. We consider that children are not only the future, but also the “change makers” of the present. We work with them and for them. It is clear that we need a circle of support to continue. We cannot work with children without involving parents, especially the mothers, and the schools. That is why we have created strong links with families and schools. Alrowwad focuses a lot on empowering parents and involving mothers in various workshops, especially in computer training, English learning, and psychological follow-up and guidance. The parents’ committee of the enhancement educational program is composed mainly of mothers. Alrowwad’s board has three female board members out of seven. It is evident that when the mother (who is more involved in helping her children than the father in our community) is not empowered enough to help her children with their
homework, the cycle will remain incomplete, and our work with children will continue to suffer. “With or without money, we will do it” Alrowwad’s work philosophy is that “with or without money, we will do it.” Of course, it is evident that with money we can do much more. We depend largely on volunteers, whether local or international. With all due respect to humanitarian aid, we do not consider ourselves a humanitarian case. We refuse to be reduced to recipients of charity and to be humiliated. We ask for donations to be an act of solidarity to help us to continue doing what we do through our beautiful and nonviolent resistance, resisting the policies of transfer and ethnic cleansing, and continuing to have the dignity and humanity to defend by all means the beauty and humanity within us. At the same time, it is clear that there is a need to build the capacities of Alrowwad in terms of staff and full-time employees so as to reach larger groups. We are actually in this phase now, responding to the increasing needs of Alrowwad as an institution and of the local community, as well as to the demand for more services. We want to be able to intervene at earlier stages of childhood and prepare infrastructures and capacities to facilitate work with younger children from nursery to high school. Alrowwad has created many theatre shows that focus on identity, culture and heritage, folktales, human and children’s rights, women’s rights, and environmental and health awareness. Puppet shows have also included some of the above-mentioned themes as well as other important elements of education. Alrowwad has produced many children’s photo and painting exhibitions that have toured internationally in USA, Japan and Europe. It has produced two fictional videos and a video clip. By the end of the year, our media project Images for Life will include more productions that have been created by trainees. Together, the concepts of beautiful nonviolent resistance, community involvement, and social entrepreneurship inspire our work, which is now on its way to becoming adopted in other refugee camps as well as in other countries.
Voices THE POWER TO HAVE AN IMPACT Susan Atallah
October 2000. The beginning of the second Intifada. It was a disastrous time with much violence, shelling, and danger in Bethlehem. Students at St. Joseph School/Terra Sancta came to school, studied, ate their snacks, and did their homework. We, teachers, discovered that those students changed; they became absent-minded, they even cried during classes, and they felt physically sick. The teachers’ roles and attitudes towards the teaching process changed. Due to the circumstances, they had to sway from the ‘traditional’ way of facilitating their students’ educational development to include their emotional development as well. Teaching is a tough job under normal circumstances, but it is more difficult to deal with a traumatized child, let alone a whole classroom of traumatized children. What was amazing is that students changed the ways they dealt with school life, either by delaying lunch until after they had finished their homework and before it became dark and the shooting started, or by freezing their activities and not working at all. Each individual student came up with a different strategy to deal with the current situation. At the time, the students came to school and excitedly shared the events of the night before with their friends and classmates. Some were able, after the fact, to laugh about what they did during the shooting and bombing (how they crawled on all fours and hid), and some cried. What I noticed among my students in the 11th grade was that they had become more united and more empathic with each other. They asked us teachers whether or not we were as afraid and worried as they were. It was very crucial to them, I noticed, to know whether grownups felt the same as they themselves did. They wanted to feel closer to their teachers, to show that their fears and insecurities were shared. In view of the need to give an opportunity to students to express their opinions and voice their concerns for their future after being exposed to the traumatizing experiences of
bombing and shelling, it was essential to direct their focus towards positive channels. On an educational level, a healthy learning process in any subject is based on providing an environment where the students feel that they are active contributors to the structure of their society. They have to feel that they have the power to have an impact, no matter what their ages are. So what to do? Oral history Preserving Palestinian oral history was an initiative of my school to enhance the students’ sense of belonging and connection to their Palestinian heritage, customs, and traditions. Concerned about losing the personal experiences of the grandparents and knowing that those experiences would not be found in history books, we designed an assignment in the English language curriculum in which the 11th-grade students (16 and 17 years old) were required to interview their parents and grandparents. Of course, neither the grandparents/parents nor the students could claim to be accurate historians. One of the objectives was to document real-life experiences and personal stories from the various periods during which Palestine was occupied and compare that life with the present situation. Our main aim was to preserve our history. At first, the students found it difficult to approach their grandparents/parents, since it is not customary for teenagers to be interested in such topics. Some grandparents voiced their pride in their granddaughters’ interest in listening to their stories and were so overjoyed that they wanted to go on and on with their stories; other students felt that they had become closer to their grandparents/parents and appreciated and respected them for enduring such hardships during their lives. What was touching was that two of the grandparents passed away after the interviews were conducted, and that the students felt glad that they had been able to spend quality time with their grandfathers and had gotten to know them better before their deaths. Only very few students felt apprehensive about this whole project at the beginning and complained. The majority enjoyed being part of their grandparents’ past. “What kind of future can we expect since our grandparents, our parents, and we ourselves have only grown up under occupation, violence, restrictions, and above all, lack of freedom?”
This was a question posed by my students after talking to their grandparents and parents about the events that had taken place since 1936. Their conclusions were striking; the information they received brought them more frustration, depression, fear, and insecurity, since they concluded that this country has been under different occupations and that each one was worse than the other. Their conversations with their grandparents brought them closer together, and they learned to appreciate the difficult lives that their grandparents had lived. They wanted to learn more about the history of Palestine and kept asking for books. So I went ahead and bought them a few good books to read in their free time. Another thing was evident in their conclusions: their refusal of occupation and their worry about their own future and the future of their own children. This taught them to be more adamant and more determined to continue the fight, in their own ways, against all that is unjust. Some said that by being more educated they could fight the Israeli occupation, whereas others thought that the second Uprising (Intifada) could and would bring them the freedom they sought. A few students refrained from answering because they were confused about this violence that had changed their lives in every possible way, and they were all worried about their safety and security, even in their own homes. Diary writing Another pilot project, “A Palestinian Diary-Writing Project,” was initiated in November 2000 and has continued during subsequent years as a means to adapt our curriculum to the psychological and social needs of the students. We chose this approach because it helps to provide a learning environment in which students register what happens around them, cope with negative and traumatic feelings and experiences, and reflect upon their identity in a world of conflicting cultural demands. The project was part of the English language curriculum for students between the ages of 14 and 17, since they have the ability to express themselves well in English. The diaries served to provide information to those in the outside world who are not familiar with daily life (including that of Christians) in Palestine. The AFSC (American Friends Service Committee – a Quaker organization) sponsored the project and encouraged us to make contact with various social and learning
environments, including boys and girls in Arroub Camp to the north of Hebron, also in the West Bank. The diaries covered the day-to-day events in the students’ environment, living their ‘abnormal normal’ life, as one of the students remarked. Many accounts related to daily life under a 24-hour curfew and how school and study life were affected by that. Other diaries showed emotional reflections by the students about their individual and social worlds and sometimes included critiques of what they felt were the shortcomings of the society. Still other diaries revealed dreams about the future or addressed subjects that deal directly with the conflict and the Israeli ‘other’. Many diaries at the time dealt with a great tragedy that befell the school in March 2003: the death of a ten-year-old girl, Christine Sa’adeh, after Israeli soldiers in the center of Bethlehem mistook her family’s car for that of a militant. Christine’s death was a shock for the school as well as for the Bethlehem community as a whole. The students’ diaries were published in several books: “When Abnormal Becomes Normal, When Might Becomes Right” (published by AEI-Open Windows, Culture and Palestine Series, Bethlehem 2000), and especially “The Wall Cannot Stop Our Stories: A Palestinian Diary-Writing Project, 2000–2004” (St. Joseph School for Girls/Terra Sancta, Bethlehem, 2004, second edition 2006). The diary-writing project continues to be implemented by our school. Moreover, based on the diaries of the first class that participated in the project, a drama play was developed. The play focused on ten different young girls who live in the Bethlehem region. It reflected their dreams, fears, joys, expectations, visions, and hopes for the future, as they live under occupation. The play was in English and was performed at the largest theatre festival in the world, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was also nominated for Amnesty International’s award for best play for the year 2005. Now the Saint Joseph students are working on launching a one-hour radio program on Radio Mawwal in Bethlehem that tackles social issues related to teenagers by teenagers. There are three groups of four students who will address the following issues: cheating in schools, migration of minds from Palestine, and the relationship between teenagers and their parents. Each topic will be addressed during two sessions to be aired once a week and will include time for listeners’ feedback via e-mail. The aim of this radio program is
threefold: to help students voice their opinions on significant issues, to offer relevant tips and solutions to their peers, and to help students become more responsible. A land of testing A personal reflection to conclude. Every time I think about my country, Palestine, a few things pop out in my mind that explain why it is very difficult to live here, especially in Bethlehem. The Holy Land is a land of testing. It is a land where your faith is tested, your patience is tested, your courage is tested, and your hope is tested. When friends come for a visit from abroad, they often ask us how we can actually live in this country where everything that we deal with is so difficult. You have to be a fighter to be able to get what you want or be who you want to be, especially if you’re a woman. This is one of the reasons that I instill courage and confidence in my teenage students and encourage them to have a goal and to go for it. They have to have high self-esteem and stand up for their opinions without insulting anybody. They are learning to adapt themselves to the current situation, but not get used to it because it is not normal; people don’t live like us and our lives and circumstances are not normal, but we have to cope with them in the best way that we can. We can feel depressed and frustrated, but we can’t give in to those feelings for a long time. It’s normal to feel afraid and it’s normal to feel angry, but those feelings have to be channeled towards a positive direction. As an illustration of these principles, I would like to quote from an essay that was written by four of my students: Jennifer Juha, Jumana Denho, Rasha Hazineh, and Nisreen Ballout. There was a little boy who was holding his toy. It was a pigeon that symbolizes peace. While he was playing one afternoon, he had a dream. He dreamed about another world where he could talk about his toys and his hobbies, his interests and his dreams, instead of talking about guns, blood, and killing – a world where he could run and play with his friends. He dreamed about people who loved each other and smiled to each other, happy and secure. Happiness was in everybody’s heart. There was no war, no tanks, no rockets, and no shelling or bombing. There weren’t sounds of crying. Christians,
Moslems, and Jews were living together in peace, fighting together against the evil of the world, and talking about justice. He dreamed about a better world. A world full of peace. A bullet, an evil bullet came like a thief and entered his heart. It took his soul and his dream away. His pigeon was beside him, right there next to his motionless body. But the pigeon remembered the boy’s dream and came to life and flew away. The pigeon decided to tell the boy’s dream to the world; AND it decided to make this world that he dreamed about come true.
MENE TEKELS ON THE WALL Gied ten Berge A thesis was recently published in the Netherlands by Beatrice de Graaf, titled “Beyond the Wall, the German Democratic Republic, the Dutch Churches and the Peace Movement.” The 1970s and 1980s were the heydays of the Dutch peace movement led by Christian peace movements such as the Interchurch Peace Council (IKV) and Pax Christi. Hundreds of thousands of people participated in large peace demonstrations. IKV and Pax Christi inspired the activities of hundreds of local peace groups working within the churches. In cooperation with East German dissidents and independent peace activists, IKV and Pax Christi tried to set up a transnational movement for peace and human rights that would reach beyond the iron frontiers of NATO and Warsaw Pact countries. At the time, our partners in the GDR lived more or less in a state of illegality. However, under the roofs of their churches they found a free place in what used to be a totalitarian state. During these difficult times, the churches made it possible for our partners to keep alive their dreams of a better future. They prayed in the churches; they had discussions and developed actions for an undivided peace. The book shows that all this was not without consequence. The East-German Secret Police (Stasi) were exerting much pressure on the church leaders to isolate the dissidents. The Wall was an effective instrument to sabotage the contacts between our peace friends and us. I speak about ‘contacts’ in general, but you may also interpret ‘contacts’ at the time as a manifestation of the art of making a ‘solidarity pilgrimage’. It concerned a pilgrimage towards all our fellow Christians who were living in a communist country in the dangerous context of a nuclear weapons race. I have many memories dating from that time and also from previous periods. As a 19-year-old student in 1967, I participated for the first time in a Berlin trip organized by the Dutch Catholic Student Federation for Political Sciences. I remember a city where you could still observe ruins from the Second World War. For the first time, I saw the Berlin Wall, erected some years before out of rough blocks of concrete and surrounded by
a lot of barbed wire. My visit to the grey world of East Berlin was very impressive. The last day was especially memorable. I still remember well the walk I took, alone, along the 17th of June Road in the direction of the Brandenburger Tor. I heard shooting. American armed cars immediately raced to the Wall. In my mind’s eye, I still see the fugitive bleeding dead and hear the shouting of people who wanted revenge. Mythos Berlin Many years later I participated as a coordinator of IKV’s peace activities in a movement of independent peace groups that represented parishes from all over the GDR. It happened that my name was put on the black list, so I was unable to pass the frontier until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Two years before, in 1987, a public meeting of Evangelical churches took place in East Berlin. We knew that some independent peace activists from the East would make a public appearance. I tried again to cross, but in vain. The ‘paradise of workers and peasants’ seemed to be closed forever. So I decided to take a long walk along the western side of the Wall. German friends told me to have a look at the interesting graffiti. I wrote an impressionistic article that began with a reference to the cross of that unknown fugitive, erected 20 years ago. But it was not the only memory of that day. The change in atmosphere surprised me. Looking at the Wall, I realized that feelings of helplessness and anger no longer prevailed, but rather the feeling of watching a ridiculous, surrealistic work of art that caught me. The feeling grew stronger that day when I visited the exposition “Mythos Berlin.” There I saw – two years before the Wall fell! – fabulous and brilliant exhibits of international artists who participated in a contest for the development of ideas about the future of the Wall. They did so under the slogan: “Zur behutsamen Verstädterung der Berliner Mauer” [“For a careful urbanization of the Berlin Wall”]. I saw brilliant photomontages of the Wall situated in play lakes. I saw the Wall built within a green dike that could be climbed so that one could look down on the Wall. I saw models of sections of the Berlin Wall situated in parks, with benches on both sides. People had the opportunity not only to look ‘beyond’ the Wall but also to look at themselves. It was all very creative and elicited feelings of cheerful alienation. I spoke about it at the time as indicating “a new, comfortable feeling of reality.”
Most remarkable at the time was the near absence of the militant, aggressive texts that I had observed in 1967. Most graffiti was now loaded with humor and reflection. “Juchei! Unnsinn gegen Wahsinn” [“Yippee! Nonsense against madness!”]; “Wings will bring you peace!”; “Freedom, also for you, Erich” (the first name of Party leader Erich Honnecker). There was a cartoon of Ronald Reagan flying on a rocket through space and shouting: “I am the Wall in space!” I used a beautiful French poetic text as the title of my article: “Le mur c’est bien, l’amour c’est mieux” [“The wall is OK, but love is better”]. Some texts were very reflective indeed, such as “Das Geheimniss der Zukunft der Menschlichkeit is das schlechtste zu besiegen” [“The mystery of the future of humanity is the most difficult thing to besiege”]. And that is very true, because walls can never break our deep human curiosity for each other, our longing for love and understanding between human beings. It is this text from the Berlin Wall, which has already vanished, this text with its hint of curiosity and longing that I wish to bring to the Wall in Bethlehem and Palestine today. Full of creativity The Wall, which nowadays divides Palestine and divides Palestine and Israel from each other, is rather new. The anger and bitterness are very fresh, and this Wall has its own unique context. However, this Wall too is a manifestation of all the physical and psychological walls built by mankind. From its very beginning we have to unmask this silly monument as a sign of fear and distrust, injury and impotence – as the ultimate act of those who are once again confusing peace and security on the one hand, and repression and injustice on the other. One way to answer them is by writing Mene Tekels on the Wall. The Wall will become full of creativity – full of drawings and messages with a hopeful impact. It is good advice as well as a lesson in the recent history of Berlin: reserve the graffiti on this new Wall not only for messages of anger and outcry, which are well known, but also for messages that express intelligence, humor, and reflection. This Wall does not need only to express people’s despair but can also whisper their beliefs, hope, and love. This Wall must not just be a ‘carrier’ of cynicism and hate. Rather, it must be a place where people encourage one other, where they make fun of ridiculous politics, and where they make each other laugh. A
Wall full of interesting, critical texts can feed people with reflection, cheerfulness, hope, and desire. Sharon’s Wall will sooner give way under the pressure of these creative weapons of non-violence than under a battering ram. Of course the Berlin Wall and Sharon’s Wall are not the same; they belong to different contexts, and I do not want to compare different countries, peoples, situations, or political systems. But one thing is sure: building such walls will always bring results that are different than the original intentions of the builders. Perhaps we may compare them with barrages of a water reservoir in which the desires of new generations for lasting peace and justice are collected. Those desires will always find a way out; if not ... the barrage will break! We learned from the Berlin Wall that, even after its collapse, the Wall can still have a second life in peoples’ minds. But now it is enough to encourage one another by learning about historical experience. Political and military walls always represent the end point of a process, when politicians reach a dead end. However, this ‘farthest point’ also forms, paradoxically enough and sooner or later, the beginning of unforeseen changes. The fall of the Berlin Wall taught everybody that, after its fall, nothing will ever be the same again.
Space/symbolic violence PAINTINGS, MURALS, AND GRAFFITI ON THE WEST BANK WALL: COPING MECHANISMS AND ACTS OF RESILIENCE Brigitte Piquard Space and time are two basic notions on which identity, feelings of belonging, and social order are defined and organized. The Wall and the numerous checkpoints have drastically modified the notions of space and time for Palestinians who are dispossessed of their lands and their lives. They experience this as a deep loss of social meaning and an ultimate form of harassment. The Wall impacts Palestinian life through the destruction of the social and spatial environment. The confiscation of land, the destruction of visual perspective, the closure of enclaves, the denial of privacy, the destruction of landscape, and the systematic control of Palestinian places of memories and social meanings can be described as acts of ‘spaciocide’ and ‘urbicide’ (massive destruction and disorganization of space and cities)1 and even, in combination with symbolic violence, as a form of ethnocide (the deliberate eradication of the culture of a specific group).2 Various forms of reactions and coping mechanisms can be found in relation to the Wall. Since its creation, the Wall displays graffiti, political slogans, and paintings of all kinds produced by artists or activists. Visual art can be one of the most symbolic and powerful expressions of resilience. Those products can first be analyzed according to their content, as images that represent aspects of political discourse concerning the Wall or the general situation in the West Bank. The intended meanings of the drawings may vary according to the author. Their symbolic interpretation can be polysemic and vary according to the audience that is
For further explanation, see Marshall Berman, “Among the Ruins,” The New Internationalist, issue 178, December 1987. Available
online: http://www.newint.org/issue178/among.htm (accessed on October 30, 2006), and Stephen Graham, “Clear Territory: Urbicide in the West Bank.” Available online: http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-politicsverticality/article_241.jsp#3 (accessed on October 30, 2006).
Brigitte Piquard, “The Politics of the West Bank Wall,” in Swenarton, M., Troiani, I., Webster, H., The Politics of Making. London,
New York: Routledge, 2007.
targeted. The paintings have their own lives. They can be reproduced in photos or postcards and put on the web without losing their symbolic power. Secondly, the paintings or graffiti may carry a meaning in relation to their specific locations on the Wall. The paintings and their environment together make up a complete object. The paintings may lose their impact if transposed to another location. They lose their significance if taken out of their physical, social, or political environment. But through their contextual link they can become the emblem of a specific place, part of the landscape, and even part of the collective memory. Finally, the representations on the Wall can be considered as products of a process, a flow. The act of painting and the process of creation are by themselves significant, whatever the content or location. The emphasis is on the active dimension of this expression of resilience, which is viewed as an ongoing process. The Wall is painted and painted over – again and again. Some drawings will last a few days; others will stay and become part of the collective memory. This article will try to tackle the various aspects of the paintings and graffiti on the West Bank Wall in order to analyze their qualities as expressions of resilience and as mechanisms to cope with symbolic violence and a culture of war. Culture of war and symbolic violence The concept of a ‘culture of war’ emphasizes all dimensions of the cultural construction of conflict and occupation. In a war context, a whole range of creative and innovative initiatives can be observed, which lead to new kinds of social behavior, relations, values, and beliefs. Living close to the Separation Wall, some Palestinians have created their own mental walls, imposing a curfew on themselves, restricting their own mobility, walling in their hopes and aspirations.1 This can be understood as a result of the symbolic violence2 that is experienced by a certain group when it perceives a situation as unbearable because values, power relations, or a world vision are felt to be under threat and when there is a common
Brigitte Piquard, “The Politics of the West Bank Wall.” Pierre Bourdieu, Le sens pratique. Paris: Minuit, 1980, p. 219.
understanding and belief that those threats jeopardize life in society.1 In most conflicts, these feelings of threat are reciprocal. The Wall is the architectonic emblem of feelings of mutual threat, victimization, and mental borders. Cultures of war and forms of symbolic violence, as well as their impact, are not only created during conflict or occupation. They can also be transmitted through media, art, or formal and non-formal education. Representations on the Wall are expressions of current feelings that underlie a specific understanding of the situation and a response to it. Those perceptions are organized in two main dichotomies: the relations between space and territory2 and between identity and otherness.3 As for the relations between space and territory, the central notion in connection to the West Bank Wall is the idea of closure. The experience of total closure is often expressed by metaphors of prison, ghetto, or camp. There is a clear sense that territories are sealed and, within the territories, specific symbolic locations are sealed as well, such as Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. The West Bank has become a place from which one neither leaves nor migrates but escapes. The sense of total closure is even more strongly felt when there is a need or willingness to cross, to travel, to move in and out. The notions of closure and mental wall have, for many, become part of the collective identity. This awareness may lead to the redefinition of the notion of identity and otherness. A process of identity formation is a reciprocal phenomenon. There is a need to be recognized by others in one’s own identity and to recognize others in their own identities. In Palestine, the relation is broken by the lack of potential contact with ‘otherness’. Due to the Wall, Palestinians consider ‘others’ to be those living behind the Wall. They can neither be reached nor, in many cases, seen. The reciprocity in identification is therefore in crisis. The symbolic content of drawings One of the particularities of the paintings on the West Bank Wall is the fact that quite a few have been made by international activists who are not themselves part of the Palestinian
Brigitte Piquard, “The Politics of the West Bank Wall.” ‘Space’ should be taken in its purely geographical or physical dimension. ‘Territory’ refers to a socialized, inhabited space. Collective
memories and identities transform space into territory. The denial of this transformation (by the nonrecognition of places of memory, the denial of access, the denial of meaning-making in relation to specific spaces) may have a dreadful impact on a collectivity and on its sources of identification.
See Marc Augé, Le sens des autres: actualité de l’anthropologie. Paris: Fayard, 1994.
struggle but are concerned global citizens. As a consequence, the contents of the paintings may indicate a broad range of registers such as the peace register (references to Gandhi, peace symbols, and slogans, etc.) or the register of the anti-globalization movement, linking and mixing anti-Israeli feelings with anti-American and anti-capitalist symbolism. However, most of the paintings use symbols of the Palestinian resistance such as the Palestinian flag or the Palestinian keffiyeh. Slogans such as “To exist is to resist” defy the annihilation of Palestinian existence. Putting such symbols and slogans on the Wall can be a way to reclaim, to reappropriate symbolically, or even to regain the occupied/confiscated space. The symbolism is directly connected to the identity quest. Israeli policies will be portrayed as evil and are often compared to the creation of ghettos during the Second World War or to apartheid in South Africa. Although Palestinians tend to emphasize the dichotomy identity/otherness, the international activists emphasize the tension between space and territory. Closure is a main theme that is expressed through symbols of openness: windows, holes in the Wall, ladders along the Wall, etc. In some places, as in Bethlehem, “symbolic doors have been painted by Italian artists on the Wall to highlight the denial of freedom of movement.”1 Drawing clearly becomes a political practice for all. Symbolic drawings may lead an ephemeral life on the Wall but can survive through reproduction. They can become emblems of Palestinian resilience and used for international demonstrations, exhibits, or propaganda. They become ideological and symbolic markers that sometimes escape the very meaning given to them by the author. Drawings as objects There are also paintings or slogans on the West Bank Wall that do not have a central political meaning. They can be sceneries, representations of stylistic flowers, or imitations of fabrics. But in a specific location they have a completely different impact. They may become territorial indicators. They may aim to reassure/challenge/threaten and may target one’s own population, the adverse party in the conflict, or the international community.
These paintings and interviews have been published in a series of articles on the BBC News under the name, “In pictures: Picturing
Israel’s Wall,” Available online: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/05/middle_east_picturing_israel0s_wall/html/1.stm (accessed September 7, 2006).
The main contribution of Israeli artists aims to make the Wall look familiar; that is, as ‘ordinary’ as possible. Six paintings of the Israeli artist Arnold Goldberg, which represent stylistic flowers or farmland scenery, have been sponsored by the Ministry of Defense and the Israeli Government. They are situated behind the Mount of Olives, a place of importance for tourists and pilgrims. The aims of these paintings are not only to mask or hide the Wall but also to make it become commonplace. There is here a dichotomy between, on the one hand, the inclination to humanize the Wall – to beautify it, to make it more acceptable – and on the other hand, the inclination to dehumanize the Palestinians – to conceal their existence. Goldberg stressed in interviews that his “paintings were not political but rather a personal expression of concepts like peace, prosperity, hope, and even brotherhood.”1 The embankment along motorways and the sign, “Peace Be with You” (sponsored this time by the Ministry of Tourism), at the Bethlehem main checkpoint terminal have a similar purpose. Another section of the Wall in East Jerusalem, in Arab communities divided by the Wall, displays an experiment by Israeli installation artists. Stones and bricks have been sliced and cemented on the Wall in an attempt to change its structure and appearance. The Wall as a vector of rhetoric and ideology evokes a series of mental images. The Israeli understanding of the Wall has to be read through the lenses of the politico-architectural concept of ‘Homa Umigdal’ (Wall and Tower), which refers to a settlement system surrounded by walls, barbed wire, and observation towers that is central to Israeli architecture,2 a “hasty translation of a political agenda into the act of construction.”3 The Wall and the checkpoints have proved to be a form of spectacular violence, a violence that must be seen, in opposition to more frequent forms of suspended (latent, insinuated) violence.4 This notion of spectacular violence is central to the site-specific drawings
BBC, “Picturing Israel’s Wall,” online. Sharon Rotbard, “Wall and Tower (Homa Umigdal), the Mold of Israeli Architecture,” in Rafi Segal and Eyal Weizman, eds., A
Civilian Occupation: the Politics of Israeli Architecture. Tel Aviv: Babel; London and New York: Verso, 2003, pp. 39–56. According to Rotbard, the Homa Umigdal project was initiated in 1936 by the members of Kibbutz Tel Amal. The objective was “to seize control of land officially purchased by the Israel Land Administration but which could not be settled mostly for security reasons.” Rotbard, “Wall and Tower,” p.42.
Rotbard, “Wall and Tower,” p. 46. Ophir Azoulay, “The Monster’s Tail,” in Michael Sorkin, ed., Against the Wall: Israel’s Barrier to Peace. New York: The New Press,
2005, p. 2.
mentioned above. Indeed, the making of non-political drawings and the attempts to trivialize the Wall, observable in specific meaningful places, suggest arrogance and are, in fact, obscene. They reinforce the tendency to deny the very existence of Palestinians. The process of drawing Paintings on the Wall can represent a means of nonviolent resistance. They create coping mechanisms and reduce the effectiveness of the symbolic violence of the Wall and the psychological feelings of imprisonment. Many children, in particular, suffer from stress as a result of those forms of violence and feelings. Peace activists or educators take children to the Wall and encourage them to represent it in their drawings or to paint on it. The purpose of these activities is to ensure that the children keep the abnormality of the situation in mind without fearing it. The presence of the international community may guarantee the security of the Palestinians, and peace activities are often initiated by local and international NGOs together. As mentioned, a main characteristic of painting and writing graffiti is its dynamic nature. The notion of flow is clearly relevant here. Paintings can be created, destroyed, or re- or over-painted. The notion of flow explains why emblematic murals may sometimes be covered by graffiti. Future Paintings on other separation walls, such as in Berlin or Northern Ireland,1 have played different roles or taken on different meanings over time. Could those changes in role and meaning be imaginable in the West Bank? The Northern Ireland case shows that, with time and with the prospect of a sustainable peace process, the main murals and paintings can become part of tourist itineraries. The murals and paintings so clearly show the resistance to the conflict and the cultural production during the war that most of the local tour organizers, such as (London)Derry,
Neil Jarman, Painting Landscapes: The Place of Murals in the Symbolic Construction of Urban Space. CAIN, University of Ulster.
Available online: http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/bibdbs/murals/jarman.htm (accessed on July 25, 2007).
would include the main murals in their tours. We can imagine alternative tourist routes in Palestine that include some of the painting sites in order to raise awareness about the situation created by the Wall as well as to introduce nonviolent expressions of resilience aimed at breaking the culture of violence in the Middle East. Could we imagine that some of the drawings on the Wall would become so emblematic that with time they become local memorials, and that rallies or demonstrations would take place in front of those emblematic murals rather than just at any arbitrary place in front of the Wall? Is drawing on the Wall already an endogenous, even a national activity? It seems that the process is led primarily by international activists and members of the Palestinian civil society. How can this process be reappropriated by other layers of the society, including the grassroots, in order to become a source of pride and of collective identity? Drawing on the Wall has not yet shown all its facets and potentials.
Identity COMMUNICATING IDENTITY ACROSS WALLS Ido Abram “In June 2002, the government of Israel decided to erect a physical barrier to separate Israel and the West Bank in order to prevent the uncontrolled entry of Palestinians into Israel. In most areas, the barrier is comprised of an electronic fence with dirt paths, barbed-wire fences, and trenches on both sides, at an average width of 60 meters. In some areas, a wall six to eight meters high has been erected in place of the barrier system.”1 This description of the Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, ends with the words: “Israel has the right and duty to protect its citizens from attacks. (…) Even if we accept Israel’s claim that the only way to prevent attacks is to erect a barrier, it must be built along the Green Line or on Israeli territory.”2 The title of this book is: Challenging the Wall: Toward a Pedagogy of Hope. ‘The Wall’ refers to the aforementioned ‘Separation Barrier’. The title of our contribution is “Communicating Identity across Walls.” The word ‘Walls’ is plural because it relates to both the above-mentioned concrete Wall as well as the mental walls between people that make communication difficult or even impossible. First, we will introduce a general model for learning and communication: the Arena Model. After that, we will use this approach to consider the way in which Israeli and Palestinian peace activists communicate identities in conflict situations. Arena model The four core concepts of the Arena Model are: Arena (A); Both identity and imago (B); Conflict (C); and Dialogue (D). Arena can signify ‘battleground’, ‘scene of conflict’, ‘sphere of action’, or ‘stage’. It is the context in which learning takes place. Images (plural)
refer to identity as well as imago. Identity or self-image indicates how one sees oneself and one’s environment, how one experiences it, and how one evaluates and communicates that evaluation. Imago is its counterpart, the counter-image. It refers to the image that others have of a person and his or her life/world as well as the expressions of that image. Identity is self-definition, imago is the identity imposed by others. Imago is biography, identity is autobiography. The discrepancy between identity and imago leads to tension and conflict but can also lead to the inception of a dialogue. Dialogue is directed toward exchange, openness, and mutual interest. Constructively used dialogue can be critical. Intercultural learning takes place in arenas in which there is room for images from or about somebody or something, in which dialogue is ultimately more rewarding than conflict, and in which conflicts are recognized and transformed in the direction of dialogue, taking into account the fact that not all conflicts are solvable. A safe and warm stage fosters dialogue and intercultural learning. An adversative and cold battleground, however, obstructs both and stirs up the conflict. Schema: Arena model for intercultural learning
A = Arena (battleground, stage) B = Both identity and imago C = Conflict (confrontation) D = Dialogue (encounter) The triangles in this schema overlap. This serves to express the fact that image, conflict, and dialogue are influencing each other and are mutually related. The Arena can be reached through B, C, and D. Whichever entrance is chosen, all meanings represented by the three letters play a role.
The Arena Model can also be understood as a general model for learning and communication. If we suppose that each person is a separate world, it is possible to say that, in fact, all successful forms of learning and communicating are intercultural by definition: you learn about yourself through others and about others through yourself. “To know another is to know oneself. To know oneself is to know the world.”1 In exceptional cases, imposed identity (imago) and self-definition (identity) nearly coincide. The general point is this: identity and imago overlap but never coincide entirely. But we should not go to the opposite extreme either. It is equally exceptional when identity and imago do not have anything in common. They certainly influence each other mutually, at least if there exists some form of mutual communication, however small. In identity there is always a resonance of imago – and vice versa. There is no intellectual or logical argument that would give more value to one or the other image. The two images, ‘identity’ and ‘imago’, should therefore be granted the same opportunity to prove their merits. On the basis of the aforementioned, some thirty projects were carried out in the Netherlands on a variety of themes. Usually the participants were asked in advance to bring an object that tells something about themselves and about the theme. This connection was verbally explained during the initial acquaintance. There were projects for youth and older persons, men and women, persons with diverse cultural and national backgrounds, and a mixture of all of the above. The youngest participant was 10 years old and the oldest was 93. Each project ultimately revolved around issues that were important for the participants, such as family (the living and the dead), work, friendship, religion, home, feasts, respect, health, hobbies, money, traveling, and so on – all typical characteristics of identity and imago.2 Now we will make a mental leap from the Netherlands to the Middle East. As the object of our project, we will choose the Wall or Separation Barrier. “Communicating Identity across Walls” is also the theme of the project described below. That project – a symposium – never took place. However, the persons who are introduced really exist, but they never took part in the symposium. The reason is simple: it is impossible to participate in a non-existing
Janis Rainis (1865–1929), Latvia’s most famous poet. Rainis was an ardent Latvian patriot and at the same time he repudiated nationalistic narrow-mindedness and provincialism. 2 Seven projects are described in Abram, I. & Wesly, J. Knowing me, Knowing you. Identity and intercultural dialoque. Ger Guijs/Forum – Institute for Multicultural Development, Rotterdam/Utrecht, 2006.
project. However, the quotes are not imagined and are rightly ascribed to the persons mentioned. Symposium Our Arena is an imaginary symposium of some twenty Israeli and Palestinian civilians crossing the Green Line to work for peace. The participants have been asked to each bring a photo that says something about themselves as well as about the Wall. We are in the year 2005. At the start of the meeting, participants introduce themselves to each other and explain why they chose the particular photos that they brought to share. We first focus our attention upon three of them. Helmi Kittani: “Look, the conflict impacts my personal life in a harsh manner. I’m in Baka el-Gharbiye and it is located on the seam line, just on the Green Line. My mother is from a village that is across the Green Line. So my family is located on the other side of the wall, and it is difficult for me to keep up natural and normal contact with them. Even if a relative dies, I cannot always participate in the mourning rituals – if they take place on the other side of the Green Line. And likewise, it is hard for my relatives – my cousins – to come and participate in my happy events, or mourning, God forbid.”1 Gila Svirsky: “I understand that Israel has to defend itself. I know that Israel has enemies. I would understand if Israel built a wall to protect itself even though I don’t agree that it’s the best way to go about protecting itself. But the need for a wall does not mean that you go about building it in the territory of the other party.”2 Walid Salem: “[W]e have two options. One is to continue the violence from both sides, which will result in the building of walls: the physical wall that Sharon is building and the more important walls that are the mental walls. (…) The other way is to build peace from
Helmi Kittani, interview, February 29, 2004. See http://www.justvision.org/. Gila Svirsky, interview, April 28, 2004. See http://www.justvision.org/.
the bottom up in order to transform the conflict in a way that will lead to future cooperation.”1 It is clear that the quotes and photos refer to much more than the Wall alone. They refer to personal life: my mother, my village, my family, my family gatherings for happy and sad occasions, my enemies, self-defense, territory, violence, physical and mental walls, future cooperation, ghetto, peace, tourism. It is for this reason that, during the course of time, the Wall has been called so many different names and why so many slogans have been written on it: separation barrier; fence; security fence; segregation wall; security barrier; annexation wall; illegal wall; apartheid wall; “The Wall: Prison for Palestinians, Ghetto for Israelis”; “First of All: the Wall Must Fall”; “To Exist is to Resist.” In length the Wall cannot be compared to China’s Great Wall (6,700 kilometers long) or to the Berlin Wall (only 155 kilometers long). These two walls have now become tourist attractions. Hopefully this will also happen to the physical barrier here. It is now more than 400 kilometers long and will be close to 700 kilometers when completed.2 Now we give the floor to three other participants in our fictional symposium: Sami Adwan, Uri Avnery, and Dan Bar-On. They have extensive experience in communicating identities, especially across mental walls as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All three share their vision on the role of education in the context of a ‘pedagogy of hope’. Uri Avnery: “We, Israelis and Palestinians, are living in a permanent war. Each of the two peoples has created a narrative of its own. Between the two narratives – the Israeli and the Palestinian – there is not the slightest resemblance. What an Israeli child and a Palestinian child learn about the conflict from their earliest years – at home, in kindergarten, in school, from the media – is totally different.3 (….) For almost 2,000 years, the annals of the country disappear from the school (...) including all its periods and peoples: Canaanites, Israelites, Hellenists, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamelukes, Turks, British, Palestinians, Israelis, and more.4 (…) War is a state of mind, and so is peace. The
Walid Salem, interview: date and year not indicated. See http://www.justvision.org/.
http://www.btselem.org/english/Separation_Barrier/Statistics.asp. Uri Avnery. “War is a State of Mind.” Lecture in Berlin, Gush Shalom, October 20, 2005. Conference on “Raising Children without Violence.” 4 Uri Avnery. “Sorry, wrong continent,” December 23, 2006.
main task of peace-making is mental: to get the two peoples, and each individual, to see their own narratives in a new light and – even more important – to understand the narrative of the other side. To internalize the fact that the two narratives are two sides of the same coin. (…) This is mainly an educational undertaking. As such, it is incredibly difficult, because it first has to be absorbed by the teachers, who themselves are imbued with one or the other of these world views.1” Avnery is too pessimistic when he says that there is “between the Israeli and the Palestinian narratives not the slightest resemblance.” After all, he is the co-author of the booklet “Truth against Truth,” in which he himself says: “In it we [the Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom] have tried to outline a common narrative of the conflict, taking into account the viewpoints of both sides.”2 “Truth against Truth” is a brochure – not a school textbook. But this has been in the works for a long time. Sami Adwan and Dan Bar-On, for example, are developing a new school textbook with a group of Palestinian and Israeli teachers and two historians. Sami Adwan: “Through our analysis of Palestinian and Israeli curricula, we have found that both sides tell one-sided stories. What is very apparent is a complete denial and disregard for the other’s story. (…) The aim of our project was not to craft a shared history. Rather, what we simply tried to do was explore the possibility of writing a Palestinian narrative and an Israeli narrative and presenting them side-by-side as equals. (…) A Palestinian or Israeli who reads the story of the other is not the same person he or she was before doing so; facing the other’s story increases one’s understanding of one’s own story and own reality, regardless of whether this understanding is positive or negative. At the same time, one comes to appreciate the multiple dimensions of the other’s story. (…) Eventually, it might be possible to develop a joint narrative or a bridging narrative that can begin to mend that gap between the two narratives. Yet this is not possible at this stage ... in the absence of a political solution that would end the conflict in all its aspects, or at least a vision for such a solution.”3
Uri Avnery. “War is a State of Mind.” Lecture in Berlin, Gush Shalom, October 20, 2005. Conference on “Raising Children without Violence.” 2 Uri Avnery. “Living in a Bubble,” May, 1, 2004.
Sami Adwan, interview, January 14, 2005. See http://www.justvision.org/.
Dan Bar-On: “We chose consciously to take the more-or-less consensus narrative of the Israeli-Jewish side, and the more-or-less consensus narrative of the Palestinian side. Clearly, there are more narratives on each side but they come from smaller groups. It was also not our idea that we should create a bridging narrative. We do not think that true peace requires somehow bridging the historical narratives. We think that true peace means that you recognize how the other is different from you, not how the other is the same as you. To create a bridging narrative means to create a same-ness. We don’t want to create an illusion of same-ness; we don’t think that will happen – not in the near future, at least. So first of all you have to recognize that the other thinks differently from yourself. That’s exactly the purpose of this.”1 Avnery’s approach differs from that of Adwan and Bar-On. Avnery construes a ‘common’ narrative, the two others not. As long as there is “at least” no “vision for a political solution (…) that would end the conflict,” Adwan and Bar-On consider the time not ripe. For the time being, they work on two parallel narratives “side-by-side as equals.” The possibility to arrive at a ‘joint’ or ‘bridging’ narrative is not rejected by Adwan and Bar-On on principled grounds, but they transfer this possibility to the future. Both approaches struggle with the tension indicated in the Arena Model between identity and imago. At stake are not only the selected words and images, but even more, their interpretations. Avnery: “The contrast between the two national versions reached a peak in the war of 1948, which was called ‘the War of Independence’ or even ‘the War of Liberation’ by the Jews, and ‘Al Naqba’, the catastrophe, by the Arabs.”2 Adwan: “Another issue is one of the key expressions used in the Israeli curriculum to this day: the term ‘Eretz Israel’. Palestinians call this land ‘Palestine’. A question thus arises: what is the definition of ‘Eretz Israel’? Does it stretch from the Nile to the Euphrates or from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river? If this term continues to be used, it
Dan Bar-On, interview, December 20, 2004. See http://www.justvision.org/. Truth against Truth. Gush Shalom, 2004, point 29.
signifies a complete denial of the existence of Palestine. On the other hand, if the term Palestine, as it has been used historically, remains identified as the land from the sea to the river, then it also signifies denial of the existence of Israel. (…) Likewise the Israelis’ description of the first immigrants as ‘pioneers’ disturbs the Palestinians. For Palestinians, those were the people who caused their destruction. For Israelis, on the other hand, they are regarded as the people who built the country!”1 Given our situation of conflict – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has already lasted 125 years – the discrepancy between identity and imago is large. Avnery: “In the course of this long conflict, as in any war, an enormous mass of myths, historical falsifications, propaganda slogans, and prejudices has accumulated on both sides.”2 Bar-On: “What you find in Israeli and Palestinian textbooks, in general, is typical to conflict situations where the goal of the textbooks is to support and legitimize your side of the conflict, and to de-legitimize the other side.”3 Regarding issues about fundamental problems that seem insusceptible to consensus, the British mathematician, Ramsey, proposed that “in such cases it is a heuristic maxim that the truth lies not in one of the two disputed views, but in some third possibility which has not yet been thought of, which we can only discover by rejecting something assumed as obvious by both disputants.”4 As the Arena Model assumes the principled equivalence of identity and imago, the discrepancy between both should lead to some thoughtful and careful reflection on claiming one’s own right. The differences that exist between the approach of Avnery (common narrative) and Adwan and Bar-On (two parallel narratives) can be bridged. Also in Avnery’s case we find two narrative lines.
Sami Adwan, interview, January 14, 2005. See http://www.justvision.org/. Truth against Truth. Gush Shalom, 2004, point 3. 3 Dan Bar-On, interview, December 20, 2004. See http://www.justvision.org/. 4 F. R. Ramsey. The Foundations of Mathematics. Routledge and Keagan Paul, London, 1931, pp. 115–16.
Avnery: “The struggle between the two nations in the country appeared in the emotional sphere as the ‘war of the traumas’. The Israeli-Hebrew nation carried with it the old trauma of the persecution of the Jews in Europe. (…) The clash with the Arab-Palestinian nation appeared to them to be just a continuation of anti-Semitic persecution. The ArabPalestinian nation carried with it the memories of the long-lasting colonial oppression. (…) [T]he Naqba (catastrophe) of 1948 appeared to them to be the continuation of the oppression and humiliation by Western colonialists.”1 Adwan and Bar-On, too, create conditions to join the two narratives. When the Israeli teachers are neither willing nor able to listen to the Palestinian narrative and vice versa, the separation into two ways – two stories – does not make any sense. After all, at stake is breaking through divisions to make possible communicating across Walls. Bar-On: “(…) listening to the other narrative, asking questions about it, telling the other side what terminology is insulting for them, and seeing how the narratives will have to fit together is necessary so that each teacher will feel comfortable teaching in his or her own classroom – so that pupils who read both narratives won’t automatically push aside the narrative of the other but be genuinely willing to seriously listen to it.”2 Adwan: “In the introduction [of the textbook], we stated clearly that our aim is to listen to the story of the other, not to change it. Our second rule was that if either side wanted to change a term, it was free to do so.”3 Bar-On: “It needs certain conditions: they mustn’t use hostile, de-legitimizing expressions. There were discussions about it. For example, regarding the term ‘Zionist gangs’, which the Palestinians use, the Israeli teachers said, ‘If you use this term, our students will shut down right away. Can you use another term?’ Or on the Israeli side, ‘terrorist’ vs.
Truth against Truth. Gush Shalom, 2004, points 20–21. Dan Bar-On, interview, December 20, 2004. See http://www.justvision.org/. 3 Sami Adwan, interview, January 14, 2005. See http://www.justvision.org/.
‘freedom fighter’. They didn’t find solutions to everything. Sometimes the solution was to use a ‘slash’: ‘freedom fighter/terrorist’.”4 So far the imagined symposium, with its imagined persons, was closely related to peace education. The context (Arena) of this imaginary project was a symposium about the Wall and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Therefore, entry C of the Arena Model was chosen: conflict and confrontation. We saw how this conflict enlarges the gap between identity and imago (B) and how the participants in the symposium did not avoid confrontation but tried to search for, and found, the dialogue (D). The fact that the participants are not imaginary shows that a pedagogy of hope is not a fantasy but a reality. It is also important to note that, for this particular conflict – when all is said and done – dialogue is more rewarding than conflict.
Dan Bar-On, interview, December 20, 2004. See http://www.justvision.org/.
Photography and Internet VIRTUAL MEANS TO DEFEATING THE WALL James Prineas Heritage. Strength. Beauty. Education. Hospitality. Spectacular landscapes. Children. Vitality. These are words that spring to my mind when I think of Palestine. I’m sure more people would think of Palestine that way if they had seen what I have seen. Of course I also associate other, less inspiring words with Palestine, but they are almost all a result of injustices inflicted on the Palestinians, and I like to think that one day, with those injustices at least partly redressed, Palestine will be regarded by all as a welcoming country of impressive beauty and fascinating history. As it is to me. As it should be to all. Education is not just about learning. It is about the flow of information. Connecting those who possess knowledge with those who want to learn is one of the most effective uses of publishing and of the Internet. And the learners often notice that they have something to ‘teach’ as well. Creating a platform for interactive education interests me a great deal. The Palestine-Family.net website, which I developed together with half a dozen partners inside and outside Palestine, allows the viewer to also be the author. Directly. Easily. So the information seeker can easily become the information provider. The student – the teacher. The listener – a story-teller. Providing a platform that reaches a wider world can help those who have something to say. When they see an old picture they can say: “My family was here – we belong here.” A recipe: “We are part of a region, but we have our own distinctive cuisine.” A family tree: “My roots reach back endlessly – seek your relationship to me.” Each entry on the site – at the moment there are approximately 3,400 – sends out a message to the world and at the same time helps preserve a piece of the past. A great many intelligent people are making a sincere effort to create a viable Palestine free of occupation. That is happening at the political, cultural, and social levels. Encouraging ‘sumud’ amongst the Palestinians themselves is equally important, as is giving them access
to the tools they need to spite the considerable forces working against them. Every smiling Palestinian face seen in the ‘outside world’ contradicts the general perception and challenges it. It is also a reminder to those who would banish them that their spirit is not broken. Each visible family tree holds the (virtual) earth beneath a Palestinian foot and makes it less stable under that of a settler. Every picture of the Wall that is seen and understood by an outsider diminishes the moral stature of its builders. www.palestine-family.net Just as the printing press allows a single person’s voice to reach innumerable ears, the Internet is an equally efficient means to make accessible the opinions and information that might not make the news ticker. But the distinction between making something accessible and making it visible is great. There are billions of pages of information on the Internet. Forty-five million of them refer to Palestine. Getting ‘eyeballs’ to your page or site is a question of science, art, money, and luck. The strategy behind Palestine-Family.net combines all four. 1. Science: Programming a site to make it fast and adorning it with useful features 2. Art: Designing a user-friendly interface to make it not only easy but a pleasure to use 3. Money: Encouraging site exposure through online and offline advertising and PR in order to offset the costs of design, construction, and hosting 4. Luck: Hoping that the numerous factors involved in creating a successful site will combine in such a way as to attract and keep a wide audience of viewers By creating a community website on which all those interested can publish their private collections of heritage material, we bundle the potential of visibility. Instead of 200 individuals each creating personal mini-websites – usually poorly designed and constructed – their materials are instead published together on a professionally designed and programmed website that is much more likely to climb the inscrutable Google ranking list and become visible to a wider audience. This ‘strength-in-numbers’ strategy draws people
who are looking for personal or family material into the wider community. The Wall Even for those who are informed about the Wall, seeing it for the first time is still a shock. I lived for two years in Berlin while the Wall was still up; and compared to the Wall in Palestine, the Berlin Wall was a picket fence. I’ve seen others who have also reacted to the Apartheid Wall as I first did: “I didn’t realize it was THIS bad.” My goal is now to make people who haven’t or can’t visit Palestine realize just how terrible the Wall and the situation in general is. One of the best known strategies for learning and remembering is to be exposed to the same information in different forms: hearing, seeing, speaking, etc. I try to use the same method to inform as many people as possible about the Wall and its consequences: through photographs, the Internet, texts ... I also create a mix to give a more realistic view. My current exhibition, which can be seen at www.sumud.net, is a mixture that can be divided up into three main categories: Landscapes, People, The Wall. The Western world usually connects the word ‘Palestine’ with ‘conflict’, ‘Israel’, ‘terrorism’, and ‘refugees’. Its inhumane treatment at the hands of so many is barely or incompletely known. By presenting them with a new image of Palestine – ‘grand landscapes’, ‘beautiful people’, ‘joy of life’, ‘disgraceful Wall’ – accompanied by texts that explain the injustice and situation in listed form, I hope to open eyes to the plight of the Palestinians and give the outsider a factual basis from which they can interpret news from the region. Creating a book of the exhibition pictures is our attempt to hurdle the geographical limitations of a physical exhibition, yet still give a more haptic experience to the viewer than an Internet site. The World Wide Web, though perhaps second-nature to those who have grown up with it, often seems ‘only’ virtual, electronic, and transient to pre-Internet generations. To the latter, a book in the lap can add a reassuring dimension while interacting with the material at hand. A beautiful book also gives its contents a standing that would otherwise only be achievable with an expensive image campaign. The difference is obvious if one compares the usual black-and-white pictures of protesting Palestinians found in newspapers to those of a high-quality color reproduction of a more
picturesque scene. Strategically we are applying a PR/media solution to a political problem. Our task is to ‘correct’ the outside world’s notion of Palestine, using the Internet, exhibitions, and books. The latter two have to appeal to a wider audience than the usual pro-Palestinian public – who are already aware of the injustices – if new ground is to be broken.
PART 2 INTERVIEWS
BIT BY BIT, THE WALL BECAME MORE TANGIBLE Terry Boullata I am 38 years old, and I am from Jerusalem. I was born and have lived all my life here; and I am proud of that. I married a man from Abu Dis 14 years ago. He carries a West Bank ID card. I myself have a Jerusalem ID. I studied at Jerusalem schools and then went to Birzeit University. During the first Intifada, I was arrested four times; the last time was while I was working as a fieldworker for a human rights organization. I was released after the intervention of former American president Jimmy Carter and Mme. Mitterrand. Later on I opened my own private school in Abu Dis, thinking that I should contribute to the development of the community that I’m living in. I started the school in 1999 with loans from agencies and banks, and it is still in operation. The school has 225 children from kindergarten to the fifth grade. But this year I lost approximately 77 children due to the building of Wall, which is less than half a kilometer from the school. Due to the loss of income, I am now also working as an advocacy worker for the Palestinian Campaign for Freedom and Peace, which was initiated during the visit this year of Dr. Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. Abu Dis, Azzariyyeh, and Sawahreh [villages to the east of Jerusalem] are totally isolated from the Palestinian areas. Together they form a canton, a ghetto. On the eastern side of the Wall, there are now 70,000 people who have no access to proper health services in Jerusalem or in areas within the Palestinian Authority. If you cannot go to Jerusalem, the nearest hospital is in Jericho, a half-hour drive away. And the Jericho checkpoint is closed after eight in the evening. My house is historically part of Abu Dis. But in 1967 the Israelis annexed my area to Jerusalem, and it became part of Jerusalem, according to Israeli law. International law, however, indicates that it is part of the occupied territories. When we married, it didn’t really matter since the area was still open to the West Bank. The border was on the map but not on the ground. But in August 2002, we suddenly woke up to see that the army had shifted the Jerusalem checkpoint towards the entrance to Abu Dis. And they brought
cement blocks one meter high to place along the border. So we started to have quarrels with the soldiers because they sometimes denied us access to Jerusalem and sometimes to the West Bank. Bit by bit, the Wall became more tangible. Every day they brought more trucks with cement blocks that were laid in accordance with the Israeli map of Jerusalem. Bit by bit, our neighborhood became more and more isolated from the center of Abu Dis, from my husband’s family, and from my own school. Until January 2004 we were still able to jump over the one-meter-high wall that was there at the time. As my house is on a hill, I could more easily jump over the one-meter barricade from the highest part of ground near the wall. But during that period I was pregnant twice and I had two miscarriages because of the jumping. But that was almost the only way to reach my school. My neighborhood was turned overnight from a residential area into a military zone. The lifestyle in the neighborhood changed totally. Men, women, children – everybody was jumping over the Wall at the low point near our house. During the early morning hours, the children on both sides of the Wall would try to reach their schools on the other side, including the children from the west side who were going to my own school on the east side. You could always find children jumping amidst teargas and sound bombs. On a daily basis. The early morning and afternoon were also exactly the times when the army would come to harass the passersby. The border police had settled in to a military camp that was built in front of my house. They came to know us better; in our neighborhood there are only 13 families, and we live at the highest part so that the army or border police always used to come and sit around our house. But they still kept harassing me and asking for my identity card. I told them: “You know me, and you know that I’m going to my school, and you still want to check my identity card?” My family was renovating the nearby Cliff Hotel, which was later confiscated. The soldiers teased us: “Why are you renovating the hotel, we’re going to take it anyway. We’ll even give you rent money; it is much better for you.” I wouldn’t even allow my children to play in the streets of the neighborhood because the army jeeps, with their teargas, were there all the time. The construction of the Wall, from one-meter to nine-meters high, and only six meters away from our house, took place in January 2004. The jumping from our house became impossible of course, and we had to look for other ways to sneak into the village of Abu Dis. My husband is a West Banker, he cannot be in Jerusalem. As a Jerusalemite, however,
I was able to go around the Wall along an Israeli bypass road so as to enter Abu Dis from the other side. It became a half-hour drive to my school instead of the normal one-minute drive. At least I could still drive, but my husband had to look for the lowest parts of the Wall that were still under construction and not yet the full nine meters, and jump over it or go through small openings. However, when sooner or later the Wall is completely finished he will not be able to come back to the house by jumping. Very recently my husband – he is a merchant who sells stone – was able to get a permit that allowed him to be in Jerusalem from five in the morning until seven in the evening. That means that after seven, he is living and sleeping illegally with us. That’s one of the things we joke about. My husband is afraid that he can be kicked out of the house at any moment, or that if he jumps over the wall to Abu Dis one day, he won’t be able to return. Other cousins in the neighborhood, who own property here but carry West Bank ID cards, are living illegally on their own property. If they don’t get Jerusalem ID cards or permits to live there, they can be kicked out and their properties can be turned into absentee properties [to be confiscated by the Israeli state]. Khaled, our cousin, was arrested three times, literally upon entering his own hotel, the Cliff Hotel. And the scary part is that in May 2004, the Israelis established a settlement just behind our house. It is called Kidmat Zion and has 250 housing units, which means nothing less than the arrival of 15,000 Israeli settlers. The famous Moskovics [American Jewish philanthropist who sponsors settlement building in East Jerusalem] is of course the one who started this settlement, and of course with subsidies and Israeli government approval. This settlement is growing on our account and will squeeze our neighborhood. For me, freedom means being with my husband Salah and children, having a family life, and moving around easily – for instance, being able to spend time together on weekends. I can’t easily go with Salah to the West Bank. Jericho is a well-known winter resort. But I can’t go to Jericho as a Jerusalemite. I need a permit. It’s easier for him as a West Banker to enter Jericho. On the other hand, Salah can’t come with me to Jerusalem. Even when he has a permit, he is often denied access; for instance, when the Israelis announce a general closure. The Wall is depressing us all. No family members can visit us, so we try to visit them. Instead of us and the other members of the family going on a picnic, we just visit them at home. It’s boring for the children. Also, my husband has lost income. Nobody is
building houses, and so he doesn’t sell much stone. You run, run, run from checkpoints to destinations, and at the end of the day, you just have enough to pay all the bills. In Jerusalem there are a lot of taxes to pay. Nowadays Salah sometimes says: “Let’s move to the West Bank.” He and his own family have a house there that will lessen the expenditures of paying the rent and the taxes and the bills. But I cannot do that because the moment I live in the West Bank, I will lose my residency in Jerusalem. I will not get any other residency because the Palestinian Authority does not give ID cards to Jerusalemites who lose their IDs. They claim that they do not want to encourage Jerusalemites to leave Jerusalem. Moving to Abu Dis would make my life even more brutal. I would have no exit at all and would just have to stay in Abu Dis. The only time that I can breathe is when I leave for a conference abroad. Although there is harassment at the border, at least I get to go out and see the world. That’s part of your personal freedom – to go abroad – a freedom that my husband is denied. He cannot travel; the Jordanians do not allow him to travel through Jordan. We want to be free as a family, to live wherever we want, and that’s not easy. I say to him: “I don’t want to live in a smaller ghetto. Yes, East Jerusalem is a ghetto, but it is a somewhat bigger ghetto than the Abu Dis ghetto. I want to have more opportunities for my daughters. On the Jerusalem side they can have music or ballet classes. I am a middle-class woman; I would like to have some of those opportunities available for my daughter. He says that when they kick him out he wants to stay in the West Bank; he doesn’t want the harassment anymore. That would mean that he would have to take the girls a few days with him, and the girls would have to come back and live a few days with me. So the whole family would be affected when the Israelis really impose the expulsion of Salah from the area. So we have to choose between my own family and my husband’s family, and even between living together as a family or being separated. At the end of the day, I am a mother. As I always say and brag: we created life. So we have to create hope. Your only option is to survive for the sake of your children. I need to have a special level of hope and creativity and ease of life and even fun in order to survive and give my children a better life. Many Palestinians share the belief that our only hope is for our children. It’s not an easy thing.
Now I work in Ramallah. It is very frustrating to stand in line at the Kalandia checkpoint every day for an hour and a half or even two hours, if not more. It used to be a half-hour drive, but now it takes an hour. When I return home, I am totally exhausted. I have no time or energy to spoil my daughters. I have to hurry to cook, clean, help the girls with their homework, and put them to sleep. It’s becoming more and more frustrating and tiring. But at the end of the day, you still have to go beyond that frustration. Daydreams? No, my only daydream, in fact my nightmare, is when I come back home and Salah is not able to come back. For instance, when I am stuck at Kalandia and Salah cannot come home because he is stuck at the other side of the Wall and the children are left home alone. You never know. Or when something happens during the day, and I am stuck on one side and my daughter on the other. I am an activist now. What gives me hope sometimes is that I speak more with the press and with Israeli groups. I am receiving lots of Israeli delegations who come to see the Wall. Sometimes I am happier to receive Israelis than to receive foreigners. If the Israeli point of view changes, it can make our life easier because they can have influence from within their own society. I believe that in terms of lobbying or campaigning, I should work more and more within the Israeli society. We as Palestinians still have a long way to go to address our issues more effectively, but it gives me hope when I see Israelis discussing and listening, especially when they see that the Wall provides no real sense of security for them – it only separates Palestinians from each other. Making us suffer more and more and pushing us farther into the corner is also bad for them. We talk with Israeli intellectuals and the young generation. The young give us some hope. Sometimes a few Knesset members or Israeli media people visit and write about us. You see the fear that the Wall provokes in them, not just in us. When we work together with these Israelis, many of them may cross the line. They have become more active against the occupation and the icon of the occupation, which is the Wall. Very recently, we established Artists without Walls. I am not an artist, but because of the area, Palestinian and Israeli artists approached me to ask how they could help. So in April 2004, Palestinian and Israeli artists came together to make the Wall “transparent” by setting up screens, projectors, and lights, as in a video conference. The people from both sides
were able to see and speak with each other. This gives hope not only to the people who are living in the ghetto but also to those who were listening to and watching us. These are windows of hope that I can see from time to time. We as victims need to work hard to make the perpetrators aware of what they are doing to us on the human level. On our side not everybody is convinced. Many people are steeped in their own anger and frustration, and I can understand that. I don’t identify with it, especially when it comes to suicide bombings, but I can understand what is happening to those people. And this is what we have to say to the Israelis: “Put yourselves in our shoes. Would you expect yourselves to accept the daily humiliation at the checkpoints and the Wall, while it serves no security purpose at all?” Interview: December 8, 2004, Jerusalem. Terry Boullata adds (on October 5, 2007): As for recent developments with regard to the area and my family situation: 1. The neighborhood remains under constant army surveillance. The soldiers are still in control of the Cliff Hotel area to secure the new settlers who moved in on the hill behind our neighborhood in May 2004. The West Bank residents of the neighborhood, who are also homeowners, are under strict movement restrictions as they have to receive permission – through their lawyer Usama Halabi – to gain access to the other side of Abu Dis, behind the Wall. They do so by passing through the opening in the Wall nearby that is observed by the army. However, such permission is not granted to neighborhood residents who are Jerusalem ID holders. (The West Bank and Jerusalem residents are from the same Ayyad family). The Jerusalem Ayyad family members are ordered to take the long bypass road through Ma’aleh Adumim in order to go to work or to visit their family members in Abu Dis behind the Wall. The West Bank residents are not allowed even to move a few meters away from their houses and, if found in Jerusalem, they would be arrested. 2. On the personal and family level: Following the divorce between me and my
husband, I moved out of the neighborhood in March 2006 and have lived since then in Beit Hanina. My daughters’ time is split between me and their father: three days in Abu Dis with their West Bank father and four days with me in Beit Hanina, including the school days. They study at the Rosary Sisters’ school in Beit Hanina, which means that they have to go through the terminal/checkpoint every day that they stay with their father. We are afraid of future developments that might ban Jerusalem Palestinians from accessing West Bank areas behind the Wall. This would deprive my daughter, who is now 15 years old and who will get her Jerusalem ID in a few months, from seeing her father who, of course, cannot come to Jerusalem to see her.
AS LONG AS THERE IS A SOCIETY THAT RESISTS, THERE IS HOPE Maha Abu Dayyeh My office is close to my house – I just walk across the street. Now the Wall ends just before the intersection where I cross. When its construction is completed, I will have to drive all the way through the Kalandia checkpoint, turn right around, and cross the checkpoint again and go to Dahiet Al-Barid, before I can get to my office! I live on the lefthand side of the street that goes from Jerusalem to Ramallah, which is the Jerusalem side. However, all the services for my daily existence will be on the side that will be blocked off. Think about getting vegetables or food, or getting maintenance and household support. Half of all Jerusalemite Palestinians are going to suffer from this because electricians or maintenance people all live in areas that are blocked off. Because they will be harder to get, they will be more expensive. Life is going to become much more expensive, and not only monetarily. We will also pay a heavy social and emotional price. We will become disconnected – literally and figuratively – from family and friends. Going to Ramallah or Beit Jala, places actually not very far from here, will be very difficult. Practically speaking, the Wall is imprisoning us even though the prison gates are not in the house itself but beyond the house. To go in and out you will need to have a special permit, and you will need to pay for it. On top of that, there is destruction to the environment in areas close to the Wall because of the digging in the streets, the dust, the fuel, and the fumes. Dust and fumes are always in the house; you can’t ever get it totally clean. Going in and out of the house means jumping over rubble and concrete, over all kinds of building refuse. You destroy your clothes, your shoes. You have to have an extra budget for all those expenses. And the Wall blocks the view. You can see only a few meters in front of you. You wake up in the morning and face the massive, ugly, grey cement blocks. We are living in chaos. One has to realize how the Wall, specifically, and the living conditions, as a whole, block us psychologically. When you are psychologically blocked, your thinking is also blocked. Your ability to be creative is blocked. Your ability to feel is blocked because you have to
protect yourself all the time from feeling frustrated. These are what destroy the person. It’s a sort of psychological torture. You always have to be on the alert. You can’t relax. You always think about how you are going to deal with the next obstacle. You can’t ever plan and fully expect to complete one plan. You always have to have plan A, plan B, and plan C. It often happens that you can’t achieve the goals that you worked so hard for. You always have to face disappointments. An outsider to this situation has to go through this to understand what it really means. The Wall is one of the most violent forms of psychological and physical aggression that is directed against the Palestinian collective and against the Palestinian individual. This is especially true for those whose daily existence requires them to cross the Wall or go around it. Maybe there are a few people in the center of Palestinian towns who can manage and who do not have to move, but these are very few. The majority of the people have to cross the Wall all the time. You cannot cross without a permit issued by the Israeli government, so the Israelis control our movements. They decide who is able to move or not. In so doing, they control the lives of the Palestinians. They decide who is important or not; what is valuable or not; who can go to work or not. On a day-to-day basis, these decisions are up to soldiers who guard the gates. These soldiers on the ground make a lot of their own, independent decisions. They can sexually harass the women if they want to. They can choose to be easy, hostile, or violent. And when they have violated the rights and dignity of Palestinian people, they can always find an excuse, and the government will cover up the violations. We live our daily lives within this violent situation. Because of the current situation, the number of women who are able to reach our office is declining. We are not able to help as much as we could. It forces us to open more centers throughout the region, which is more expensive – unnecessarily expensive. It is a terrible waste of resources. We end up using our money on administration, rents, and other overhead expenses, including transporting staff, rather than on doing program work. There is nothing like one’s own real experience. I internalized the violence of the Wall after I heard that it was built around Qalqilia. But hearing about it and internalizing it in an intellectual way are incomparable to the actual experience of having to go around or walk or drive by it. You drive next to the Wall, but there are also buildings bordering the other side of the road. They built the Wall in the middle of the street and you’re stuck between it
and the buildings in a narrow channel, like cattle. You know what happens with cattle: The cattle are lined up, and the machine takes them one by one while they can’t move, as though they were in a cage. The same happens to us. You cannot run away. You cannot backtrack. You cannot go left or right. You are stuck between the Wall and the other buildings. You’re in a line and whatever happens, you cannot act on your own or control your own destiny. This happens all the time. You get the feeling that, inevitably, you are going to be destroyed, killed, stampeded, caught in the middle of a shooting, as if you are living your life in one giant, ubiquitous crossfire. You are constantly on the alert and feel very vulnerable. To say this is a disempowering experience is an understatement. In fact, you are being choked unmercifully, cold-bloodedly. All our lives we have to deal with crises. You become weaker as a person. Your capacity to tolerate difficulties becomes much smaller. You are emotionally charged most of the time. Personally I am deeply affected when I observe the children. The kids are nervous all the time, agitated, so much of their energy and effervescence is restrained. They are afraid, especially of soldiers. When they see a patrol, they all run away and start crying. If they start crying, I start to cry. And that shows that I too have been, and continue to be, traumatized. It is a new thing for me. I am affected by the whole situation. It is a horrible way for children to grow up. Freedom, for me, is the ability to walk endlessly without being stopped. To be able to keep moving forward. For me this ability is physical and also mental. To think without being restricted. I find that my ability as a thinking and moving human being is handicapped because my physical movements are continually hindered and restricted. Freedom also is being able to do what I want to do; to see my friends when I want to see them. Freedom is not being restricted irrationally and arbitrarily, that is, when I don’t understand why I am restricted. As a child, I could never accept a “no” without an explanation. I wanted to see friends, to be with people, to have activities, and to be able to participate with my friends in joint activities. And to be able to think freely and to express my thoughts freely without being shut up or being told that I am stupid or unrealistic or otherwise blocked in my ability to think. As an adult living under Israeli occupation, I see the same patterns. The restrictions and hindrance are more sophisticated, but the same principles are still there. There is an English expression, “the sky is the limit.” That means that one’s imagination
and ability to be an actor in the world should be far-reaching, limitless, unrestricted. But in the Palestinian context, the Wall is the limit. As an individual, I cannot complain. Indeed, if I compare myself to many other people, I am a lucky person. I am able to travel abroad and meet very interesting and creative people. They help me overcome my own thinking blockages. I think with them, learn from them. When I return home, I am better able to overcome my own limitations in thinking freely. Traveling and seeing other realities enable me to regain my sense of balance. When you travel you see that the situation here is abnormal and that the normal should be what people out there experience. When you stay here you get used to the situation and come to believe that there is no other way of life. So my level of anger is elevated when I come back and see the situation again. My anger means that I am alive. My anger makes me act more, be more constructive with my colleagues, with my kids. I try to help them cope with the situation that they are in. Being able to use my anger to help others is important to me because it gives me energy. If I can maintain my anger at a steady level, I am energized. Anger means that I am trying to act on what happens. I think people need to be angry all the time about the situation. People have the right to be angry and express their anger. It’s a sign of living – a refusal to die. Through anger, you say no to a brutal situation. We should not walk quietly in the face of brutality. One should resist, for instance, by showing anger to the soldier and by breaking the rules. Refusing to respond to instructions given in the Hebrew language is a form of resistance. Everybody has a chance to resist by any small way or means. It builds one’s strength. Resistance is not the same as survival. Survival is barely making it, just going on with your dealings. Resistance is acting consciously, purposefully on your situation. Some people just choose to survive because they are tired of resisting and fighting; I can’t blame them. I consistently hope that not all people in our society fall into that mode. So far, it looks as though they are resisting and fighting. My organization supports coping strategies but also the fight to maintain humanity, to refuse to be dehumanized, to maintain hope. When we implement our educational programs in the community, we just remind people of the issues of justice and the rule of law. You can always find hope for building a better life. I personally refuse to be killed emotionally or psychologically. I will not give up. I am a resister. As long as there is a society that resists, there is hope. I see people’s resistance as a
profound, courageous expression of choosing life. I see it all around me. It may not be tangible in the immediate, but when people choose life, there is hope. I also see happy children all around me. As long as there are kids laughing, there is hope. Interview: December 20, 2004, Jerusalem.
LIFE IN PALESTINE: THE MAGNET THAT DRAWS ME HOME Jizelle Salman I need to take a detour to get to my house. I used to take a road that has now become an Israeli checkpoint and military camp. We heard last year that the land on the hill above my house, which we have cultivated for many years, will be expropriated in order to build the Wall and, next to it, a military road. This was of course most difficult news for us. The Wall will be at a distance of only 6–12 meters from our house. We will be imprisoned by a Wall above our house, where there is the Har Gilo settlement, as well as a Wall below our house. Above our own property, the Greek Orthodox Convent has lands, and beneath our home, the Salesian Convent has lands. Both convents started court cases against the Israeli army. Because these are church institutions that the Israelis respect to some extent, we may perhaps be supported. The Israelis have announced that they will change the route of the Wall, but up until now we haven’t been informed. Because of the checkpoints my dad lost his factory – a stone factory for building houses. He got the raw material – the rocks – from Hebron, but the rocks could not pass the checkpoints. So he lost his job and left to look for work in the United States together with my sister who now studies and works there. I hope that my father will come back. My mom stayed here. She is a very strong woman; she didn’t want to go to the States. As long as there was still an open road that led to downtown Beit Jala and Bethlehem, she was content to stay. They could not close the road because there is a hospital nearby. So we were lucky. The fact that we have a house here protects our land from being expropriated. If we were not here, there would be nothing to prevent them from taking the land so as to enlarge the Har Gilo settlement. Palestine is divided into three areas. Sometimes you lose count [laughs]. Area A is supposed to be 100-percent Palestinian controlled; Area B, Palestinian-civilian controlled, but with ‘security’ in the hands of the Israelis; and Area C is under complete Israeli control, with the exception of specific services such as telephone and electricity. I live in Area C, so the army is always around. It is very difficult to have the soldiers coming and going so close to our house. Sometimes they close the road when they suspect that there are ‘wanted
people’ who have been injured and are being taken to the hospital. Then the Israeli army comes and searches the area for these ‘wanted’ people. I had planned to study for my master’s degree at Birzeit University, normally two hours away. However, the checkpoints and the difficult roads made it impossible. It’s not safe. Sometimes you are stopped and prevented from reaching your destination, and sometimes it also happens that the road back home is blocked. Then you’re stuck in the middle and have to endure the rain and cold or the heat of the sun. My uncles live in the Ramallah area; I haven’t visited them for the last two years. You can’t easily go to hospitals, to holy places. I haven’t been to Jerusalem in four or five years. It’s very difficult to even get a permit to go there. So you can’t really live your life. At night when you want to go out to meet with friends or do something, you need to be careful not to get too close to the checkpoints so as not to encounter Israeli soldiers. It’s especially frightening for young women. Sometimes when the soldiers are looking for someone, they impose a closure on the area where you are, and the drama starts. Frankly, you can’t understand what I’m talking about unless you live it. I really hate checkpoints around the house. I used to go out and walk through the hills. We live near the top of a very high hill; it has nice views. The air is fresh, not like in downtown Bethlehem. But as soon as you want to go for a walk on a beautiful summer night, for instance, you sense that danger is lurking. The soldiers may think you’re a ‘suspicious person’ and take you away for investigation or something even worse. So you’re just imprisoned in the Bethlehem area – or more specifically, a part of the Bethlehem area. You’re stuck in a very small space. You can be stopped and checked every few meters. You can suddenly find a so-called emergency checkpoint in front of you and, just like that, you’re taken away for interrogation. This happens especially in our neighborhood, because I live in an area where they look for ‘wanted’ men. Each summer I travel abroad to study or visit my friends. When I need to travel in June, I start planning in March. And even with the best of plans, I am never sure whether I will be allowed to leave the country or not. Palestinians are forbidden from using the nearby airport (Tel Aviv). So I have to ask for a permit to go through Jordan. And even if I get the permit, I’m not sure if I will be allowed to pass through the checkpoints on the day of my departure. It often depends on the mood of the soldiers who man the checkpoint. After a
while, you lose hope and want to say: “It’s enough, I don’t want to travel.” Imagine having to suffer three months every year just thinking about how to leave the country. It becomes really tiring. Then finally, if you are able to leave, you discover another world – freedom: freedom of movement, freedom of expression, respect for you as a human being, respect for you as a female. I remember the days when I went to Europe. In Holland I traveled by train. You can go from one city to another without a passport and, after some hours, I discovered that I was in Belgium. Wow! Nobody asked for my passport. I was free! The journey back home was my biggest problem. When you return, you find the opposite. You find checkpoints, you find yourself stuck in cultural issues, you can’t move, you can’t do anything. I was really frustrated and depressed during the first weeks after I returned. It was almost as if I had never lived here before. I asked myself: “Did I really used to live in this situation?” All I wanted was to leave again. But then, all of a sudden, after I had been home for three weeks and had filled my days with the dozens of things that one has to do after traveling, I actually felt attracted to being here – as though there were a magnet that was pulling me to stay or reminding me of my attachment to this land. I don’t know exactly what it is. After all, you can only scratch the surface of your life. You don’t know what lies beneath the surface. But sometimes, for a brief moment, there is a feeling that captures you. If you were to ask me the reason, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. At first you think that there’s nothing to do here, and you can’t bear your life any longer. There are dozens of problems that fill your head, and then, all of a sudden, something comes like this [snaps her finger]; maybe it is the smile of a friend, or a word from an old woman, or a cup of coffee with your relatives, or your relatives coming to help you. Maybe it is our family life, maybe it’s our friends. I can’t describe precisely why I want to stay here. It’s just an irresistible desire. It’s strange, but that’s the reality. After this trip, I was completely at rest with my family again, with my friends and family. I was back into our normal prison life [laughs]. And I thought: So why did I want to leave? It doesn’t make sense. I don’t have many choices here, but at least I have better choices than other people. I have a job; I study at a university; I have friends; I have a social life. What do we need from life, in general? We need respect, we need to be able to afford a household, we need friends. It’s not very complicated.
I once had a problem with my car, a small accident. I phoned and suddenly three cars arrived, full of guys – my brothers and friends – who asked: “What do you want? Is everything OK?” The guy who caused the accident was afraid because he thought that I had brought all those people to make problems for him. Wow, whenever you need them, friends and family are there for you. Maybe family life is better outside, I’ve never tried it; but I sometimes hear from my father that he hasn’t seen my sister for two days, although they live together. She works different hours; she studies at night, gets up early. Money-wise, they say it’s better there. But if you work a lot without having the time to enjoy your life, what will happen to you after a certain number of years? It’s not easy when you are under stress. Sometimes I just want to sit with a big family around and drink a cup of tea. When they ask me: “What do you consider a day off, a holiday?” After having visited six countries this summer, I say: “I am completely free when I am away from the world and when I am in my pajamas drinking coffee with my mom, with nothing to do. It’s very therapeutic. After going to Lebanon for a workshop, I was able to say, without hesitation, “I am so lucky to be in Palestine and Bethlehem.” I went to the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. There I met a lady – she was in her late sixties maybe – and we were carrying flowers to take to the collective graveyard that commemorates the massacre. She asked: “Where are you from?” “I come from Bethlehem, Palestine,” I replied; and she hugged me and kissed me. She even wanted to kiss my hand. She started to cry. She didn’t want to leave me, and she said, “Please take me with you.” There were about sixty of us there at the time. We had all come to visit, and we represented six Arab countries. And all of us were crying at that moment. Refugees have a strong desire to see their land. When I asked them: “Where are you from?” They replied, “from Safed,” or “from Acca,” and they even mentioned the names of Palestinian villages that I had never heard of. When I came home and saw my family around me, I knew that I would remain here, despite the fact that life is very difficult and really a struggle. In fact, the struggle makes me stronger. I have been through a lot. If you have everything, a tiny problem becomes a big problem and you become frustrated by it. But if you face a lot, if you face a really tough experience, it makes you stronger, it gives you a challenge. So I said to myself, it’s either me or life; life is not going to get the best of me. So now I can say that I am here because I have certain choices –
better choices than many other people – and I must stay here in order to save my home, to save my life, and to encourage others. As a teacher of children, I hope that the children will be able to bring about change: respect the differences of the other; respect somebody for what she or he is. For me, the concept of freedom means respect for a human being. I am not sure whether we will ever reach that stage, but I believe that we need to try – through education for both Palestinians and Israelis. We shouldn’t feel superior or inferior towards other people. Feelings of inferiority lead to hatred of the other; and a sense of superiority prevents respect of the other. Of course, this is my long-term goal. And that’s what keeps me going – hope. I hope that I can be a catalyst for change. When you’re young, you can do a lot to bring about change. Many foreigners stay here to live in solidarity with us; they give. So what about us Palestinians? Why don’t we give? In fact, I believe that we give a lot. But we still have the energy to give more, to stay in our country and raise our children. We love our country and its people. We love our home. Despite all the terrible things that happen to us Palestinians, we have achieved something. We are now able to get Palestinian passports and IDs that reflect our nationality. I became aware of this achievement during a recent visit to Canada. I was there for a few weeks because I had received a scholarship. The aboriginal people – native Canadians, don’t have Indian passports and have just melted into part of colonial history. I realized that I had forgotten that we, as Palestinians, are becoming strong and that we have our own nationality, our own presence, our own country. We are facing very strong international powers – the strongest powers in the world. But we have asserted our cultural and national identity. There are also rewarding moments with my children, that is, my students. Whenever I go to class, I know that they’ll be waiting there for me, outside the English class. Last year I told one class that I wouldn’t be teaching them next year. They went to the principal to ask if Miss Jizelle could continue to teach them. They appreciate the fact that I teach them how to be self-confident, how to act democratically. I don’t impose things on them; I give their opinions weight. Sometimes, when I am tired and nervous and start to yell, they say, “Ah, but you said that you were a democratic teacher!” Education is the most important means for bringing about change. You see the sparkle in the children’s eyes when they hear the
word ‘democracy’ or ‘participation’. These eyes reflect hope, innocence, and love for their teacher. That’s very rewarding for me. Living in Palestine is something special. I was lucky enough not to have to leave the country, not to become a refugee or an emigrant. I could have gone to the US to get a green card or a passport, but I didn’t do so. If ever I have to choose again, I would still choose to live in Beit Jala – on the top of that mountain that is so very calm and clean and surrounded by strong family and social bonds. Bethlehem and Beit Jala touch your heart. Interview: 7 December, 2004, Beit Jala.
I HAVE TO DIVIDE HOPE INTO STAGES TO MAKE IT MORE REALISTIC Hania Bitar When the whole story of the Wall started, I was somehow dealing with it in disbelief. It was something that was about to happen, but at the time I was pushing it away, or I dealt with it from a journalistic or political point of view. It was being built in this area or that area, but still it was far away. It was not part of my life. But when they started constructing the Wall in the Ar-Ram area where I cross, where I work and live, suddenly this thing forced itself upon my existence, my daily life, my day and night. Every time I looked out the window I saw the Wall. It was really shocking. Suddenly this Wall of solid concrete became very scary. I usually try to be and present myself as a courageous woman, but to tell you the truth, sometimes when I am driving and it is evening, this Wall really frightens me. It looks cold, long, and winding – like a snake. When I am driving alongside it, it is an endless road. Although I am not claustrophobic, that Wall makes me feel as though I am in a bottle. I want to shatter it into pieces. Then I feel as if I can’t wait until I reach the end of this road. Whenever I drive, the Wall is either on my left-hand side or on my right-hand side. It really gives me a feeling of suffocation. I just want somebody to sit beside me in the car, to make jokes about the Wall, to laugh, to sing aloud. We try to avoid looking at it directly. We try to continue with our lives, but it is always there. The Wall and checkpoints isolate me from many things in my life. My social life is composed of many elements, it is not Hania alone. I have my parents, my sisters, my brother, my work, my colleagues, and the members of Pyalara [Palestinian Youth Association of Leadership and Rights Association]. Step by step, the separation started with the checkpoints and then it was combined with the Wall. Being cut off from one another has taken a big toll on our lives, our connections, our relationships, and how we view ourselves. I remember when I was living with my family in Jerusalem proper, in Wadi Joz. We lived in a rented house, and then the landlord wanted our house. My parents always dreamed of owning their own house. For financial reasons we were never able to buy a real nice house, but we worked hard to buy an apartment. After working hard, we were able to buy it five
years ago in the Kufr ‘Aqoub area, which is part of Jerusalem. My new house was just a five-minute drive from my work. It was so convenient, in-between Jerusalem and Ramallah. We were very happy with it. A few months afterwards, the Kalandia checkpoint was constructed. Then the new apartment became a nightmare. Suddenly all our dreams were shattered; everyone in my family blamed themselves for making the most stupid decision of their lives. All the savings were put into this house, and as we are not a rich family, we could not buy or rent another house in Jerusalem. We are Jerusalemites, but we live on the other side of the checkpoints and within the Walls. As Jerusalemites we are entitled to health coverage inside Israel. But how to get there? So many things separate us from what is really ours. I remember that a few years ago my father was sick and we often had to go to the hospital in Jerusalem, to Hadassah. It was winter, and we always went in my car. When we would reach a checkpoint, we didn’t know whether they would let us pass. The checkpoint closed at nine in the evening. A number of times, when we needed to reach the hospital very quickly, we were stopped because they had to do all their searches, all the checks, all the stupid questions – and all this even though we are Jerusalemites. When my father died, he was in an ambulance, stuck at the checkpoint. My mom is generally fine but she has some health problems. She cannot walk easily because of back trouble. She now feels paralyzed because she cannot walk the three hundred meters needed to cross the checkpoint to go wherever she wants. If I don’t take her, she cannot move. We cannot enjoy going anywhere because we get stuck at the checkpoint for at least one or two hours. Any event we want to go to is already destroyed by this feeling that we need to cross a checkpoint. It’s as if we are going to another country – and even worse since we have to endure humiliations and problems. If something happens to my mom and it’s urgent that she get to hospital, I now have not only to cross the checkpoint but also to face the problem of the Wall. We are now completely separated from wherever we want or need to go. Even our social life has become disastrous. I remember my birthday; it was just a while ago. None of my sisters, nephews, or nieces to whom I am very close could make it. We turned from a very busy family where all came to see each other very often – having all those big lunches and dinners and so on – into a family where the phone replaces the face-to-face encounter and the social events. Having
good social connections characterizes us as Arabs or Palestinians. But now we have to be realistic; we cannot waste all our time in waiting to go through the checkpoints. The Wall has a big impact upon a youth organization like Pyalara. I remember when we started this organization back in 1999. It was a melting pot of sorts. Whenever we had a training session or workshop, kids came from various areas: Hebron, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Ramallah. All would come and meet at our office. As an organization we brought these kids closer together. Now this can no longer happen. If, for example, we want to plan an activity for youth from Nablus, we have to go to Nablus. We now have no connections with Hebron even though this was one of the first places that we started to work in. I have a press card, so I can travel to Gaza. A few days ago I came back from Gaza and literally cried. Oussama, the guy who runs our office in Gaza, is always on the phone with his colleagues in Ramallah. He thinks that I have the key to bring him to Ramallah. Each time, he says: “Please try, please try. Maybe they’ll allow me to go this time. I just want to spend one day with my colleagues in Ramallah.” I feel that the separation is hardest on the people of Gaza. As members of an organization, we always want to challenge tough challenges, to be even stronger than the Wall or the barriers. We really try to overcome whatever measures the Israelis take. We try to facilitate connections between people despite the fact that they are disconnected. Our kids in Nablus sometimes leave at four in the morning and stand in long queues in order to make it here on time. Sometimes they get stuck here because there’s a closure on Nablus or another area, and then they have to sleep here. It’s a financial burden as well. But the young people are ready to cross the barriers just to be together. Sometimes it is not feasible. We have many youngsters who are below eighteen, and for them it is risky because somebody has to bear the responsibility for their traveling. If we go there we can see them; otherwise we have to work through the Internet and the phone. The Wall has had a negative impact upon how people view each other, even on how we relate to each other as Palestinians. People ask themselves: “Who is enjoying more freedom than the other?” People start looking at each other, categorizing each other: “Who is the least to suffer, who more?” Thank God, the younger generation is a little more vibrant. They are still hopeful, they want to challenge the world; they want to escape, to run away, to have a fresh start. The older generation seems like zombies sometimes, without spirits.
This is really scary. We are thankful that we work with the young generation, but we are always afraid of what might happen to them in the future if the situation continues the way it is today. What I feel is also important is the psychological impact of the Wall upon the Palestinian nation vis-à-vis the Israeli nation. Already we have been disconnected for so many years from the Israeli side. It seems that the Israeli side has really bought the stories or the myths about the Wall and the “protection” that it provides. They believe that it protects them as a nation from the invasions or suicide bombings of the Palestinians. They didn’t really calculate the long-term effects of the Wall. Maybe it can save some lives in the short term, but in the long run I don’t know what the effect of the Wall will be. I don’t know what happens when people feel so isolated from each other. As Palestinians we assume that anybody living outside the Wall just doesn’t care; we feel that they don’t want to see what is going on inside the Wall. If we as two nations are destined to share one land, and if we care about the future generations, I don’t know how this Wall will help in actually realizing a better future. The whole issue of the Wall reminds me of an article that I read and responded to almost ten years ago. It was written by Susan Hattis Rolef in the Jerusalem Post. She advised the Israeli government to imprison “the terrorists” inside nets – just like what you do with mosquitoes that bother you. You should keep them away by putting up a net. And this is, in fact, what her government has done. For the Israeli government, the Palestinian people are not real human beings with rights. If they could just imprison those troublemakers, then their lives would continue peacefully. Israelis may gain some sort of tranquility in the short run, but if no real settlement is found – a genuinely just solution – then those mosquitoes will just tear a hole in the screen and come to bother them again. Whatever barriers or walls are built, they will never preserve tranquility or peace in the future. There is a big difference between how I used to view freedom and how I live or feel it now. Years ago, freedom was a sense of calm, nature, no borders, traveling, green things, sea – all those things represented freedom for me. So whenever I was traveling and high in the sky or when I was swimming in the sea, I felt like I owned the world. Freedom was always connected with large landscapes, with vistas, a big view. Maybe it was because of the fact that where we live we almost never enjoy a big view. Only a few have the luck to live in a
place that is high enough to have a view. Wherever we live or work, there are many things that obstruct the view. It’s because houses are often jammed together here, close to each other; and even more so now because of the Wall. So for me, freedom was vision – literally. But right now I see freedom differently. Freedom has become more an emotional state of mind. In order to feel free I cannot make a connection with how I am living objectively, with where I can go or cannot go. It’s more like what I can do vs. what I cannot do. Not in terms of traveling but with regard to what sustains and fulfils me emotionally. In order to reach a level of emotional satisfaction, I have to concentrate on small things that make me happy and make me feel free: for example, when I am able to help someone. Last night, for instance, I came home at nine. As I was driving along the Wall, a man was walking along the road. I knew that at such a time he could not find a taxi. He was walking along this endless road. I stopped and gave him a ride. The fact that I helped someone gave me a sense of fulfillment and freedom. So I have to find my freedom in very small things that maybe don’t count at the macro level. But for me as a person, I feel that with each step I take, with each act I perform, I am liberating something inside me. This gives me a sense of freedom that is lacking around me; and at the same time it gives me a sense of resilience. In order to be able to continue, I have to realize myself. I realize myself through helping others, through being needed, through giving hope to others. I have to produce tangible results; if not, I don’t feel satisfied. For me hope is not just an abstract term. Hope has to be linked to something concrete. I have to divide hope into phases to make it realistic. When I complete a certain phase, I move to the next level, and further up. This is how I relate to the people around me. Many young people are frustrated because they want to achieve something much higher; they want freedom; they want to get rid of occupation. They want to find excellent jobs, to attain a certain status in society. We cannot fulfill all those goals right now. So we must divide them into smaller, doable tasks. How can we find a role for young people that helps them to develop part of who they are, to learn to help themselves and others in the society? It seems to me that a comparative approach is the most appropriate. When you compare you can reach a level of satisfaction. Even when you are in a very bad situation you can
find people who are worse. And because you are doing better, you can help them. If you bring those who are in a worse situation to your bad situation, it is a fulfillment of one phase – and then you move to the next phase, which allows you to do something much better. As a Jerusalemite, as a representative of a youth organization, and as a journalist, I usually have the opportunity to travel. And we do our best to provide travel opportunities for our young people. But it’s funny: If I am in another country – for example, Holland, Germany, or the United States – and I am enjoying whatever those countries give, believe me, I don’t feel relieved or relaxed until I reach Kalandia checkpoint. Only then am I back home [laughs]. It reminds me of Kundera’s book title, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I know what is awaiting me. Whenever I want, I can be somewhere else, and I could do many other things in the world. The easiest thing is just to escape. But somehow I want to face the challenge. Other nations can live disasters or epidemics. But in our case we face not just a “regular disaster,” such as an economic burden or even a regular Wall, but a convergence of factors that are all designed to continuously degrade the human being, to deprive you of your dignity. We Palestinians are subjected to daily experiences that drive us crazy, but still we manage to overcome whatever experiences we go through and are somehow able to challenge the things that cannot be challenged. Getting rid of the occupation has become a challenge. Of course we are entitled to resist the occupation according to all the international laws. But we have to keep strong in order to maintain our ability to challenge the occupation until we get our rights. Meanwhile, in order to continue and be strong, our soul has to be fed, nourished. I nourish myself through things that I manage to fulfill on the personal or on the organizational level. I feel that we as Pyalara are making a significant impact upon young people’s lives. Sometimes we are amazed at the comments we get. When we hear some people talking about how we’ve influenced their lives, we react with: “Oh, my God!” Sometimes we can’t believe how much something small can help, how it can rescue people. We do something small – let’s say, giving youth an opportunity to speak on a youth TV program – and we ourselves don’t really appreciate its value. But it might come at a certain point in their lives when self-esteem is so low that our support or our ability to engage them in something rescues their lives. They get somehow find meaning in their
lives; they feel that they’re doing something valuable, that there is a reason that they should continue to live and look toward the future. Sometimes I even feel that I myself need someone to support me, someone to give me hope. I am a human being. I need to believe in the things I am doing, and so I need someone to make me believe deeply in hope. When I am feeling down and come to work, I get some of the feedback I need as soon as I meet with the target groups whom we are working with. I see how much their lives are touched. Then I really get energy. When we were recently in Holland with a group of youth, I didn’t speak. The young people themselves narrated their stories. When the Dutch young people were clapping and embracing the Palestinians, I looked at those young people. They felt that they liberated the world; that they had won a million dollars. I really felt that they had accomplished their mission. They worked from their heart, and they delivered something. Those young people felt they had played a significant role for their peers, for their culture, for their cause. Those moments are like a treasure. You can always lean back on those moments. Interview: Al-Ram, December 9, 2004.
JERUSALEM WAS ONCE A COSMOPOLITAN CITY Alexander Qamar Every two or three weeks the army comes knocking at the door. They have come four times since they built the Wall. They ask us to leave the house and stand for two or three hours on the street. You hear a voice outside shouting: “Open, open!” “Who is there?” I ask. “Jaysh (army), jaysh, Israeli jaysh!” Then they search the house. This is not what life is supposed to be. The last time was about three or four weeks ago. It happened that one of soldiers spoke French; he was an officer. So I spoke French with him. “Where are you from, Morocco?” I asked. “No, no, je suis Parisien!” Briefly, I got a feeling of cosmopolitanism – but under what circumstances! The street in front of our house leads to Rachel’s Tomb. It used to be the easiest way to reach the center of Bethlehem or to go to Jerusalem. However, it was closed during the last Intifada. When the boys from Aida Refugee Camp came out along that street and saw the Israelis, they would start throwing stones. After the closure of the road, we couldn’t easily move anymore. The refugee camp became a backwater. There used to be many people living in this area, but now not a living soul remains. It’s empty. A year ago, the Palestinian Authority opened another street behind Rachel’s Tomb to make it somewhat easier for the people. But with the building of the Wall, access has again become more difficult. In fact, the Wall was one of the reasons we had to close our factory. In the past we used to get two- or three-week permits to go to Jerusalem. Then later, when it became more difficult to get a permit, we sometimes took a roundabout way to avoid the checkpoint, for instance, the path through Tantur (ecumenical center beside the Jerusalem– Bethlehem checkpoint). That is now no longer possible. I am an old man now, I am 81; and I cannot run as before to cross from here to there or even walk the required distance. I have to go all the way to Kfar Etzion (Israeli civil administration branch of the army) to ask for a permit. And I never know whether they’ll give me one or not. I used to have customers in Mea Shearim, Bukharim, or Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. There are still some merchants in Jerusalem who owe me money that I cannot collect. Our textile products were brought to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Nablus, or Ramallah. Now we cannot
enter, or easily enter, those places. Before the closure (in 1993) it used to take me 15 minutes to get to Jerusalem. Now, if I have the chance, it would take at least half a day. It is as if we are in a prison; not a prison cell, but a prison quarter. We used to have an unobstructed view to Gilo from our house. Now we don’t see anything in front of us except the Wall. To get any view at all, I have to go to the terrace on the roof. The present situation makes me want to sell my house. But buyers don’t want to pay as before. That means that I will lose. With the Wall nearby, nobody wants to buy. If I were able, I would move somewhere else, maybe to Canada where my two brothers live. Nobody lives in this quarter anymore. Many have left for Bethlehem or elsewhere. The Wall has closed in on us. All my life I have been a factory owner. The locations of our factory and home have changed over time. In 1948, our home was in the Rehavia quarter in Jerusalem, Arlosoroff Street, no. 15. We were at supper in the evening when we heard knocking at the door: “Anton, Anton, come out; we want to speak with you!” (Anton was my father.) He went outside and some four or five of the Haganah [the regular Zionist army at the time] showed him their Israeli-made sten guns. They told him: “You are presently living in a Jewish quarter. We have a Jewish fellow who is living in an Arab quarter, in Baka’. You have to switch places with him – you go to live in his neighborhood and he will come to live here.” What could we do? The Jewish man from Baka’ was an attorney general in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem, Dr. Nacht. We even knew his aunt. We had no choice but to do what the Haganah had asked. At the time, our factory was located opposite Mea Shearim. It was in part a laundry and in part a dye house for textiles. The factory was taken over by the Haganah. We had just ordered new machinery from England that had to go all the way through Beirut, Damascus, Amman, and Jericho before arriving in Jerusalem. Since we had to move, we were forced to put the machines either in Ramallah or in Bethlehem. We decided to put them in Bethlehem. We installed the machinery and started working in 1951. Our old factory in Jerusalem was completely lost. The laundry equipment was taken over by an orphanage in Jerusalem. We also lost our other properties. Inside Mea Shearim, our family had twelve shops. We haven’t received any rent for fifty years. We had plots of land – 200 dunams – near Beit Safafa. We lost it all.
Until 1969 our factory was located at the junction of the Jerusalem–Hebron and Bethlehem–Beit Jala roads, at what is now called Baab el-Zqaaq. One Sunday an Israeli car with three officers and a driver got into an accident. A truck from Beit Jala hit them and crushed their car in front of our factory. All four were killed. After that the Israeli government announced that we had 48 hours to move our factory to a new location. The factory was thought to be too close to the street. It made the street narrow – Zqaaq means ‘very narrow’ – and that was considered to be the cause of the accident. The Israelis wanted to enlarge the street. After the intervention of a Jewish lawyer, I was given 40 days to move. They didn’t want to pay me any compensation money. They told us: “Collect it from the mayor of Beit Jala.” Beit Jala is a small place, and the municipality didn’t have any money. All we received was 1,500 Israeli lira – just enough to cover the cost of moving to another place. In 40 days we built the building that presently houses the factory. Life was easy because we had workers; refugees from the camp here [Aida camp]; 40 of them in total – women and men. We taught them how to work in the factory. Over time, however, the textile market declined. Before the factory’s closure two years ago, we had only 22 workers. We could no longer compete with the cheap labor in China. Our life has changed a hundred percent; it has moved from freedom to imprisonment. In Jerusalem we were free, we lived differently. Jerusalem was like Europe. Before 1948, there was an open atmosphere. On Thursdays and Sundays the cinemas were especially for the Christians. Saturday night after the Sabbath, the cinemas were for the Jews. At the time, there was no TV. Cinema was our only entertainment. The Christians in Jerusalem were larger in number than the Moslems and the Jews, especially in the neighborhoods of Baka’, Katamon, the German Colony, and the Greek Colony. Many Germans and Greeks came from Turkey to Jerusalem, as well as Armenians who fled from the massacre. Christian Arabs had already had a long history of presence in Jerusalem. We ourselves were Arabs from Jerusalem. My grandfather came from Lebanon, from Dar el Amar (Shof mountains). He came after clashes between Christians and Druze, and after the Crimean War (1850); Turkey was then obliged to open Jerusalem to all. My family started to work in hotels and mix with the people. My grandfather became a blacksmith in a shop in the old city. He happened to have a neighbor from Malta who worked with the Cook Travel Agency. My grandfather married the daughter of the agent.
With so many different nationalities, we felt free in Jerusalem. Nowadays Jerusalem is divided between Jews and Moslems. But it used to be a cosmopolitan city. On Sundays all the roads were full of Christians on their way to church. We spoke various languages: Arabic, French, English. There was the Alliance Israelite, a Jewish institute that used to teach the French language to children in elementary school. Their boys came to the College des Frères or Terra Sancta to continue their studies. They came from Morocco, Tunis, and Turkey; there were even Jews from Egypt. That was until 1942. At the time many Christian schools continued to teach the Hebrew language. It was not obligatory but was offered as an extracurricular activity. I sat with Jews on the same bench. I remember someone named Moshe Shetrit and others. Every morning we went to church while the Moslems and Jews remained in the courtyard. Then at eight, we all entered class together. There were Jews with us in every class. Our class of 30 students included seven or eight Jews and two Moslems. The rest were Christians. I remember a fellow who sat with me on the same bench; he was called Louis. He didn’t stay in school but, after seven or eight years, I met him on Jaffa Road. I looked at him – he had red hair – and asked: “Aren’t you Louis Schnevelstein?” “From where do I know you?” he asked. “Were you not at the College de Frères?” I continued. “Yes, I was,” he replied, “but now I am no longer Louis.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “I am Levi now!” was his reply. He had changed his name. He didn’t want to speak further with me. Imagine, we shared the same bench! At that time Jerusalem meant liberty. There were no patrols. Everyone used to go to the same cafés, the same restaurants. On Saturdays we went to Café Europe. It was at the corner of Jaffa Road and Ben Yehuda Street. The building belonged to a fellow from Bethlehem: Sansur. One was free to enter that café, to dance, to do everything. It didn’t matter whether one was Jew or Arab, there was no difference. That was so until the publication of the White Paper in 1939. Before that, in 1936, there was an Arab strike (for six months), but that took place only in the old city of Jerusalem. In 1939 the Jews – the Haganah, and the Irgun (paramilitary Zionist band) – began to strike at the British. Then the Jewish boys stopped coming to our school. Over time, many Christians left. The Germans were imprisoned and taken to Australia. A lot of Greeks returned to Greece after the 1948 war. Many Armenians went to America.
Most of the Christians lost their houses outside the city walls. They fled to America, Canada, or Australia. The Christians now make up less than 5 percent of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Christians are also leaving Bethlehem. People leave in order to look for work. There are now 250,000 descendants of the inhabitants of Beit Jala, Bethlehem, and Beit Sahour living in Chile or Mexico. Here in Beit Jala, there are only ten to fifteen thousand left. Approximately 85 percent of the former population of Bethlehem, Beit Jala, and Beit Sahour live abroad. Many people from Beit Jala settled in Chile; many Bethlehemites went to Mexico. Nowadays they are moving to the United States and Canada. Most people don’t find work here. And it is work that keeps people going on. The Jerusalemites and Bethlehemites are a mixture of different peoples, and that is something I value. St. Jerome (who translated the Bible into Latin and lived in Bethlehem in the fourth century) came from present-day Romania. In the past, even a number of Jews converted to Christianity and established themselves in Bethlehem. Most of the intelligentsia of this country used to come from places such as Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Life was full of change here. People were on the move; there was an atmosphere of cosmopolitanism. That’s why all over the world you can find people from Bethlehem; in Europe, America, South Africa, everywhere. But now the only thing you find in Bethlehem is a prison. Travel is impossible; crossing borders is impossible. Interview: 16 December 2004, Beit Jala.
WE LOCK OURSELVES UP IN BARRELS, BOXES, JAILS, CYLINDERS, AND CAGES Abdalla Abu Rahme Some 1,800 Muslims live in Bil’in. We have 4,000 dunams (1 dunam = 1 m2) of land in the area. A large part is covered with 20,000 olive trees. There is also some open land for animals and the cultivation of corn. Half of the villagers are dependent on agriculture and another ten percent on keeping animals. Others are workers or employees. The Wall cuts us off from more than half the land: 2,300 dunams, or 57 percent. We still have access to our land on the other side of the Wall – that is, as long as the gate in the Wall is open. The building of the Wall started on February 20, 2005. We organized a committee to set up actions against it. At first we planned to conduct actions daily, but that was difficult to implement, and so we settled on having two to three actions every week. We decided to try out a new and creative method each time so as to make the actions attractive to the media and to keep journalists interested in coming. We wanted weekly continuity in our actions as had happened before in the villages of Budrus, Biddha, and Mesha, but we also wanted the media to keep asking: “What is new in Bil’in?” After all, when the actions are only about throwing stones, people would think that it is always the same. A friend and I have been meeting every Wednesday night to brainstorm about that week’s next actions – which had to be nonviolent. Other friends join in to give their comments, and then we prepare for the weekly action. As for participants, we depend upon the villagers, members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), international volunteers, and the Israeli peace movement. Our purpose is the removal of the Wall. We will continue our actions even if the Israelis plan to finish building the Wall in the coming months. If they wish, they can put the Wall on the Green Line (the pre-1967 border between Israel and the West Bank), but not here. If the Wall prevents us from going to our land, we will have a third Nakba (disaster – expulsion of Palestinians; the first Nakba was in 1948 at the time of the establishment of Israel, the second during the June War in 1967). Our families would not have land on which to build and would face a new transfer from their homes.
Our actions aim to expose the injustice of the Wall and the treatment of Palestinians. Last week we wore orange masks, the kinds worn by convicted persons before their execution. It was to tell the world what is happening in Gaza. When you destroy power stations, you are killing people. Last Friday we made a kind of soccer play with the adults holding a big ball on their shoulders and wearing T-shirts and flags of the various countries participating in the World Cup. On the other side of the field, some 20 children wore red-painted Tshirts that symbolized the occupation. The message: While everybody is watching football on TV, many Palestinian children are killed. Each time we bring a new element into our actions. We lock ourselves up in barrels, boxes, jails, cylinders, and cages. We put tape over our mouths, chain our hands, and even chain ourselves to the Wall. At the end of last year we heard about the arrival of so-called ‘illegal’ settlers on our land on the other side of the Wall. Of course all settlers are illegal according to international law, but these settlers were considered illegal even by Israel, as they have no building permit. So we wanted to do something. We challenged the Israeli state on December 21, by posting a caravan next to those illegal settlers’ houses, on our own land. We told the soldiers, “If you want to implement your own law and remove our caravan, you have to destroy those 700 apartments in Matityahu East [the settlement] as well.” Twenty persons remained inside or close to the caravan for a period of 36 hours. Then a big tractor came. Soldiers took us out as if we were savages or beasts. The caravan was destroyed and some people were arrested. On December 25, at 15:00, we came back with another caravan. It was rainy and cold, so we thought that maybe we would be successful. After an hour, a commander came and asked us what we were doing. “You don’t have a permit,” he said. So we asked, “What about those other houses – they don’t have a permit either.” The commander: “Those are houses, they have windows and ceilings.” In response we decided to build a house, of one room, some 150 meters behind the Wall. We started immediately, at 21:00, on the evening of that same day. Friends helped us quietly. It was raining so when we passed through the gate in the Wall, the soldiers were not looking too closely. But then the car that transported the building materials got stuck in the mud. We called for another car, stuffed it with materials, and told the soldier at the gate that we needed the new car in order to pull out the first car. All went well. We started building at night, with building
blocks and three to four sacks of concrete. All together we were thirty people. To protect us from the cold and the rain, we made a big fire in the middle of the building place. The difficult part was the ceiling. Throughout the night we rotated so that at any one time seven persons kept their hands held high to sustain the ceiling – four by four meters. Imagine how we looked standing there like sculptures! At five in the morning, the room was dry. At seven o’clock, the commander arrived, clearly nervous and angry at the soldiers who allowed this to happen. Photos were made; we filled in a form to apply for a permit. Now we have a center near the land that we cultivate. We call it the Center for Common Struggle. After the action, our lawyer was able to get the ‘illegal’ building activities in Matityahu East stopped, at least for the moment. Jewish families would constantly enter the empty apartments during the night. Some 35 families in the ‘illegal’ settlement are now not permitted to get electricity pending the court’s decision. At the moment, we show the World Cup matches on a big-screen TV. There are usually between 20 and 50 visitors, keeping a presence around the clock. The army does not allow cars to enter the gate, but visitors can walk through it. What keeps me going and allows me to continue with these actions? In the first place, the hope to remove the Wall. This is our right; we have a right to our land. We do not have a choice. Without our land, we are in a terrible situation. Where can we build houses for our children, brothers, neighbors? What also sustains us are the volunteers from many countries who come especially to support us. We are not alone; we have friends against the occupation. Members of the Israeli peace movement also come day and night. At the beginning it was difficult to organize meetings in the village if Israelis were included. All that has changed because now there are relations between these Israelis and the villagers. Whenever we need them, they come immediately. We are not against the Jews, or the Israelis, but against the occupation. I always stress this. I wouldn’t even mind going personally to Olmert to tell him: “You are wrong!” In fact, we want to change Israeli public opinion about the Wall. At first Israelis spoke about security as the reason for building the Wall. But after learning about our case and others, many found out that the Wall is not about security but that it serves a policy of grabbing land and building settlements. If there were no occupation of our land, we would have good neighborly relations. Many Israeli friends come to my home. We respect each other as human beings. They also come
to court in our defense. It affects me when I see banners such as “Free Abu Rahme” in court. It makes me strong. I was arrested three times: on June 17, 2005, July 15, 2005, and September 9, 2005. Two other times I escaped arrest. After the first arrest, I was kept for five days and had to pay 3,000 shekels ($670); the second time, I was detained for five days and had to pay 5,000 shekels ($1,100); and the third time, I was held for 21 days and had to pay 6,000 shekels ($1,330). I paid the first fine myself, but the second and third were paid by the international volunteers. We have learned to help each other by sharing what we have: the volunteers use my apartment in the village. I was twice injured by rubber bullets; about ten times I was beaten up by soldiers, with sticks. Because of a stick that hit my wrist, I can no longer carry heavy things. When people call me ‘Palestinian Gandhi’, I feel flattered. Of course it’s great to have such a nickname. But in the end, it’s not because I am reading Gandhi in the library that we have come up with our actions. I was not planning to become a Gandhi. This is a Palestinian struggle. We show that we can use nonviolence in Palestine. Louisa Morgantini, the Italian Euro-parliamentarian, recently came to the Gaza Strip. She said on Al-Jazeera TV that if the Palestinians would do what Bil’in is doing, Europeans would support them. John Dugard, UN special rapporteur on human rights, came to Bil’in, and I explained to him the situation here. He saw how soldiers were shooting teargas grenades along a straight line, very dangerously, just over the roof of a car. Those grenades are supposed to be shot in a curve. He saw how a 13-year-old boy wanted to plant a little tree near the Wall, and how the kid was arrested and then barely escaped. With all the publicity we receive, we are writing history with our own actions. For me, freedom is independence – having one’s own country, being able to move everywhere and travel to any country. Freedom means that others treat us like human beings and that we have the financial means to live. Freedom is the early-morning moment when my family and I sit under the olive tree and breathe the fresh air. Freedom means knowing that my daughter will one day be able to fulfill her wish to see the sea by herself. Interview: July 1-2, 2006, Ramallah.
Following popular non-violent resistance, an Israeli court decision was issued on September 4, 2007 in favor of the petition of the village of Bil’in to change the planned route of the Wall. Although this decision can be seen as a victory in the non-violent struggle of the villagers against the Israeli occupation, the route of the Wall still deviates from internationally recognized armistice lines and is therefore in violation of international law.
WE ARE IMPRISONED, BURIED ALIVE IN A TOMB Claire Anastas I am a mother of two children – two girls and two boys. We live in a building that is surrounded on three sides by a nine-meter Wall, with fourteen persons, including nine children and my mother-in-law who is sick and has rheumatism. Only one side is open, with barely any sun coming through. While sitting in the kitchen, I see three walls. The army is going to build a fourth one, in the middle of their camp next to us. As we live near Rachel’s Tomb, our house is subject to severe military measures. Our two shops – for home accessories and car mechanics – are located on the first floor of the building. They are closed; there is no business. In front of our house used to be the main street to downtown Bethlehem. It was the richest area of Bethlehem, but now it is a small, scary place. We are without neighbors; we just live with two families on our own. We are imprisoned; we are buried alive in a tomb. Even during the years of the second Intifada, we experienced much pressure. In 2002, there was a lot of shooting. We lived in a cross-fire. Soldiers occupied the high positions around our house. People were shooting at the soldiers from different directions. My children were paralyzed by fear and could not even use their hands. During some of the shootings, the bullets entered our house. We did not know where to hide; we did not know where to go. The situation lasted one year. Each night my children would wait for the shooting to start. They shouted, “The shooting will start soon, we don’t want to sleep in our beds.” We had to sleep on the floor, near the door. The six of us slept there, in sleeping bags, next to each other. Our oldest girl slept on a chair. We used to have money, but for the past two years we only have debts. We cannot pay them back. We haven’t had work for five years. Our businesses have come to a standstill. The last two years have been unbearable. Two years ago, the electricity was cut off for four months because we could not pay the bill. We extended the wires from my brother-in-law’s house so as to have electricity at least for the important things like the fridge and other major house utilities. In 2002 my husband cut his hand. He was very anxious about the situation. At that time our debts began. Instead of fixing the car, he cut his hand. His hand
is now always painful; half of it is paralyzed. The churches gave a little help, and our children’s schools reduced tuition fees for us. Our13-year-old son suffered terribly from two infections in his legs when workers were digging up sewage pipes while clearing the ground in order to build the Wall. His legs are sensitive to dust and sand. I took him to five doctors. Initially they did not know what it was. It looked like a new kind of infection. Despite taking antibiotics, he did not become well during the one and a half months of digging. I asked a foreign visitor to bring water from the Dead Sea. That helped; until now the infections have not come back. Now he can wear his shoes normally. It is unhealthy here. We have a playground nearby, but who wants to play when there is a nine-meter-high Wall around it? Other parents could send their children on a bus trip outside the Bethlehem area. But for us, to send seven or eight children is too expensive, and I would not want to send only some of them and feel as though I’m playing favorites. So I keep my children inside the Bethlehem district. That is terrible. They should enjoy the summer, the holidays, as in any normal life; they should swim. Now they just go around and visit our families. We are waiting for our shops to open, but I now have no hope. Clients are afraid to visit this military zone. Even our family is afraid to pay us a visit. My children are deprived of having friends come home to play with them. So-called emergency checkpoints are constantly being set up by the army. Four days ago, I was even prevented from entering my own house. They closed the area for a Jewish feast; the religious Jews came to pray at Rachel’s Tomb. In the evening, I went to pick up my husband while my children stayed at home. No one told us that they would close the area. When I returned with my husband, a large area around the house was closed. I went to the gate of the nearby military headquarters. I spoke with the soldiers there but had to wait for two hours at various military barriers. We were told to go away. We thought about going to Nativity Square to ask if we could sleep in the church. After all, by this time it was midnight, and everyone was asleep. Finally I called my brother, who told me to come over to sleep at his house. When I called my children, my youngest son asked to sleep in my bed, together with his oldest sister, so as to feel more secure. In the morning, my brother-in-law asked the military leaders to let us return home. We were late
for church, and I wanted to pray. There was still a closure. My brother-in-law asked them for mercy. He asked that we be allowed to go in and out of the area. A relative had died, and we needed to attend the burial. Finally we were allowed to enter our house. The main problem is that my children have suffered a lot. They often cry. They don’t feel that they have any future. The Wall was erected in just one day. In the morning, everything was normal; in the evening, the Wall was there, blocking the view from our windows. The children sat next to the window and started to cry when they saw the Wall. How could this Wall appear so suddenly? Over time they have become more anxious. They tell me that they feel as though they are being physically suffocated. They feel pressure in their chests. They come to me to say that they cannot bear it anymore. When they watch TV, they see children freely playing; they see Walt Disney, they see that children are happy. They ask me to send them to playgrounds in a nice park. I tell them that I can’t promise anything, but I’ll try. All my children think that their lives will become worse in the future. They are aware, they are smart. They used to get good grades at school, but after seeing the Wall, their grades dropped, and I cannot do anything for them. They cannot concentrate on their studies with this pressure inside them. My 16-year-old daughter is always silent. She doesn’t want to look at the Wall. She closes her eyes. She can’t comprehend it. Till now she has not said anything about it. The other children just stare at it. The youngest one, our eight-year-old, said, “Wow, it is like a tomb here!” I try to tell my children that I am going to support them by asking the help of a great power, of leaders from abroad, who have the power to move the Wall. “Don’t worry,” I tell them, “I am doing my best.” This is what gives them a bit of hope. I don’t know what to do if no one asks about us. The friends of my children say: Don’t think about the Wall; just try to adjust to it until your family can do something about it. They invite them to their homes because they cannot visit my children. My oldest daughter did not want to have a birthday party. She thought that we might plan something that would cost more than we could afford. “Why?” I asked. She said, “Because my father does not have work, and I don’t want to burden him.” Her friends called me to say that they would organize everything for her birthday – they would plan a surprise party for her and would visit her at home. They brought a cake and gifts.
Afterwards my daughter said that it was the nicest birthday she’s had in years. But then she started crying because she felt embarrassed at the same time. For me, freedom means living in a free country, not in a cage with a minimal amount of space, without the requirements of living. I wish that I could go abroad with my children, my husband, and my mother-in-law. My memories of freedom are buried in the past. God keeps me going. We always pray to God that we will find people who can help us get rid of this Wall. This is what gives me a bit of relief. I only want to live a normal life. When we drive around Bethlehem, we see nice places; we try to go maybe once every three or four months to one of them. As a young child, before the first Intifada, I used to live a nice life. We used to go everywhere by car, and almost every day we would go to Jerusalem, because we live very close. There are a lot of parks there. We also went to the Mediterranean; we used to go there in the evening to swim and come back at night. The Dead Sea is also close. When I think about the past, I feel sorry for my children because I cannot offer beautiful things to them. To do so I would have to leave my country, but it would be hard for me and my family to become refugees. Interview: December 16, 2005, Bethlehem.
CONTRIBUTORS PART 1 REFLECTIONS Dr Ido Abram was born in the Netherlands Indies (now Indonesia) in 1940. He studied philosophy, mathematics, and linguistics at the University of Amsterdam. He was the endowed professor of ‘Education on and after the Shoah’ at this university from 1990 through 1997. Abram is now director of the Stichting Leren (Foundation Learning, Amsterdam), which is dedicated to making human learning more humane and more cultured. He has authored publications about Jewish identity, ‘education after Auschwitz’, and intercultural learning. He lectures and designs educational programs. Dr Abdelfattah Abusrour is director of Alrowwad Cultural and Theatre Training Center in Aida Refugee Camp. He was elected the first Ashoka fellow in Palestine, in 2006, because of his work as a social entrepreneur in creating “beautiful nonviolent resistance.” Ashoka is a global organization that encourages social entrepreneurs or individuals with personal, creative, and unique ideas that have a social impact on the community and can be replicated elsewhere. Susan Atallah is the English coordinator and high school ESL teacher at Terra Sancta School/Sisters of St. Joseph in Bethlehem. She received her master’s degree in TESOL from St. Michael’s College in Vermont, USA, after receiving a Fulbright Scholarship. Drs Gied ten Berge studied sociology at the University of Leyden. After becoming recognized as a conscientious objector (1973), he worked at a peace education project of the University of Groningen. Between 1977 and 1994, ten Berge worked for the Interchurch Peace Council (IKV) and was deeply involved in the campaigns against nuclear weapons and for détente and democracy in Europe. Since 1994 he has been working for Pax Christi Netherlands. (Since 2007 both movements have merged to become IKV Pax Christi). For almost 40 years, ten Berge has been one of the organizers of the Dutch Peace Week.
Pat Gaffney has been General Secretary of Pax Christi, the International Catholic Movement for Peace, since 1990. Prior to this, she was the Schools and Youth Education Officer for CAFOD and before this, a teacher. Her work as General Secretary includes lobbying and campaigning within the church and political networks on peace- and security-related issues; support and facilitation for church-related groups on Christian peacemaking as well as co-coordinating the day-to-day running of Pax Christi in Britain. Fuad Giacaman is co-founder and general director of the Arab Educational Institute in Bethlehem. After teaching various subjects at different schools in Bethlehem, he was principal of the Bethlehem Freres School from 1992–2000. He is active in various projects that promote the activation of youth and women. Dr Mary Grey is Emeritus Professor of Theology at the University of Wales, Lampeter, a fellow at Sarum College, Salisbury, and Professorial Research Fellow at St Mary's University College, Twickenham. Her research has focused primarily on feminist liberation theology and spiritualities, but has also encompassed ecofeminist theology, ecological theology and spirituality, Indian liberation theology, Jewish-Christian dialogue, systematic theology from a feminist perspective and the relationship between social justice and theology. Drs Dick de Groot is a senior educational consultant and a member of Board and Management Consultants BMC, the Edukans Foundation, and the Edusupport RGLA Foundation. He is one of the founders of the Africa Alliance, a consortium of organizations of school managers in Africa (Helsinki, 1999). As a researcher he studied the school management system in Scotland, the impact of ICT in England and Scotland, and the implementation of basic education in Portugal. Dr Brigitte Piquard is a senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes University, CENDEP, and Maître de conférences associée at Paris XII Val de Marne, LARGOTEC. Her chapter is based on initial exploratory field observations made around Bethlehem and Jerusalem in
March and October 2006, including interviews and discussions with Palestinians, Israeli peace activists, or citizens who are experiencing the Wall and its impacts, as well as photography, art productions, children’s drawings, and cartoons. James Prineas from Australia is the instigator of the cultural-archive website PalestineFamily.net. Also a keen photographer, he has occasional exhibitions, the last being “The Spirit of Sumud” (www.sumud.net). A book of photographs of the same name is currently being designed with texts from anthropologist, Toine van Teeffelen. James lives in Berlin with his wife and two sons and is employed in the communication industry. Rev. Dr Mitri Raheb has been the pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem since 1988. An internationally acclaimed author and speaker, Rev. Dr. Raheb is also the President of DIYAR, a consortium of three Lutheran institutions that he himself founded between the years 1995 and 2006. These institutions serve the whole Palestinian community through culture (The International Center of Bethlehem), health (Dar al-Kalima Health & Wellness Center) and education (Dar al-Kalima College). Jacobus (Coos) Schoneveld is a Protestant theologian from the Netherlands. He lived from 1967 to 1980 in Jerusalem as theological advisor to the Netherlands Reformed Church; from 1980 to 1996 he lived in Heppenheim, Germany, in the Martin Buber House, where he was general secretary of the International Council of Christians and Jews. In 1997 he initiated the project ‘Living in the Holy Land – Respecting Differences’. He served as academic consultant for the project, which is implemented on the Palestinian side by the Arab Educational Institute (AEI-Open Windows) and on the Israeli side by the Center for Educational Technology in Tel Aviv. For several years he was scholar-in-residence at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute for Theological Studies in Jerusalem. Dr Toine van Teeffelen is a Dutch anthropologist who conducted studies in discourse analysis. Living in Bethlehem with his Palestinian wife and children, he is development director of the Arab Educational Institute and the editor of its Culture and Palestine series.
Nikki Thanos and Leo Gorman are popular educators and political activists from New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. From 2002–2005, they worked in Mexico and Colombia as PopEd facilitators for Witness for Peace, a US-based Latin American solidarity organization. In the spring of 2007, they collaborated with the Arab Educational Institute to produce a seventeen-minute audio slideshow of photographs and recorded interviews with Muslim and Christian Palestinians who live near the Wall in the Rachel’s Tomb area of Bethlehem, West Bank. Dr Henri Veldhuis is a minister at the Protestant Barbara Congregation in Culemborg (Netherlands) and a member of the General Synod of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PCN). After his studies in theology and philosophy, he wrote a dissertation in the field of hermeneutics. He is chairman of the Research Group John Duns Scotus and The 7th Heaven, a foundation for drama and dance in the context of religion and church. During the 1980s he was involved in supporting the human rights movement in Czechoslovakia. In recent years he has participated in initiatives to promote peace and justice in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
PART 2 INTERVIEWS Maha Abu Dayyeh is director of the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC) in Jerusalem. Abdalla Abu Rahme is coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in. He teaches Arabic at the Latin Patriarchate School in the village of Birzeit and is a part-time lecturer at Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Open University. Claire Anastas is a Palestinian civilian who lives opposite Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem.
Hania Bitar is secretary general of the Palestinian youth organization Pyalara (Palestinian Youth Organization for Leadership and Rights Activation). Terry Boullata is head of a private school in Abu Dis and an advocacy worker. Alexander Qamar is a retired factory owner from Jerusalem who lives near Aida Refugee Camp in Beit Jala, opposite the Wall. Jizelle Salman, from Beit Jala, is an English-language teacher and youth coordinator at the Arab Educational Institute in Bethlehem.
PUBLICATIONS CULTURE AND PALESTINE SERIES
The “Culture and Palestine” series explores expressions of Palestinian culture, including popular customs, arts, and traditional stories, as well as writings and reflections upon Palestinian daily life. Sahtain: Discover the Palestinian Culture by Eating. 110 pp. Published by the Freres School in Bethlehem, 1999. The book contains 60 recipes of meat and fish dishes, snacks, sweets and pies, and drinks. Apart from stories, there is background information about traditional and modern food habits in Palestine (20 IS or 5 $). Bethlehem Community Book: Discover the Palestinian Religious Culture. 162 pp. Editions in English and Arabic. Published by the Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem 1999. Chapters deal with the ancient history of Bethlehem; the 19th and 20th centuries; its religious life through peasant eyes; churches in the Bethlehem area; theologies of meditation, service and liberation; Moslem and Christian living together, and traditional handicrafts (30 IS or 7,5 $). Moral Stories from Palestine: Discover Cultural Wisdom through Stories. 56 pp. Texts in English and Arabic. Published by the Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem, 2000. Chapters deal with 22 brief, traditional as well as modern stories grouped around the following themes: generosity, justice, trust, humility, courage and forgiveness. In addition, a 35-page teacher manual (only available in Arabic) is available, and a card game using traditional Arabic and Palestinian proverbs for dealing with dilemmas of present-day Palestinian life (15 IS or 4 $). Palestinian Education Across Religious Borders: An Inventory. 64 pp. In English. Published by the Freres School, Bethlehem, 2000. This is a report of a study initiated to develop Moslem-Christian education in Palestine, and based on interviews with members of school communities in the Bethlehem-Hebron area (15 IS or 4 $). Discovering Palestine. 112 pp. In Arabic. Published by the Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem, 2001. An overview of heritage sites in the Bethlehem-Jerusalem-Hebron areas especially explained for teachers (20 IS or 5$). When Abnormal Becomes Normal, When Might Becomes Right: Scenes from Palestinian Life During the Al-Aqsa Intifada. 70 pp. In English. Published by the Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem, 2001. Essays and diaries written by, mainly, Palestinians from various background and age (15 IS or 4 $). Out of print. Your Stories Are My Stories: A Palestinian Oral History Project. 142 pp. In English. Published by St Joseph School for Girls, Bethlehem; Wi’am Conflict Resolution Center, and the Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem, 2001. Oral histories collected and written by 16-17 year students at St Joseph School in Bethlehem (30 IS or 7,5 $). Bethlehem Diary: Living Under Siege and Occupation 2000-2002. Toine van Teeffelen. 287 pp. In English. Published by the Arab Educational Institute, 2002, Bethlehem. Preface by Latin Patriarch and Pax Christi International President Michel Sabbah (25 IS or 5 $). Ibrahim 'Ayyad. Ya'coub Al-Atrash. 342 pp. In Arabic. Published by the Arab Educational Institute, 2004, Bethlehem. A biography of a Bishop from Beit Jala who became associated with the Palestinian national cause and has been a major advocate of Moslem-Christian living together. The book describes the different phases in his life and the events he witnessed locally and in South America (30 IS or 5,5 $).
Living Together in The Holy Land: Respecting Differences: Educational materials for understanding the three monotheistic religions. 70pp. In Arabic. Published by the Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem, 2005 (5 IS or 1 $). Winners All. 28 pp. In Arabic. Published by the Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem, 2005. Cooperative peace education games for all ages. Translated from Pax Christi UK materials (5 NIS or 1 $). Caged In: Life in Gaza During the Second Intifada. 59 pp. In English. Published by Arab Educational Institute. Based on observations and narratives from observers of Dutch peace organization United Civilians for Peace, this magazine gives an overview of the daily life hazards in Gaza during the period 2002-2004 (20 NIS or 5 $) Another Way: Non-Violence as a Mentality and Strategy in Palestine: Materials for Education. 39 pp. In English. Published by the Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem, 2005. A brochure written for Palestinian youth and educators as well as internationals interested in non-violence (15 IS or 4 $). Contact the Arab Educational Institute for ordering books. Mailing costs are not included in the prices. Arab Educational Institute P.O.Box 681 Bethlehem Palestine via Israel Fax: 00-972-2-277.7554 Tel: 00-972-2-274.4030 Email: email@example.com www.aeicenter.org
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