<   Report Four:   Faith In The Unfolding  >

An Environment Under Siege: Occupation's Effect on People and Land
Delegation to Palestine/Israel
May 30, 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.



Food and Friends
By Lissie Perkal

What an unexpected treat I had this afternoon!

Vince, one of the other people on the IFPB trip, approached me this morning before our first meeting (with one of the writers of Kairos Palestine), and asked, “did I invite you to lunch?” I was slightly confused because I thought he was talking about yesterday when he and I ventured away from the group to eat on our own, the decision to leave had been mutual and he had not specifically invited me.

“Ummmm,” I said. He quickly clarified that he’s been in communication with a Palestinian man who invited him and his friends to lunch and he wanted to know if he had already extended an invitation to me. I was so thankful that he invited to the lunch because it was truly great.

Michael, his friend, picked six of us up in a van with his daughter and drove us to his home. On the way there he stopped to show us his bakery that he works with. It belongs to a collective of four families who work in the bakery and are simultaneously renovating the building. They gave us a tour and he introduced us to his son and the other workers. Click here for a photo of the bakery in our delegation's slideshow.

Once we were back in the car his daughter, Madonna, talked to us a little about life as a student. She lives in Bethlehem with her parents but takes a bus everyday into Jerusalem to go to school. She has an ID which allows her to cross into West Jerusalem each day, allow she always has to go to a check point. She said that some days the guards didn’t bother her and other days they asked her lots of questions about who she is and where she goes. She told me later that she wants to be a lawyer but right now she is just in high school.

As we got closer to the house, Michael started to tell us a little about the area we were in and his family. We continued the conversation in the living room while Madonna went in to help her mother prepare lunch.

The purpose of the IFPB trip is for us to listen to Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, Zionists, and other Israelis who are not necessary involved in ending the illegal Occupation of Palestine. It really is a brilliant trip but even after a day and a half the heavy stories were wearing on me. It is so great to be learning from these great activists but I didn’t realize how much I was missing and needed an interaction. This lunch was just that. Instead of being talked at for an hour or two, I got to talk with people. We did talk mostly about the political, economic, and social situation but we also joked around and talked about unsubstantial things as well.

The meal itself was delightful. Madonna and her mother joined us. They cooked us meal that is made for special guests. It is cooked onions and chicken wrapped in a delicious bread.  Throughout the meal everyone got to talk (which was great because in the discussion in the living room we missed out on Madonna and her mother’s perspectives) — this ranged from gratitude to questions about BDS to discussing feelings towards Israelis.

I really was impressed with Michael’s compassion and his resolve to keep fighting. He said that it is difficult for him to love his enemy but that if he didn’t he would feel even worse because that would mean that anger had taken over everything else. We asked Madonna if she hated the Israelis for the Occupation. She said that no, she didn’t hate the Israelis at all but the situation, she really hates the situation. When we left I made sure to get Madonna’s email. “Oh and if you have Facebook I’m on it as well!”

Originally posted here: http://thelittlestbigspoon.tumblr.com/


The Wall
By Jane Simmon

Do you remember the first time you saw the Grand Canyon?  The amazement at the size? 

There is a twenty foot high wall around Bethlehem (click here for photos of the wall in our delegation's slideshow).  The immensity of the wall gave me the same feeling despite the fact that I had seen many pictures.  On one side were people's homes.   On the other side were hundreds and hundreds of olive trees that the rightful owners could not tend!  Not only that, Israel created a law that if you do not take care of your orchard, you will lose the right to own it.  Has anyone ever heard of such laws?   Do such laws make Israel more secure?


Shifting World Views
By Nancy Duncan

One week in Palestine/Israel and my world view is on its head.  On this delegation with so many erudite, amazing people I have felt so inadequate. So many of my fellow IFPBers have been working so hard on this issue for so long and I am still trying to figure out some very basic facts. 
Oh well, I have 30 amazing role models.

The world view started to go when I realized in preparing to go I had thoughts I had never had  before. I was self conscious about what I said to people about the reasons and agenda for my trip.  I intuited that this was an emotional issue that evoked really strong responses from people, and that I could actually lose friends.  Then my pacifist traveling companion was deported from Tel Aviv and not allowed in the land of her ancestors because she is Palestinian.  

On the ride from the airport to the hotel our guide pointed out destroyed Palestinian villages that had been covered over with pine trees. He explained that the trees were what the ‘Plant a tree in Israel’ campaign had been about. My response was still, “could that be true?” 

Within 24 hours it was clear it was true.  That was the first major shift.   

Our delegation has several Jewish people and two of them spoke eloquently about learning about the reason for the trees and how that was the major shift for them. There was still obvious pain in their voices and faces as they spoke about their own personal revelations which had been decades ago.

I am still processing so much.


Who Are The Palestinians?
By Carolyn Cicciu

Who are the Palestinians? If you watched the 30-second sound bites on the evening news, you would be tempted to say they are the terrorists who create all the problems for Israel. However, the US media's subjective reporting, the 10 million dollar a day US military aid package, the AIPAC lobby's influence over our elected representatives, and the US and Israel's exercise of their veto power at the UN create the REAL problem in the Middle East--the 64 year long occupation of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people are not violent, but generous, warm, tenacious, and passionate. More than anything, they are struggling non-violently to preserve their dignity and identity under harsh, arbitrary, ever-changing, and discriminatory Israeli policies.

When you enter a Palestinian home, the people wish every visitor peace and offer tea. Even passing on the street you will receive smiles and a greeting of Salaam Alaykum. Their hospitality is natural, sincere, automatic, and universal.

For me, one of the highlights of my home stay in Bi'lin was to return to the same family with whom I had stayed three years previously. Hamdi, a middle son newly returned from his volunteer work with a human rights organization in Germany and his apprenticeship as a photojournalist, remarked, "Even though we haven't seen each other for three years, it seems like we are just starting where we left off!"

Connections are real and lasting. He chose his career to make a difference for his whole village. Bi'lin had seen sixty percent of its land "stolen" when the Israeli government placed a separation wall between the village and its agricultural land.  The reason Israel always gives for this theft is "security" when, in fact, it is a ploy to acquire land to build huge housing projects or settlements (really colonies), on Palestinian land. This devastates the Palestinians' economy and necessitates a long, costly court procedure. In the case of Bi'lin, it succeeded in the return of 30 percent of its lost land.

The Palestinian people have adopted the non-violent methods of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.  They are steadfast in their efforts; they participate in weekly demonstrations after Friday prayers, they organize popular committees to coordinate actions from one village to another in the West Bank, inspire Israeli and international human rights groups to join them, make DVDs to disseminate, and are thinking of ways to make the real story of the Palestinians known to the world.

Check out www.globaljournalist.org  to learn more about Hamdi, Bi'lin, and the REAL Palestinian people.


The Subtle Language of Oppression
By Lissie Perkal

I’m really starting to understand the covert language of racism and oppression that are used here. I’m learning how to deduce someone’s politics and feelings towards the illegal Occupation before they even express their opinions.

They will say Palestinian Territories instead of Palestine — to negate that Palestinians have a national identity. They will say “Jerusalem” instead of making the distinction between “West Jerusalem” and “East Jerusalem.” They refer to Israeli Arabs instead of Palestinian Israelis so that they can claim “they are Arab and so there are other countries they can go to!” Here, it seems that everything is political and it feels good to become more fluent.

In addition to oppression fluency, my Arabic is getting really good! Okay, saying “my Arabic” is kind of a misnomer because before this trip I knew fewer than twenty words but every day I learn more and people are always eager to teach me. I had heard that Palestinians are a kind people but I cannot explain how kind they are. Even with my petite understanding of the language people will speak with me in the street. They ask me where I’m from and if I like Palestine.

I went to a café this morning. The man taught me how to order my coffee in Arabic so that when I return I won’t have to use English. Even if I didn’t speak a lick of Arabic I would be fine here because everyone speaks phenomenal English. No exaggeration. Eighty percent of the people I’ve talked to or heard talk have had a really strong command of the English language.

Madonna, a Palestinian I met earlier, explained to me that everyone takes English from a young age. I’ve heard that about other countries but never seen it be executed so expertly. It is great for me because it just means I have more teachers and am able to make more connections with people which, at the end of the day, is the reason I love to travel.

Originally posted here: http://thelittlestbigspoon.tumblr.com/


Faith In The Unfolding
By Marianne Torres

Finally back in Jerusalem again after 4 days and 3 nights gone, with no time the first night to write, and no internet access for most of the rest of the time. And no showers either, if anyone cares.... which we mostly didn't.

It's been an extremely difficult 4 days emotionally and often physically. But before I tell you some of what we did, saw, heard, a couple of other things are important.

Those of you who read my daily reports last time know that I was often overwhelmed emotionally by the sadness and the anger I felt as I experienced the things first hand that I've been learning and talking about for so many years, and that I worried about overwhelming folks with such an intensity of emotion and harshness of life that they would feel paralyzed. I'm always aware of that, and we spoke of it a bit today.

I'd like to recap very briefly some of that thinking because it affects all of us who do this or other difficult work. People have asked how I or Michael can do this work so intensely when it's so sad, the brutality unrelenting, the situation unchanging or deteriorating. Michael said it best, that we simply had no choice. We had do to it because we are aware, and we can.

Today, Joe Groves, one of our IFPB group support, focused it more tightly. He had spent some time with Daoud Nasser, the owner of a mountain top farm called the Tent of Nations, which has been under attack for many years (more about them later). Daoud said (I'm paraphrasing here as it came to me second hand) "you know, despair is contagious. If you just tell your people back home about how hard it is for us here, they, too, will despair. Palestinians need for our supporters to go deeper into whatever grounds them, whether it is faith, ideology, whatever it is, to find what sustains them".

Joe then put a name on what Michael has been saying, and what has keep me sane. "Samoud," Steadfastness. The same steadfastness that has brought Palestinians through this terrible time and kept them determined to keep struggling. Joe said "doing this work is a commitment, and calls for commitment". And this goes for all of you who work on other hard issues: anti-death penalty, anti-war...... The simple belief that the work has to be done, and if we can do a part of it, we must. In the words of one of our travelers who has also been doing this work a long time, "I have faith in the unfolding."

Originally posted here: http://mtorres555.travellerspoint.com/toc/


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