<   Report Two: "I Will Never Be The Same" >

July 20 - 21, 2011


This delegation traveled concurrently with the
Today's Youth, Tomorrow's Leaders Delegation> > >

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.

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.



Freedom and Struggle

What this trip has done for me is twofold:

Firstly, it has heightened my sense of awareness on the value of freedom.

Secondly, it has allowed me to see struggle and restriction at a level I never imagined.

- Mike Nettles


Many Firsts

Getting Oriented: Beginning the process of understanding.  There are so many conflict around the world, past and present, from the liberation struggles of South Africa, to the "troubles" in Northern Ireland, to the Israeli Palestine conflict.  And it is this struggle that is most unique and important to the world.

For the world to truly have peace - for us as a global society to move toward that ideal place of world peace - this conflict must be justly solved.

The readings and background material we received prior to the orientation are important for me to read and digest to help make my experience and, more importantly, the delegations experience richer and deeper.  Because of this preparation, we are able to ask and probe to gain understanding and record stories.

I want to acknowledge the African Heritage Delegation. Our first few days together were an opportunity to get to know each other to start a bonding for our 10 days together traveling in Israel and the Palestine territories. I am excited to get to know these wonderful people and their stories it is an important opportunity that I can't pass by. Our group comes from Atlanta, the DC area, Seattle, Ohio, Berkeley/Oakland CA, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts.

Many Firsts: This is my first time in the Middle East; my first time to Jerusalem and the opportunity to visit some of the many Holy sites in this area; my first time working with Interfaith Peace-Builders; and of course, IFPB's first African Heritage Delegation.

We are the first IFPB African Heritage delegation to Palestine/Israel. We all realize we have a powerful responsibility to lay a solid foundation for future delegations of this type. Adjusting to the travel and jet lag is a challenge which has had an effect on the energy of the delegation, but we are getting to know each other and I look forward to our debriefings to hear from each delegate and what he/she has witnessed.

Day One (the Old City of Jerusalem): We are so blessed to have such wonderful guides who have this incredible knowledge and can explain in detail what has happen and what is happening in the different quarters of the city. To walk the old city of Jerusalem is special for me. Though it was a 3 hour plus walk, we were able to visit the Holy sites, and to walk the same ground of the many religious icons of the past.

Muslim Quarter:  As we visited the Muslim quarter we were able to see - and some in our delegation were able to pray - at the Dome of the Rock. Walking around the mosque and feeling the energy of the people in the square was truly special. 

But while we were in the Dome of the Rock compound, we got a glimpse of what was to come.  We witnessed Israeli settlers walking through the temple square with armed guards and, more importantly, we saw the small, very subtle, protest Muslim worshipers raised in exchange.

Christian quarter:  As we walked through the Christian quarter, we visited seven stages of Jesus’ walk to his crucifixion as well as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and an Ethiopian church.

Jewish quarter: Our group’s visit to the Wailing Wall/Western Wall was also an important experience for many.

This was the tourist part of our first day and for me it was an important spiritual experience to visit these holy sites. But the more important reality we were exposed to was the effect of Israeli government policies on the daily lives of Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Old City and the limitations the community has for a fruitful future.

Throughout the tour of the Old City we saw the effect Israeli policies and laws have on Palestinian homes and property, how property was being obtained to expand the Israeli Jewish footprint in the Old City, and the tensions that this brings in this conflict.

As good as the walk was, the overlay is a "power over" program in the Old City.

- Keith Harvey


I learned more today than I have any other day of my life

I leaned more today than I have any other day of my life.

In the morning our amazing tour guide  took us to the Old City - the section of East Jerusalem enclosed by an ancient wall originally built by the Romans and we saw most of the holiest sites for Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

After going through a couple of security stations and metal detectors we began our tour by going to the grounds of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, considered the third holiest site in the world to Muslims. On September 28, 2000 Israeli politician Ariel Sharon disrespected the Palestinians by entering the grounds of the Mosque with some 1,500 riot police, which touched off the second Intifada (uprising), or what is known as the “Al Aqsa intifada.”

While our guide was explaining the religious significance of the mosque and the political history of its link to the intifada, a group of Israeli Jewish settlers, escorted by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), came to the grounds of the mosque to provoke the Palestinians. In a show of resistance, the Palestinians began chanting “Allah Akbar” (“God is great"). As their chants grew louder and more IDF soldiers showed up, it became quite tense and the even the IDF realized that the settlers should move along.

We then proceeded to some of the most sacred places to the three major monotheistic religions—including walking part of the path that Jesus took while he carried his cross to his crucifixion and the tomb from which he was resurrected.

In the afternoon we met with Micha, a former IDF soldier and now a member of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD). Micha is also a founding member of Breaking the Silence, an organization of former IDF soldiers speaking out against the occupation. He gave us a great history of the Zionist movement and the founding of Israel and at each point in his talk he explained the lies he learned in school and the reality of life for the Palestinians.

Afterwards, our delegations traveled with him on a tour of Jerusalem where he showed us this reality - and how the Israeli system of Apartheid works to control and degrade Palestinians. Since the 1967 War, most of Jerusalem’s eastern neighborhoods have been illegally annexed by Israel – and the city is divided into East Jerusalem, where Palestinians live, and West Jerusalem, where Jewish Israelis live.

We drove down a road in West Jerusalem with nice sidewalks and tree-lined streets, only to see it all disappear into the East Jerusalem ghetto. The first thing Micha pointed out was the small water towers on top of all of the East Jerusalem houses because Israel does no’t supply the Palestinians sufficient water.

He showed us Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem housed in trailers - no gym, no playground, no science labs.  I immediately thought of the school/trailers in Haiti that the Clinton Foundation provided in Léogâne which were recently discovered to be filled with formaldehyde and the kids had to end the school year early because they were getting sick (ahhh, occupations. . . )!

Micha explained that as the textbooks in these Palestinian schools wear out they are increasingly replaced with Israeli textbooks which describe the founding of Israel as great movement for independence instead of the genocide and dispossession of the Palestinians.

He showed us a home that had been bulldozed by the Israeli government and explained the policy that has led to hundreds of Palestinians losing their homes. Palestinians have to get permits to modify their homes or build new ones, but they can only get these permits if they have the original documents and blueprints for their buildings. Since only wealthy Palestinians can have someone locate and draw up these documents, the vast majority of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem can be deemed illegal and subject to demolition.

The Jerusalem Municipality will post a note giving warning and then they will show up unannounced, remove the furniture from a home while most of the family is gone, and bulldoze it to the ground.

Micha told us of one Palestinian student who brought his favorite toy to school every day because he could never be sure when the bulldozers were coming.

Next he took us to a section of the Apartheid Wall - the so-called “Security Barrier” - that breaks up East Jerusalem. The wall is really overwhelming; reaching nearly thirty feet in the air and planned to span some 600 miles in the West Bank.

Micha broke down why the wall has nothing to do with Israeli security. There are enough gaps in the wall that anyone motivated enough to conduct a suicide bombing would probably be up for driving the extra couple of hours out of the way to get around the barrier. Moreover, Hamas has ceased suicide bombings.

The real reasons behind the wall became clear to us on the ground – to cut off Palestinians from important resources, such as the aquifers, and to cut off Palestinians from their land to open up space for more Israeli settlers to take over more Palestinian land.

But as graffiti spray-painted on the wall near where we stopped reads: “The hands that build, can also tear down.”

- Jesse Hagopian

an original version of this report appears here on Jesse's blog


I Will Never Be the Same

This experience in Israel and Palestine has been nothing short of amazing. My colleagues and I immerse ourselves in the cultural, political, and religious components of the Israeli and Palestinian people. I feel very fortunate to be able to explore this wonderful part of the world.  I am learning new and exciting information each day. I have managed to learn a few words in both Hebrew and Arabic. I cannot wait to share this adventure with my community in the United States.

Today we met with one of the co-founders of the Israeli Black Panthers. I had no idea such an organization existed prior to my visit to Israel. The discussion with this former leader was profound. He provided an in-depth reflection of his experience as a Jewish individual immigrating to Israel from Morocco. He explained the severe discrimination his community received in Israel because of their African and Arab heritage.

The Jewish community that immigrated to Israel from Eastern Europe viewed the culture and religious traditions of the African and Arab Jews as inferior. The Moroccan Jewish community continues to experience inequality today; lack of education resources, unemployment, gentrification, and poverty stem from this racial inequity.

We met a homeless family of Moroccan Jewish heritage. Immediately the family invited us into their tent. Although their resources were few, the family offered us food and water. I was inspired by their incredible strength in the midst of difficult circumstances. The genuine hospitality they showed to my colleagues and I was absolutely wonderful.

I asked the Father of the family what he would like me to share with my community. His response, “Tell the truth…”.

I will never be the same after this experience.

- Sterling Pack


Media interested in interviewing the participants when they return, and groups wanting information about speaking engagements, should contact Interfaith Peace-Builders at media[a]ifpb.org or 415.240.4607.

This delegation is traveling concurrently with the "Today's Youth, Tomorrow's Leaders" Delegation > > >



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