Friday, March 18, 2016

Boots on the Ground

            These boots were on my feet when I left for the Portland airport at 3:45AM to catch a 6:05AM flight to JFK. Still on my feet when I had a massage at JFK, when I went to the Delta Lounge to relax, and when I boarded the midnight flight to Tel Aviv.
I was still wearing these boots later that evening when I sat at the pizza restaurant (Yerevan) directly across from George and Dorin Santorini’s Armenian Pottery Shop in the Old City of Jerusalem and proclaimed that I felt like I was home.
It gets under your skin, this Holy Land. Once it is there you cannot turn away from it. “It” becomes a part of you, breathing in, exhaling, a presence indescribable unless you have caught it. Those of us who have “get” it carry it deeply within us. It is a love for an oppressed humanity, a spirit of compassion, and a will to persevere. It is in the desert sand and in the rocks that line the streets and empty lots. It is steadfastly gripping each fiber of your being. It is listening and hearing the stories, and it is present during sleep and sleepless nights.
            These boots took me to Bethlehem where they walked me into Wi’am (a Palestinian Christian Reconciliation NGO) to meet once again with the amazing staff. We listened, I helped edit, we ate together, we drank tea and coffee. We demonstrated with the BDS ladies—all Palestinian women, both Christian and Moslems, who gathered on Wednesday at noon to protest non-violently in front of the military tower which meets the wall at Hebron Street and surrounds Rachel’s Tomb. The boycotters were appealing to their fellow Palestinians to boycott the products that are in their grocery stores that are made in the illegal settlements. Milk, juice, canned goods. These boots watched the soldiers as they peered out from the military tower and after watching us filming them, took out their cameras to take our pictures. Thee soldiers are young—maybe 19 years old.
            I was wearing these boots when Arij asked if she could tell her story. Arij is a beautiful 28 year old Palestinian, born in Nablus. While I tend to forget that a country under occupation just suffers from the arduous tasks of daily life, real life also happens. Domestic abuse happens, and it happened to Arij. When she was 15 she left her abusive home and went directly to the police to protect her. She was placed in a shelter for battered women where she remained for 5 years. During this time she completed high school. When she was 20 years old she met up with the wonderful people at Wi’am.  They took her under their wing and over the next 8 years she transformed herself from a shy, reticent, traumatized girl to a self-confident, more out-going 28 -year old woman. She has been employed at Wi’am as their Administrative Assistant where her strengths in business management have soared, as well as her ability to cook amazing Palestinian dishes. Working from a miniscule kitchen, an electric frying pan plugged in next to her desk, she magically produced some of the finest meals we ate!  Brava, Arij. Her dream is to become a chef and teacher, opening up a small cafĂ© (perhaps on the grounds of Wi’am.) Unlike the norm for a single woman in Palestine, she has her own apartment, she cares for all of her needs, but depends on Wi’am to act as her family. Three marriage proposals have been presented to the team at Wi’am, but thus far Arij has not consented to any of her suitors.  When asked about her religion (I assumed that since she was not wearing an Hijab that she must be Christian) I was surprised to learn that she is Moslem, but chooses not to wear the Hijab. She stated very clearly that those who continue to wear the Hijab are forced by their families to do so.  I believe the truth lies somewhere in between, as many women do choose to wear the Hijab both to fit in, and to not stand out. The modest dress is seen as a protection against the testosterone filled male.
            My boots seldom got much rest. Darlene and Tom Dunham and I should have been more prudent in arriving at Wi’am (located at that precarious intersection of the wall and military tower) shortly after 2PM. We knew that on Fridays after 1:00 the soldiers often get agitated and there have been many instances of tear gas and injuries to Palestinians. We exited a cab on a very, very still Hebron Road, and our cabbie immediately left the area, stranding us at a locked gate and facing the wall as it opened.  Note that the teargas is made in Pennsylvania….
        Armored jeeps immediately started popping off tear gas canisters, while fully armed soldiers in gas masks strode down the streets looking for the boys who had been throwing marbles and rocks at the military tower minutes before, and who had now vanished into the maze of refugee housing, shops, hotels, and empty lots. Tear gas has a unique smell, and immediately causes the sinuses and eyes to begin pouring copious amounts of fluid down the face, while the throat closes in, burning with each breath taken. This is not a pleasant experience. We later learned that an ambulance carrying injured people was directly tear gassed by the soldiers—the very same soldiers who had watched us demonstrate two days earlier. Aside from the tear gas, the most startling thing was watching the Israeli military entering into Bethlehem, into Area A where the Palestinian Authority is the governing body and the security force. This action was directly breaking international law. But they can, and nobody can stop them, so they pour into the streets of Bethlehem, fully armed, and shooting off tear gas.
On my last day, the next Thursday, these boots took me to Ramallah where Gerard Horton graciously spent two hours discussing the imprisonment of Palestinian children. There are 2 forms of law in Israel and the West Bank:  Israeli citizens (both Jewish and Palestinian) are subject to civil law. Those living in Gaza and the West Bank are subject to military law. When an Israeli child is believed to have thrown rocks or broken any law, a subpoena is issued and the parents take the child to the police station. There they are offered the opportunity to have a lawyer present for questioning. Under military law the Palestinian child is often arrested in the middle of the night by soldiers who bang on the door, demand entry, and demand that every family member appear. Each person gives their name, and if one is a person of interest to the IDF, they are taken away from their family, blindfolded and hands bound with plastic ties, tossed into the bottom of a jeep for a very bumpy ride to one of the illegal Israeli settlements. Often the child is held for nine or 10 hours before interrogation, usually tied to a chair in a room with bright light so as to prevent the child from sleeping. By the time the interrogator enters the room the child has usually wet himself, is cold, and humiliated. Thus, the power between the officer and the child forms such a chasm as to implode the spirit of the child immediately. Once presented with a confession written in Hebrew, the child can choose to confess and be put into the general population of other fellow children in jail. Should they choose not to sign they are warned that their father will have his work permit taken away, and they will remain in solitary confinement for as long as two months awaiting trial. Israeli children, on the other hand, have the opportunity to have both parents and a lawyer present, and the conviction rate is about 6% for these children. Palestinian children have a conviction rate of about 99.7%. The average sentence for throwing rocks is 4 months.
Under the Geneva Convention, it is against international law for the occupying country (in this case Israel) to move any prisoner outside of his own land. Yet, most men arrested in the West Bank are transferred to prisons inside Israel. The children’s prison is technically in the West Bank, within what we call the “green line” or the 1948 border. However, the prison is on the Israeli side of the Wall, meaning that the parents are often unable to travel through the checkpoint to visit their children in prison. Mothers are more likely to be allowed, as men under 45 are not permitted to cross the checkpoint without a permit.  Work permits are issued for a specific job and include days and hours that the permit holder is permitted within the territory claimed by Israel. (Remember that the Wall is illegal under international law because only 12% is on the “green line,” while the rest encroaches inside the Palestinian Occupied Territories.)
My boots remained on all day and into the evening, and then into the early morning hours. Hanna, my driver, picked me up at about 1:00AM for my long journey home. Ben Gurion airport is a little more than an hour from Jerusalem, where I was staying on that last day, and check in is 3 hours prior to the flight. If you arrive later than 3 hours prior to the flight you are not guaranteed to make it to the flight. So I choose to be safe and arrive on time. My bags were safely checked to Portland, and I spent about 1 ½ hours waiting for boarding, which would be at about 4:15AM for my 5:20AM flight.
            Uneventful flights through Amsterdam and Minneapolis ensued, and by 7:30PM that evening after a 10 hour time change, my boots were on the ground in Portland.  Weary and wearing dusty boots, I found myself once more on the famous carpet of the PDX airport. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Things taken for granted

I have just returned from a shorter than normal visit to the West Bank and Jerusalem. My purpose was twofold:  to visit with Wi'am, a Christian Reconciliation Center in Bethlehem, and perhaps to assist them with some funding; secondly to attend Christ at the Checkpoint in Bethlehem.  Of course, reconnecting with friends is always part of the reason to return.

Now home, I am reflective about the two weeks. I have a right in this country to have running water in my home, and I can use it without restriction except during periods of drought. I have a right to health care. I have the ability to flush toilet paper down the toilet instead of having to wrap it up and place it into a bin which then is to be emptied periodically. At home I can get into a hot shower and stay there as long as I want to (although in order to save water I don't). When I want to read in the middle of the night I know there will be electricity. I can turn up the heat in the winter and turn on the air conditioning in the summer. I can be reasonably certain that when I drive down the road my car will not be torn apart by pot-holes. (That one part of American life is deteriorating somewhat, but not nearly to the extent as it is in the West Bank and Gaza.) I have reason to believe that my grandchildren will get home from school without encountering armed soldiers pointing guns at them. I can be fairly certain my grandchildren will not be frisked as they enter the shopping mall.  I can be certain that my home will not be invaded at 2:00AM with the possible arrest of one of my children. I know that if one of my children or grandchildren are arrested they will be read their rights, I will be allowed to be present if one of them is a minor, and I will be able to help them retain an attorney, or they will be able to do so on their own. I know that I can cross the border into Canada, or travel to any country in the world with my American passport and perhaps a visa. I can travel back and forth between Jerusalem and Bethlehem without any concern, except to perhaps show my ID. Except during the 60's in Berkeley, I have never lived with the possibility of being tear gassed (which we were on Friday afternoon in Bethlehem.)

None of the above are possible for a Palestinian. Most are possible for an Israeli.

The statistics bear some revealing:  The ratio of water available for an Israeli to a Palestinian is 9:1. The current standard is about a bathtub full of water per day per Palestinian for washing, drinking, watering plants, flushing toilets, laundry, dishes, cooking, etc. The standard for an Israeli is 9 bathtubs full. The Illegal Israeli Settlements (so designated because they have been built inside the 1967 border between Israel and the West Bank, and thus named illegal under international law) have lush landscaping, lawns, swimming pools, water features, etc.

In the West Bank, Palestinians are confined to drive on roads that are inferior in quality, and not direct from one point to another. Israelis drive on Israeli-only roads (enforced by license plates of a differing color.) These Israeli only roads make direct passage from the illegal settlements directly into Jerusalem, providing the illusion that this settlement is really in Israel, and not located on Palestinian designated land. These roads have been constructed in such a manner to visually eliminate the Palestinian village from the drivers and passengers thus giving the illusion that no one lives on the land being passed. While Palestinians may ride public buses from the West Bank into Jerusalem and beyond, they are subject to either walking through the checkpoint, or being stopped, getting off of the bus for inspection of ID and visual profiling, and then re-boarding if they pass the test. We Internationals can just remain on the bus and the soldiers may come and check our ID. They normally board the bus, but only glance cursorily at our passport for country of origin.

In order to receive medical care in the West Bank and Gaza, a patient must pay in advance. Of the locals I spoke with, many are not being treated for routine ailments due to the cost. They cannot afford to pay for immunizations, antibiotics, pain medication, physical therapy. Or they ration their own care by decreasing the frequency of treatments.

We take so many things for granted. It is helpful for me to be reminded how fortunate we are to live in a country that while not perfect, provides opportunities for me to live comfortably, to move freely, and to be able to express myself without fear of censorship. I return grateful, humbled, reflective, and stronger for having experienced tear gas. The situation is worse--far worse-- than ever before. I fear the lack of hope will continue to feed the violence. Pray for the peace of everyone in the Middle East! That means Jew, Arab, Palestinian, Christian, Moslem. We all come from the same lineage beginning with Abraham. Let us honor our entire family.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Breaking a Generation

I ask your prayers for the children of the Occupied Territories. For all of us who are parents, the treatment of children in the Occupied Territories is incomprehensible.  Imagine being the parent of a four year old child. It is in the middle of the night, at about 2:00AM, and the Israeli soldiers are banging on your door. Sleepily you go to the door to be met by two fully armed soldiers who are on a mission to arrest your child. You collect the documents for your entire family and hand them to the soldiers. They call out for Mohammed.

"Mohammed?" you ask. "Are you sure?"

It is Mohammed they seek, so you bring the sleepy 4 year old child, clinging to your body, legs wrapped around you in a tight grip. The child is now sobbing. You are also on the verge of tears. But calmly, you ask the soldiers if you should prepare some diapers and milk for them to take with Mohammed. In their confused state the Israeli soldiers back down and leave, Mohammed still clinging to your body.

I wish I could tell you that the soldiers often leave without arresting the child. Since 1967, 7-800,000 children under the age of 18 have been arrested and interrogated by the Israeli military, according to Gerard Horton, an attorney for the detained children. Approximately 500-800 are aged 12. These children are arrested primarily for throwing stones at the settlers or at the military towers. Why do they persist in throwing stones when they will be arrested? There are several friction points in the Occupied Territories, usually at a location where a road that is used by both Palestinians and Israeli settlers (living in their illegal settlements). The role of the military is to protect the settlers, and they do a very good job. Since 1967 only 2 settlers have been killed, and those two were in the last year.

Settlers have been emboldened by the presence of Israeli military and over the past several years have taken land by cutting down olive trees and vineyards and planting their own crops. Once the crop is in the ground the military will protect them. A common scenario is that the land is raided in the middle of the night and in the morning a parade of military jeeps comes through the Palestinian village to protect the settlers who have stolen land. The children throw rocks. If the military does nothing then tomorrow more kids will throw more rocks. The tactic is that the commander makes assumptions based on boys with prior arrests who are young. They put together lists of children that are the usual suspects. During interrogations they try to recruit children who will give them the names of other children. That is how 4-year old Mohammed made the arrest list.

When arrested, the child's hands are tied with a zip tie. This zip tie will tighten further if the child squirms to loosen them. They blindfold the child and often place the child on the floor of the jeep. There are no arrest warrants. The soldiers will not respond to questions about where the children are going. The soldiers often calm the parents by telling them that the child will return very soon, but then the family is forced back into the home at gunpoint. By the time the child arrives at the police station which is inside of an Israeli settlement, often he has wet himself. He may have to sit for 8 to 9 hours before the interrogation begins, often in uncomfortable positions. The child has the right to remain silent, but the rights are never read. The questioning begins with why did you throw rocks? Then there is a threat of violence, often against the child's parent, perhaps to revoke a work permit. Then the interrogation becomes violent with the child hit off of the chair or tasered. The child is by this point sleep deprived, hungry and thirsty. About one third of the time they are thrown a paper written in Hebrew and told that if they sign this confession they will receive only a minimal sentence. If not, the case will be delayed 4-5 months with the child kept in solitary confinement during that time. The conviction rate is 99.74% versus 6% conviction rate for Israeli children.

While this system is totally illegal, it is effective because as any mother will tell you, the child never fully returns home. Parents talk about nightmares, bed wetting, isolating, and never ever wanting to see an Israeli soldier again. So the system works.

This is psychological terror.

I ask you to join with me in demanding equal rights for Palestinian Children as received by Israeli children:
(1) That the night raids be ended and instead an arrest warrant be served to the family, allowing the family to bring the child to the local police station. Every child must be accompanied by a parent.
(2) That the child in the presence of parents be read his rights prior to the interrogation.
(3) That every child sees a lawyer before interrogation.
(4) That a video recording be taken during the interrogation. This is proven to reduce violence by 60%.
(5) That if any of the above are not fully met the child should be immediately released.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


[and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream." ] Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are no mighty streams left in the Occupied Territories. I can no longer say there are no mighty streams left in the West Bank because the West Bank is full of illegal Israeli settlements that have full access to water and electricity, bypassing the Palestinian villages which have water tanks on the roof and a generator that runs on propane for electricity, and often a tank of water that was purchased from the Israelis.

The settlements are not trailers or tents, but modern cities with neighborhoods of identical multi-family buildings interspersed with high rise condos, office complexes, and hospitals. Close to Jerusalem they have swimming pools and fountains, green space, parks, medical clinics, shopping centers, and industrial complexes. These often house 50-60,000 people who mostly have moved from the US, Russia, and Africa to live in subsidized housing, and who have been paid sometimes upward of $20,000 to move to a settlement. For many of the settlements around Jerusalem and Bethlehem the address is Jerusalem, and unless they ask, may never know that the apartment they are living in is in an illegal settlement. The Israeli road system which crisscrosses the West Bank dissects the land as Palestinians are not allowed to drive or even cross these roads. Sometimes these roads separate a village from their farmland. Riding on these roads, a passenger or driver never sees a Palestinian village as they are cleverly disguised by a wall or routed so as to skirt far enough away so they are invisible.

The latest injustices are occurring within Israel. There are 1.2 million or 20% of the population of Israel that are Arab Israelis, in other words, 20% of the population of the Jewish State of Israel is Palestinian--Moslems and Christians. These are people who were not displaced by the Jews during the Nakba in 1948, or in 1967 after the 8 day war. Recently two pieces of legislation have been passed that discriminate against the Arab Israelis. The first is a recent law that refuses a permit to the spouse of an Arab Israeli. The citizen of Israel will have to decide to move to the Occupied Territories or not to live with their spouse. This law does not apply to Israelis who are Jewish, as any spouse of an Israeli Jew can get citizenship rather quickly.

The second law gives preference for housing, education subsidies, and jobs to those who have served in the military. In Israel an Arab Israeli is forbidden to serve in the army, so they are not able to receive the subsidies or preference for housing and jobs. This is clearly a form of racial discrimination.

Inside of the Occupied Territories justice continues to allude Palestinians. We met again with Omar in Al Walaja. His home has been separated from his village by the new Israeli only wall. His normal way of passage to get his children to school has now been closed and he has to drive through a tunnel that was built by the Israelis at a cost of $600,000 NIS. This road now takes an additional 30 to 45 minutes to get the children to school. Due to the proximity of the settlements it is impossible for Omar to leave his home unattended, and he cannot have visitors past 7:00 PM. He knows that every move is seen by the military as they have installed cameras around his property. Within a few months a fence will be built around his home. He has been promised that he will be able to get to his olive trees twice a year--once to harvest and once to prune.

Justice seems to be an illusion. The settlements have grown in the past year despite promises to cease the construction. Children are angrier the only have an outlet seems to be in throwing stones. We witnessed a group of young boys throwing stones at the wall. Then a young man who had been arrested at the print shop where he worked at about 10:00AM, was interrogated and then released at about 5PM. We watched as his mother walked eagerly up the hill to greet him and the crowd cheered for his release. Later we saw the same angry children throwing rocks at the military tower in Bethlehem. We quickly exited the area and learned the next day that one of the young boys had been shot with a rubber bullet. He will survive. 

Pray for Justice so that peace may be upon these people.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Once again, onward to Jerusalem

I am just finishing up my packing, making sure I have my toothbrush, enough underwear, and clothes suitable for the warm weather. Tomorrow I begin leading a tour of 3 other women; two of whom have never set foot in Israel. The planning has been daunting--how can I share months of experiences in a little less than a week? After the week I have planned we will be attending a conference which will be awesome with many speakers, many viewpoints.

The news of late is frustrating. We have the report of a tunnel in Gaza that had been discovered so the Israeli military came into Gaza (illegally) to destroy the tunnel. They were met by a boobie trapped tunnel, and 4 were injured, one seriously. The next day 4 young Palestinian men were "neutralized." in other words, 4 deaths to pay for 4 injuries. Neither side is right. All violence is wrong.

The Prawer Plan will be back in the Knesset. This is a plan to bulldoze all of the Beduoin villages in the Negev. It passed in the spring but is coming up for final discussions this week. Hopefully all will remain peaceful in Bethlehem while we are there.

On this journey we will be staying with a Palestinian family in a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home. I'm excited to do that, because I know the family and they are awesome! We will be visiting refugee camps, Beduoin villages, Hebron, the Tent of Nations, villages of Al Masara where we will take part in their weekly peaceful demonstration where we will see the IDF (Israeli military) in action, Al Walaja, Battir, and other locations where the occupation is particularly difficult on its citizens, although I'm not sure it's fair to say or believe that some have it worse than others. It is all difficult. And best of all we will enjoy the hospitality of Palestinians and will enjoy their food.

I ask you all to keep us in your prayers so that Jan, Marcia, Lisa, and I will all return safely home in two weeks. Then we will tell you all about it!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Peace in Bethlehem

It is mid-morning on Christmas Eve, and as I ponder the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, I am wondering why Bethlehem? When will Bethlehem be the place of peace?

This little village in the hills just south of Jerusalem has never seen long periods of peace. Most of its history has been a land under occupation. The Romans as we know were present at the time of Jesus' birth, childhood, ministry, and his death. Followed then by the Byzantines, Crusaders, Ottoman Turks, the British Empire, and now by Israel. Technically Bethlehem is run by Palestinians. This city has a Christian mayor, (for the first time a woman has been elected) and the Palestinian Authority has control of the civil society. However, the city is also surrounded by a "separation wall" or "security wall."

I prefer the use of "separation wall" because this 30 foot concrete barrier effectively separates one segment of society from another. Often the wall has been built to separate one Palestinian neighborhood from another. Before the wall a mother in one neighborhood could walk across the road to visit her daughter and vice versa.  Now one must get a permit to cross to see the other. A piece of paper with a stamp on it and a 30 foot wall stand between them. The Israelis are firm in their belief that the wall is for security--that before it terrorists with bombs were free to enter Israel and kill innocent people. However, in reality, if I really wanted to take a bomb into Jerusalem all I need do is place it in a public Palestinian bus in Bethlehem, ride it through Beit Jala and through a checkpoint where soldiers will enter the bus and look through the people and select one or two to check their ID. When satisfied that no one on the bus looks dangerous, the bus then proceeds into Jerusalem. Or I would take it in my car through the Q'alandia Checkpoint in the North-West part of Jerusalem. There it used to take a fair amount of time to get through the auto checkpoint. As the settlers in Maali Adumim (an illegal Israeli colony in the West Bank) found their direct road into Jerusalem that does not have a checkpoint becoming very crowded with cars not from their settlement, they complained to the military that they needed cars to move more smoothly through the checkpoint so they could return to getting to work on time on their own road. The military stopped checking vehicles and instead just make a cursory peek into the vehicles as they go by at 20 MPH. So, you cannot convince me that security is first on the minds of the Israelis.

With each passing day life becomes more difficult for the Palestinian. Instead of a 5 minute drive to school, some now travel over 40 minutes because their roads have been closed to Israeli only traffic. And this happens in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, in an area that is known by the rest of the world to have its own sovereignty. This sovereignty is not real, but an illusion to placate the rest of the world into believing that these people live normal lives, have self-determination  and are choosing to be isolated and controlled. Many Israeli citizens believe that if we give Palestinians open access to Israel they will send suicide bombers and terrorists.

Let's get real. The Palestinians are not armed except with home-made rockets in Gaza and rocks. Every Israeli is conscripted into the Army--men and women--and serve side by side; men for 3 years, women for 2 years. From an early age they are taught to think in military terms. Weapons are carried overtly by many Israelis, especially those who have settled into colonies (otherwise known as settlements) that are located inside the Internationally proclaimed borders of the West Bank. Playgrounds are full of military symbols--tanks, jeeps, fighter planes, helicopters, so that from an early age children grow accustomed to their presence. A recent book by Nurit Peled documents what students from grade 10 through graduation learn of Palestinians. Mostly these neighbors are portrayed as non-entities, having not added to society at large, and as Arabs are viewed as less than us. The photos used in the texts are less subtle than the writing, and show Arabs in menial jobs, faceless, nameless, and fully armed as terrorists. The subtext is that we are to fear and hate these people who want to destroy us and push us into the sea.

I just learned that the school I used to guard in Tuqu' has been teargassed. An 8-year old student was arrested and detained because he threw a rock. I don't condone rock throwing, but have you ever tried to control an 8-year old boy who has access to thousands of rocks on his way to school? Little boys are magnets for rocks, regardless of whether you live in Bethlehem or Portland, OR. As I looked at photos posted by the current EA living in the house in Bethlehem where I spend 3 months earlier this year, I wanted to cry. These are eager students, young children bursting with exuberance at being 8 years old, innocent, precious. The military jeep is ominous, with Israeli flags flying at all four corners of the vehicle, containing two fully armed military soldiers. The situation I went into to try to make life better for the Palestinians has become worse.

Since the UN vote, the Israelis have made life even more miserable. The escalation of settlement building, the confiscation of land, the cutting down of olive trees, the violence of settlers has all become worse. This week the EAs in Bethlehem climbed a hillside north of the illegal settlement of Ephrat where they found a tent with an Israel flag flying and land being cleared. When I was visiting this "colony," one of the settlers, Bob, explained the plan to expand the settlement to the hills surrounding Ephrat. Now a tent stands on this hillside near Ephrat, and the land is being cleared for settlement building. Bob explained that they had been approved to build 400 more buildings, and it appears that some may be on this new expansion site. The Palestinian family who owns the land is mourning its loss. It was just taken--no deed of sale, no money transferred.

This week in Nahalin, a village just outside of Bethlehem, a loud speaker in the village announced that olive trees were being destroyed by settlers from Betar Illit, an illegal settlement of about 30,000 inhabitants, built on former grazing land of the people of Nahalin and Wadi Fukin. By the time the citizens of Nahalin reached the area, the military had blocked the roads and could only watch as the settlers cut down trees on their property. This property has not been taken by the settlers of Betar Illit, and the families who counted on the proceeds of the olives now have lost their source of income.

It is Christmas Eve, and preparations are being made to greet the Christ Child in Bethlehem, and all over the world. I pray that one day this little town on the hill, Bethlehem, will see peace. May we all bring the newborn child into our midst, nourish him, and listen to his wisdom.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I'm Returning

In September Jim and I spent two perfect weeks in Hawaii. This was a gorgeous day in Kailua where we enjoyed swimming in the ocean, eating fabulous food, and drinking mai tai's. The vacation is now over and its time to be back to doing advocacy.

I have been spending a lot of time reading and digesting the multitude of email reports I am getting through New Profile, Mondoweiss, Electronic Intifada, and EAPPI. There is very little positive news except that I keep reading and listening to more American and Israeli Jews who are standing up and talking about the injustice being done to the Palestinians. I listened to Meko Peled, the son of an Israeli General who served as a young man in the 1948 war and in the 1967 six-day war, at a Sabeel Conference in Albuquerque, NM earlier this month. His perspective of these wars is far different that our mythology. Read his book, The General's Son.  He says it better than I can summarize it, and his story is compelling.

Jeff Halper of ICAHD was also present, and between the two of them, and echoed throughout the conference is that the two-state solution is dead. According to Peled there was never a two-state solution in the hearts and minds of Israeli leaders.

The hope is that there are many Israelis who understand that their country is in danger of losin its soul through the actions the government and military are taking. As more Israelis speak up, there is hope. An apartheid situation is not acceptable. Continuing to ethnically cleanse the land of Palestinians is not acceptable. A one state solution where all can live peaceably and where Palestinians (or Arabs as they are called by Israelis) have equal rights, the opportunity to vote, equal education, the same opportunity to own property, the ability to move freely within the country, to drive on the same roads, and to expect economic equality is a good solution. Until then, what we are experiencing is apartheid.

This Sunday at 4:25am my shuttle van will quietly pull into my building's entrance and I will be whisked off to PDX for a series of flights that will take me to Tel Aviv. Jim leaves at 8:30 for a different set of flights and we arrive within a couple of hours of each other. We will have 2 days before we are met by 4 others for a private 4 day tour of things we will not see on our 12 day Sabeel trip. I will be in Jerusalem on November 4th, the day of the 10th Anniversary celebration of EAPPI. Whatever is on our schedule for the day I will likely duck out of so that I can join with EAPPI.

People ask me if I am excited. Yes and No. I am looking forward to being with Jim as he sees what I have experienced. I am not looking forward to the continued loss of land being experienced in villages like Al Khadr and Khallet Sakariyya. I am not looking forward to experiencing more settler evidence in Hebron. I am not excited about visiting East Jerusalem and witnessing more loss of property. I am looking forward to seeing the work of the EAs. I am not looking forward to beeping every time I go through the Bethlehem 300 checkpoint. I am looking forward to seeing Majdi, Claire, Abu Iyad, and those friends I made while living in Bethlehem.

And I am definitely not looking forward to the long flight from JFK to Tel Aviv sitting in a middle seat in coach. Pray that Delta Airlines, who changed equipment and then reassigned us new seats. Thank heaven for Ambien, which I will take as soon as I get on the plane. I know I will survive. I will eventually catch up on my sleep. And I will return.

The Dunhams and I will be speaking at Trinity Cathedral on December 16th at the Sunday Forum, and then in January Darlene, Tom and I will be leading a 4-week class in Steadfast Hope. I hope you will be able to join us.