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An Honest Broker? The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Delegation to Palestine/Israel
May 29, 2013

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.



We are here! After Many Hours on Planes
By Susan Landrum

We are here! After many hours on planes and waiting in lines, we piled onto the bus to head from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But the truth is, there was a wrinkle in a relatively smooth travel experience as the group lost one of its members to questioning by Israeli airport security for over three hours. He was granted entry to Israel after three rounds of questioning and a lot of waiting. Why? It’s really pretty simple – he was profiled by the authorities as a potential threat to Israel and pulled aside as a result while the rest of us made our way through passport control without issue.

Personally, it was difficult to focus on the excitement and energy of being in this new place with the knowledge that a member of our group was stressed and anxious as a result of this questioning. Of course there are many parallels we can draw to our American experience of profiling but I think I am going to focus on the unique context this practice (and other similar practices such as checkpoints) has in Israel/Palestine and the various narratives around its purpose as a means of security or a means of intimidation.

As pointed out in our reflection tonight, this will be an important thing to consider throughout our experience here: where are the lines between perceived security necessities and experiences of harassment and oppression? One thing is for sure – we are in for a rich two weeks.

This report originally appeared on the blog of the Central Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. Click here to read in full.


Video:  We Arrive
By Ralph Watkins

Ralph Watkins uploaded this video of the group’s arrival in Jerusalem:

Dealing with Diversity?
By Shelly Altman

We arrive at the Tel Aviv airport after traveling 17 hours from DC.  At first it feels like every international airport does. But then Ilise Cohen says to me “This is a big deal”. And I realize she is right. I am a Jew visiting Israel for the first time, and it is a big deal. Ilise, a Sephardic Jew, has lived here and is a scholar focusing on marginalized populations in Israel and Palestine. We are lucky to have her for a co-leader, along with a second generation American of Israeli parents, and a second generation American of Palestinian parents.

We wait for a long time at the airport because one of our delegation members is detained for questioning by Israeli immigration. Fortunately, we had been trained at orientation on who was likely to be detained and how to deal with it. Our delegation of 33 is quite diverse along age, gender, ethnic, religious, professional and academic concentration lines.

We set out on Highway 443 from Lod to Jerusalem. 443 is one of many highways on which Palestinians are not permitted to travel. It snakes its way between Palestinian villages on some hillsides and Jewish settlements surrounded by barbed wire and walls on other hillsides. There is a separate network of secondary roads that Palestinians must use if they want to travel in this area. The thousands of visitors who travel this road can do so with complete freedom, but the folks who live here are denied access because of their ethnicity.

Along the way, we pass an area where 3 Palestinian villages had existed before the ’67 war. At the time, the Israeli Ministry of Defense told the Palestinians who lived in the villages to leave, saying they could come back when the war was over. Instead, the villages were razed so that the Green Line separating Israel and Jordan established in 1948 could be pushed eastward by 15 kilometers. In their place the many Jewish settlements of Modi’in were built.

We arrive in East Jerusalem and find Jewish settlements built specifically to prevent contiguity of Palestinian neighborhoods, with transportation systems built to link the settlements.

I end the day reflecting on the huge gap between how America has come to deal with its diversity and how the state of Israel deals with its own. We Americans have a long way to go toward equal justice and opportunity, but we are in a significant way committed to those values and making progress. Israel in its current configuration does not in any way share those values. Its policy, in both intent and implementation work completely counter to them.

Nobody was compensated
By Gary Flack

Travel was an ordeal! 7½ hours from Dulles to Frankfurt, and 4 hours from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv. Our arrival in Israel was breath-taking: the wind and waves on the Mediterranean Sea; the tall white buildings; the well formed fields; relatively few trees. It all seemed much less desolate than pictures from 70 years ago. From the sky, we could not see the borders between the West Bank and Israel, nor Israel's wall. 

But the stories of the destroyed towns! According to our guide, during the war Israel advised Palestinians to move because there would be fighting. After the war, Israel destroyed 3 towns we drove past between the airport and Jerusalem and moved the green line 10-15 km and built a limited access road (Route 443) over the ruins of the towns. Nobody was compensated. 

A Jerusalem of All Its Citizens
By Dan Rice

I flash back 25 years to when I looked out from the amphitheater of the Hebrew University at Mt. Scopus in East Jerusalem. Like today, the Dead Sea looms just visible past the light brown hills of the Judean Desert. Like today, Palestinian homes and buildings tumble down the gently-sloped hills.

In 1988, even with the first Intifada just begun, the view seemed mysterious yet peaceful. Today, from a perfect vantage point only a stones-throw away from that amphitheater, we heard a presentation from Micah of Grassroots Jerusalem on the ways in which Israeli government policies have shaped the city.

The Western (Jewish) areas have been encouraged to grow as quickly as possible, with new housing, roads, shopping malls, and infrastructure designed to attract and keep young families in the city, while the Eastern (Palestinian) part has been frozen, denied those opportunities. A Palestinian who cannot establish that Jerusalem is his or her "center of life" - perhaps by a 2 a.m. visit from the authorities to see where they are sleeping and whether their underwear drawer is full - risks losing the right to even enter the city. Over 14,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites have lost their right of residency in this way since 1967.

In the 2000s, the construction of the separation wall has further divided the city and pushed out residents who found themselves on the wrong side, while creating the conditions for new Jewish-only settlements to be built in the empty spaces that are now cut off from the villages to which they were once connected. These and many other legal and policy strategies have maintained the state's desired Jewish majority even while repeatedly expanding the city's boundaries.

25 years ago, or even 45 years ago, perhaps a different set of policies could have led to a different view from that hilltop. I let myself imagine an integrated and diverse mosaic of neighborhoods, each allowed to reach its potential, making up a Jerusalem of all its citizens.

Video:  Nonviolent Resistance at the Al Aqsa Mosque
By Taylor Weech

Today, our group went on a walking tour of the diverse, important, and controversially close, religious sites within the Old City in Jerusalem. We started at the Western Wall (Wailing Wall), an important historical and religious site for Jews, and continued inside Haram Al-Sharif, the plaza that contains both the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, the third holiest site for Muslims.

The area is a point of contention that the Muslims who worship there feel they need to protect because of a history of conflict at the site. They fear Israeli state expansion into this part of the Old City and as a method of defending it, engage in a vigorous nonviolent resistance to make their presence known. Our guide, Said, said that often the large groups of women praying adjacent to Al-Aqsa will loudly chant "Allah wa Akbar" as groups of Israelis pass through the space.

Here is a short video I shot of the exchange, which happened just as Said finished explaining it to us:

Trying to Reconcile the Walls: Jerusalem
By Ralph Watkins

Today we toured the Old City, heard a lecture at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of  Humanitarian Affairs and took a tour of Jerusalem with Grassroots Jerusalem

As we toured the Old City and many of the Holy Sites this morning I saw one side of this city.  As we moved into the second half of our day I saw the other half of the city.  A city divided by a wall.  I saw Palestinian villages and Israeli Settlements.  I saw socio-economic disparity.  I saw roads and walls that divided people. 

I saw inequity and I asked how and why?  How can this be happening in this Holy City?  Why is it happening?  How can so many come over to this land, tour the Holy Sites, get baptized in the Jordan and say little about what is happening in the current socio-political reality in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?  I cried today for more than one reason.  How do we reconcile these walls?

This report originally appeared on Ralph Watkins' blog. Click here to read in full.

Lost in Jerusalem
By Susan Bramhall

Jerusalem feels like a maze game with insane rules.   Imagine the path through the maze for one side is well paved, speedy, clean, modern and efficient.  The route for the other side is blocked at every turn, narrow, deteriorating, underfunded, inefficient and has no access to the clear route.  One side is protected and subsidized while the other is continually obstructed and deterred from making any progress.   On top of that imagine that the side with the advantage can also change the rules to their further advantage any time. 

No group of children or adults would find it a tolerable past time.  No human community would tolerate such a real situation for a year, would they?  Certainly not for almost fifty!


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