<  Reflection One: Palestine (In and Out)  >

July 2017 Delegation |  Interfaith Network for Justice Delegation
Co-Sponsored with American Muslims for Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship


Overview: This first collection of reflections from the Interfaith Network for Justice Delegation to Palestine/Israel is in four parts. Part I features Farah E.-J.'s report from Jerusalem tonight. Part II includes four reflections filed yesterday by Sophia H., Annanda B., Farah E.-J., and Elizabeth W.

Part III focuses on the delegation's entry to Israel. Arab and Muslim delegates faced extensive questioning by Israeli border agents and Farah E.-J. reflects on questions she'd like to ask of her interrogators. Five members of the delegation were never allowed to join the other delegates and the last three reflections in this section focus on their experience. Elizabeth W. reacts to the denial of travel; a video by Jewish Voice for Peace details the delegates' reactions at the airport; and the last reflection includes links to coverage in several media outlets.

Part IV of this collection is dedicated to poetry and features prose by Elizabeth W., as well as AJ M.'s provocative adaptation of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl".

I. Today (Friday, July 28)

With events unfolding rapidly, we share this first reflection from today’s events in Jerusalem.


There is No Justification   |   Farah E.-J. - Columbia, Missouri

Today was indescribable. I woke up this morning with a sense of peace, despite the heaviness that had descended last night. Today was a Friday like no other. The doors of Al Aqsa were opened, but men under the age of 50 were not allowed in, and were forced to pray Friday prayer in the streets outside of the mosque's gates - including members of our delegation. This is just part of a global system that criminalizes young Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian men and paints them as inherently violent.

Christian and Jewish members of our delegation joined a large demonstration outside of the Lion's gate in solidarity and as witnesses. In spite of the many checkpoints we had to go through, walking into the courtyard of Al Aqsa and seeing the Dome of the Rock sent chills through my body. 9 years later - and especially after the events of the last two weeks - being at the third holiest mosque and the first qibla was nothing less than awe-inspiring. 

Haram Al SharifThis evening they opened the doors for everyone of all ages, so *everyone* went to the mosque and it was a celebration even bigger than Eid. After Isha prayer, as people flooded out of the masjid they chanted takbeerat al Eid (God is greater, God is greater, there is no god but God) and I was overwhelmed with emotion.

All that being said, the people of Gaza and many in the West Bank are deliberately prevented from ever coming close to this sacred place, and yet, I can come from the other side of the world and celebrate with the people of Jerusalem, simply because I hold an American passport.

This is injustice. It is beyond ridiculous that a foreign, occupying army has any say in who can and can't enter a mosque. That visiting a mosque means potentially putting your very life in danger.

The fact that Israeli police firing just a few tear gas canisters at the crowds outside of the gate is considered a calm Friday - that everyone expected it to be much much worse - is WILD.

This is religious oppression, state violence, and systemic racism all rolled into one.

We have allowed this to happen for far too long. There is no justification.



II. Yesterday (Thursday, July 27)

The situation yesterday was starkly different, and the following four reflections were filed at that time.


The Very Least I Can Do   |   Sophia Har - Washington, DC

It's been tough. Writing this is tough. The words that are currently coming to me fall far short of the outrage and grief I feel. There is so much to say, but the event that is fresh in my mind - and in my ears - is yesterday’s attack on Muslim worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque by the Israeli government. 

We had just boarded our bus to head back to the hotel for dinner today when we heard the voice on the radio: Israeli soldiers had just stormed the mosque, firing rubber bullets and injuring 40 people. (That number has since surpassed 100 following more violence.)

What? How is this happening? No more than five hours ago had we cheered upon hearing that people had begun entering the mosque. Our Muslim siblings on the delegation could go after dinner! Allahu Akbar! God is great! Plans had been made, hearts gladdened.

And then this. Devastation. Desecration.

Today, a member of our delegation asked advocates for the release of all Palestinian prisoners: "How do you keep your sanity?"

Their answer: "It's normalized."

As in, this is our reality, and we have to live with it. We have to live. We have to. 

I was struck by their resilience. And I was so angered that this was the way to deal with what Israel does - and gets away with - without losing sanity.

Getting arrested for sharing your political views on Facebook shouldn't be "normal". Dodging rubber bullets while you were in the middle of praying in a place of worship shouldn't be "normal".

The atrocities and human rights violations Israel has committed against Palestinians are no secret. Anyone can Google these things. Yet Israel gets away free while 11.2 million Palestinians here and around the world risk everything - their very lives. 

The very least I can do is to bear witness to their resistance. 


The Screaming Silence of the Stones   |   Annanda B. - Mountain View, California

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says, "I tell you, if you keep quiet, the stones will cry out." In this desert land, where every edifice and road filled is intentionally designed by rock from the stone dirt landscape, it is clear. The stones have been crying out so long their hoarseness can only be translated from silence. 

The 3 full days I have been here, is beyond heart breaking. There are no songs that can speak to what I've seen. Pictures and video reveal an important sliver, but just a sliver. Truly, there is no history that can speak to what has been happening here. There is no amount of tears or sobs that can paint a picture of the evil and horror that is at work. What is happening here is evil in such an extreme form it's almost beautiful. 

As a person of color I will not make what I see about me, and what people with my identities experience in the US. I will share only what I have witnessed. If you don't believe me, come see this hell for yourself.  I would cry tears of joy if this reality didn't exist. Israel is not about Judaism, it is about maintaining state Zionism. The most efficient white supremacist agenda ever. 

To witness the concern and heightened alertness on my new friends’ faces, as their brother and uncle are locked in Al Aqsa, makes this reality more intimate. A little while before, Muslims in the Al Aqsa compound were locked in and shot with tear gas and rubber coated bullets as a form of collective punishment for peacefully resisting the security occupation of the mosque. The night before, I happened to be with one of my Muslim friends and we caught wind that the security cameras were taken down from the mosque. We were able to join the celebration. The joy on his face, on the faces of all the Palestinians created a space of praise. Sweets were passed around, local Imams lifted up, fireworks shot from the sky, it was a space of relief, and joy that gave all glory and honor to Allah. 

These actions are a reflection of the human and religious integrity of Israel, and Palestinians. From what I have seen and continue to see, it is shamefully clear whose integrity is non-existent. Our silence and ignorance are two of the many ways we are complicit. Our skewed media (if we get any reports at all) intentionally keeps us dumb.

I am resolved to remember and never forget. I will not let this go.

I am resolved to the truth of this horror and have committed myself to this work in which ironically, the salvation of our global humanity is at stake.

When I look around this Holy Land, all I hear is the screaming silence of rocks.

There is much work to be done.


No Words   |   Farah E.-J. - Columbia, Missouri

I don't have many words, but I certainly have a lot to process. We met with a few organizations in Ramallah yesterday: including Al Haq (legal rights) and Addameer (Palestinian prisoner support).

In the morning we heard that the metal detectors and security cameras at the gates to Al Aqsa had been taken down and we celebrated. In the afternoon we heard that it was open for Asr prayer. And then we heard that as people were leaving the prayer, they found that Israeli police had closed all the gates, and it was at this point that they started firing rubber coated bullets (not as gentle as they sound - they can be lethal) and tear gas into the crowd of worshipers as they tried to leave.

As we got closer to our hotel, we saw people flooding out of the gates of the old city and in front of us a truck carrying skunk water - heading towards the old city.

As we approached our hotel on foot - BANG!

It came from Al Aqsa. We don't know if it was gunshots or tear gas, but several more followed in the next 20 minutes.

I feel overwhelmed, sick to my stomach, determined, tired, and resolved to pray at Al Aqsa, the third holiest mosque in Islam, with my fellow brothers and sisters, in safety, before I leave this sacred place.

I hope I will be able to put today into coherent words at some point, but tonight - tonight there are no words

A post shared by Farah (@artcoloredglasses) on


“Blessed are Those who are Persecuted”   |   Elizabeth W. - Davidson, North Carolina

I write from Jerusalem on an interfaith delegation of Muslims, Jews and Christians here to witness to the truths of the occupation. Yesterday, we heard that the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, would be re-opened to Muslims after two weeks time. It closed when the Israeli security  regime imposed restrictive measures following an individual incident of violence, placing restricted entry, security cameras, and metal detectors against the will of the international Mosque authorities with jurisdiction over the compound. Yet after many negotiations, Israel agreed these barriers would come down.

My heart leapt with joy to know my friends would be able to pray in this blessed place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended (peace be upon him). Tears came to my eyes when I learned that against all odds of the occupation, the people of Palestine and the Muslim leadership had their sovereignty acknowledged and the collective punishment for one isolated incident would end. 

I was far from the truth. 

After returning from the occupied West Bank and a day of conversations about Israeli apartheid measures and human rights violations, the radio came on. I will never forget our guide's words: "The news has come in that there has been an incident at the Al-Aqsa Mosque..." Blood rushed out of my face as water came to my eyes; I could not believe the translated details as they were spoken.

Soldiers attacked innocent worshipers -- including women, children, and the elderly -- with tear gas, rubber bullets, and sound bombs on the grounds of the mosque. We heard shouting and saw videos of people running for their lives. We drove home behind a massive armed tank ready to release skunk water (damaging and terribly smelling pollutant) to disperse the crowd. From the hotel, we could see the smoke rising from the mosque compound, shots fired in the air as warning to leave.

The Israeli government planned this retaliation, and at the height of prayer, executed revenge on the vulnerable. I stood horrified, paralyzed, unable to comprehend what was happening before me, worried for all of my Muslim friends back home and abroad who would receive this devastating news. 

How can Zionism get away with this act of terrorism in a house of worship, one of the holiest in the world? They claimed that a Palestinian flag hung on the mosque provoked the incident. The real reason is that Israel was ashamed by their loss of control over "security," and therefore traumatized a crowd of thousands and millions of onlookers. One hundred people were injured because Zionism claims total power, total authority, total right to dehumanize and defame a sacred place (for Jews as well as Muslims) at any cost.

It is shameful for me to see this act as an American, knowing the tear gas and rubber bullets were likely made in the USA, that my home news media will not provide adequate coverage of this tragedy, that people will suspect somehow Muslims are at fault for this.

It shames me that 6,000 Palestinians are in jails that treat people like animals and convict them a 99.7% rate. The worst part is that my government is behind this apartheid, and my tax dollars are funding the collective decimation of Palestinian lives. 

My friends could not go to the mosque tonight to pray, and many shared concern about Friday’s events for Jummah prayer. In this moment, I remember the words of Jesus: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:10).

My prayers are with all those affected by tonight's violence, and all who are keeping watch at the mosque.

this reflection was excerpted from Elizabeth's facebook post

October 28 - November 10, 2017

This delegation is your opportunity to visit Palestine during the olive harvest season — a culturally rich and important time. Get updates about this delegation, including how to apply to join, and opportunities for financial aid

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III. Entry and Denial

The delegation was targeted by Israeli security first at Dulles Airport in the United States and later at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. 5 members of the delegation were denied travel at Dulles; others were intensively questioned upon their arrival in Palestine/Israel. The following four reflections share these experiences.


What About Me Threatens You Most?   |   Farah E.-J. - Columbia, Missouri

“We know about the Gaza protest in 2014. Aside from that, what other protests were you a part of?”

“Why do you hate us?”

“How are you today?”

“Do you think we’re stupid?

“Do you know any BDS supporters? What are their names?”

These are just some of the many ridiculous questions I was asked while being questioned for thirty minutes and detained by Israeli border security for five hours after arriving in Tel Aviv Monday. In comparison to many others detained for questioning every day by Israeli border security because they are perceived as Arab or Muslim, I didn’t have it too bad. I was questioned only once, and had to wait in “the room” for no more than five hours after traveling for over eighteen hours. And I was let in.

The fact that it could have been much worse, through no fault of my own, is absolutely absurd.

I approached the passport control window and handed over my passport just like I have in many countries in the last two years. Instead of the standard questions of “What is the purpose of your visit?” or “How long will you be here?” I was asked “What is your father’s name?” and “What is your grandfather’s name?”. My answers of “Jalal” and “Thaher” were apparently all the woman behind the window needed to confirm that I should be questioned further in order to determine if I was a security threat. So, just like all but a couple of people on our eighteen person delegation, I was told to go wait in a room comprised almost entirely of people of color.

So I sat. I waited. And I chatted with one of my fellow delegates about Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and the Hunger Games.

At some point during my questioning I developed a tremor in my hands. This is a normal reaction to exhaustion for me and, as a person with two chronic illnesses, not a rare occurrence. By the time I was allowed to return to the relative comfort of the room, it had developed into tremors and shaking throughout my whole body. At a point where I had no control over my body or my situation, I turned to God and recited the following prayer that resonated with me and grounded me in the moment: O Allah, You are my strength and You are my support. For Your sake I go forth and for Your sake I advance and for Your sake I fight.

I will leave you with some questions I would like to pose to Israeli border security:

What about me threatens you most? My Muslimness? My womanness? My Palestinianness?

Do you think I’m naive when you tell me you don’t want to turn me away? When you try to play at being friendly?

Who taught you to practice such an extreme form of hate?


Our Group is Torn Apart   |   Elizabeth W. - Davidson, North Carolina

Five of our members were torn from us by the Israeli state. Our team members were denied access to our flights beginning in Dulles, singled out for being activists in support of boycotts, divestment and sanctions. Among them were Rick Ufford-Chase, former moderator of the PC(USA) and Rabbi Alissa Wise.

I felt powerless and indignant when our leaders were not even permitted to board our flights; they carried no weapon but their sacred texts and shared our delegation's purpose to support just peace.

Once the rest of the delegation arrived to Tel Aviv, we held our breath and said prayers for hours unsure of what to expect from passport control. The majority of us were detained for questioning, particularly the Muslim delegates held for 5+ hours. It was horrifying to see my friends singled out, interrogated and lectured.

As a white Christian American, I never expected to be stopped, and yet Israel saw us as threats.

Thank God (Mash'Allah) all were permitted entry who flew here.

When crossing the border is this degrading and unjust for American delegates, including Jews and Christians, I cannot imagine the experience for Palestinians. May we be awake to the experiences of our peers that deny their human dignity daily, and accept nothing less than justice.


Jewish, Muslim and Christian Leaders Denied Entry to Israel   |   Jewish Voice for Peace

Israel stops 5 leaders on interfaith delegation from boarding a plane to Israel includes Jewish Voice for Peace, American Muslims for Palestine and Presbyterian Peace Fellowship:

Media Cover the 5 Delegates Denied Travel

The story of the five delegates who were denied the opportunity to travel with the group was covered by a number of national and international media outlets. Here are three:

IV. Poems

The final section of this collection features two poems: an original piece by Elizabeth Welliver and an adaptation of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" penned by AJ Lilian Menashe.


When in Palestine   |   Elizabeth W. - Davidson, North Carolina

When in Palestine, the kindom* of God is like this

like the woman who brings her bucket of water to pour on the children in the noon hour when the electricity is robbed for days on end 

like the farmer who climbs through miles of weeds and walls to water the trees his great-great-ancestors nourished for centuries 

like the sound of fireworks taking the sky from the clashing of bullets to the dawn of celebrations 

like the underground tunnel dug inch by inch season after season for the prisoners to breathe a little deeper

like the believer's heart that is unchained when the soldiers storm the mosque to open fire and their peace remains 

like the crescent moon raised above the desert clouds that stores a month of hope to be full

like the rosemary waving its scent through the streets where the children climb walls to find their families enough to eat

like the eyes of the woman and man, old and young, rich and poor holding the glimmering dome that never fails to reflect the sun

like the song raised when the crowd stills to sound God is great, God is greater before the tanks in their faces 

like the grandmother who spins the stories on her clay floor with the children who know whose they are

like the refuser who walks away from everything she has been told of the army to be free from the sword in body and conscience  

like the rain that falls on the heart broken open when the truth is spoken however bitter to the taste

like the lawyer who stands before the court with all conscience to defend the innocent without any chance to win

like the strangers taking hands to run from the gas that explodes at their feet with their hearts racing 

like the people who live knowing dignity is their only solid ground to stand upon when the earth quakes with suppression and the hate speech like smoke arises  

like the here and now when everything is fragile and broken but we stay awake, like the impossible and vital thread among us and within us but not yet complete 

like the thing has no walls, no weapons, no loneliness and can see through all that is hidden behind helmets and barricades 

like the face you cannot stop loving even when you close your eyes and know their freedom is your own

like the time we stopped to hear the call to prayer after sunset and remembered God comes to us in the folds of darkness

*kindom is a term from womanist theology that seeks to be more inclusive of all peoples


Rework of "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg   |   AJ M. -Stony Point, New York<

Author’s Note: I got this idea from the reworking of Niemoller's "First they came..." poem for the 2016 election.

What I saw in Israel.

I saw among the best minds of Judaism some destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical, naked, dragging themselves through Jerusalem's streets looking for a homeland, a refuge, a release from shamefearagonytrauma through an angry fix, angelheaded chosen ones burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo by way of the machine-gunnery of night, 

who bare their brains to Heaven, to HaShem, but don't see Mohammedan angels staggering on formerly owned roofs and pathways, illuminated, bewildered... just as they once were not long ago...

who pass daily through a holy land with radiant cool eyes, hallucinating a homeland built on insecurities posing as strength and survival, abuses posing as self defense, 

who routinely expel those from the synagogue those who do not look... uh...Jewish, their global siblings, Jewish so called non Jews, a rainbow array with countless melodic expressions of our faith, Jews who choose to be Jews minute by minute from the womb to the tomb or from the inner calling to the beit din, or somewhere in between these, 

some of the best minds among all Jews who, looking to the left and to the right and to the horizon yet blind to all that God has given us - love, belonging, unity - already invented

rather, some among us cower in rooms of miraculously appeared houses that waited for them and them alone, listening to the Terror through the wall, a tragic scene borne from the scholars of wars.

whole intellects and believers disgorged in total recall on the seventh day, meat for the synagogue, living the prior six days with brilliant eyes and having been in the world but not of the world

who lounge hungry and lonesome throughout Israel for human connection and not seeing other wanderers because they're strangers!, for the shamefearagonytrauma defines who is human and who is not.

II (minimally changed)

What sphinx of cement and aluminum [settlements] bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?

Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways [and] sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!

Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!

Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbones soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!

Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!

Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose [construction dust] and [drones] crown the cities!

Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!

Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch!...

They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees [over forgotten villages], radios, tons! lifting Moloch['s idea of holy] to Heaven, where it [already] exists, and is everywhere about us!


Israel, I’m with you in Palestine
where you’re madder than I am

I’m with you in Rockland County, NY
where you must feel very strange

I’m with you in Palestine
where you imitate the shade of the one true God

I’m with you in Palestine
where, goaded by legends of the twelve tribes, you’ve murdered your ideals  

I’m with you in Palestine
where you laugh at this but it's not funny

I’m with you in Palestine
standing on one foot

I’m with you in Palestine
where your condition remains serious, Palestine's remains irredeemable and is reported as such by the media, 

I’m with you in Palestine
where the faculties of the skull no longer admit the worms of the senses

I'm with you in Palestine
where you drink guilt and greed from the bottle of the global communities 

I’m with you in Palestine
where you pun on the bodies of the lives you've destroyed, your own and your neighbors'

I’m with you in Palestine
where you scream in a straightjacket that you’re losing the game of global communal recognition

Israel! I’m with you, and we're in Palestine

Credit:  Allen Ginsberg, “Howl” from Collected Poems, 1947-1980.
Copyright © 1984 by Allen Ginsberg.
Source: Selected Poems 1947-1995 (Harper Perennial, 2001)




We invite delegation participants to comment on and react to the experiences they have during our Israel/Palestine delegations in written Trip Reflections

Individual delegates contribute pieces to these reflections.  As such, reflections are not comprehensive accounts of every meeting or experience, but impressions of those things that most impact individuals.  Submitted reflections may be edited for clarity or brevity. Trip reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Peace-Builders, American Muslims for Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, trip leaders, or delegation partner organizations.  We hope you enjoy reading and we encourage you to share these reflections with others.

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