<  Reflection Three: Cracks in the Wall   

2017 Olive Harvest Delegation to Palestine/Israel

 

Overview: The final set of reflections from the Olive Harvest Delegation features many of the most poignant thoughts from the group. Betsy Simpson and Jaquial Durham start it off with a couple of reflections full of hope and resolve.

Amirah Abu Lughod reflects on the delegation's visit to her family's home city of Jaffa. Refugee stories are also the themes of Lea Koesterer's two reflections on Lifta and the Dheisheh Refugee Camp. Janet Hinze shares a creative recipe for resistance; Lea Koesterer's third submission focuses on Hebron, where the delegation met Palestinian activist Issa Amro; Simi Toledano's haunting poem wrestles with Zion; and Betsy Simpson's reflection focuses on the Erez Checkpoint and the Israeli town of Sderot on the border with Gaza. The final collection ends with powerful thoughts from Jeff Petrucelly, Lea Koesterer, TJ Williams, and Paul Hanawalt.





 

Olive Harvest   |   Betsy Simpson - Easton, Pennsylvania   

Returning home from Palestine/Israel has been like entering another world.  Certain phrases from the trip linger, like our young host in the Dheisheh Refugee Camp, who said “we have no expectations, only hope.”

When I joined this delegation to make my second trip to Palestine/Israel I wanted to hear/see/experience some positive signs to bring back and share, despite the worsening situation that exists there.

There are ‘cracks’ forming metaphorically in the immense ‘separation’ wall, the ‘apartheid’ wall that continues to expand, dividing communities, families, farmers from their land, etc. Like slivers of sunlight making its way into the darkness.  Like the roots of olive tree saplings replacing the trees destroyed by Israeli settlers or police, there is hope and renewed strength, nurturing ‘sumud’, the steadfastness evident throughout the West Bank/Palestinian territory.

We heard it from Daher and Daoud Nassar at their farm, the Tent of Nations, where they “refuse to be enemies”.

We saw it at the Canaan Fair Trade factory where farmers bring their olive harvest to be pressed into incredibly delicious olive oil sold and exported around the world.

We experienced it in Hebron when our guide, Issa Amro, was taken by the police and sent to another part of the city where we were reunited for more of the tour. 

We participated in it as we helped pick olives at the olive grove of a family who hosted some of us for a night near the city of Jenin.

In many other places, we heard/saw/experienced the resistant and resilient spirit of the Palestinian people. They are creative, resourceful and powerful in their refusal to leave their homeland. 

Even back here at home, as I was being given a lift from a car repairman because my car suddenly wouldn’t start and had to be towed to his shop, in just a brief conversation, having mentioned that I just returned from a trip to Israel, I was able to share a bit of the truth of life on the ground.  He was astonished to hear that what he and everyone else is told through the news media is not even close to the truth, that it is less than half the story and is slanted heavily toward Israel. 

He thought I probably had seen a lot of violence by terrorists in Israel.  It felt good to correct at least a little bit of his sense of what’s going on.  It gave me hope and encouragement to share more and with everyone I meet.

This trip has given me the impetus and challenge to shine light in our own darkness. What a gift!

 





 

We Will Win   |   Jaquial Durham Washington, DC

For two weeks, I was standing in Palestine, learning, laughing, and resisting with the most amazing group of folks I’ve ever spent time with. I have spent the last few hours thinking about the notion of Sumud, or steadfastness.

Sumud is partly about physically remaining present on the land, something that is of critical importance. But Sumud is also about various forms of resistance to the Occupation. Resistance is not only about big gestures, but also everyday acts like planting olive trees and naming children.

I am always struck that, like Africans in America, Palestinians manage to resist absurd levels of structural and direct violence without losing faith and joy.

Palestine reminded us that there is joy in resistance. Struggle is beautiful. From Ferguson to Palestine, we must create the world that is not yet.

Freedom is close. And I believe, more than ever, that WE WILL WIN.

 





Yaffa - The City My Family Once Called Home   |   Amirah Abu Lughod - Stony Point, New York

I walked these streets - we walked these streets - with a man whose family stayed after the Nakba in 1948. His family was one of only 4,000 who stayed out of an original population of 120,000.  

yaffa1My family was one of those who had the means and opportunity to leave.

I learned on the tour of my grandparents’ city that those who stayed were forced into Ajami - the refugee camp ghetto created for Yaffa refugees on their own land. The ghetto was dismantled only after Holocaust survivors witnessed Ajami and saw something all too familiar.

We walked through the now artist village which was once the location of my siedo’s (grandfather's) home. I'm told by family that the site of his home looks so very different than it once did. As we sat in the beautifully landscaped park surrounded by greenery, blooming bougainvillea, and a salty breeze from the Mediterranean, our guide informed us that any open space in Yaffa was once the most populated. The most populated areas were the first to be demolished, flattened to the ground - they now lay barren of homes, filled with people enjoying the view of the Mediterranean Sea.

According to most people's definition, Yaffa is a beautiful city - sea side views, a bustling shopping scene, an artist's village, restaurants everywhere you turn.

yaffa2I found myself struggling to see the beauty. I knew what I was seeing was nothing like the Yaffa my grandparents called home and what did resemble their existence there felt like a restoration of mockery.  It looks nothing like what my ancestors called home because my ancestors were those people who lived on “the land with no people for a people with no land.” 

I looked out over the Mediterranean Sea, a piece of the scenery that hadn't changed since my family's presence. I realized that the water, the sea still remembers my grandmother's face looking out over its expanse. That sea holds the familiarity and memory of all of those ancestors.

And so, I turned away from the land and focused on the water. Grateful.

Grateful to have the opportunity to hear from those people of Yaffa who stayed, survived and continue to survive. Grateful to be able to look over the water and see what my ancestors saw and grateful to be able to show the sea my face. A hopeful face, a humbled face, the face of her granddaughter.

yaffa3



BuyOliveOil


 

 

Destroyed Villages   |   Lea Koesterer - St. Louis, Missouri

Although there is a concerted effort to erase the existence of Palestinians since the time of the Nakba, archaeologists were able to save the remains of the community of Lifta, a wealthy and intellectual hub, near Jerusalem. We hiked down to the main gathering place of Lifta where there is a beautiful spring surrounded by trees.

liftaThe books that were in the libraries of the Palestinians were looted and are now in the Israel’s National Library in Jerusalem (see the documentary film The Great Book Robbery, 2012, directed by Benny Brunner, a Dutch-Israeli immigrant). We visited the ruins of the community of Lifta and heard the history of its demise.

It began in December 1948 when a Zionist militia (today we might call them “terrorists”) called the Stern Gang, slaughtered patrons at a café on the outskirts of Lifta. Residents fled their vibrant community, which had been continuously lived in for more than 2000 years.

Lifta is in the first area to have been ‘ethnically cleansed’ in 1948.

The Lifta legacy lives because of the persistence of Palestinians and the diligence of archaeologists. Hundreds of other villages were destroyed and the people driven away.

A map of these villages can be found on the iNakba app. Here is their description of the app:

iNakba is a trilingual mobile app (Arabic, Hebrew and English) based on GPS Navigation technology. This app allows users to locate and learn about Palestinian localities destroyed during, and as a result of, the Nakba since 1948.

The application provides coordinates and maps of Palestinian localities that were completely ruined, destroyed, obliterated after their capture, partially demolished, or remained standing but were depopulated and their residents expelled. The app also provides historical information and includes video clips and photographs of these localities. The app is interactive; it allows users to add pictures of the destroyed localities, as well as share their comments and follow updates about selected localities.

 

 







 

Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Bethlehem   |   Lea Koesterer St. Louis, Missouri

Imagine this scenario in the USA.

The camp is for Palestinians whose homes were razed by Israel. The camp’s community development center is called Laylac. It is staffed partly with volunteers from all over the world. Some of the furniture is created from scraps and castoffs. The focus is on educational workshops and they recently staged an exhibit of paintings called In Between, that describes the angst of young people living with daily trauma.

Upon our arrival, our guide told us the story of one of their directors who was murdered by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces). The young man, Raed, shared a tiny cubicle of a home with his family. The space was so small that they took turns sleeping outside. Raed was sleeping outside when the IDF entered the camp and placed explosives at the door. The explosion woke him and he ran. They shot him in the back a few times. One bullet ricocheted into the leg of one of the soldiers. An ambulance was called and they took the soldier but left Raed to bleed for two more hours before getting a military vehicle to take him away. Days later the family learned that he had died. 21 days after the incident they were able to retrieve his body… minus an eye and several organs.

During the first Intifada (Palestinian uprising) from 1987-1993, books and newspapers were banned from the camp. So, folks began to write the news on the walls as graffiti. The IDF painted it out and threatened to bulldoze any building with writing on it. By the next morning every building was covered with graffiti and the IDF desisted so as not to cause a big international flap for destruction of the entire camp. Graffiti is now revered there.

We toured the camp. Every building has a plastic water tank on the roof. Sometimes, IDF soldiers on patrol have target practice – shooting holes in the tanks. Not only are the Palestinian residents deprived of precious water, the homes are water-damaged and repairs are expensive. As we walked our guide told us of the other type of target practice… aiming for the kneecaps. It is common to see folks with impaired walking ability.

The camp is also used for training new IDF soldiers how to extract a person from their home. The soldiers take children from their beds at night. There are 500-700 children aged 11-18 in military detention. At the Balata refugee camp, professional psychologists have workshops to help children prepare for the inevitable and help them in the aftermath.

It is vital for the refugees to maintain connection to the wider world. Digital communication has played a key role in maintaining free flow of information into and out of the camps.

Is there any American who would tolerate this treatment of human beings in our own country? Aren’t Palestinians human beings, too?

 



JOIN US IN PALESTINE/ISRAEL!
July 21 - August 3, 2018

This delegation is your opportunity to investigate the travel and access restrictions, understand the Wall and its associated regime of physical and legal barriers, and connect with Palestinians and Israelis working for peace with justice.

Click here for more information







 

Palestinian Pie - A cook’s incomplete, vegetarian, gluten-free recipe composed in Jerusalem; or How to Feed a Nation   |    Janet Hinze - Emeryville, California

Mix: 1cup garbanzo bean flour
         3/4 cup rice flour
         1/3 cup of Fair-trade olive oil from Jenin
Blend till crumbly with:
          6 - 8 Tablespoons of water from the Dead Sea
Pat this mixture into a flat pan fired by the ironworkers of Hebron.

Sauté in oil:
            2 cups of chopped onion and
            1/4 cup minced garlic
            That have been gathered from a garden outside of Bethlehem
Chop: Mint, sage and 2 flavors of thyme gathered from the gardens at the Palestinian  
          Museum of Natural History. Add to the sautéed mixture and           
          spread over the crust.

palestinian mealTop with slices of hard boiled eggs from a Bedouin’s chickens.
Scatter with olives and grapes from the terraces of Palestine.
Cover with crumbled feta, or cheese from the 18 fugitive cows. Sprinkle with lots of sumac and some Aleppo pepper.

Bake for 45 - 60 minutes in a solar oven powered by the heat of the Negev.

When baked, shower with the tears of all the Palestinian mothers and break into dozens of pieces.

Feed to your family, your friends, your co-workers and those strangers down the street.

Repeat again and again and again till the people can return home.




 

A Time for Heroes   |   Lea Koesterer St. Louis, Missouri

The schoolgirls poured from their schoolhouse door in their crisp uniforms onto the broken and dusty streets of Hebron. Such a contrast! The streets have been long broken since the attacks by Israeli settlers and the IDF (Israeli Defense Force).

While the other delegates were watching the IDF teenagers with automatic weapons, I was enchanted by the children. I was at the back of the group and was watching them when they saw Issa Amro. As soon as they spotted him they began to chant in unison, “Issa Amro! Issa Amro! Issa Amro!” As they neared us shyness overcame them and they merely grinned ear to ear.

Hebron used to be a Palestinian city. Now it is divided by walls and fences into H1 and H2. H1 is the Palestinian side and H2 is the Israeli settler side. Issa Amro was guiding our tour through H1. Soon after we began walking he got a phone call. His friends were warning him that the IDF was on its way. issa

While we waited for the IDF to arrive he told us about his nonviolent resistance to the Israeli Occupation. I am sure he knows about Gandhi. He pointed out a building that had been confiscated by Israeli settlers. Remember we are in H1. As we stood next to what used to be a community park, a gathering place, and Issa Amro waited quietly for us to cluster around him I spotted an armed IDF teen atop the wall behind him. Such a contrast!

The former Palestinian gathering place is in H1, but the Israeli settlers wanted it for celebrating their holidays. So now on every Jewish holiday the park is closed to Palestinians. Further, the Palestinians who chanced to have a home on the H2 side of the dividing line are locked in their homes (i.e. house arrest) for the duration of the holiday so that the settlers can “feel safe”.

The IDF youngsters arrived armed to the teeth to escort Issa Amro away from us. He spoke with them briefly and respectfully. Israel has held him in ‘administrative detention’ 17 or 18 times for speaking truth. He is not charged with any crime because there is none. But ‘administrative detention’ means that a person can be held indefinitely with no charges filed. Reasons for the detention could be as simple as Facebook posts, attendance at a rally or demonstration, or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Only about 15 minutes had elapsed since we arrived.

We were not abandoned, though. One of Issa’s very capable colleagues continued the tour with us. Palestinian shops in H1 are shuttered. Permits are needed for any repairs or new building but few if any are ever granted to Palestinians, while Israeli settlers get subsidies for repairs and new construction from the Israeli government.

Our new guide was a well-educated young man who spoke flawless English. He told us of the separation walls that separate not only H1 from H2 but also cut through other areas. One evening after work he needed to pass through one of these to get home. When he got to the gate they told him that his number was not on the ‘list’. Everyone has a number and must be on an approved list to pass through. Our guide was able to get home that night. It just took more time.

hebronDid the Israelis forget the experience of being known by a number instead of a name?

The purpose of many activities by the IDF is to intimidate and to humiliate. I have to marvel at the patience and creativity of the Palestinians. Issa Amro rejoined the group while we were in the market. He explained why there was chain link fencing across the top of the street here. Debris and some garbage are piled on top of the chain link roof.

An occasional piece of corrugated sheet metal guides liquids such as urine away. Israeli settlers live in the upper stories. Such a contrast!

The shopkeepers are clearly in awe of Issa Amro for his courageous leadership. His joy in living is contagious despite the cruel apartheid. With my own ears, I heard him say “I love life, but would not hesitate to offer mine for Palestinian freedom from oppression.” I am in awe of this man.

Note: Dec. 26, 2017 is the new court date for the Israeli High Court to adjudicate the trumped up charges Israel has levied against Issa Amro.




 

The Reality of a Dream Called Zion   |   Simi Toledano - Brooklyn, New York

The reality of a dream called Zion is
standing on the concrete island between east and west Jerusalem,
waiting for the light to turn green.

I stand and wait
and read a sticker that says
"I am my ancestors
wildest dream."

I look down at my feet
straddling a city segregated
and wonder why, then, do I feel like their
worst nightmare?

I once joined my ancestors in the desert
and danced for them while they dreamed and reached toward Zion.

I pulled love up from the center of the earth, our mother, who's dream we all inhabit,
and with the story of my flesh and hair reminded them of the justice they promised me with my first breath.

Offended by my immodesty,
the men
turned their backs and kept dreaming.

I danced harder.

Not so that they would turn back around and
see me
but so that the women would
feel me.

Because when the dream of the fathers dont include justice for the mothers,
we all stand and wait for the light to turn green.

From the concrete island between East and West Jerusalem,
still waiting for the light,
I felt the ground rumble and saw a sea of women

in red

appear and unite
from all directions.

They moved and stomped and shattered the earth's concrete ceiling,
liberating her and her people,
the Palestinians, the Bedouins and Arabs

Now rising from the fire and rubble to lead the children home.

Occupied with love and joy,
They twirled their bodies around the rhythmic wind and smoke,
launching their tears to the heavens,
who returned the favor with rain.

The women danced harder.

Not to defend against the downpour but to exalt in the fertile freedom of justice.

The women, who remember what is forgotten.
The women, who refuse to wait.
The women, who are returning from exile.

I dug my toes in the moist sand and remembered the power I was given at birth.

Joining the women as they approached, I took the steadfast hand of an elder,
whose brown face was framed by a crimson scarf.

She tugged my hand and pulled me down to meet her eternal eyes.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd meet you here," she confessed.
I tasted salt water between my lips and kissed her soft cheek.

I felt a small hand slip into mine and saw a girl in velvet next to me.

Our fingers now entwined,
as our stories always have been,
she looked up with glittering eyes and urged,

"Come, let's go play,
the light has turned green."

.




 

Erez Checkpoint and Sderot   |   Betsy Simpson - Easton, Pennsylvania

Our eyes saw the checkpoint for people crossing from Gaza to Israel. Of course, it is more than a simple checkpoint (can such a thing be simple?), it is a massive stretch of buildings containing Israeli intelligence offices, interrogation rooms, detention cells, and who knows what else.

There were few people there outside, but I saw a ‘memorial’ of sorts - a large cylindrical water-type tank lying on its side, at each end, painted on concrete walls, what appeared to be the twin Towers, at one end they stood untouched, at the other they seemed broken and falling. Around the base of this ‘memorial’ was barbed wire, and it all spoke to me of the fear, the violence, and the hatred that provokes the seemingly unending barrier between these peoples. It felt like we were being watched, but at the same time it was as though we stood at the end of the world. There was a deathly silence.

Next, we went to the home of Nomika Zion, an Israeli woman and longtime resister living in an urban kibbutz in the “ordinary” Israeli town of Sderot. We heard her painful stories of how the separation from her neighbors in Gaza began and proceeded. She told of how the bombing, the missile attacks, the state of ongoing anxiety has driven people, families very nearly crazy. Her town had become, since 2011, the unfortunate target of Hamas mostly because the Hamas missiles usually couldn’t reach further into Israel.

We had seen the numerous missile shelters beside bus stops and other public buildings, but she spoke of safe rooms in her and her neighbors’ homes. If and when the sirens went off, during the night or the day, they had maybe 15 seconds to get to the safe room.

This continued till 2014, when Israel attacked Gaza so severely that now those men, women and children are too desperate for water and food, barely surviving, that there are seldom missiles.

Despite isolating herself from many of her Israeli friends, she was one of the founders and has been active in Other Voice protesting the horrendous occupation by the Zionist State of Israel, especially the inhumane treatment of Gaza, making it a virtual open-air prison.

People in Gaza are near starvation, without adequate potable water and severely limited power.




 

Reflection of Trip   |   Jeff Petrucelly - Cambridge, Massachusetts
 
Having spent the last ten days in Palestine and Israel, where we met with the most compelling Palestinian and Israeli speakers, I was blown away by the diverse perspectives and their articulated hope for a just and peaceful resolution.   

It started with the visit to an olive farm where the Palestinian family that has grown and sold olives for three generations has been under an order of demolition for ten years. They have resisted by remaining on the farm and fighting it in the Israeli courts.  They have also enlisted international support and have volunteers come and stay there in caves and tents to help with the farm. Nonetheless, they still espouse hope for justice and equality and want to live on their land in peace with their neighbors.
   
Because of the 1948 war, approximately 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their land and homes, and became refugees in the West Bank and surrounding countries.  Others were displaced by the 1967 war. The UN recognizes them to this day as refugees with a right of return under international law.  What that means in practice is unclear, but could be negotiated in a peace process if all sides really wanted to.  

We visited 2 of 59 Palestinian refugee camps, and saw the extremely dense living quarters and very difficult living conditions.  But the Palestinian refugee speakers we met were passionately committed to resist the occupation and help their community survive and return, if they want, to their ancestral lands.
    
So too, we met with a Palestinian businessman who expressed his resistance by moving from the US to Ramallah with his family, and working on businesses that create jobs for locals who will then stay and resist non-violently the injustice of the Israeli occupation.   

In Hebron, we met with a Palestinian activist who had planned to give us a tour of the town and take us to an olive grove to help with the harvest. But as we walked down a street near a fortified Israeli section, the military soldiers carrying automatic rifles stopped him and would not let him guide us in that area nor even allow us Americans to walk down the street.  But young Palestinian children left school and walked home that way.    

We traveled to Sderot, an Israeli city just next to Gaza. Though the residents had for the 12 years prior to 2014, been bombarded by rockets shot from Gaza, we met with two Israeli peace activists who still protested the occupation and worked with Palestinians from Gaza on peace activities.  

Although the Israeli settlements in the West Bank have significantly grown, and the massive apartheid like wall has been constructed around Jerusalem, Bethlehem and other areas, the Palestinians are still resisting and will not give up their struggle for justice and equality.    So too, Jewish Israelis would like an end to the war with their neighbors, and to live in peace.   

Overall, I came away with hope for peace and justice in the mid-east, but it will take a sea change in the leadership on both sides, other Arab states, and our country. A massive project for all!




 

The Road   |   Lea Koesterer St. Louis, Missouri

In order to drive a vehicle, one must have a license. In the case of Israel and the West Bank the plates are either yellow (Israeli) or green and white (Palestinian). We had a yellow license plate that enabled us to use the super highways built for the Israeli settlers. Our travel would have been severely curtailed if we had had to go through the numerous checkpoints.

There are more than 60 Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank, along with hundreds of other roadblocks and barriers to Palestinian movement.

busAs we drove, our guide would periodically announce that we were at that moment traveling over the remains of a particular Palestinian city or village. There were many.

We also passed many living Palestinian towns and cities as well as active Israeli settlements constructed illegally on occupied Palestinian lands. The settlements had signs announcing the name of the settlement. Palestinian towns were often not granted a sign, but we could see them and our guide knew the names.




 

On Holy Ground   |   TJ Williams - Chicago, Illinois

Arriving in Jerusalem, took me back to the origins of a people of three faiths; Christianity, Judaism and Islam. To see and experience the livening presence of the three faiths and how they are interconnected through this historical, middle- eastern Arab town named Jerusalem to the faith of three historic peoples opens my mind and heart to listen and hear fully. In the call for prayer as it awoke me each morning, I heard the voice of the Islamic transformation that began in 632 when Jerusalem was established as Al Quds Al Sharif (the noble sacred place). The call gave me a welcome song to my spirit that served as a spiritual and physical alarm clock and reminded me that the day and task ahead must begin with a sacredness; that this work is bigger than what I know myself to be; and that I am, as religious grad, called to the work of justice and liberation.

The morning call to worship gave me a geo-physical foundation for the interconnectedness that Islam honors in Christianity and Judaism through the prophets that are important to the collective religious narrative represented in King David, Solomon and Jesus. Jerusalem is just as sacred to Muslims, as it is to us who are Christians and our brothers and sisters who are Jewish. Islam is a part of our collective tradition as an historic people of faith. Islam sees Jerusalem as a continuation of the same spiritual and ethical dimensions that begun with earlier prophets and calls us to being bigger than bigotry of Trump and the Israeli government combined. I learned in my studies that historically, when Muslims lost Jerusalem during the Crusade of 1187, they reclaimed Jerusalem through peaceful negotiations.

The people of Islam hold Jerusalem to be so important, because it is where Mohammad (Blessings upon him) was taken to Heaven. Thus, they began building the Dome of the Rock as one of their temples celebrating the prophet Mohammad (Blessings upon him). I saw a unifying presence among Jewish and Muslims people when walking the streets, just as I see it in the pages of church history books that I have read while attending New York Theological Seminary. However, when I walked in The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and saw the place where they laid Jesus, it took my very breath away because it solidified the call within me to be a champion for radical reconciliation. Jesus’s tomb became a tangible proof to the political and social risk that he took for the oppressed because it also demands that I take the same risk. The Israeli occupation is a sin against the people of Palestine but it is also a sin against humanity and the God who created us.

This occupation has forced itself upon Holy Ground and ignores the historic voices of those ancients who champion justice. Zionism both Christian and Israeli is not of God because it finds its identity in the kind of nationalism that seeks to leave out its Palestinian cousins. Historically in Jerusalem, Muslims have been in community together with Jews because that is the identity of Palestine itself. Christians, Muslims, and Jews have joined together many times on the Sacred Land called Jerusalem and found their way home throughout centuries. History is important for understanding context. As people of faith, we must draw from the past to move toward the future. And what bigotry ignores the truth of this narrative is that Palestinian are Jewish, Christian and Islamic.

The Character of Jerusalem is a reminder the she is that city on a hill who represents one city and three faiths calling us toward a place of collective integrity. Jerusalem located in a place called Palestine the land that we know as Israel is holy ground. Therefore, the ideology of Zionism has no place there!




 

Final Reflection   |   Paul Hanawalt - Cleveland, Ohio

Laurie and I are staying 10 days after the delegation.  Some mysterious force canceled the reservation we previously booked and put us in a great hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem, next to the Tower of David Museum.

The first morning in our new hotel, while we were having breakfast, there was a woman sitting near us who got served a special meal that wasn't part of the buffet.  Laurie went over to ask one of the women what she ordered.  After a minute of talking to these ladies (Donna-Lee and Jules), they invited us to join them at their table.  It turned out that Donna-Lee has a Jewish boyfriend who has only rote Zionist answers to her questions about the ongoing tragedy in Palestine.

We ended up spending all day with them in the Tower of David Museum.  Donna-Lee drilled us continually about Palestine.  We filled her up with everything we have seen, read, and heard about the formation of the Zionist state of Israel and the consequences for the Palestinian people.  Donna-Lee asked for books she could read and I gave her authors, Richard Forer, Ilan Pappe and Rashid Khalidi along with book titles.  I feel sorry for her boyfriend when she gets home.

After the museum closed at 4 pm, we spent a few hours in the market, where Donna-Lee bought her boyfriend a tallit (a shawl a Jewish man wears when he goes to temple).  Then the 4 of us went to dinner and met the chef when Donna-Lee needed to discuss her diet restrictions.  

We asked the chef about his life.  He was one of the lucky Palestinians, whose family was permitted to stay in Israel in 1948.  That hasn't hampered his ability to see the reality of what is happening.  He is angry and his heart suffers for the Palestinian people.  I don't know how he cooked for the group of 40 Russians who reserved the restaurant that night because he spent over an hour over the next few hours sharing with us.  Donna-Lee drilled him about Palestine, and he confirmed what we had told her as he told us about his life.  He went to culinary school in Germany and has worked as a chef all over the middle east.  The things he was most proud of was working as part of a crew who served Pope Benedict XVI and even more so was when he cooked for Pope Francis, who stands with the Palestinian people.  We suggested to Donna-Lee that she contact Jewish Voice for Peace in San Francisco Bay area, thinking the Jewish part of the name might be more acceptable to her boyfriend.

We have Donna-Lee's contact information and plan to contact her about going on a future delegation trip with IFPB.  Her spirit is perfect for this work.

Laurie and I are going to Bethlehem tomorrow.  Hotels were full in Bethlehem, but somehow Lubnah Shomali, with Badil, reserved a room for us in the Bethlehem Hotel.  We plan on spending time with Lubnah and also Mazin Qumsiyeh (who Richard Forer introduced us to).  Mazin is the founder of the Palestine Museum of Natural History in Bethlehem.  We plan on spending time at Bethlehem Bible College with Mercy Aiken, whom Richard Forer also introduced us to.  While in Bethlehem, we plan on visiting the Banksy Museum.

Beyond that, I don't know what to expect next.  Laurie is like a dowsing rod.  One minute we don't know what we are doing next, and the next minute she gets up and leads us into our next adventure.


 

 

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.




DONATE: Support IFPB in sending more trips



TRAVEL: Sign Up To Learn About Future Trips

 

Select a digest to view reflections: delegation home | 1 | 2 | 3 |