<   Report Two:  On Truth, Hope and Denied Entry >

An Environment Under Siege: Occupation's Effect on People and Land
Delegation to Palestine/Israel
May 25, 2012

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.



Bethlehem: Kairos, Moments of Truth

by Cori Mancuso

In Bethlehem we met a Palestinian Christian man who spoke about the Kairos Palestine document. He is one of the co-authors of this document. I did not know what this was until today but it is a very important piece of work.

The Kairos Palestine is a “word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.” It is a call from the Christian Palestinians for the international community to take action against the injustice of the Israeli occupation. It is a beautiful work that looks at the social, economic, legal, and theological viewpoints of the occupation.

Most interesting to me is the theological call to action, a call for Christians and non-Christians to find the truth and release the misguided theology of a God who would give “divine right” to a group of people to oppress others. God is just and merciful and the occupation is a sin against God and all humanity. If you would like to read it, go to www.kairospalestine.ps.  

I believe this is the document that will lead the Palestinian people and help to spread the message of their suffering.

After that we went into the Old City of Bethlehem where I ate my first falafel, had a Palestinian beer called Tabyeh,  and visited the Church of Nativity.

Then we went to meet with the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ) where we learned about the environmental effects of the occupation and how it could become more sustainable. Our speaker was extremely interesting and provided very useful tools for dealing with minimal resources and helping Palestine become more sustainable. He misses the beauty of the Jordan River, the animals, the agricultural lands that were once used in the Palestinian’s livelihoods.

We also encountered a Jewish Nationalist settlement that was built on a Palestinian nature reserve. Also, the segregation wall that divided Palestinian families from their olive trees.

It has been an overwhelming day. There is a glimmer of hope for Palestine, but only a glimmer. The situation is far worse than I could have ever expected. But the beautiful thing is that Palestinians are still hopeful and courageous, even when every limitation has been placed on them and every option for freedom has diminished. Their hospitality is endless and we have much to learn from Palestinians.

A longer version of this piece was originally posted at ifpbdelegation2012.wordpress.com

Join Diana Buttu and Maia Carter-Hallward on this unique opportunity to travel to Palestine/Israel

This delegation will explore current realities of life for Israelis and Palestinians, including settlements, the occupation, and the peace process - by learning directly from those living there.  We will also explore issues relevant to young people in the region, including efforts to educate and empower future generations working towards a just resolution to the conflict. 

Click here for more information and to apply today!


Another Perspective on Kairos

by Marianne Torres

Did I tell you this group runs the full gamut geographically, age, and level of information? But all seem determined to make a difference in this struggle. Much of the information is new for some, not for others, but even visits and lectures where I think I know a lot about the subject always contain new info, updates, or a new slant.

We took a tour of the Wall, and were reminded of how it deliberately separates farmers from their fields, families from each other as we looked at a beautiful olive grove on one side of the wall and the owners of the trees on the other, and that Palestinians who live in Bethlehem (or ended up not by choice on the "wrong" side of the wall) cannot go to Jerusalem to see their families or do anything at all except by permit, exceptionally difficult to get and often not given. The criteria for obtaining a permit: over 45 years of age; married, with children; no "criminal" record; no relatives with "criminal" records. This paragraph does not begin to describe the hardship and heartbreak caused by this separation by the Wall.

At Kairos we spoke with Nidal A., a Christian leader in the community and a co-author of the Kairos Document, a piece of work crafted by a committee of 14 from a number of churches, funded by Switzerland, and spreading through churches, communities and activists as the second of two excellent tools (along with BDS-Boycott, Divest, Sanction) that activists outside Palestine can put to effective use. It is the foundation of Churches' attempts to divest from Israel.

Nidal spent 3 years in prison, was tortured, and for 1.5 years did not know why. He was in "administrative detention" that Israel uses regularly to imprison Palestinians indefinitely, without charges, without trial. After 1.5 years, he learned he was there under administrative detention but spent another 1.5 years before he was freed. AMERICANS, KEEP IN MIND that Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act some months ago that now gives him the legal ability to do the same to Americans, though right now that part is stalled by a Federal judge who nixed it.

Nidal  stated clearly that he is often asked by other people whether Christians are persecuted in Palestine, and his answer is an emphatic NO. He did though speak of the hardships of the 186 Christian families in Beit Jalla, Beit Sahour and Bethlehem as a result of Israeli land confiscations, lack of access to Jerusalem and draconian family reunification laws.

The Kairos Document says "a religious state is inherently discriminatory and unjust." This is a clear call for the end to Supremacy, and end to having a state for one kind of person only. NOT an end to Israel, but an end to the horrors of racial supremacy. I hadn't read this document and was quite surprised and very pleased to see how strongly this is stated.

A longer version of this piece was originally posted at mtorres555.travellerspoint.com


BADIL: Learning About Refugees

by Marianne Torres

Then to BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, with Lubna, a Palestinian-American with an American passport. Their work: 1. Educating refugees about their human and refugee rights; 2. outreach, support and alliance-building with civil society and international NGOs, 3. research and mobilization.

Some points made:

  • Law of Return: the Israeli law that says that any Jew living anywhere in the world has the "right to return to Israel", but any Palestinian, even those who actually lived inside what is now Israel have no right to return to their home, and cannot return.
  • United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP ): a UN agency that has long received nearly no funding, and whose records cannot be accessed by anybody. It holds massive records of land expropriations and confiscations, and the world is quite probably afraid of the information UNCCP holds, the saying is "the losses are too big to be counted".
  • Some refugee information from Badil:
    1. Under British Mandate (1922-1947): 150,000 people became refugees.
    2. During the Nakba (1948): 800,000 refugees and more than 500 Palestinian villages were depopulated or destroyed.
    3. During the Naksa (1967 war):  450,000 became refugees.
  • "Unrecognized villages" are unrecognized because they were built without permits. Most of the "unrecognized villages" are villages that were in existence before '48 and therefore could not have had permits.
  • Right of Return for ALL people is codified in international law, an inalienable right, and cannot be taken away.
  • A new definition: "Seam Line": the land between the "Green Line" and the wall.
  • Beware "normalization" dialogue. This is where oppressor sits with oppressed, and you talk about everything except the reality of life. Definition is also larger than this, worthy of conversations later.

A longer version of this piece was originally posted at mtorres555.travellerspoint.com



Whirlwind Four Days

by Vince Stravino

Here four days with a whirlwind of sights and emotions. Friendly and clean hotel in East Jerusalem.  Horror stories continue of ongoing displaced Palestinians caused by Israeli demolitions as described by Israeli activist Ruth. She reports shunning by her community because of her views supporting human rights of her Palestinian friends. I am still amazed at calm acceptance and absence of anger at the Palestinian Christian YMCA director who was jailed without any formal charges for two years and now works with troubled youth in the West Bank. Another Palestinian baker told us over lunch that he lacked a valid travel permit recently and was denied entry to Jerusalem 8 miles away to see his hospitalized children or his dying parents. He is proud of his clean family record and his dwindling Christian community and favors a one state solution so he can live in harmony with all his neighbors as was true in the past.

We had a fine meal served by a pleasant Israeli waitress one mile outside of the Walled blockade of Gaza where a humanitarian crisis exists because of Israeli restriction of water, food, travel, utilities, and dignity. I felt guilty eating well while others suffered nearby-like enjoying a banquet outside the walls of a concentration camp. As a physician  I am appalled at the WHO  and UN reports given to us describing the malnutrition and dysentery of Gazans due to the three year blockade and the Israeli destruction of the water and sewage plants in 2009 followed by a ban on allowing any construction materials to enter since then- all in the name of "security".

One refugee agency (BADIL)  pointed out that at least half of the suicide bombers suffered childhood emotional trauma especially destruction of their homes. I met again the brave Israeli peace activist Nomika in Sderot who continues to try to bring Israelis together by cell phone with their Gazan friends several miles away. She remains nervous from five years of rocket attacks by militants in Gaza but acknowledges that war and hatred bring about awful behavior in both sides of any conflict. 

We dined with two moderate Israelis who felt security was important but that their government was spending too much on the military. Many of the activists on both sides felt that a two state solution was impossible now since the situation was like Swiss cheese: Israel has taken most of the cheese leaving only the holes for the Palestinians.

Nearly all the leaders we met supported Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, although they said this indirectly since it is unlawful to speak of it. Yesterday I was surprised to read Gideon Levy's op-ed in Israeli newspaper Haaretz in which he noted in a mildly positive way the special labeling by Denmark and South Africa of exports from the settlement areas. Most of the world considers these items suitable for boycott.

The Israelis we meet remain bright, witty, articulate, proud of their country, but concerned about their future. One teacher we met was unaware of the significant reduction in rights and privileges of all Israeli Palestinians in Israel. He did know that Palestinians in the West Bank were less well treated but he believed some of this was related to ongoing security needs. This is a land of extremes. Interfaith Peace Builders certainly brings out both sides.


Join Diana Buttu and Maia Carter-Hallward on this unique opportunity to travel to Palestine/Israel

This delegation will explore current realities of life for Israelis and Palestinians, including settlements, the occupation, and the peace process - by learning directly from those living there.  We will also explore issues relevant to young people in the region, including efforts to educate and empower future generations working towards a just resolution to the conflict. 

Click here for more information and to apply today!


Modern Day David and Goliath

by Linda Stelzer

The four of us were on the way back to the hotel in East Jerusalem from a glorious, if brief, visit to the neighborhood educational book shop.  We were four women - two college students and two of us of a more mature age - all still basking in the high of a literary nirvana, when we turned the corner and came upon a street fight.  A boy of about fourteen was getting the better of a younger and smaller boy of about ten or eleven.  The older boy had a cigarette dangling between his lips and the younger had tears welling in his eyes. Another boy of about fourteen stood in solidarity behind the assailant.

Sally and I both mothers of grown children, instinctively intervened and said firmly, "Stop!  Stop, now!", but to no avail.  Our words might have not been understood, but our intention was obvious.  "Stop! Stop! Stop now!" we cried.  I appealed to a young adult who was with the boys, but at first he ignored me as well.  "Please!" I begged as I gestured pulling the boys apart.  Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime of appealing, he stepped in and separated the boys.  The younger boy, now with tears streaming down his cheeks, escaped and raced across the street. 

Relieved, we began to move on.  Up till now, what we had witnessed was a scene one might see on any street anywhere - a young boy perhaps being bullied, or perhaps a pesky child learning a lesson about getting along.  We will never know the origins of the incident. What happened next made all of our hearts pound harder and beat faster - the smaller boy had been gone only a few seconds when he returned to the scene with a large brick, poised to throw it at his adversary.  Oh, my!  Oh, now! Now what?  Fortunately, a man came running after the boy, grabbed his brick first, then the boy himself and pulled him back across the street.  Fight over.  For now anyway.

This incident was disconcerting.  The image of the child poised to throw the brick at a far more formidable adversary brought up images of young Palestinians captured on video and still pictures.  The frustration of boys, teens, and young men bullied by a far more powerful force - soldiers with guns and bulldozers--puts bricks and stones in the hands of many of the oppressed.  Interestingly, it was David who slew the mighty Goliath with a stone, wasn't it?  Was what we had witnessed on the street a metaphor for the daily struggle of the beautiful Palestinian people as they endure the effects of an illegal occupation of their homeland?  My own feeling of near helplessness to assist on the street mirrors my intense need to intervene to bring an end to conflict in this very complicated Occupation.



Pushing Sadness Aside

by Bill Simonds

Michael invited six of our delegation members to have lunch with his family in his modest home in Bethlehem, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  We were strangers to him - he had never met any of us, and had only known of our visit through an indirect contact with one of our delegation.  Michael stopped on the way home at a recently opened bakery in Bethlehem, run as a cooperative by his and three other Palestinian families.  One of his sons worked there, and that son proudly showed us the different ovens where bread, cookies and rolls were baked. He also showed us the domed metal griddle used to bake shrak, a flatbread (click here for a photo of shrak being baked in Jerusalem).

Once in his home, Michael introduced us to his wife Carmen and his high-school age daughter Madonna.  While Carmen and Madonna were busy preparing our lunch, Michael, a large man with sun-bronzed skin, sat with us in the living room and discussed life with his family in Palestine.  He was a devout Christian, a member of the Melkite branch of Greek Orthodox, and told us he was a “preacher, but not a minister”.  Because the local public schools were all Islamic-oriented, he chose to send his children, including Madonna, to private Christian schools in Jerusalem in order to “keep our family traditions alive”.  Since Jerusalem was on the other side of a 26-foot concrete wall erected by Israel, Madonna needed a special permit and had to travel through an Israeli security checkpoint daily.  When asked if she or any of her friends hated the Israelis for the difficulties imposed on their lives, Madonna told us "we don't hate the Israelis, we hate the situation."

All seated at the dining room table, we had lunch together with his family - homemade chicken soup seasoned with a blend of aromatic spices, and baked chicken and onion rolled up in shrak flatbread.  Michael told us of another son graduated and qualified as an occupational therapist who had successfully competed for a good-paying job in Jerusalem, only to be denied employment when it was learned that he had Palestinian identity papers not of the type required by the Israeli occupation authorities to work in Jerusalem.  The son had to accept a much lower paying job behind the separation wall in the West Bank.  Another son had a chest injury sustained as a bystander to an explosion, and faced multiple administrative hurdles obtaining permission to see the appropriate medical specialists.  Asked how he coped with the hardships imposed on his family, Michael said he was determined as a Christian to remain positive so he just “pushed the sadness aside.”



Thoughts at Night’s End

By Marianne Torres

Writing this after our group de-brief tonight, where several people expressed despair after these last several days of consistently bad news about how much the situation has deteriorated. Our leader Phillip Farrah was quite pleased to hear about Spokane's Maia Project because it is a valuable piece of work that not only achieves something concrete, it also accomplishes something that helps mitigate the helplessness we feel - we will share it more comprehensively in coming end-of-day meetings.

I'm filled with so many thoughts, all wanting to be spoken first!

The sense of "despair" or "hopelessness:” Myrta and I were able to talk a bit about this, and both feel that rather than taking on that despair, we must look at the situation differently. A just resolution is further away than we thought it might be, but it is not hopeless unless all involved are dead.

And I’m remembering our conversation with Emma's Revolution, that "hopelessness" is a western privilege. If people in struggle give up, they die.

We have to keep on keeping on, find ways to do our work differently, come to terms with the fact that resolution is further away than we had hoped.

We have to keep doing the work regardless our opinion about our ability to achieve change, for if nothing else, we provide the shoulders on which will stand the ones who DO achieve justice here.

A longer version of this piece was originally posted at mtorres555.travellerspoint.com


Editor’s Note: Delegates Denied Entry

The following pieces describe the denial of entry of two people on the current delegation, our first denials of entry for anyone seeking to join an educational IFPB delegation in the last ten years.  Denial of entry is a real possibility for any and all travelers to Israel/Palestine.  Nonetheless, we are surprised and disappointed that two of our delegates faced this experience. 

We think it is important to share their stories, but have done so without names so as not to compromise the ability of future IFPB delegations to enter the country.  With this precaution, we do not feel there is any particular increased risk for future travelers. For more information, and to take action, please see the Right to Enter Campaign.


I am a Palestinian and I Refuse to be Silent

My participation in the May 2012 delegation was blocked by Israeli officials at the airport who deemed me "a security risk." After an eight-hour wait with several interrogations, I couldn't help but laugh at the idea that a Quaker mother of two had the ability to be a risk to one of the most powerful countries in the world. 

The questions started at passport control.  What is your father's name?  What is your grandfather's name?  I was immediately escorted to a dirty waiting room to await further interrogation.  I was questioned no fewer than seven times and was asked directly, "Are you a terrorist?"

All this because I am a Palestinian and I refuse to be silent.

The Israelis demanded access to my gmail account.  When I refused to provide my password, they said that I must be hiding something sinister.  They obviously knew about my activism for Palestinian rights.  They asked about my political activities at home and what organizations I worked with. 

I was taken to security to claim my suitcase.  They went through my belongings thoroughly and searched me (but thankfully did not make me strip my clothes).

When they discovered that I had taken detailed notes about my interrogations, the lead interrogator was furious.  He accused me of sound recording or photographing the questioning.  He was especially interested in my notes about my phone conversation with a staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. IFPB alerted the Embassy to my detention and the staffer had called me earlier at the airport.   I told them that the Embassy advised me to keep a record of my treatment.  They seemed to be a little nervous at that point.

I was able to inform the delegation co-leader, my dear friend Anna, that I was being deported.  She had been at my side throughout the entire ordeal prior to my search in security.  I knew she was imagining the worst during my hour-long absence.

I was taken to a prison cell where I stayed for several hours and then driven onto a runway to board a commercial flight to Europe and then onto the States.  How grateful I was to find Mike Daly of IFPB waiting for me at Dulles.  I was unable to reach my husband Steve from the airport in Frankfurt and no one was sure of my whereabouts for 12 hours.  I feel especially sick about all the worry this caused to my family and friends.  I am also so sorry to miss being on this trip with my amazing friend Nancy.  We had been looking forward to sharing this time for months.

As I was sitting in prison waiting for my deportation, I could not help but think of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention with no idea of when or if they will ever be released.  I thought of the millions of Palestinians denied the right to return to their homeland by Israel.  Israel has created and maintains through violence a Jewish majority at their expense.  My experiences of detention and deportation were scary. I am disappointed to be missing the delegation trip and my cousin's wedding in the West Bank on June 9, but my ordeal is only a small part of Israel's systematic oppression of Palestinians.  In fact, I am among the very lucky and privileged.  I am at home now unharmed with my beautiful family.

My privilege demands that I speak fearlessly against the injustices of Israel against the Palestinian people.  Count on hearing from me.


Entry Denied!


I tried to go to Palestine this week.   I was really looking forward to this trip; I knew it was a great way to see and experience the area. 

But my participation was not to be – owing to my previous activism, Israel didn’t let me in. 

I had actually tried to enter Palestine last month. I got turned away then too!  In that instance the offense that resulted in my denial of entry to Israel and getting thrown in prison, was that I actually had the temerity to tell the passport control agent at Ben Gurion Airport that the purpose of my travel was “to visit friends in Palestine” – I’m not kidding – that was all I said and all I intended to do. 

But, just as on April 15, this time I got deported – only this time all I said was, “I’m here as an American citizen, a tourist to see the holy sites,” – I’m not kidding:  that’s all I said.

The state of Israel, at least as it is manifested in its border-control/immigration policies, is in a state of cluelessness, paranoia, and desperation roughly analogous to the US military in Viet Nam in 1968 when it announced its strategic hamlet policy:  in order to save this village, it will be necessary to destroy it!

So I’m lucky to be back home in the USA (“Entry Allowed!”)


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