Tel Aviv Cafe What is hidden is what has been lost beneath this stubborn temple of sunlight I rinse my feet in the sea as it soaks the sand But this too is lost within the tattered pages Over the hills of pines and under the sunset There is another golden city it is in motion but it settles as the evening sun sets. All is at peace, but nothing is at peace at all.
Rebecca Arian March 27, 2010
ELUL 2 A blog post from Avital Aboody, May 9, 2010 http://avitalaboody.blogspot.com/2010/05/hebron-from-all-angles.html HEBRON FROM ALL ANGLES For the past three Saturdays I have attended the new wave of weekly Hebron protests in the Casbah (Old City). The protests are intended to disrupt army-accompanied settler tours that pass through the Casbah each week, and demand the re-opening of Shuhada Street and an end to the occupation of the city. Although for the past two weeks the settlers have changed the time of their tour to avoid encountering our protest, we decided to continue with the protests as planned to assert the Palestinians' right to move freely within their city. So, each week a group of between 50-70 Palestinians, Israelis, and Internationals gather in front of the gate which blocks entrance to Shuhada Street. We stand with signs in Arabic, Hebrew, and English and pass the megaphone around as different people lead the protesters in a series of call and response chants in all three languages. Some activists take the opportunity to give short impassioned speeches, sometimes by Israelis who speak directly to the soldiers and settlers peering down on us from the Beit Romano Yeshiva rooftop, saying that these unjust policies will not be carried out in our name. In contrast to the first week when the protest ended in a series of unwarranted arrests, the protests now conclude now with a march through the Casbah which is met by an onslaught of dirty water thrown down on us from the settlers' homes situated above the Palestinian shops. For the past two weeks there has been no direct confrontation with soldiers or settlers, but we always close with a promise that we will continue to protest every week until racism and separation are abolished in Hebron and all of Palestine. This past week, just a few days after standing in solidarity with the Palestinians of Hebron, I decided to take a step that I believe very few political activists ever take. I put on a long skirt, tucked my dreadlocks away, and joined the settlers on their tour of the Jewish Community of Hebron. After having been to Hebron many times and heard the story of the Palestinians and the ex-soldiers of "Breaking the Silence" I figured it was time to come face to face with the settlers themselves and hear how they justify their presence in Hebron to the many thousands of Jews that they've taken on tours there. I came with the intention to listen, to observe, and to maybe understand their conviction.
So on Wednesday morning I found myself sitting on a bullet proof bus with a group of 40 other American Jews about take a day-trip to Hebron, a city that I was assured by the tour guide is just like any other old city in Israel. Even before the tour had officially started, I already began to feel uncomfortable and almost teary eyed due to the realization that all the other tour participants really had no idea (and really didn't care that they didn't) about the world beyond this Jewish exclusivity. Little did I know that that this initial reaction of discomfort and sadness was to remain with me and only intensify throughout the course of the day. Our first stop was the matriarch Rachel's tomb which is just outside/technically inside Bethlehem. To reach the tomb we drove through an unbelievably surreal corridor in the concrete wall that circumvents Bethlehem. Since Israelis are not allowed to enter Bethlehem, this access road, entirely surrounded by the wall, has been created for Jews to visit and pray at the tomb. As the tour guide told the story about a time when the grave was closed to Jewish access and how women from Hebron set a precedent by coming anyways and demanding to be let in until the government agreed to re-open the site to Jewish visitors, I realized that all this effort to keep people separate and relegated to only certain areas is futile because people will continue to find ways to be where they believe they ought to be, or at least struggle for that right with all of their being as I've seen with the Palestinians in Hebron. For some reason, being there only made me think more and more about how this land cannot be divided. Of course I don't mean undivided in the way that the settlers refer to Greater Israel, but rather that in that moment it just seemed so apparent to me that drawing up borders and erecting walls cannot actually lead to real justice or peace; they merely restrict essentials freedoms such as access and movement, and furthermore will never suppress the people's desire to return to areas that they have been barred from. Religious Jews will never give up their ancestral connection to and right to access these holy sites, and I don't believe that they should have to, but this privilege must come with the equal recognition of the Palestinian claims to this land and their legitimate right to live here and move about freely. Loaded with these thoughts I got back on the bus headed to Hebron. I listened as the guide told the familiar story of Hebron that began 3700 years ago when Abraham laid down roots in the city and purchased the Cave of the Patriarchs as a burial site for his wife Sarah, and the forefathers and mothers that followed. Later, King David made Hebron the capital of his kingdom for 7 years before moving it to Jerusalem. The phrase
that repeated itself throughout the tour was "this is where it all began", which later fused into the story of Jewish contiguity in Hebron, and finally the conclusion that the Jewish presence in Hebron will be eternal. When we arrived in Hebron we were greeted by our tour guide for the next leg of the journey, Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum, originally from New York but for the past 14 years he has made his home in the Hebron Jewish community. The tour started in Tel Rumeida, a hilltop overlooking the heart of the city of Hebron where a few of my Palestinian friends/colleagues live. The guide explained the way the city had been divided in the "Y Accords" which created H1 (80% of the city under Palestinian Authority control) and H2 (20% of the city under Israeli military control and Palestinian municipal control). He continually referred back to the 80/20 split to emphasize what he believed to be inequality and discrimination against the Jews who are not allowed to walk or drive in the majority of the city. In fact, after reading a pamphlet I picked up later in the tour which purports to give the "real facts…in contrast to the false anti-Jewish and anti-Israel propaganda," I was expected to understand that Jews are only allowed to enter 3% of the municipal area; never mind that that 3% area was once the center of Palestinian social and economic life and the gateway to the rest of the city, and never mind that that statement is actually inaccurate because it is not Jews but Israelis that are prevented from entering H1 (according to the Oslo Agreement) and Israelis are in fact allowed to be anywhere in H2 (the 20% mentioned above). This important distinction between Jews and Israelis was intentionally blurred by the tour guide in order to stress his point that anti-Semitism is what lies at the root of all criticism towards the Hebron Jewish community. When, in reality, the disputes in Hebron are entirely political and not based on religious identity. Israeli soldiers patrol H2 constantly, practicing the official policy of "making their presence felt," and it is certainly felt as they are seen constantly peering down, guns at bay, into Palestinian neighborhoods from rooftops (sometimes Palestinian homes that have been taken over and converted into army posts) and pillboxes throughout the city. Of course, this is all information that I learned on the "Breaking the Silence" tour and was not dealt with in any capacity on the settler tour. The tour guide praised the soldiers for their incredible self-sacrifice, but the impression of the soldiers that I get, from starting directly into their eyes as they push my friends and I during protests and from the many testimonies that I've heard from members of "Breaking the Silence", is one of a group of painfully confused and uncomfortable 18-21 year olds who are stuck in positions of power and aggressiveness that throw their concept of right and wrong into a blender, leaving them hardened and numb.
Back on the tour, I was told that I would experience holy people in Hebron. The 1000 Jews that live there believe themselves to be the ones who have taken on the essential responsibility of carrying the eternal Jewish flame in Hebron in the name of our ancient historical connection to the city. Of course learning about and appreciating this history is important, but Hebron especially is a place that cannot be understood separately from its current political context. Referring to the 80% of Hebron that is under PA control as land that was "given away" and the remaining 20% as land that "unfortunately is shared with 15,000 Palestinians" is simply a discursive tactic to confuse the tour participants and make them forget that Hebron is (and has been) a city of several thousand Palestinians living under military occupation. Throughout the tour, the only time Palestinians are mentioned or even acknowledged as part of the story is when they are referenced as "unfriendly neighbors", murderers/terrorists, or hookah smoking couch potatoes. Furthermore, talking about the restrictions on further building and expansion in the settlement cannot simply be received as a baseless effort to discriminate against Jews, but rather must be situated in the context of the larger West Bank settlement issue, namely that the settlements are illegal under international law, some (especially Hebron) are notorious for violence and extremism, and they are a growing thorn in any attempt towards a peace agreement. Perhaps the most interesting and telling part of the tour for me was when we went into the settlements themselves, which basically consist of just a few blocks of buildings that families have made into living spaces, synagogues, and a museum documenting the presence of the Jews in Hebron. In all my previous tours in Hebron I had never had the opportunity to actually go into their community so I was quite excited to step just a few more meters from where I had always stood, on the Shuhada "ghost street" and see how Hebron looks from this vantage point. On my other visits I was not allowed into the settlements because the large police escort that is mandated to accompany Breaking the Silence tours (supposedly to protect us from settler harassment and prevent friction) had placed strict restrictions on where we can go and when. But this time, with not a single police officer in sight, I found myself on the other side of barriers that I previously had only peeked into through cracks in walls and metal gates. The museum, located on the ground floor of the former Beit Hadassah hospital, was quite impressive and most importantly, effective in conveying the message that Jewish groups respond to best: the message of ultimate victimhood. As I looked at the pictures on the wall depicting the infamous massacre of Jews in Hebron in 1929, I felt a sort of déjà vu sensation and realized that the story being told was the nearly the same story that I had heard
countless times growing up and visiting holocaust museums. It was the fear-mongering story of anti-Semitism, complete with the moral imperative "never again." And in that moment, instead of being able to let myself grieve for all the bloodshed in Hebron, I found myself shaken by the realization that this story is entirely believable for a Jewish American audience and, had I not been exposed to other credible accounts of Hebron, I too could come away from this tour thinking that the settlers really are the ones in need of my sympathy. But then I remember the accounts of settler abuse and complete disrespect for Palestinian human and civil rights and I start to feel ill. I understand that this mentality does not exist in a vacuum, but rather is steeped in real and troubling consequences that play out on the ground, such as the closure of roads and shops, the disproportionate army presence, the lawlessness of the settlers, and the will of the Israeli government to continue supporting the settlers perhaps for fear of being perceived as part of the cycle of Jewish persecution. I think about the Jewish residents of Hebron pre-1929 who once lived relatively peacefully alongside their Palestinian neighbors, unlike the settlers of today who make every effort to create a situation in which Palestinians essentially cease to exist. I happen to know that some of the survivors of the 1929 massacre or descendents of the former Hebron Jewish community have actually disassociated themselves with the Hebron settlers and do not support their efforts to reclaim the city on their behalf. Yet this Jewish lineage continues to justify the settlers' presence and forceful methods of establishing themselves in the city. The tour continued with a visit to the guide's home, the old Sephardic temple, and a final stop at the Tomb of the Patriarchs where we were given time for prayer. After spending the day in what often felt like an alternate universe I didn't feel quite able to ascribe the proper holiness to the site and submit myself to any prayers aside from my deep yearning for universal empathy and for at least some of their tour participants to feel confused enough to then seek more information, step outside of their frame of reference, and think beyond the simplistic rhetoric of pamphlets espousing hatred and resentment. I went on this tour out of genuine curiosity and a desire to understand a people that are often (in my circles) written off as crazy and irrational. But after participating on the tour, it wasn't so much what they said that troubled me, but rather they way that the story fits into a worldview based in fear that is held by so many Jews and that has only resulted in generations of bitterness and divisiveness. I want to believe that Hebron can again live up to its name (meaning friendship), but this tour gave me no such illusion.
ELUL 3/ Shabbat Photo by Margaret Holub In a living room in Beit Ummar:
ELUL 4 Photo by Diane Tracht.
I took the ﬁrst picture with the doll in Hebron in early June last summer. Jewish settlers live above the row of Palestinian shows, and the settlers would throw this and that down onto the Palestinians below, so they installed the fencing.
Photos by Stefan Strassfeld
This is a series of photos from Beilin in the West Bank in July '06. They show a lovely bride and groom after vows, coming into the streets to celebrate - a party which then becomes part of the weekly non-violent protests at the Separation Wall which has cut off the community from it's agricultural land and de facto given it to a nearby Israeli settlement (seen in the distance beyond the Wall). At the Wall (which was a tall fence at the time) there was singing and chanting and then the Israeli army had enough and started ﬁring rubber bullets and tear gas, going into the town in armored jeeps. One man's leg was injured badly by a rubber bullet - he's pictured under a tree - I (a registered nurse) wanted to stop to help him, but could barely breathe from the tear gas and was scared away by screaming Israeli soldiers ﬁring towards me. I got lost in some residents backyards - they had all shut windows and doors against the gas which pervaded their town every Friday afternoon, but smiled at me through windows and tried to point me in the right direction. Eventually a young kid waved for me to follow him and led me back to the town's center. There I was relieved to see that others more courageous than I had stayed and helped the man with the injured leg to a Palestinian ambulance. Stefan Strassfeld
ELUL 6 Blog entry from Alice Rothchild. http://alicerothchild.com/category/blog-entries-2011/ The dangerous qanun and the intoxication of power We leave the taxi at Qalandia checkpoint and for 50 shekels grab a ride in the back of a truck with Israeli license plates. The truck doors advertise flooring and construction, three scruffy men sit in the front seat, and soon we are staring through dusty windows at the imposing separation wall, massive amounts of construction and garbage, new cream white apartment and office buildings, and a disarray of cars all heading in opposing directions. In Ramallah, people do not give you their addresses; we are in search of Supermarket Baghdad. After a dizzying tour of the rainy, foggy city (it seems that men in this culture do not ask for directions easily), we find the supermarket and discover that Israeli Orange phone cards are no longer sold in the West Bank, (first sign of boycott). After a quick call on the one remaining functional phone, Ali Amr, a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston who is home to see his family after a year, meets us a block from the market. The son of a Moroccan mother and Palestinian father and a talented musician, Ali’s journey home was infinitely more torturous than ours. He explains, as a Palestinian he has to enter through Jordan via the Allenby Bridge. He is required to renew his Jordanian Military service papers annually in Jordan, in order to enter Palestine or travel back to the US. Arriving several days ago, he and his father headed to the border from Amman at 4 pm, got through the Jordanian border without difficulty after a brief interrogation. It seems that studying music in the US is not an entirely legitimate excuse for avoiding the military, but Ali was armed with paperwork from the music school. They then waited in line for an hour to get on a bus to the Israeli border. Half an hour later, squeezed together with other travelers, “like they do for animals in a cage,” Ali and his father reach the line for the soldiers. I should mention that Ali’s father is a law professor at Al Quds University; he usually dresses formally in a suit and tie, and when I met him I was struck with his dignity as well as good humor. After half an hour, the soldiers checked Ali’s bags and threw his bags and qanun, an Arabic lap harp with 72 strings and delicate inlaid carvings, onto the x ray machine. Everyone was allowed to pass but Ali and he was separated from his father.
Ali was interrogated for a second time, “Where they asked me just the same questions…Seems like they have a list of questions that if you answer one wrong, trouble.” Ali remembers his rising fear and nervousness, and finally stepped outside. ”It felt just like I got out of prison.” They let him go with papers that “me the 19 year old kid that’s coming from America is clean and not terrorist,” but then the terror began. His luggage arrived, but no qanun. After endless waiting, Ali asked for his musical instrument and was told to come for further questioning. The soldiers knew the qanun was from Syria, (imported to the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music when Ali was a student there) despite no evidence on the instrument, and insisted that Ali pay a large tax to bring it back into Palestine. Ali and his father where shocked. Ali has traveled all over the world with his qanun and come back home and has never been asked to pay. The soldiers insisted that he planned to sell it in the West Bank, despite the certificate confirming Ali as a student at Berklee College of Music, his work as a professional musician, and his instrument. He pleaded, he argued, the soldiers started threatening him. “You wanna pay to take it or we take it.” They took his ID and told him to wait. More pleading and arguing and then the soldier yelled, “It’s your decision.” He grabbed the qanun and threatened to smash it if they did not pay. At this point, Ali’s father said, “Wait!” He asked for the bill and the soldiers came back, 866 shekels ($220). Ali remembers sweating with fear and then took out his emergency money that was supposed to pay for his travel expenses and for repairs on the qanun, and handed it all over. The two hour incident left Ali shaken, fearful, and crying. “But the situation is that there is no way we can get the money back from them…There is no one to talk to. No one to sue. The only paper I have is the receipt that they will never consider when I visit again and they will make me pay again and put it in their pockets and go get drunk with it in some Israeli bar. They are all 19 – 20 years old kids…holding guns.” And so one of Ramallah’s most talented young musicians is welcomed home. Alice Rothchild January 03, 2011
ELUL 7 Photo by Gerson Robboy.
These ﬁrst few are from Abu-Dis, suburb of E. Jerusalem, where the wall was being built, Feb. 25, 2004. This was right next to where the new Palestinian parliament building was under construction at the time. This ﬁrst picture shows the wall passing between the houses. The parliament building was right behind where I was standing.
Here is a close-up of the wall construction.
ELUL 8 From Andrew’s Bethlehem Blog, by Andrew Miller: http://andrewsbethlehemblog.wordpress.com/ My mother’s visit, part 1: the tour Posted on July 11, 2011 by namelessnerd I love my mother, and it was great to see her in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Unfortunately, the first day I saw her in Bethlehem—Wednesday, June 8—was also a little difficult for me. The reason had nothing to do with Mom, of course. The reason had to do with the insensitivity of her tour group towards Christians who live in Bethlehem. Actually, it would be more accurate to say our tour group, since I was an honorary member when this happened. This insensitivity was significant enough that I feel forced to right about it. Partly because I feel somewhat responsible for it, and partly as an example of what not to do. The next post related to my mother’s visit (part 2) will be more positive, since the time that I spent with her afterwards was much more encouraging. Arrival in Bethlehem Mom arrived in Bethlehem with her tour shortly after noon on Wednesday. The object of this tour was to follow the prayer life of Jesus in the Holy Land, which is a very worthwhile focus. The tour was led by someone who had been to Israel and Bethlehem many times before (whom I will William), by Mom’s pastor, and by some other pastors. I will not specify the identities of the tour leaders any more than this. One reason is that they were kind enough to allow me to join the tour throughout Wednesday afternoon. This is something that both Mom and myself very much appreciate. Moreover, this required William to call me a couple of times to help me find the tour group, and Mom and I are grateful to him for making this effort. And, finally, the goal of this post is not to expose or criticize any individual. I myself am also responsible. The goal of this post is to raise awareness.
We drove past this portion of the Barrier Wall. It was near this portion of the Wall that I was asked, "How long will you be staying in Israel?"
The insensitivity started almost immediately. In talking with one of the pastors on the tour bus, he asked me, “How long will you be staying in Israel?” I was surprised. Bethlehem is not in Israel, as any of its residents will tell you. Not one country in the world considers Bethlehem to be in Israel. Not even Israel itself, which has built a massive Separation Barrier through Bethlehem for the specific purpose of separating the vast majority of the city from Israel. This question was odd not only because the tour had just passed through this Barrier at the checkpoint in northern Bethlehem, which required everyone to have their passports available for inspection, since they were leaving territory administered by the Israeli military occupation and entering territory administered by the Palestinian Authority. (If you are interested in the technical language for this: the passports had to be ready for inspection because they were leaving Area C of the West Bank and entering Area A.) It was also odd because, at the moment that I was asked the question, the Barrier was in view outside the bus window. (Even though the bus had driven a little bit south at this point, the Barrier was in view because of the tortuous route that it takes as it cuts through the northern part of the city.) I was surprised that tour leaders (who had months to learn about the places to which the tour would be going) could have missed this. However, this insensitivity was very minor compared to what was to follow. The Church of the Nativity
The bus drove to Manger Square, where we met the Palestinian tour guide who would show us around the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Roman Catholic Church of the Shepherd’s Field in nearby Beit Sahour (the suburb of Bethlehem in which I was living). I will call this guide Akram (not his real name). Akram himself is a Christian from Beit Sahour. By this point, I had met other tour guides (and many other people) from Beit Sahour. I chatted with Akram a little, and it was clear that he knew the families of some of the people I knew, though perhaps not the individuals themselves. As it happened, all of the mutual contacts that we discussed were also Christians. Akram (with William’s help) showed us through the Church of the Nativity. The group, as may be expected, had a wonderful time viewing one of the holiest sites in the Christian world, built over the traditional birthplace of Jesus himself. (For more pictures of the church, see here and here.
Notice all the gunfire damage to the upper wall, clearly visible next to the windows just under the roof of the Church of the Nativity. Nothing about this was mentioned as part of the tour.
What was a little troubling was that, at one point, we went into the courtyard in front of St. Catherine’s Church (the Franciscan church that is part of the Church of the Nativity complex). Akram talked about Jerome, who completed the Vulgate (a translation of the Bible into Latin) while living in Bethlehem around the year A.D. 400. What Akram did not talk about was the mass of bullet holes plainly visible from the courtyard, damage from when the Israeli army shot up the Church of the Nativity during its 38-day siege of the sanctuary in 2002. I spoke to Akram briefly about this. It was very clear that he knew exactly where the gunfire damage was and what had caused it. It was also clear that
this was not something that our tour wanted him to talk about. (For more information on the siege of the Church, see here.) It bothered me that our tour group had decided that we did not want to hear about this. The siege of the Church of the Nativity is now part of its history, albeit a tragic part, and it is a part that is hugely significant for Akram and for virtually every other Christian who actually lives in the Bethlehem area. Why should Christians visiting Bethlehem not want to hear about this from local Christians who live there? I did not understand. However, the insensitivity got worse. Much worse. The Latin Shepherd’s Field As happens so often in the Holy Land, there are two sites that claim to mark the location of the fields where the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus: a Roman Catholic (or Latin) one and a Greek Orthodox one. At the risk of being controversial, one can say that the Greek Orthodox site has a greater chance of being authentic, but the Latin site is more picturesque. Therefore, most tour groups visit the Latin site. The church at the Latin site is simple but attractive, and a number of caves in the hillside on which the church is built do indeed seem to be places where shepherds watching their flocks may have taken shelter to sleep. The landscape is also beautiful.
Latin Church of the Shepherd's Field, in Beit Sahour.
The problem is that the landscape has a recent history, a meaningful story to tell. The problem is also that the leaders of our tour either chose to ignore that history, or else had not learned about it. We therefore behaved offensively towards Akram (who accompanied us) and towards many other residents of Beit Sahour.
After visiting the church and one of the caves, William and the pastors took us to a shady place on the hillside below the church to have a worship and prayer service. We had a great view of the countryside. We had a great view of some other things, too. Directly in front of us, a paved road with an electrically charged fence separated Beit Sahour (where we were) from hillside fields, some of them planted with olive groves. The fenced road is part of the Separation Barrier built by Israel several years ago. The fields and the olive groves belong to the residents of Beit Sahour and used to be tended by them, but now residents of Beit Sahour cannot access them without a permit from the Israeli military occupation to go to Jerusalem. Such permits are incredibly difficult to obtain. Of course, Akram knew the details of the confiscation of the land that we stared at for over an hour. But Akram was not invited to say anything about this to us.
The fenced road is part of the Separation Barrier. The land on the hill beyond (including the olive groves to the left) belongs to residents of Beit Sahour, but has effectively been confiscated by the Israeli government. A little to the left, still on the other side of the Separation Barrier from us, was the new settlement of Har Homa. Har Homa is built on a large hill. When I first visited Bethlehem in 1994, this hill was covered by a forest and was called Jabal Abu Ghneim by the residents of the Bethlehem area. It was a community property to which the residents of Bethlehem and Beit Sahour went with their families to have picnics in the shade on hot sunny days. Shortly thereafter Israel declared the forest off-limits to Palestinians and revealed its plan to build a settlement there. The forest was razed, and settlement construction actually started, in 1999. (For the U.N. General Assembly Resolution condemning the decision to construct this settlement, which passed by a vote of 130 to 2, see here. One of the two countries voting against this resolution was the United States, which nevertheless severely criticized the plans to construct the settlement during the discussion after the vote—see here. The other country voting against this resolution
was Israel.) During our prayer and worship service, we had an excellent view of this settlement. Between us and Har Homa, on the same side of the Separation Barrier that we were on, was another hill with an apartment complex built on it. This is the Orthodox Housing Project (for some information on the history of this project, see here). Construction on the project started in 1995. In reply to a question that I asked Akram privately, he told me that the project houses mostly young couples and their new families. There is little new housing available for them elsewhere in Beit Sahour. On the hill at the left in the background, one can see the Israeli settlement of Har Homa. On the hill between us and Har Homa is the Orthodox Housing Project. The Separation Barrier runs between Har Homa and the Project. The Israeli occupation has placed a standing demolition order on buildings in the Project; members of our tour blew their shofar horns at these buildings. In 2002, when Israel started constructing the Separation Barrier through the West Bank, it fixed the route of the Barrier as following the road that we could see. (It built the electrically charged fence around this road, and declared the road off-limits to Palestinians living in the West Bank, shortly thereafter.) The Israeli military then decided that the Project was too close to the Barrier (i.e., the road), and issued demolition orders on all of the buildings in the Orthodox Housing Project. (Just in case you didn’t catch this: The buildings had been standing, and had been housing Christian families, for years before Israel decided to build the Separation Barrier that it now claimed these buildings were too close to.) Did our tour know what we were looking at (and forcing Akram to look at) for over an hour? No. Neither was the village of Al-Nu’man, across the Separation Barrier to the right, pointed out to us.
When Israel unilaterally annexed what it called “Greater Jerusalem” in 1967, it decided that Al-Nu’man was a part of “Greater Jerusalem”. However, it did not give the residents of the village Israeli ID cards (which would have given them the right to live in “Greater Jerusalem”). Rather, it gave them West Bank ID cards. In effect, Israel created a legal trap in which the villagers of Al-Nu’man are “illegal” residents in their ancestral homes. Since the construction of the Separation Barrier, this has turned daily life into hell for the residents of Al-Nu’man. To visit friends and relatives in the Bethlehem community, and to access essential services (health care, schools, etc.) there, they must cross the Separation Barrier. To return home, they must re-cross the Separation Barrier and reenter “Greater Jerusalem”, which (according to Israel) they do not have the legal right to do. One suspects that the only reason that the Israel military has not started refusing to let these people back into their own village is because the Bethlehem community (and its international friends, including many tens of thousands of Christians) are watching the situation very closely. One suspects that the demolition orders on the Orthodox Housing Project buildings have not yet been carried out for the same reason. We sat in full view of the entire scene described above for more than an hour. From my conversation with Akram, I knew that he was well aware of everything that we were forcing him to look at. I therefore felt awful; I can only imagine what he felt. I do not understand the kind of Christianity that can go to the site of ongoing discrimination and injustice (as the residents of that site see it) and seek to have a nice spiritual experience there. But this is the kind of Christianity that we were practicing. At the far right of this picture on the top of the hill, one can see the Palestinian village of Al-Nu'man, now on the Israeli side of the Separation Barrier (in this picture, the electrically fenced road). Unfortunately, we did not take notice of this village. We did, however, notice the few sheep that can be seen next to the olive grove in the valley close to the Separation Barrier. We made Akram sit through all of this for over an hour while we had the prayer service. We could easily have chosen for our prayer service a different hill-side that was not
quite so loaded with the memory of recent perceived injustice. Or we could have let Akram tell us everything he knew about the recent history of the landscape at which we were looking, and allowed that history to be one of the subjects of prayer. We did neither. All of this, by itself, was an insult to Akram, however unintentional. But it got even worse. At the end of the service, a few of the pastors stood up and blew shofar horns as loud as they could in the direction of the Orthodox Housing Project. On June 7, 1967, the extremist rabbi Shlomo Goren blew a shofar in the Old City of Jerusalem to celebrate its conquest, and shortly thereafter suggested that the Israeli military blow up the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque. For this and other reasons, Goren has been an embarrassment to Israel ever since, and the shofar horn has become a symbol of perceived Israeli oppression to Palestinians. One may have different opinions about Israel’s conquest of Jerusalem. Personally, I am thrilled that Jews now have complete freedom to pray at the Western Wall. Regardless, it is insulting for American Christians to blow a shofar horn in front of a Palestinian they recognize as a brother in Christ. But what we did was worse. We made a Palestinian, a fellow believer, sit with us for over an hour in full view of what to him was a scene of injustice and oppression, while we had a nice religious experience there. Then some of us blew a symbol of this injustice in front of him, and blew it in an apparent effort to be heard by other Palestinian Christians living in homes marked by the Israeli military for demolition. Next steps It would be hard to imagine a situation in which visiting Christians could do more to offend a local Christian than we did to offend Akram. I think we owe him an apology. First, I think that the leaders of the tour need to contact Akram. They need to let him know that our behavior was inappropriate, and why it was inappropriate. I am quite certain that William (at least) has the resources to do this. Second, I think that the leaders of the tour need to contact everyone who was on the tour, let them know that we are apologizing to Akram, and let them know why. Since the offense to him (and to the people he knows who live in the Orthodox Housing Project) was quite public, the apology needs to be public as well.
To be clear: I did not speak to Akram after the shofar horns were blown towards the Orthodox Housing Project, except to tell him good-bye. He did not ask me to write this post, nor verbally express his thoughts on the shofar horns to me. But I don’t think he needs to. After living with Palestinian Christians for close to a month, one learns something of the perspective that they share. Moreover, since I was part of the tour when all of this happened, I feel as responsible as anyone. One can have different views of the justifiability of some of Israel’s actions (land confiscation, building of the Separation Barrier, home demolitions, etc.). The point of this post isn’t that all Christians should agree with Akram. The point is that American Christians visiting Bethlehem for religious reasons should at least have a minimal awareness of what the views of Christians like Akram are, and they should (at the very least) respect these views while visiting, whether or not they agree with them. We flagrantly violated these principles. I am sure that we were not the first, and will not be the last, to do so. But we should make an effort to make amends. I am sure that at least some of the leaders of our tour group will see this post. I will update this post to take into account their reactions to it. One final point: since the events of Wednesday, June 8, more than one of the pastors in my mom’s tour group have made extraordinary efforts to befriend and encourage Palestinian Christians. That is wonderful, and nothing I have written in any way seeks to minimize this contribution. But neither does this make our behavior on that Wednesday any less publicly offensive. Given the circumstances, apologies such as those I have suggested above are a necessary means to encourage Palestinian Christians who have been insulted. And to love them, as we as Christians are commanded to do.
ELUL 9 From David Chadwick: I am part of an EC project to transfer knowledge and skills to Palestinian universities, so I travelled there in fall 2010. On our way to and back from the West Bank (you have to ﬂy into Israel in order to get to the West Bank as all transfers are tightly controlled by Israel) we travelled on local buses in order to appreciate how life is for commuters and Palestinians wishing to travel to Jerusalem. The attached picture shows (part of) the checkpoint that West Bank workers with jobs in Jerusalem have to go through each day. Picture taken on 13 Nov 2010. It took us over an hour just to get through the check point to leave Jerusalem in the evening of our transfer to Ramalah. In fact the journey from Jerusalem to Ramalah took over twice as long as our journey from the Jordanian border to Jerusalem, which is twice the distance. The border crossings could not be starker. Into Jerusalem by Jewish taxi (the car number plates differentiate between Jewish owned cars and Palestinian owned ones, which is all part of the apartheid regime) we used the Jewish only crossing, with no queues, a quick show of the passports and in we went - a minute at the most. Leaving Jerusalem on the Palestinian bus, we crossed via the "arab" crossing, with hour long queues, then everyone off the bus, to walk across the border, with inspection by armed guards, then back into the bus on the other side. The same happened when coming back into Jerusalem, only this time everyone left the bus except ourselves (the foreign tourists) and armed guards with machine guns came onto the bus and inspected everywhere and our passports. It was very intimidating. The whole exercise seems designed to make life as difﬁcult and inconvenient as possible for Palestinians working in Jerusalem, presumably so that they will give up their jobs to the new Jewish arrivals from Eastern Europe, who immediately upon arrival have more
rights than the non-Jewish people who were born there. Its quite distasteful the whole apartheid regime.
ELUL 10 from Susannah Nachenberg: As a young Jew that grew up in the Zionist movement but has gone through a transformation of consciousness and as a new member of JVP, I have many reflections on my three times living in the region. However, I think one of the most powerful is a reflection I wrote while on an Interfaith Peace-builders' delegation last fall. I broke down crying an entire night after realizing that as someone taught to love Israel, I am so ashamed to see what it has become as an occupier and undemocratic ethnocracy.
(Left to right: Susannah, Olah and delegate Alex)
My Community I don’t know where to begin. Driving through the West Bank past endless settlements to get to the North was overwhelming. Even after having traveled in the West Bank previously, this was the first time that the utter unfathomable inhumanity of the situation really sunk in, weighing heavy in my heart. I did not realize the extent of occupation until this dreary yet scenic drive, marked by hills, olive trees, walls, settlements, and mapped out military zones. In Jenin, we drove past a memorial made from rubble that had been blown up in the shape of a horse, the symbol of bravery. Fifty-nine people were killed in a retaliation attack from the IDF after some Jenin suicide bombers had killed 29 people in the Israeli town of Netanya. When you hear of this exchange of life for life, it begs the questions, “why did this circle of violence begin in the first place?” “What could make someone so angry and full of despair that they would want to take others’ lives along with their
own?” This is when you realize, as a witness traveling throughout this caged land, seeing all of impostures and enclosures, this is just too disturbing, too inhumane and unjust to ignore any longer. And then I think of Ola, my hero, the dim light at the end of a dark, dark tunnel. Ola, a 21-year-old Palestinian woman who has never left her home town of Nablus and openly tells our group of 28 that she never had a childhood. Generations of children have lost their childhoods, subjected to traumatic night raids, housing demolitions, arrests and murders in front of their eyes, causing psychological effects that seem irreversible. And yet, Ola, having grown up in violence devotes her time to the Human Support Association, not to rescue the younger generation from this reality, but to merely help them cope with it. But what is so incredible about Ola is the aura of hope, and vitality that radiates when she walks in a room and fills my heart with a solemn happiness. How is it that Ola, who has lived through atrocities unfathomable to me is able to maintain such strength, and compassion for humanity? It is when I think about Ola and her community, walking through the streets of Nablus and looking at the posters of different people killed in each neighborhood that I feel overwhelmed, ashamed and even appalled by my own American Jewish community. Much of my community travels to Israel in great numbers to enjoy all the tourist sites, contributing millions to the economy without so much as blinking an eye towards the immense suffering of those in the West Bank, only a short distance away. How can my people not only apathetically allow the continuation of such mistreatment and injustices of fellow human beings, but actually fund and support the very regime that perpetrates the crimes? My soul aches when I look into the eyes of an old grandmother in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood who tells us she was violently thrown out of her house during an eviction ‘process,’ or when a young, bright Palestinian university student says that his mind has become a prison from the psychological weight of the endless borders, barriers, and checkpoints. The magnitude of violence, trauma, pain and suffering that the Palestinian people have been subjected to for over 40 years has become a great weight that I cannot easily shake. I’ve lived in Israel several times, enjoying spending time with friends in Tel Aviv and Yaffa, going to bars, moving freely without even thinking about the people only about an hour away from me who live in a whole other reality, a place which feels like an inescapable imprisonment. In all, what hurts the most is that, I really love Israel, as a place, a people, a culture and what it symbolizes as the center of my deeply loved heritage. When I stand in the walled-in West Bank, with its settlements, demolitions, and refugee
camps, my soul weeps to understand that that same Jewish nation, that I hold so dear to my heart, is capable of such.
from Joel Beinin:
Photo: Keren Manor/ ActiveStills.org
Let’s say that you have a plot of land in Germany, and you don’t work it. Someone else does. You don’t pay attention because you aren’t using it. Then you return and claim the land. When the German legal authorities look into it they will say it is no longer your land. It belongs to the one who worked the land for ten years. This is how Yochanan, a resident of the unauthorized “outpost” of Mitzpe Ya’ir explains why he has the right to put a fence in the middle of an agricultural field owned by Faysal Sa‘id Hushiyya and his relatives in the hardscrabble, semi-desert South Hebron Hills near the southeastern edge of the West Bank (or Masafir Yatta, as the area is known in Arabic). There is only one problem with Yochanan’s argument. Not a word of it is true. Before Mitzpeh Ya’ir was established in 1998, the Hushiyya clan owned and farmed the entire barely arable valley between the outpost and the “authorized” settlement of Susya (pop. ca. 750) established in 1983. In November 1999 the Israeli army closed off a large tract of land in the South Hebron Hills, dubbed “Firing Area 718,” and announced it would be used for military target practice. The army and Civil Administration authorities
expelled most of the Palestinian inhabitants, among them about 1,000 cave dwellers. Their property was confiscated; the caves were sealed; their water wells and outhouses were destroyed. For nearly a decade, Israeli activists organized by Ta‘ayush (Living Together) and internationals have worked with the inhabitants of the South Hebron Hills to maintain their precarious hold on their lands based on sheep and goat herding, unirrigated winter agriculture, and sparse olive groves. The presence of Israelis and internationals has sometimes also provided some degree of protection from the arbitrary orders of the army. Christian Peace Maker Teams and Italians from Operation Dove have maintained a constant presence in the village of Tuwani, which has been subjected to the depredations of settler fanatics who have poisoned their flocks and attacked children from neighboring villages on the way to school. Throughout the area, settlers have frequently uprooted olive saplings planted by Palestinians with the help of Ta‘ayush and stoned or shot at farmers attempting to work their lands. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that since some of the settler outposts were built in “Firing Area 718” this proved that the army did not really need the area as a target range. The court ordered the army to allow the Palestinians to return. Despite many obstacles, the area has gradually been repopulated. However, the Palestinians have not been given permission to construct any buildings. A school and a medical clinic built in the village of Tuwani have been issued demolition orders. Despite another court order directing the army to permit the Palestinians to carry out their agricultural work, the army often obstructs them from plowing and harvesting their fields. The army prevented Faysal Sa‘id Hushiyya and his partners from plowing their fields for five years during which Mitzpe Ya’ir flourished despite its “unauthorized” status according to Israeli law. The Hushiyyas have filed a claim in an Israeli court to establish their ownership rights. But the case has dragged on for years. Enter Yochanan of Mitzpe Ya’ir. Israeli law requires a property owner who claims that someone has infringed on his property rights by building a structure on it, must, within thirty days, assert his rights by attempting to remove the structure. Otherwise, the interloper’s claim is considered valid. On Christmas Day 2010 some twenty Israelis and internationals organized by Ta‘ayush come to witness and provide assistance and protection as five members of the Hushiyya family attempt to dismantle the fence built by Yochanan on their lands. Two dozen soldiers and two policemen have beaten us to the scene. They have already taken the ID cards of the Hushiyyas, although they are not charged with any crime or
security violation. Nor has the army directly ordered them not to dismantle the fence. But since they must have their ID cards to do anything, the Hushiyyas are afraid that if they go ahead with their plan, the army will invent some offense and detain them. Jamal Hushiyya addresses the commanding officer on the scene saying, “Isn’t Israel a state of law? We are only asking that you apply the law.” All present know very well that in the West Bank there is a different law for Jews and Arabs, to the extent that any legal norms applied at all to limit the hooliganism of the settlers. The standoff ends when the Ta‘ayush legal staff informs us that documenting the Hushiyyas’ attempt to assert their rights satisfies the requirements of Israeli law. Some of us are not very confident that the Israeli courts will affirm the property rights of the Hushiyyas any time soon. And Yochanan? He is a German convert to Judaism relying on the power of the Israeli army to assert that his right to the land he has confiscated supersedes the rights of the Hushiyyas who were there for hundreds of years before him. Another wrinkle – according to a report by Nissim Mosek for Israeli Television Channel 1, a very high percentage of the Palestinians living in the South Hebron Hills are of Jewish origins. Until two generations ago this was widely known and acknowledged. Many, especially in town of Yatta, maintain crypto-Jewish ritual practices to this day.
ELUL 12 From “Palestine the Beautiful,” photos by Liza Behrendt
A house demolition in Silwan, East Jerusalem, August 14, 2009.
Neighbors, family and media watched the demolition but were unable to have any effect.
When the bulldozer left there was an explosion of grief and anger.
Kids climbed around the leftover rubble.
Parents tried to comfort their children.
This demolition was so disturbing to watch that, combined with dehydration, I actually fainted. Thank you Paraska, for catching me!
ELUL 13 Photos by Lois Pearlman
Children near Rafah.
Radio Station Rafah.
Photos by Diane Tracht The next three pictures are from Jerusalem, the Friday after the Flotilla. The army forbade Palestinian men between a certain age (something like 16 and 35) from entering the old city to pray because they feared demonstrations. So these men prayed outside the old city walls, fathers and sons, on cardboard or rugs placed on the sidewalk and cigarette butts, and across from a row of soldiers. On that day I'd just returned from Yad Vashem, which presents Jerusalem and the state of Israel as the answer to the Holocaust. Seeing this sort of discrimination based on ethnicity by a state that claims freedom of religion broke my heart. There was both the old search for meaning in the Holocaust, and the newer consciousness of Palestinian life. I can't imagine being forced to pray on the sidewalk and not in my synagogue (much less a synagogue as special as al-Aqsa), with a row of soldiers just watching and waiting.
ELUL 15 Poem and notice from Jean Carr.
Wheelchair victim of Friday faithfulness returns always.
Support our friend Rani Burnat Rani Burnat has been wheelchair-bound since being shot in the neck by a sniper in 2000. The shooting occurred during a demonstration in Ramallah on the second day of the second intifada. The injury has left him paralyzed from the chest down, with a head wound from which he is still recovering. Despite the difficulties, Rani — now 30 years old — has since started a family and is the proud father of triplets. In spite of his severe handicap, Rani continues to attend demonstrations against the separation wall in his village of Bil’in on a regular basis. Over the years of protest Rani has been beaten and shot numerous times by the forces of the occupation, and his wheelchair has sustained repeated damage. Rani’s medical equipment demands constant care and gets worn down quickly. Every several years he needs to replace his worn out wheelchair. He further lacks basic items such as a special mattress to prevent pressure sores and a standing unit. These problems unfortunately worsen his condition.
ELUL 16 Photos by Margaret Holub Roadblocks and closures in Area One, center city of Hebron, winter 2007. There were, I believe, 56 closed roads in the one square mile district.
The guy in the red cap is Rich Meyer of the Christian peacemakers Team. I love that group!
ELUL 17 From Rich Forer Accounts from my time as part of the Interfaith Peace Builders’ Delegation June 1, 2010 This evening I left my hotel in East Jerusalem to meet my ultra-Orthodox relatives in West Jerusalem. As I walked up the street looking for a taxi, I met a friendly, older Palestinian gentleman. We talked for a bit and I told him I was going to the Jaffa Gate. He asked if he could join me and I agreed. We walked along until we were able to hail a cab. The driver was a real character, very animated and very funny. He reminded me of a Palestinian Don Rickles. As soon as I got in the cab, I told the two men that I was Jewish. They had no negative reaction at all. For the next twenty minutes the three of us discussed the Israel-Palestine problem. Both men said the issue was not about Jew or Muslim, Israeli or Palestinian; it was about human beings. We all agreed that the Palestinian Authority was ineffective and the Israeli Government dishonest. There certainly was no animosity toward me in particular and I detected none at all toward Jews in general. We reached our destination. As I got out of the taxi, I saw my niece and her two kids waiting for me inside the gate. I took my niece, her husband and the kids out to dinner. Afterwards, we spent some time at their apartment. Around 9 pm, feeling like it was time for me to go, we walked outside and my nephew hailed a taxi. The driver was a man who appeared to be in his mid-30s. I was sure he was Jewish. He began to talk. He said he had many Jewish friends. He also said that 90% of Palestinians disliked the Palestinian Authority. He then told me he was Palestinian. Naively, I told him I was Jewish. Considering the fact that he had picked me up in an orthodox area of West Jerusalem he probably already knew that. I asked him what he wanted to see happen between his people and the Israelis. He said “I want my home back.” He then told me a story about one of his passengers: One day he picked up a woman at a hotel, obviously a tourist. She told him where she wanted to go. He began driving and she began to talk very animatedly about the Israel-Palestine conflict. She told him that the solution was to kill all Palestinian men. The driver did not interrupt. He let her continue. At one point during her soliloquy, she commented that he was Jewish. He did not correct her. He simply let her keep talking. When they arrived at the destination she paid the fare and gave him a very generous tip of thirty Shekels, about eight dollars. The driver then told her that things were not always what they seemed, that, for example, he was not Jewish. He was Palestinian. She was speechless. Then she turned and walked away. In her mind the woman had likely conceived of Palestinians as pathologically violent. Perhaps, because of the driver’s lack of anger combined with her probable embarrassment at being seen as a supporter of genocide, the incident may have spurred her to see Palestinians and herself in a different light.
Recipe for a Suicide Bomber Combine: One older brother shot to death while washing the family car. A house demolished, rebuilt, and demolished again. Your father detained in prison without charges. Checkpoints where soldiers make you wait all day in the hot sun just because they can. Fold in: A barbed wire fence that cuts off your village from its fields and orchards. A university degree with no way to find a job. Standing in line all night for a permit to work. Streets strewn with rubble, garbage and leaking sewage, which is the only place where you can play. Soldiers taking over the top two floors of your home, forcing your Family to sleep huddled together in a single room. Season with: Falling behind in your classes because you can't go to school during curfew. Panicking because you forgot your identity card, so you can't pass the checkpoint to go home. Losing your job, your arm, your baby, your sister, your hope for the future, your will to live. Bring the ingredients to a boil. Garnish with shattered dreams. Serves nobody.
ELUL 19 Photos by Stefan Strassfeld. The first picture is, I believe, a new apartment building in Maaleh Adumim, a large Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The second is of the hills surrounding it. I took these photos because of all the new plantings going in around the building and the irrigation system required to maintain them (which I could see but is not so visible). I had never questioned the Zionist mantra of "make the desert bloom" until I saw that land: it's beautiful, arid, and...a desert wonderful unto itself.
ELUL 20 Photos by Liza Behrendt. From “Palestine the Beautiful”
These two women lead the Al Masa'ra protest each week, carrying framed photographs of lost family members. Here they greet each other before the demonstration begins. August 14, 2009 · ·
This woman listens to speeches, holding the ﬂag up in one hand and a photograph of her son in the other.
A poetic response to Bil’in
God sees. Bassem killed at close range at real wailing wall: Bil’in.
(Bassem Abu Ramah killed by a tear gas canister, at close range, by an Israeli soldier while protesting the wall at Bil’in.) - Susanne Methven
ELUL 22 January 06, 2011 How I became a human smuggler Alice Rothchild I have to confess, we were not prepared. We were not even aware of the white-faced American mostly Jewish privileged skin in which we were living. Our bus left the tiny village of Mas’ha, heading past Ariel to the municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffo, or Jaffa as our Palestinian friends say. We had a yellow license plate, the seats were comfortable and the seat belts functional. Life was good. In a smaller car, 3 Americans (one tall bearded guy who could be mistaken for a settler and one very blond woman) and 2 Palestinian women, university students, who had not successfully obtained permits to leave the West Bank and were passing as Americans, drove in front of us. One of them had done this several times before without getting caught. The other had never seen the Mediterranean Sea. You might call this an exercise in human smuggling Israeli style. A private security company pulls the two vehicles over at a checkpoint near the settlement of Ariel for a “routine security check.” I wonder, is it the obvious Arab face of our driver or just part of the mechanics of control. Why would a group of non-settlers be driving down this highway? We watch with trepidation as our friends get out of the car and are led into the checkpoint. A smiling woman in uniform enters our bus, “Who is the tour guide?” “Me (gulp).” “What are you doing?” “Tourism.” “Where have you been?” “Nablus.” “What did you do?” “We like old things, we toured the Old City.” “Where did you stay?
I know I cannot say the Balata Refugee Camp. “Yaffa Guest House.” “OK, passports, come with me.” I step out of the bus and a snarling dog, a Belgium malinois known for good scent detection, is chewing on the leash with its handler next to the bus. I discover that this little checkpoint, is fully equipped with x ray equipment, FAX machines, and computers. All our bags are x-rayed repeatedly as suspicious items like books, notebooks, tape recorders, etc. are removed and re x-rayed. The questioning keeps up and I have no idea if the group will keep its story straight. I am acutely aware that in my bag are BDS stickers (we all have them), materials about BDS, brochures from the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee and two copies of my book which would instantly get me in trouble. I keep turning them over so the title is not visible. And then there are pages of incriminating notes and hundreds of easily accessible photos. Usually before any security check, I “cleanse” my belongings and make the evidence difficult to find. I have been careless. The other wild dynamic I observe is the white, clearly Ashkenazi woman who is in charge, and the younger Ethiopian woman who receives her barking orders and unpacks and repacks our bags obediently: race and class in action. As anxious as we are, our main focus is on the two Palestinians who are insisting they are from the US, have quickly made up names and fake histories, and are acting their parts flawlessly. They are aided by the performance of our group leader who plays the innocent but helpful Jewish tourist, so apologetic about the forgotten passports. The main problem is of course the issue of identities. Oh we forgot our passports in our hotel in Tel Aviv, we didn’t know we had to have them, etc, etc. A quick phone call to a fellow activist, Hello, so wonderful visiting you in Ariel, would you talk to security about our visit….The story is being fabricated in real time and the fear and anxiety in the group for the two brave Palestinian women is gripping us all. As we sit in the waiting room, we pretend we do not know each other as that would definitely blow our cover. While maybe I might face an angry security guard, a fine or deportation, these two women could get arrested and go to jail for the crime of visiting Jaffa with a group of activists. The bus finally passes inspection and we have to drive off not knowing the fate of our friends. After a prolonged interrogation and much dancing around, I think the head security woman knew something was not right, they are turned back. We all cheer when we learned by cell phone that they sailed through Hizma checkpoint without being stopped.
When the group is finally reunited for a tour of Jaffa, one of the Palestinian women runs down the beach and into the water, soaking her boots and pants, crying, breathing in the smell of the sea for the first time in her life.
Photo by Gerson Robboy
Residents of Beit Surik and international protesters, 2/25/04, protesting the construction of the wall separating the village from its ﬁelds. As they approach closer to the soldiers, the soldiers will shoot tear gas at them.
ELUL 24/ Shabbat One piece of my stay [at the Christian Peacemakers’ Team house in Hebron] was a long, ongoing conversation with [CPT member] Dianne Roe about her current passion. For 450 years Jews and Moslems lived intermingled peacefully in Hebron. In 1929 that changed. There was a massacre, in which Arabs killed 47 or 49 Jews. This is a central rallying point for present-day settlers, who have a museum about the massacre (and spray paint n’kamah – “revenge” all over the place.) A piece of the story that is little-told is that many Jews were saved by their Arab neighbors. And many of those Arab families who saved Jews in 1929 are the very ones who are being terrorized today. The landlords of the CPT house, and of the vacant house across the street, are Shaheens, who saved the Mizrahi family in an extraordinary way. Nineteen Mizrahis were hidden in the house. When the killers came to the door, the Mizrahis tried to run them off. Failing this, the ‘hajah,’ the oldest woman in the family, went up on the roof, took off her scarf and shook out her hair, then opened the front of her dress, exposing her breasts. She said, “I swear before Allah that there are no Jews here.” Because it is a sin to look upon a naked woman, the marauders fled.
Above, the Shaheen home in Hebron, where the hajah saved her Jewish tenants in 1929, now empty. Below, Dianne Roe (left, with video camera) and CPT colleagues at checkpoint.
Margaret Holub, January 2007
ELUL 25/ Selichot
From Andrew’s Bethlehem Blog, by Andrew Miller http://andrewsbethlehemblog.wordpress.com/
3:00 is really early. I had managed to sleep for about three hours when my driver (whom I will call George 2, to preserve continuity with this post) arrived.
A Palestinian Christian who lives in Bethlehem, George told me that he is able to hold an Israeli ID (which gives him the right to drive through checkpoints and to the Israeli side of the Separation Barrier) because he was born in Jerusalem, in the Christian Quarter of the Old City. His family still owns the house in which he grew up.
The walls of Jerusalem in the Christian Quarter. The Citadel and Jaffa Gate are in the background. (Note the water tanks at the lower right. Even in the Christian Quarter, Israel imposes water rations on municipalities that have mostly Palestinian residents. One does not see rooftop tanks in municipalities populated by Israeli Jews.)
When the government of Israel annexed what it defined as Greater Jerusalem in 1967 after the Six Day War, it offered Palestinians living in the annexed territories Israeli citizenship. They refused, partly because Israel would have required them to take a loyalty oath, and partly because they refused to recognize the fact of annexation. (It is perhaps worth mentioning that the whole rest of the world refused to recognize the fact of annexation, too. Not one other country recognizes Israel’s sovereignty over all of “Greater Jerusalem”.) To avoid the appearance of discrimination as much as possible, Israel therefore gave them what are called “Israeli ID cards”. These cards allow much greater freedom of movement than the “West Bank ID cards” that my Palestinian friends in Bethlehem carry.
George 2!s father was living in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967, one of the thousands of Palestinian Christians who lived (and still live) in East Jerusalem. He therefore has an Israeli ID card, although he is not an Israeli citizen. He currently lives in Bethlehem, but has managed to renew his Israeli ID by using his parent’s address in the Christian Quarter as his official address. Otherwise, he would be in the same position as my Palestinian friends who live in Bethlehem: he would not be allowed to go Jerusalem (five miles away) under normal circumstances.
To the airport
George 2!s father picked me up in Beit Sahour at the ungodly hour of 3:00 AM. Near Beit Sahour, part of the Separation Barrier is defined by an Israeli road that only Israelis and those with an Israeli ID can use. We drove on this road, passed Har Homa, and then made a right turn into the Palestinian village of Beit Safafa. This was a short cut that allowed us to take the main road through West Jerusalem, which is a little faster than driving next to the Old City.
Less than forty years ago, Beit Safafa was part of the greater Bethlehem community, and residents from the two towns often went from one to the other. Today, Beit Safafa has been cut off from Bethlehem by several new Israeli settlements and the massive Separation Barrier. It is not inappropriate that, during my departure from Bethlehem, I be reminded of all this. But it was sad.
After driving through West Jerusalem, we drove north on route 404, which turned first into highway 45, and then turned into route 443. More sadness. This road goes passes dozens of settlements in the West Bank. In order to protect these settlements, Israel has completely walled in the Palestinian villages of Bir Nabala, Al-Jib, and Al-Judeirah, among others, into what is called the Bir Nabala enclave. We drove past that.
Map courtesy of B'Tselem. http://www.btselem.org/separation_barrier We also passed the massive Modi’in settlement bloc and the Palestinian village of Ni’lin. In order to allow the expansion of the Modi’in bloc and of neighboring settlements, Israel is in the process of taking land from Ni’lin, Bil’in, Deir Qaddis, and other Palestinian villages. (“Taking land”, by the way, here includes demolishing some of the villagers’ homes and burning some of their olive trees. You can Google the names of these villages for more information if you are interested.)
So it was not the most cheerful ride early this Thursday morning. But eventually we made it to Ben-Gurion Airport.
ELUL 26 Photo by Lois Pearlman. Checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah:
ELUL 27 Photos by Rebecca Arian.
ELUL 28 Accompaniment -- Margaret Holub 2007 That night we were invited to a birthday party for Mary, a 76year old Australian woman who has been here living and working with the young radicals of the International Solidarity Movement. It was a charming party, and a chance to meet a bunch of the “internationals,” mostly young people working here in various capacities to monitor the scene and in some cases to agitate for change. The party was hosted by Issa, a handsome young Palestinian man in his twenties. We sat in chairs around the walls of an empty back room, with a table set up with some cakes and fruits (and a Palestinian flag for a table cloth.) Issa said, “Okay, we will begin the party,” and he turned on some loud, crackly Arab/techno fusion of some kind that included “happy birthday.” He offered his hand to Mary, and the two of them danced in front of all of us, while we clapped. Then Ead, another cute young guy, with glasses and a big, toothy smile, tapped Issa on the shoulder and took over. Like a cotillion. I mention this because the next day was one of the weekly actions being organized by Issa and Ead and some of the internationals. This one was billed as a “conference.” So Thursday at 1:30 my CPT pals and I walked over to the appointed place, where indeed there was a big stack of white plastic chairs, some banners and a loudspeaker and PA system. Issa and Ead and some others set up the chairs in the street (which was blocked by a checkpoint at the other end,
so there was no traffic to worry about.) The checkpoint was about a half a block away, and the chairs faced away from it. Someone handed around plastic Palestinian flags on little sticks. The crowd grew. There were dozens, maybe more, kids of all ages, mostly boys, carrying on with the flags and banners while stuff got set up. There was a good bit of press. At the appointed moment, more eardrumbreaking music was put on. A woman in an embroidered gown and head scarf got up and started the proceedings. There were speakers one after the other, with the music in between each. It was really very exciting – maybe 200 people, lost of energy. Bob from CPT at one point said into my ear, “Let’s cross the street, because otherwise we’ll have to duck into one of these stores when they start teargassing.” At that point I got tense. I could see kids and teens advancing a bit towards the checkpoint. At one point a soldier opened the gate, and we could see the jeeps and soldiers behind it. Someone explained that at these things, eventually someone will throw a rock or something, and all hell will break loose. “I hope they won’t shoot,” I struggled with myself about whether to stay or to just leave. I decided to linger on the edge for awhile, at least until my nerves told me to go.
Meanwhile I saw Issa and Ead both carefully, energetically moving the creeping kids away from the checkpoint, kind of herding them down the street towards the chairs. They were quite something to watch. I also saw one of the internationals, a glamorous, kind of icy-looking woman (who should be played by Nicole Kidman in the movie,) do a beautiful thing. She is part of EAPPI (the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel, an CPT knock-off run by the World Council of Churches.) “Accompaniment,” I learn, is a term of art, for what all these folks do, standing in hot spots and trying to bring a little cool. So this very pretty woman was standing right inside the metal detector at the checkpoint, her hip cocked casually, holding a baby in her arms. It was a truly “disarming” sight. While all this was going on, the music and the speakers continued. And then they ended. Issa and Ead started collecting the banners and then the chairs. It was over. The last thing I saw before I asked Bob to help me find a taxi to leave Hebron was an old man and a young boy on a heavily-laden donkey stopped at the checkpoint. The soldier made the guy completely unpack the donkey, including its raggedy saddle, and hand each piece through the metal detector. He did it resignedly. This took a good bit of time, as you might imagine. Then I saw the guy and finally the donkey walk through the checkpoint. Bob laughed and said, “Were you just accompanying a donkey?”
ELUL 29 Photo by Liza Behrendt
Beit Jala: An interfaith protest against the fence, with activists and religious figures coming from the Israeli and Palestinian side to pass symbolic objects between the fence. August 14, 2009 ! !