< Report One: First Impressions >

Trees of Peace: Olive Harvest Delegation to Palestine/Israel
October 25, 2012

This delegation traveled concurrently with
the 2012 African Heritage 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.  As such, reports are not comprehensive accounts of every meeting or experience, but impressions of those things that most impact individuals.  Submitted reports may be edited for clarity or brevity. Trip reports do 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.



Wrestling with Privilege
By Elissa Goss

What an amazing group of people I am traveling with! We have folks from Palestine, people who have lived in Israel before, North Ireland, New York, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, California, Olympia (yeah!) and so many more places.

What is truly inspiring already is the variety of social justice efforts everyone is involved in. We have retired and active ministers who have been on political delegations for decades and having discussions between the difference of charity and justice, Aaron Dixon who helped start the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party (he is speaking at Evergreen about his recently published book in late November!), someone who works with youth and media around empowerment in LA, another works for the LA Dept of Public Health doing analysis around urban transportation policies and their impact on health, someone from the Highlander Center in Tennessee (!!!!!), clergy part of resistance and peace movements in Northern Ireland, social workers, mental health workers, community organizers in Chicago,  teachers, students studying law, Arabic, and Intl Affairs, the list goes on! You'll hear more of their amazing stories over the next few weeks. I have already learned so much from all of them.

Another thing that is also becoming very clear, very quickly is the reality of racism all over the world. During our orientation, we had a huge discussion on privilege and broke out in small groups to discuss (1) what privileges do we have as individuals and as a group; (2) how is it a privilege; (3) how can these impact our experience as individuals and as a group.

Of course people has different ideas around what is a privilege and our group’s debate centered around "choice". Does choice come from certain privileges (like race, class, gender, etc) or is it the privilege itself? We finally began to agree that it is more helpful to connect choice to certain privileges in order to see how "choice" manifests differently depending on the context and your own personal identity. We talked about relative- privilege, such as the fact that as a white-American-female, I have more privilege than a female of color or a female of color who isn't American and that brings up important considerations around my approach to observation and analysis of the situation. What lens am I looking through? Whose perspective may I be using that I am not acknowledging? What might I be blind to?

This came up really strongly as we tried to go through immigration services, which in Israel is called "passport control".

Everyone was fine going through. All the white folks that is. The officers pulled aside for further questioning three of our individuals who are people of color: one wearing a head turban, another female in a hijab, and a third. They were questioned for 2 hours and in most of our opinions, completely unnecessarily. You might be wondering about the two Palestinians. . . well one has an American passport and the other has dual U.S.-Israel citizenship.

Amazing the difference a U.S. passport makes in an individual's experience in the world, doesn't it?

This report is excerpted from Elissa's blog. Read her full post at http://actsofcommonhumanity.blogspot.com/2012/10/charity-is-easy-justice-is-hard.html


Can’t we all just get along?
By Brian Fry

During this delegation, I bring with me a pre-conceived hope to find examples of Jewish Israelis and Palestinians coming together.  Where will I find the seeds that might be the kernels for a broader solution and reconciliation?  Did I find one yesterday?

We visited the Old City of Jerusalem, the small piece of the Holy City most known to pilgrims and tourists from around the world.  The Wailing Wall, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher are some sites Christians, Jews, and Muslims flock to see.  Behind its big stone walls and famous gates, the city has divided itself over hundreds of years into a Muslim Quarter, Armenian Quarter, Jewish Quarter, and Christian Quarter.

With my sought-after answer naively in mind, I asked our tour guide if there were Jewish people living in the Muslim Quarter and vice-versa.

“Oh, yes, there are 70 Jewish settlements in the Muslim Quarter.”  As soon as the word “settlement” was uttered, I became aware that Jews living in the Muslim section were not there as part of an idealistic effort of integration and fellowship.

As we climbed up some steep winding steps along the Via Dolorosa, our guide pointed out a Jewish owned house, sitting on top of other houses and shops.  The open top patio was surrounded a tall barbed wire fence strung with Israeli flags, and had a military guard hut planted on the roof.  Toys and a playground - not to be seen on other houses - colorfully decorated the compound. There is a photo of this settlement in our delegation's photo slideshow - click here to see the slideshow.

Our guide’s answer clarified that these Jewish enclaves within the Muslim Quarter were just a piece of a broader plan to depopulate the whole city of Palestinians and to repopulate it with Jewish residents.

“How can this happen if the Palestinians don’t want to leave?” I asked. 

I discovered there were several scenarios:

  1. The home or building can be confiscated by the Israeli government if they determine a family member is involved in “terrorist activity” or support, by the government’s interpretation.
  2. The government or a private Jewish fund could get an agreement with a renter (not the owner) for several million dollars and a promise of a safe escape and resettlement in the US or Europe and take the property without the owner even knowing until too late.
  3. The prospective Jewish buyer could offer such an amount of money that the owner is willing to sell and escape the resentment of the neighbors by leaving Palestine.  Sometimes, the owner might be tricked by another Palestinian posing as a buyer, and then re-selling to the real buyer (again with such a financial reward and “protection” promise that is difficult to refuse.  Or the owner may sell the property to the Jewish buyer or fund with the agreement to be allowed to live there until his death, whereupon the property is then transferred.

The presentation and tour of the larger view of East Jerusalem and the Separation Barrier (Apartheid Wall) by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions  further demonstrated the mechanisms for de-population and re-population. 

Very discouraging and certainly not reinforcing of my hoped-for examples of:  “Can’t we all just get along?”  

Let’s see what other experiences this delegation might bring!


Systematic oppression: Forced eviction
By George Meek

I was moved and angered by the plight of Palestinian families we met in the community of Sheikh Jarrah, near our hotel in East Jerusalem.  

Originally driven from their homes in Haifa and Jaffa by Israel in 1948, the refugees accepted an offer from the United Nations and Jordan to resettle in Sheikh Jarrah in 1956. After 1972, the Pal families in S J came under increasing pressure, culminating in the past few years in a series of evictions, arrests, and court battles. 13 families were evicted, with soldiers breaking down some doors in a pre-dawn raid and forcing the elderly and screaming children into the street with their belongings. Jewish settlers moved in a half hour later. To add insult to injury, one homeowner had to pay about $25,000 for fines and costs, after all the legal fees. Several more families have received eviction orders. There is a photo of our group meeting with families in Sheick Jarrah in our delegation's photo slideshow - click here to see the slideshow.

We heard from Cheska of the Israeli Coalition against House Demolitions (ICAHD)  that "East Jerusalem is an enclave with 200,000 [Israeli] settlers in it, which could not be an effective capital of Palestine."  The gated settler communities get full services, but the Palestinians get limited water, no refuse collection, no building permits, and do not have enough schools. Less than 10% of the municipal budget goes to Palestinian areas. Cheska says 75% of the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are below the poverty line.

The separation wall that Israel calls a security fence divides Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem with few gates, adding to the systematic oppression. Cheska says Israel's strategy is to make life so miserable that Palestinians will leave "voluntarily." Planned settlement expansions would virtually sever the West Bank from east to west.

Jeff Halper, director of ICAHD, told us that "the wall has nothing to do with security." He said Israel is trying to make the occupation permanent, and has destroyed 27,000 Palestinian homes since 1967 - some three or four times! ICAHD has helped rebuild 186 homes as a symbol of political resistance.

Jeff says the Palestinian Authority is responsible for only 70 "islands" in 40% of the territory, and there is no coherent  territory for a Palestinian state. He makes a strong case that a two-state solution is impossible. Personally, however, I think Palestinians should no longer be denied their right to self-determination. We must convince world opinion - and especially the United States - that Israel must end the occupation in the interest of its own peace and security. A photo of Jeff Halper addressing our group is in our delegation's photo slideshow - click here to see the slideshow.

Earlier today, we visited Jerusalem's traditional pilgrimage sights, the Temple Mount (Dome of the Rock) and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I was saddened by the un-Christian bickering and turf battles between the six denominations that share custody of the church.

This report is excerpted from George's blog. Read his full post at http://seekpeaceinpalestine.blogspot.com/2012/10/systematic-oppression-forced-eviction.html


Charity is easy, justice is hard
By Elissa Goss

As we left the airport, we learned about the surrounding areas we were passing through. We saw how the Green Line (the border agreed upon in the 1993 Oslo Agreements) was illegally extended by evacuating Palestinians from their homes due to armed conflict and saying that they would be able to return once the fighting died down. Those families are still awaiting return but now their villages have been destroyed and a national park put in its place. The original names of those towns are nowhere to be found. Any visitor wouldn't even know what had happened. This is how history and lives are actively being erased.

We immediately connected it back to land confiscation and appropriation of Native American land in the U.S. I remembered today how I never knew the names of the tribes that lived in Texas until I was 19. Until I was 19. Nothing in my public k-12 education took the time to tell us even just the names of peoples who lived there before us, and probably were still in surrounding communities.

I also realized that the frustration that I was feeling in that moment that many Israeli schoolchildren are not taught this or don't ask or wonder, mirrors my own experience. I didn't ask. I was maybe wondering. . . but the sweet lure of ignorance often keeps us from asking deeper questions that would bring up questions of the ethical nature of our presence in our own communities.

There is a fear in not belonging anywhere. Where is my home? The Czech Republic or Scotland or Whales or Great Britain? I don't even know distant relatives I'm sure we have there. I have no idea how to get a hold of them. Does the fact that the U.S. government encouraged immigration of Czech families to Texas make it ok that we did come and buy land (or in many cases, were flat out given land). This was land that was stolen. These were "treaties" that were manipulated and promises still unfulfilled.

So where does that leave me and my relationship to the U.S. and communities who called it home way before I did? This brings up the question of how I should act in relationship with them.

Then we have the issue of transportation restriction. The highways we drove on tonight to get from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. . .  Palestinians are not allowed to drive on. There are huge concrete walls on either side. The highways cuts through certain Palestinian towns where Palestinians have to drive miles out of the way to even just get to family and friends a few yards across the highway. WHAT !?!

They had to fight all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court and it was only in 2010 that they were finally allowed to use a certain part of the main highway because it was illegal under international law. However, most Palestinians don't use the highways because the government set up multiple checkpoints and it can take up to 2 hours at a checkpoint for your car to be searched. It's humiliating. You are always searched if you are Palestinian, just like how you are always searched if you are Mexican or a person of color crossing the U.S. border.

And all this from just being here since 2:30pm and it's only 11pm now. . .

A favorite quote from today: While we were learning that our tour guide doesn't usually give tours of political nature, when he gives pilgrimage tours he is often told to specifically NOT talk about politics. He actually got shouted at one time by a passenger who said, "STOP TALKING POLITICS! We are here to learn about Christ's land and the land of Abrahamic religions."

One of the women near me gave one of those scoff-laughs ad said, "Well then he obviously didn't know what Jesus was all about".

Because that's right. Jesus was all about politics. I don't think you can care about Jesus and not be political. Opening up our hearts, mind and greater consciousness compels us to be challenged by conflicts of justice. To struggle with the conviction of having worth and dignity and respect for ALL human beings. That is the first principle of my faith as a Unitarian Universalist. Having feel-good feelings is nice, but the lesson from the life of Jesus (or any other spiritual figure) isn't for me to just sit around and pray for peace. We gotta do something about it. Charity is easy, justice is hard.

This report is excerpted from Elissa's blog. Read her full post at http://actsofcommonhumanity.blogspot.com/2012/10/charity-is-easy-justice-is-hard.html


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