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Wellsprings of Resistance
by Wayne Arnason

What do you imagine a refugee camp looks like?

Most westerners probably think about the camps set up after disasters or wars, filled with temporary shelters for displaced people who cannot be accommodated any other way. But what happens when temporary becomes permanent, or at least sixty-three years permanent?  The refugees build a town. That's what we toured today, the Dheisheh Refugee Camp, a town built by three generations of Palestinians, still administered by the UN Relief Works Administration (UNRWA), alongside the West Bank city of Bethlehem.  We visited the Phoenix  Center, a community center for residents of Dheisheh and Bethlehem on the edge of the camp. Our guide was Mourad, a resident of Dheisheh for his twenty-five years, one grandson in the family that was moved here during the 1948 war.

Among many things that he said that moved us deeply was the story of taking his grandmother out of the camp for the first time (prior to the last Intifada) and illegally visiting his home village. He was not surprised how alive the village was in his grandmother's memory, but he was surprised when she told him where their well was located. There was no indication of any well. "Dig!" she said, so Mourad obeyed, and after considerable digging hit something hard. When he uncovered it, he found the stone that covered a well, and it still had fresh water.

There are some wellsprings of the Palestinian refugees' ongoing resistance to the Israeli occupation, and a little digging with our questions helps us find them. One of them is the conviction that the homes that they lived in prior to 1948 are theirs, regardless of whatever arcane property documents are required from the four different administrations that have had jurisdiction in Palestine since that time. Another is outrage at the injustices and human rights violations that have been carried out against them by the nations that colonized and ruled their homeland. The most important wellspring is hope, hope that is sustained by their loyalty to their culture and identity and the belief that it will prevail. For some Palestinians, their religious faith helps sustain that hope - whether it be Islam, Christianity, or even Judaism (there are indeed Jewish Palestinians!).

We came away from our visits refreshed by the wellsprings of resistance we had found and inspired by the stories of Palestinian resistance we had heard. Some of that resistance happens in courts of law, and some of it consists of telling their stories, yet again, this time to our group.  Some of it consists of enduring the daily indignities created by the settlers and the soldiers without surrendering or letting their spirits be crushed.       


First Experience of the Harvest
by Jo Hollingsworth

On Wednesday, we visited the Tent of Nations, also known as  Daher’s Vineyard,  near Bethlehem.  There we were greeted by Bill Plitt, co-founder of of the Friends of Tent of Nations, North America, and were welcomed into one of the several caves on the vineyard for an orientation.   All 22 of us helped to harvest olives from a small grove of trees. After an hour and a half, we were treated to a delicious vegetable stew on rice with sage tea for lunch.

Daher’s Vineyard was purchased by Daher Nassar in 1916 and is operated now by his grandsons, Daoud and Daher.  It stands on a hilltop, one of the last farms under Christian Palestinian ownership, ringed now by settlements and the separation wall. The Nassars face many obstacles from the local Israeli authorities who are trying to force the Nassar family off their land.  The authorities have cut off water and electricity to the vineyard and have bulldozed large boulders and rubble blocking the access road to the property.  In response the vineyard is building its infrastructure to become self-sufficient.

The Tent of Nations was established to build bridges between people and between people and the land.  Tent of Nations provides classes for the women in Nahalin, a nearby Palestinian village. They also provide summer camps for local youth, through which the slogan “Out of nothing, together we can achieve something” is brought to life.

Nassar's Vineyard and the Tent of Nations were an excellent introduction to the challenges facing Palestinian farmers


Remembering the Holocaust
by John Eby

The lush pines and fragrant rosemary that crown the magnificent Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem testify to the deep meaning of this beautiful place.  We suffer as we wind slowly through the exhibits of the museum, a distant echo of the pain of Jews and of all of humanity at this unimaginable atrocity.  The soul murmurs with disquiet as it wanders ghostlike through the dry solitude of the Valley of the Communities, reading the endless names of entire communities eradicated in the Shoah inscribed in the limestone cliffs, tears whispering from each elegant letter. 

Yet redemption shines as a beacon on these graceful hills, for in the Children’s Memorial light floats, gently blanketing us in memory and hope and thousands of names stand out in the Garden of the Righteous among the Nations as a sign that human beings can have the courage to stand up against injustice and refuse to collaborate through compliance.  The fragrance that lingers is not the reek of depravity but the rising scent of dignity as we step into the light.


Israel and Manifest Destiny
by Bud Hensgen  

The more I see here, the more I am reminded of the American experience of manifest destiny. As American settlers moved west across the Mississippi River, we viewed the land as empty and basically ours to settle and cultivate. The Native Americans were viewed as uncivilized obstacles, objects to be corralled into reservations and removed from the road of American expansion. At every turn, when there was a conflict for land between the two cultures, we used our military and legal systems to work in our favor and against the Native Americans.  

For this scenario to be effective here in Israel/Palestine, you don't need to describe it as religious at all. It is simply the result of a natural process in which a wealthy, modern industrial culture displaces a poorer, less developed semi-agricultural culture. Of course, we live in a different world today, and the Palestinian people are growing in number, not shrinking, and they are being crowded into smaller and smaller areas. Pressure is naturally building, and it seems to me it cannot be contained forever.


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