Walking the Way Toward Truth:
Reflections from Our First Day
Wednesday, May 26
Delegation 33 Announcement
Report 1: Walking the Way Toward Truth
Report 2: Identities in Conflict Zones
Report 3: By Sea, By Air, By Land: Control at Any Cost
Report 4:Gaza Reflections and More. . .
Report 5: Learning from Families in Beit Sahour
Report 6: Protests, Anger, Irony, Inward Peace, and Commitment to Action
We invite delegation participants to comment on and react to the experiences they have during our Israel/Palestine delegations in written Trip Reports.
Individual delegates contribute pieces to these reports. As such, reports are not comprehensive accounts of every meeting or experience, but impressions of those things that most impact individuals. Trip reports to not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Peace-Builders, trip leaders, or delegation partner organizations. We hope you enjoy reading and we encourage you to share these reports with others.
I know I’m walking the way toward truth.
- Bea Volkman
My first day in Jerusalem it struck me for the first time that what Israel calls "facts on the ground" are precisely that, facts. Above all being here has made me aware of the patent absurdity of calling for an equal hearing for the various interpretations of the current situation. No one asks modern geneticists to give a nod to phrenology in every talk for the sake of ensuring a democratic marketplace of ideas.
Today we not only visited a demolished Palestinian home in East Jerusalem, we also had the data on home demolitions supplied by Maya, our guide from ICAHD (the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions), corroborated by a briefing from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
As an aspiring academic my core belief is that every idea, every interpretation and every narrative, when evaluated critically, reveals a paradoxical, nuanced flipside. The profound realization that occupation is an irrefutable fact here does not negate this belief.
I think my challenge while here will be to witness the cruelty and illegality of occupation while retaining a complex understanding of the very real fears that motivate Israeli society. It seems to me that a genuinely balanced perspective would be capable of doing both.
- Teresa Davis
The first time I came in direct contact with the wall I almost did not notice it. This was because I had seen it from the Israeli side - from which it looks nothing like the 8 meter high concrete slab I am now familiar with. Viewed from the Israeli side, in certain areas the wall looks like a hill, planted with flowers watered by a dripper system (in a region where water is so scarce), with a little unsightly barbed wire poking out from behind the other side.
Today as we drive through the narrow roads of Abu-Dis, we make a sharp turn and there it is: high and gray and graffiti-ed. The wall in Abu-Dis runs directly through the village, separating neighbors, hindering Palestinians ability to reach hospitals and schools, and devastating the Palestinian economy. As we step off the bus, Maya, our tour guide mentions that we might want to stop at the nearby grocery store if we need anything. This particular store is struggling to maintain itself since the erection of the wall on the opposite side of the street.
As much as this site emotionally affected me, the thought of the residents of Abu-Dis and other Palestinians whose homes, businesses, families and mobility have been transformed by this apartheid wall made me feel guilty about my emotions but above all, ashamed.
- Keren Carmeli
While the group went with Maya to the wall, I noticed a run-down gas station with a small “market”. Both were 100 yards from the wall and I went to buy a bottle of water from the little store.
Inside, the shop owner left the cash register to ask if he could help me. We began talking in his broken English and some hand signs. I asked him if/how the wall (which blocked the view from his storefront) had affected him. He shook his head, a few tears came and he said it ruined his business and his life. He had been on main streets where traffic and walkers had easy access to the store but the giant concrete monolith took his customers with the great divide, he said.
I asked him if he’d suggest a message I could take back when I returned from this trip. He (animatedly using his hands) said he had been in Kentucky a few years ago to visit family. He was shocked to find how much the media supported all things Israeli, and either distorted or dismissed all things Palestinian. He wanted me to know this and tell people about the Palestinian situation. I told him I’d do my best and bought a box of 20 kit-kats with US dollars. His small store could hold 3-4 people and only Lara came in to buy water for the group. We said a warm good-bye.
- Liz Seraphim
Today I learned that Israel has a sense of humor about this illegal occupation. We met with a representative from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. She told us that Israel demolishes 100 - 150 Palestinian homes a year. Meanwhile the illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank are flourishing and continue to grow. There are 6,000 pending demolition orders against Palestinian homes. At any time, Israeli forces can arrive and give a Palestinian family 15 minutes to evacuate before their entire life is literally destroyed before their eyes.
The best part is the Israel makes Palestinians pay for the price of a bulldozer rental in order to demolish their homes. Often times, Palestinians will beg to be able to demolish their own homes because it will be cheaper.
- Lara Elborno
The ICAHD tour took us to the Israeli settlements in and around East Jerusalem.
“Settlements” - the word has been stripped of the meaning for what it was originally intended. For most people, the word might evoke images of canvas covered wagon trains venturing out to undeveloped and unexplored wilderness.
What we saw at the “settlement” of Ma’ale Adumin - approximately 15 minutes from downtown Jerusalem - was a large, Jewish-only, gated community in the West Bank (the territory envisioned to be part of the contiguous territory for a future Palestinian state).
“The security wall” – Israel has at every opportunity attributed much of recent security gains to the 8 meter tall wall topped by razor-sharp barbed wire. However, when one considers the fact that more than 80% of the security wall falls within the West Bank, and often separates Palestinian towns – such as the place we visited where the wall cuts between Abu Dis and Silwan – I cannot help but wonder: is protecting Israel truly the aim of the security wall?
These attempts at subterfuge through the appropriation of words eliciting positive, reassuring emotions suggest an elaborate theater production, but whether for domestic or international consumption, I cannot say with certainty.
- Yeou-Shiuh Hsu
After joining ICAHD on a tour of East Jerusalem and receiving a briefing at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, we did a walking tour of the Old City and I came away with one major theme: the Occupation of East Jerusalem is subtle, invisible, and “normalized.”
There is the subtlety of the street signs… how Arab street names are “Judaized” and how Jewish/Hebrew street names are many times simply transcribed phonetically into Arabic gibberish… as to further enforce the idea that “this is not your place.” There is the ubiquitous deployment of security measures, which without any contextual understanding of the occupation, could easily be perceived by visitors as signifying that “they” (Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians) must really be violent to require such measures. Finally, there are the ways in which the reality of the occupation (armed soldiers, walls, surveillance, lack of municipal services, settlements, etc) become part of everyday life… “normal,” and thus is perceived as being acceptable, or de facto accepted.
- Jason Bechtel
After our visit to the Old City, Anna, Mary and I decided to walk back to St. George’s College. After about 20 minutes I left them to take a shorter way home. I followed the map I’d been given, but at a certain point the map ended and I wasn’t sure how to continue. The street names I saw were not on the map.
A young boy, maybe 11 or 12, saw me and asked if I needed help. I asked him to point the way to the Post Office but he did not understand me. Just then two young men stopped and asked if I needed help. After a short discussion they told me to follow the young boy. So the boy led me up the streets for a while until I happened to see Anna and Mary at a money change shop.
I thanked the boy and he nodded to me and turned to leave. I held on to him and made him wait until I got some change so I could give him 10 shekels. He had no expectation of payment.
For all he and the two young men knew, I could have been an American who actively supported the Israeli policy, which dispossesses the Palestinian people of their land and their homes.
- Rich Forer
As I type this, I am sitting on the roof of a hostel in the breeze of a cool Jerusalem night. My group has recently retired for the evening after a long two days of travel. The purpose of this Interfaith Peace-Builders group is to learn more about the occupation from people who are directly impacted by it. When I say “the occupation” I am referencing the systemic oppression of Palestinian people by the Israeli government. Palestinians have been forcefully removed from their land, piled up in refugee camps, and are generally harassed every day as official policy of the state.
I joined this group, with the support of so many, because I was tired of being a sympathetic, yet inactive observer to the unrest here in the Middle East. I felt that I had to do something more than just sympathize. I had to do something more than just write blog articles about what’s going on here. I had to do more than just repeat that catchy, but all too easily stated phrase: “Peace in the Middle East.”
I believe that peace does not just happen. Peace is born by those who work to nurture and establish it. The “more” that I felt God calling me to was to actually come here and learn. This was by no means an easy decision. It actually was an “inconvenient call” from God. By most logical accounts, this was not the right time to be here. Family considerations, financial issues, church obligations, and other concerns were at the forefront of my discussion with God about why the timing was not right. But if the invitation by God to this type of service was not convenient, I would doubt that you could call it discipleship. I believe that a part of walking with Jesus along The Way involves an embrace of sacrifice.
For that and many other reasons, I truly feel that it was providence for me to be here right now. After meeting amazing people in the last year like David Hosey and Na’im Ateek; I felt a special kinship to Palestinians and Israelis working for a just peace. I knew that at some point I would be here in the land that is called “holy” to bear witness to the unholiness of occupation and to meet people who are living and standing up courageously in its shadow daring to declare that there is another Way.
- Heber Brown
This excerpt was originally posted on Heber Brown’s blog. Click here to read the full text.
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