Terrorism: Israel in Action

Terrorism: Israel in Action

Caution: This article contains stories of horror. If you choose to read it, understand that you will be changed.

The Israeli Army (IDF) demolition crew rumbled its way through the South Hebron Hills on Thursday, leaving a sea of pain in its wake.

They arrived in the village of Susiya and demolished a residential tent, leaving 8 people homeless.

demolished tent, Susiya

family belongings from demolished Susiya tent

The tent had been located on a hilltop, a strategically desirable place for the Israeli’s to build settlement outposts. There was a demolition order on this tent, issued because the Israeli’s allege it was built on state owned land. The Palestinian people believe it is their land. The day of the demolition, an aid group arrived and a temporary tent was erected for the family.

The next day 6 soldiers came back to the demolition site. Their presence brought anxiety to the family and to all who had gathered to offer support. They wandered around, they went into another family’s tent, they checked into other buildings, and they spoke at length with a settler who had trespassed onto the property. They also spoke to the family and ordered the temporary tent to be moved. Apparently, a temporary structure cannot be placed within 30 metres of a demolition site.

family moving their belongings to the relocation site of their temporary tent

The pain of this demolition was evident in the faces of all around. Old men appeared frustrated, children were crying, women looked to be at their wits end. How do you deal with the upset of all this? How do you deal with the fact that your home has been intentionally destroyed and now those who have destroyed it have returned to tell you that your temporary home must now be dismantled and moved as well? How do you deal with the chaos, with the commotion? How do you deal with your anger? How do you deal with the fear you carry, the one that is afraid that if anyone, ANYONE, makes the slightest wrong move or says what they really think and feel, that they will be arrested and taken away? You know, deep in your heart, either through personal experience or through the experience of loved ones, that life in an Israeli jail is cruel and horrible. That the treatment Palestinians receive there is inhumane and brutal. You cannot, absolutely cannot, risk arrest.

A demolition crew also arrived that morning in the village of Um Fagarah. No demolition order had been issued. Imagine waking up, going about your normal morning routine, and all of a sudden the army trucks, soldiers and bulldozers arrive. That’s exactly what happened Thursday morning in Um Fagarah. When all was said and done, the community mosque and 5 homes were demolished leaving 43 people homeless. Yes, that’s right. You read it correctly. 43 people. 43 people who no longer have a home to live in.

Also damaged was the community`s sole generator. There is no electricity in Um Fagarah. A new electrical transmission system was being built to bring electricity to the village, but it was demolished by the army just over a month ago.

One man name Mahmoud spoke with us at length the following day, his face and his voice unable to hide his deep distress. He had gone through extensive court proceedings 6 years ago to ensure that he had all the necessary papers for his house and was assured that all was well. In spite of that, his house was demolished on Thursday morning.

Mahmoud, Haleemi, and family's demolished stone house, Um Fagarah

child's doll, a part of the family belongings found outside their demolished house

When the bulldozer pulled up to the front of the family’s home, a solid stone house, his 19 year old daughter Sausan realized what was about to happen. She tried desperately to get some of the family belongings out of the house before the soldiers began this part of their destruction. That did not go over well with the soldiers. They stopped her from going into the house, they restrained her and then they administered a gas that rendered her unconscious. As she lay on the ground, her mother, Haleemi (Mahmoud`s wife), went to attend to her. That also did not go over well with the soldiers. As Haleeni attempted to get to Sausan, a soldier forcefully pushed her away. Haleeni lost her balance and fell against either a rock or the bulldozer, breaking her leg in the process. As Sausan lay on the ground, still unconscious, she was handcuffed. Mahmoud watched all of this, completely unable to help. After regaining consciousness, both Sausan and one of her relatives, a 17 year old girl Amel, were arrested and taken away by soldiers in army vehicles. As of Friday at 5pm, villagers had no idea where these 2 young girls are, how to contact them, what charges were laid against them (if any), when they will see them again or how to help them. They too, know the reputation of Israeli jails and their treatment of Palestinian prisoners.

Mahmoud took us to visit with his wife, Haleemi. She sat wrapped in a blanket in a neighbour’s home on a mattress on the floor, her foot bandaged and elevated. Her mother and other women sat with her. She had just been interviewed by Palestinian TV. I knelt down to speak with her. We took each other’s hand and looked into each other’s face. There was such agony in her eyes. What do you say in this kind of situation? What can you say in this kind of situation? In the midst of such deep pain, hearts meet. The heart of one speaks to the heart of the other. Words, in the end, are superfluous. But as human beings, we try to convey our feelings. Through an interpreter, I said what I could. I told her that I was so very sorry that this had happened, that it was terribly wrong, and that I believed that God loves her. She nodded, and looking upwards said the word “Allah.” Yes, I nodded. In the midst of this, Allah indeed is present. In the midst of suffering, God is with us.

As a mother, I cannot imagine this woman’s agony.

The harsh reality is that this state sanctioned brutality happens several times a month across the West Bank to hundreds of innocent victims.

This is not a story of fiction. It is true. All who have read it now know what has happened. If we continue in silence, are we not complicit in this family’s suffering, and in the suffering of countless others who also endure this brutality at the hands of the State of Israel? Make no mistake about it….this is terrorism, enacted against those who are among the most vulnerable. Didn’t Jesus have something to say about standing with the oppressed and the downtrodden?

Peace, Salaam, Shalom

Jan

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Questions and Answers

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”         Proverbs 3:5,6

Some of the things I do not understand…..

2 weeks ago we visited the village of Um Fagarah. A small village of 10 families, 9 of whom live in tents or stone shacks and one in a cave. The people were warm and welcoming. Villager’s problems included lack of water, inadequate nutrition, no electricity, lack of sheep fodder, harassment from nearby settlers while shepherding sheep, and significant health concerns in both adults and children. Life is obviously difficult for these people at the best of times. Two weeks prior to our visit, a partly constructed power line project to the village was demolished by the Israeli army. Today, the army returned. They blocked the entrance to a cave and demolished a mosque, 2 one room houses, and a tent. EA’s and other internationals went to the scene but were prevented by the army from entering the village. We will return tomorrow. Why does Israel hurt innocent people in this way? Why does the world condone Israel’s actions by its silence?

Khirbet Ghuwein al Fauqa sits in the southernmost part of the West Bank, only metres away from the Green Line. Army bulldozers demolished the electrical infrastructure leading into the village in September. The village now has no electricity. Other problems include lack of water, lack of sheep fodder, malnutrition, harassment from nearby settlers and legal concerns around the demolition. In general, the people we spoke with were feeling extremely discouraged. There was a a palpable sense of despair and hopelessness in their voices. “It’s like we are in prison between the Green Line and the settlement.” Why does Israel hurt innocent people in this way? Why does the world condone Israel’s actions by its silence?

Last week, EA’s visited the community of A’Seefer in the seam zone near Beit Yatir checkpoint. Several times a week we walk with the village children through the checkpoint on their way home from school. Living conditions in the village are deplorable. An older man spoke of being ill and attempting to seek medical attention in the nearby village of Imneizil. His only transportation was by donkey, but donkeys are not allowed through the checkpoint. Too sick to walk, he turned back. Why does Israel hurt innocent people in this way? Why does the world condone Israel’s actions by its silence?

EA’s also visited the community of Harabat an Nabi. Families there live in ramshackle buildings, much like those found in other villages we visit. Sitting under a dripping roof (on a sunny day), one of the residents spoke bitterly about the fact that he is not permitted to put plastic over the leaking roof. Why does Israel hurt innocent people in this way? Why does the world condone Israel’s actions by its silence?

Early this week, while in the Jordan Valley, I visited the Bedouin village near Al Auja. Villagers live in shacks and tents with no electricity and no water. Overhead power lines and underground water infrastructure piping pass by the village to supply the neighbouring settlement, but villagers are prohibited from accessing these most basic of services. The local school was demolished last year and now there is a demolition order on the new school that is under construction, a small mud structure. Why does Israel hurt innocent people in this way? Why does the world condone Israel’s actions by its silence?

There are multiple demolition orders on many of the villages we visit. Living under this kind of stress exacts a steep toll – on adults and on children. As EA’s, we receive text messages on our cell phones of ongoing demolitions. Today, I received more messages than ever before, 5 in total, with 2 of them involving villages in the South Hebron Hills. Why does Israel hurt innocent people in this way? Why does the world condone Israel’s actions by its silence?

I do not understand.

As EA’s, we seek to understand. We talk, we share, we question, we wonder. Marthie from South Africa, Linda from Wales, Chris from the US, Mpumi from South Africa, Bosse from Sweden, Matti from Finland, and others….But we do not understand. Our hearts ache. The human pain is beyond our understanding. The wanton destruction of property and the intentional infliction of hardship is beyond our understanding. The world’s silence is beyond our understanding.

Maybe our place is not to seek to understand, but simply to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

As we trust more and more fully, we will find our deepest resting place in God.

From that place of trust and rest, the words of the prophet Micah lead us onward, giving us all the direction we need.

“and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”   Micah 6:8

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,

Jan


Unacceptable Inequities

This past weekend, while doing a placement visit with the  EAPPI Yanoun team, I had the privilege of  visiting a Bedouin village in the Jordan Valley.

Bedouin village near the community of Al Auja, in the Jordan Valley

The Bedouin people are traditionally nomadic herders.  Many Bedouin were forcibly moved into the West Bank from their land in the Negev desert after Israel achieved statehood in 1948.  As a result, they now live in villages.  Care of sheep and goats informs their traditional way of life and livelihood.

Mother goat and her newborn babe, only seconds old

Unfortunately, poverty is a daily reality.  In this village, as in every other Bedouin village I have seen, the people live in tents and shacks. They have no electricity and no runnning water. A number of years ago, water used to flow through a culvert structure that runs alongside the road beside this village. That stopped after the Israelis diverted the water elsewhere.

water culvert that carried water prior to Israeli diversion

Israeli water infrastructure pipes sit in a fenced in area just up the road from the village, but the Bedouin cannot access water from that system.

Israeli water pipe infrastructure, Jordan Valley near Al Auja

Nor are they allowed to dig wells deep enough to reach water. Instead, the Bedouin must purchase water by the tank load and haul it to the village. Overhead electricity wires pass by the village, but the Bedouins are not allowed to hook up to the system.

Notice the electrical power lines running past the Bedouin village

“All we want is water, electricity and the ability to expand our community” a Bedouin woman from the community told one of our EA’s a few weeks ago.

On a hillside adjacent to the Bedouin village sits an Israeli settlement. From the road, one can observe neat houses, streets, and ornamental trees and bushes.

Neighbouring Israeli settlement to Bedouin village

They obviously have a plentiful supply of water. Electrical wires go into the settlement, providing power.

The Bedouin village school was demolished last year by the Israeli army (IDF). School demolitions are directly contrary to Article 150 of the 4th Geneva Convention which states: “The occupying Power shall ….facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children.” The 60-70 students from the village now must travel approximately 6 km to the next village to attend school – a reality that makes education all that much more difficult to access. Many students drop out of school by age 11 to work at herding sheep. Others continue in school until about the age of 15, when they quit to work as labourers on the Israeli settlements in the area. With support from the grassroots group Jordan Valley Solidarity Movement, the community is currently rebuilding their school with a mud brick structure. As unbelievable as it seems, there is now a demolition order on the mud brick school.

mud brick school in Bedouin village near Al Auja

unfinished interior of mud school

During my time here in Palestine I have witnessed a number of things that have been deeply troubling. I have seen, and heard, immense pain in so many places….pain that affects real human beings, pain that affects real people. People who are so much more than statistics, people who are so much more than numbers on a page of a report filed “somewhere.” These are real, human people who are struggling through the dehumanizing effects of poverty induced by this Occupation. An Occupation that continues to remove freedoms from them, an Occupation that continues to take their land, an Occupation that continues to squeeze them from every conceivable angle. These are people who have repeatedly told us “We are so tired of this. We simply want to live in peace.”

Since coming here in September, we have witnessed a marked deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the areas we have visited.  Much of the human suffering is directly related to the Occupation. The deliberate choice to supply Israeli settlements with ample water and electricity while nearby Palestinian villages go without is both cruel and appalling. It directly contravenes International Humanitarian Law and cannot be justified by caring people of any civilized society. But a demolition order on a yet to be completed mud brick school? What kind of  mind thinks like that?

Peace, Salaam, Shalom

Jan

Today You Can Plant

We were out with Mohammed and his family yesterday as they were ploughing their land and planting their barley. The wind had gone down from the day before and it felt pleasant to be outside, especially when the warm sun peeked through the clouds.

Things unfolded much the same as the day previously, with Mohammed starting the ploughing in the morning and one of his son’s taking over when the sheep came to graze. This day, it was Fahlil who came to plough, a friendly, smiling young man who is the proud father of 3 young children.

 

Fahlil ploughing

I was sitting on a hill with Mohammed and the sheep.

Mohammed shepherding the sheep as they graze on the hillside

The hills are starting to green up a little now that fall is here and the sheep were finding a bit to eat. It was peaceful sitting in the sun amongst the sheep, listening to them chew away on whatever they found and watching Fahlil go up and down the field with the donkey. It felt like a perfect pastoral scene, if you forgot for a moment the reason I was there. I started to wonder about the sustainability of this form of agriculture as compared to our mechanized model that is so dependent on fossil fuels. The pros and cons of each were moving through my head when all of a sudden I heard Fahlil anxiously calling up to me and pointing down the field. Sure enough, an army jeep had arrived.

My two EA teammates were at the far end of the field.  Two soldiers on foot approached them from the hill behind me. Rudely and disrespectfully, they questioned who my teammates were and why they were there. What were they doing with “these people”? My teammates felt the implication that “these people” were not worthy of our attention, that “these people” were somehow less than human beings. It was an unpleasant conversation that ended with the soldiers rudely telling them not to take photos, that photos were not allowed.

Meanwhile, I motioned to Fahlil to continue ploughing and hurried towards the army jeep. Two soldiers got out of the jeep leaving two inside. Mohammed arrived ahead of me and was talking to the more senior soldier.

soldier speaking with Mohammed

Standing a few steps back from the conversation, I held my camera in hand, making it as visible as possible that I was photographing this exchange. The conversation ended and the soldier started to walk away. I approached him and asked “Why are you here? Is there a problem?” He asked where I was from, and then said that there was no problem, that this man had the proper papers and could work his land. He seemed reasonable. I asked why had a soldier approached Mohammed a few days ago in this same field, telling him at gunpoint to leave his land or else he would be shot? He shrugged his shoulders and walked away. Then, almost as an after thought, he said “We heard that people were taking photographs. That’s not allowed. If it’s you, that’s okay.”

Hmm, I thought to myself. Internationals can take pictures, but not locals. That’s interesting. And today, with internationals present, the locals can work the same land that a soldier forced them off of three days ago.  That too, is interesting.   None of this makes sense.

The soldier walked back towards his jeep. Within moments, a security vehicle from the nearby settlement arrived and the security official, armed with a machine gun, got out and spoke with the soldier.

soldier and settlement security person conversing

The security guard wanted to know who I was and what organization I was with. I gave him my card and he spoke into his 2 way radio “EAPPI.” He had a brief conversation with Mohammed, spoke again with the soldier, and then both he and the soldiers left.

I turned around. While all of this was happening, Nasser had come and taken the sheep back to the yard. Too many previous visits from the army or people from the settlement had resulted in harm to the sheep. It was important to get them to safety.

Mohammed sat down on a rock, collecting himself.  My teammates and I walked over towards him. He was profuse in his thanks. His wife came and stood by him, also offering thanks.

I carried on back down the field to where Fahlil was still ploughing. He stopped and looked at me. “It’s okay” I said. “Everything’s fine. Keep ploughing.” He understood. With a relieved smile and a huge sigh of relief, he said “Thank you, thank you.” Other family members came to the field, offering their gratitude as well.

I was struck by how relieved the family was and how clearly they felt that things would have been much different if we, as internationals, had not been there. Our very presence, our vests and our cameras had made a difference.

I know of villages where settlers have come and intentionally fed their sheep on their Palestinian neighour’s barley field, pushing the Palestinians away at gunpoint when they have protested. I know of villages where the crop has been intentionally destroyed by neighbouring settlers through wanton acts of destruction. In these situations, the army has supported the settlers. Palestinians tell us that having internationals present results in less violence towards them. For three days this week we were able to assist this family with their planting. Will they ever be able to harvest this crop?  Time will tell. Like farmers everywhere, they plant, they watch and they hope.

Seeding Issues…..in Occupied Palestine

It will soon be winter here in Palestine and with it comes the long awaited rainy season. It’s time for farmers to begin planting their barley crops – their primary source of sheep feed for the year.

Yesterday morning Mohammed gathered his barley seed, loaded himself and his single furrow plough onto his donkey, and rode down the steep hill behind his yard to the valley field below – a field that is clearly in his name and that his family has farmed for generations. He wasn’t there long when a soldier approached him from the settlement across the valley. The soldier pointed his gun at Mohammed and told him to leave. Mohammed tried to protest. Again, the soldier pointed his gun at him, told him to leave and said that he would shoot him if he did not leave immediately. It was obvious that this fellow was serious. Frightened and upset, Mohammed returned to his house. He and his family decided to request protective presence from our Ecumenical Accompaniment team.

We went out to his farm, arriving just before noon.  Mohammed, his wife and his children were shaken by this incident. From previous visits we knew that they had had problems with the army and neighbouring settlers in the past. Shepherds had been harassed while shepherding their flocks. Olive trees had been destroyed. Threats had been made against them farming their land. Speaking to us yesterday through an interpreter they told their story, with their voices rising as they tried to explain the details of the incident. We listened intently, trying hard to understand what had happened and how they were feeling.

It was a beautiful fall day. The sun was shining brightly. A good seeding day. With some persuasion, Mohammed agreed to try again, this time with two EA’s present. Together, we went down to the field. Across the way, near the settlement lookout tower, stood a lone soldier. Watching us. Mohammed dismounted from the donkey, hitched up the plough and proceeded to plough his small field. In the midst of the ploughing he suddenly stopped and set the plough in the ground. It was prayer time.  Making time for prayer is a priority for many in this troubled land.  It is important to keep one’s priorities straight, to remember the presence of the Divine.  The donkey stood by patiently as Mohammed knelt to pray. Then it was back to ploughing. He completed the field and we all returned to the yard.

Today, we arrived at Mohammed ‘s farm shortly after 8 am. Eager to get started, Mohammed had left ahead of us to go to the field. We hurried to catch up, getting there just as he was unloading the donkey. He warmly greeted us and then began the task of seeding.

low tech seeding equipment

spreading the seed

He walked up and down the field scattering the barley seed by hand from a plastic pail. Once that was completed, he began ploughing it in.

ploughing the seed into the ground

Up on the hill near the settlement stood 3 armed soldiers, watching. They apparently decided not to approach, and Mohammed continued his work.

I couldn’t help but think how absurd this whole scene was. Three Israeli soldiers,each of them armed with machine guns, watching an older Palestinian subsistence farmer plant a few acres of barley by hand, using the most basic of tools – a plastic pail, a single furrow plough, a donkey and his own physical strength. Providing protective presence for this farmer were three EA’s – one from Sweden, one from Finland and one from Canada, each armed with a commitment to nonviolence, justice and peace. Israel defends its actions in this conflict as legitimate security measures. How can this farmer possibly constitute a security risk to the State of Israel?

After about an hour, Mohammed’s son Nasser arrived with the family’s sheep, bringing them to graze in the olive grove adjacent to the field. Mohammed left to shepherd the sheep and Nasser began ploughing.

Nasser ploughing while Mohammed shepherds the sheep in the olive grove

dropping the plough in the ground

Up and down the short rows he went, frequently looking up at the settlement hill, checking to ensure the soldiers were not approaching. He was obviously afraid of their return. Eventually Mohammed moved the sheep over to the hillside to graze, closer to the ploughing. Mohammed’s wife arrived, telling us in Arabic that we would have tea shortly. We all watched as Nasser and the donkey worked the field. With only a few furrows left, Mohammed instructed Nasser to move the sheep back to the yard. As he left with the sheep, Mohammed finished the ploughing. With a broad grin, he thanked us profusely. The donkey was loaded up and we all returned to the yard.

It was shortly after 12 noon. “Would we stay for bread?”  They were obviously eager to provide hospitality. Yes, we agreed we would.

A time of visiting ensued. Through broken Arabic, broken English, lots of puzzled looks and even more smiles, we talked about our families. We were introduced to their children and to their grandchildren. Family is highly valued in Palestinian culture. We then explained about our families – mostly about our children, how many children we have, their gender, their ages. I took out my small photo album and showed them pictures of our family. My husband. Our children. My sister and my mother. Our hosts were thrilled to see the pictures. Then Nasser flipped one of the pages and saw our former sheep flock. Everyone in the family was curious…sheep in Canada? That subject alone provided much conversation.

It was bread cooking time. We moved outside to a stone building containing a fire pit and a steel rounded cooking plate. Around the fire we watched in amazement as our lunch bread was cooked before our eyes. We talked, we laughed. Lots and lots of laughter. I felt aware, as I have been many times over the last months, of the rich blessing I have been given to be here, in this time and place, with these amazingly wonderful people.

baking bread for lunch

preparing our lunch...served with heaping quantities of hospitality, laughter and warm, generous hearts

Everyone moved back into the house. Sitting on the floor in traditional Palestinian fashion, amidst more laughter and more visiting, we shared a meal of olives, tomatoes, olive oil and delicious, freshly baked bread.

Simple gifts. Warm hospitality. Joy in the present moment.

Arrangements were made for us to return tomorrow morning to again provide protective presence for Mohammed and his family as they continue their planting.

“Bukara, Inshallah”. Tomorrow, God willing.

Dkaika

We visited the village of Dkaika (pronounced Guy Ga) today, located about a 75 minute drive south east of Yatta. It is located in Area C of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, approximately 2km north of the Green Line (the boundary with Israel), but only 200 metres from the planned barrier (“the wall”) route. Nestled in a desert valley surrounded by beautiful hills, it consists of a number of tent homes, animal structures, a school, a mosque and has a cemetery that dates back to the Ottoman period. The village is recognized by the Palestinian Authority as an independent village.

one part of the village of Dkaika

We drive through absolutely breath-taking desert scenery to get there. Going to Dkaika is one of my favourite trips as an EA in the South Hebron Hills.

view of the Dkaika area

hills enroute to Dkaika

 

a desert picnic

Unfortunately, however, Dkaika is literally in a fight for its life. Shortly after arriving here in September, we received an email from Rabbi’s for Human Rights, an Israeli human rights organization (see www.rhr.org.il/eng) informing us of impending demolition orders on the village. (see http://rhr.org.il/eng/index.php/2011/09/demolition-orders-on-dqeiqa-village/)

Dkaika has been in an ongoing legal battle with the State of Israel since 2005. Rabbi’s for Human Rights has provided legal assistance for the village. In December 2010, a portion of the school was demolished by the army. Through funding provided by UNICEF and labour provided by Islamic Relief, a new school consisting of 5 classrooms, an office and a small kitchen has been built. Students moved into the new facility last month.

The remains from the Dec 2010 school demolition.

 

one of 5 new classrooms in Dkaika

On November 1, the Civil Administration ( a branch of the Israeli Defense Force) arrived in the village with 36 demolition orders applying to 46 structures. According to the office of Dov Hanin, a member of the Israeli Knesset, these orders directly affect a population of 220 people, 700 sheep and goats, 20 camels, 55 poultry and 3 donkeys. The demolition orders are on a variety of structures, including 5 communal toilets, a cistern and a quarrying preparation for a cistern, a number of animal structures and a number of residential tents. No demolition order was issued for the school, although villagers were told on a previous Civil Administration visit that they have no right to have the building there and it must be removed or else the army will demolish it.

demolition order issued Nov 1 for this animal structure

 

demolition order issued Nov 1 for this tent frame

demolition ordered issued Nov 1 for this residential tent in Dkaika

demolition order issued Nov 1 for these buildings

In speaking with Sulaiman Najada, the English teacher at the school, the orders read that the affected structures must be removed by November 26 and if they are not removed by that date, the army will come and demolish them. A lawyer for Rabbi’s for Human Rights is working on the case.

Mr Najada spoke to us of how the teachers have worked hard “to create a positive learning environment” for the students. The new building has been an asset for learning. On our last visit, we met 2 representatives of “Right to Play,” an international organization whose mission is “to improve the lives of children in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world by using the power of sport and play for development, health and peace” (see http://www.righttoplay.com). It was so much fun to watch the children play, to see the smiles on their faces as they participated in the games, and to share in their excitement as they each received a new Right to Play backpack and water bottle. The atmosphere today was far more subdued. Now, said Mr Najada, this new demolition order “overwhelms everything.”

He spoke of students expressing fear, of their perception of the army as “the enemy,” and of increased aggressive behaviour amongst the students following the demolition order. He said that he sees the affects of this stress on the students now and that it is negatively affecting student learning.

He also spoke of his personal concerns for the students should this demolition be enacted at this time of year. “It’s dreadful. It’s winter. Where will they go? Who will help them?”

I had no answers. I have no answers.

We promised to advocate on behalf of Dkaika and to work to support efforts to block these demolition orders. Mr Nuwaja promised to call us if the demolition equipment moves into the village.

Somehow, it seemed fitting that the sky over the desert was grey as we drove back to Yatta. Storm clouds threaten.

Rain would be welcome. Demolitions are not.

 

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,

Jan

 

Settlements

During our Mid Term Orientation, held during the first week of November, our EAPPI group had the opportunity to visit Efrat, an Israeli settlement located a 15-20 minute drive south of Jerusalem. Given it’s close proximity to Jerusalem, 65% of the residents commute there daily for employment. Long time resident of the community, Bob Lang, toured us around the settlement and spoke with our group.

Bob Lang, resident of Efrat, a settlement 12 km south of Jerusalem

Construction on the city of Efrat, home to approximately 9000 people, started in the 1980’s. It is governed by a mayor and city council. Most services are available to residents locally, including schools and medical clinics. The streets are paved. Houses looked well cared for, and there were beautiful ornamental trees and a variety of flowers blooming around the city.  To the casual observer, Efrat appears to be an average middle class residential community, much like those found in western societies elsewhere in the world. That is until you remember that Efrat is located in the occupied Palestinian Territory, on land that was occupied by Israel following the 1967 war.

EA's entering one of the synagogues in Efrat

Mr Lang was welcoming to our group. It was interesting to see the settlement and to hear his perspective. He explained that he believes that “Jews have the right to live here” given that “it has been holy land for Jewish people for the past 4000 years.” Speaking of the Israeli/Palestinian situation, he said “we need to find ways to cooperate to live together in peace.” Then he went on to say that he believes “the area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean should be one Jewish democratic state.” The area he was referring to encompasses the current state of Israel and the entire occupied Palestinian Territory, including the West Bank and Gaza. I couldn’t help but agree with his desire for peace. However, finding ways to “cooperate to live together in peace” sounds difficult when the position that he articulated is so clear about its desire to dominate the other.

There are a number of settlements dotting the tops of the South Hebron Hills. Many of them have outposts attached, smaller extensions of the original settlement consisting of temporary trailers that will eventually be replaced by permanent homes. The Palestinians maintain that these settlements are built on Palestinian land. In relation to the Palestinian villages around, the settlements appear to be much more prosperous, with ready access to water. Much of our work involves providing protective presence for the Palestinian villagers from the settlers, and many of the stories we hear from them involve harassment at the hands of settlers. Palestinian villagers have experienced settler violence (physical beatings, as well as the intentional destruction of crops, livestock, tents and water facilities and confiscation of land and livestock). We have witnessed public demonstrations opposing settler violence, where the army has “protected” the armed settlers from unarmed Palestinians.

Israeli settlement Suseya - apologies for the poor picture quality - it was taken very quickly - Palestinians are not allowed to stop outside of a settlement and our driver was nervous of being arrested by the police while I was taking this picture

In a recent report published by the United Nations, details of the settlement issue in the West Bank were given, with particular reference to the herding population (many of whom live in the South Hebron Hills).

There are over 220 settlements and outposts in the West Bank inhabited by half a million Israelis, whose municipal areas cover almost 10% of the West Bank. Many settlements were built on prime agricultural land confiscated from Palestinians, or over key water resources such as the Western Aquifer basin, springs and wells. Over the last decades, this phenomenon has dramatically impacted herding communities who have in many cases lost access to their main sources of water and grazing land as well as seen their traditional herding routes being cut, progressively forcing them to rely on bought fodder and tanked water to maintain their livestock.

Moreover, herding communities located near settlements in remote areas have been particularly affected by settler violence which started in the 80s. In 2010, OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) reported over 300 incidents leading to property damages or casualties in the West Bank, which have been characterized by the absence of accountability of the perpetrators: most victims simply refuse to lodge a complaint due to fear of reprisals or mistrust in the Israeli system, whereas the vast majority of the files opened against Israeli settlers are regularly closed by the police without prosecution.” (taken from West Bank Area C Herder’s Fact Sheet 2010, published by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA), dated 14 June 2011) and found at http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/9B8154497A585D36852578AF0052258

The same report comments on the illegality of the Israeli settlements:

International Law: The 1949 Geneva Convention prohibits the occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies (Art. 49, GCIV). There is no distinction in international law between settlements and outposts, and as such, all settlements in the West Bank are illegal.” http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/9B8154497A585D36852578AF00522589

The Swedish international development organization “Diakonia” has done extensive work on creating reader friendly interpretations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). In commenting on the position of the UN and the International Court of Justice (ICJ), they state: “The United Nations Security Council (UNSC)  has in a number of resolutions declared the settlements a violation of international law and called on Israel to dismantle them. The Security Council has also declared the annexation of Jerusalem null and void. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) stated that the settlements in the oPt are in breach of Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” In regards to the ICJ, “The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its Advisory Opinion of July 2004 found that the construction of the Wall in the West Bank, and its associated régime, are contrary to international law. In the analysis leading to this conclusion, the Court also reiterated… the status of the oPt as an occupied territory, and the illegality of Israeli settlements built therein.”

http://www.diakonia.se/sa/node.asp?node=3288

Furthermore, “Settlements violate international humanitarian law (IHL) by their very existence. A fundamental idea in the law of occupation is that occupation is only a temporary state and that the occupational power therefore cannot make permanent changes in the occupied territory. This principle resonates in many of the concrete rules of the Hague and Geneva law.” http://www.diakonia.se/sa/node.asp?node=858

“Under IHL, all types of settlements are equally illegal. IHL does not make any distinction between a settlement founded with the support of the government and unauthorised outposts. The occupying power is equally responsible for both types of settlements since it is responsible for upholding law and order in the occupied territory.

The United Nations Security Council has expressed that the Fourth Geneva Convention is applicable to the oPt and called upon Israel not to transfer its own civilian population into the occupied territory nor to take any other action that would result in changing the legal status, geographical nature or demographic composition of the occupied territory.”

“Serious violations of international humanitarian law are considered war crimes under customary law . Violations are considered serious if they endanger protected persons or breach important values . The ICRC points out the serious nature of population transfer into occupied territory, “because of the possible consequences for the population of the territory concerned from a humanitarian point of view”

“Transfer by an occupying power of its own civilian population into occupied territory is a breach of IHL according to the Geneva Convention and also a grave breach according to the First Additional Protocol  . Transfer by the occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the occupied territory is also listed as a war crime under Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).  http://www.diakonia.se/sa/node.asp?node=858

While Israel defends it’s position, (see http://www.diakonia.se/sa/node.asp?node=858 for details), it is clear that the United Nations Security Council and the International Court of Justice have found these settlements to contravene the 4th Geneva Convention, several UN resolutions and other significant parts of IHL. In the eyes of the world these settlements are illegal.

closed gate to the Israeli settlement of Karmel, located within metres of Palestinian village Um al Kher. Palestinians are not allowed to enter settlements (unless hired to work)and cannot own property on a settlement.

UNRWA succinctly documented the detrimental effects of these settlements on the Palestinian people in the report mentioned earlier in this posting. As EA’s, we clearly see these effects lived out on the lives of the South Hebron Hills villagers – effects that contribute significantly to the grinding poverty they endure on a daily basis.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom

Jan

The Crime of Silence

In my previous blog posting, I introduced the Russell Tribunal on Palestine – Cape Town session.

“The Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP) is an international citizen-based Tribunal of conscience created in response to the demands of civil society (NGOs, charities, unions, faith-based organisations) to inform and mobilise public opinion and put pressure on decision makers. In view of the failure to implement the Advisory Opinion of 9 July 2004 of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concerning the construction by Israel of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the failure to implement resolution ES-10/15 confirming the ICJ Opinion, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 July 2004, and the Gaza events of December 2008 – January 2009, committees were established in different countries to promote and sustain a citizen’s initiative in support of the rights of the Palestinian people.

The RToP is imbued with the same spirit and espouses the same rigorous rules as those inherited from the Tribunal on Vietnam (1966-1967), which was established by the eminent scholar and philosopher Bertrand Russell, and the second Russell Tribunal on Latin America (1974-1976), organized by the Lelio Basso International Foundation for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples. The tribunal has no legal status; it operates as a court of the people.

The Israeli Government was invited to present its case before the Tribunal but chose not to exercise this right and provided no answer to correspondence from the RToP.” ( taken from the middle east monitor article quoted below)

“May this tribunal prevent the crime of silence”
Bertrand Russell, London, 13 November 1966

The tribunal is now complete and the findings can be accessed at http://www.middleeastmonitor.org.uk/resources/reports-and-publications/3042-the-russel-tribunal-on-palestine-cape-town-session.

Also on that website is an informative and indepth interview with  Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  This map below will help you to understand where the West Bank and Gaza are located in relation to Israel.

white is Israel, green on right is the 1967 West Bank, green on lower left is Gaza

 

I strongly encourage you to read both articles.

One of EAPPI’s roles is that of advocacy.  Speaking out for those who are oppressed.  Both of the above articles speak clearly about the issues that are heavily contributing towards the deep hardship and pain we see on a daily basis.  As politicians sit in high priced offices and 5 star hotels, discussing, debating, and delaying taking a firm stand against the human rights injustices that are so prevalent here -and in so doing fail to meaningfully address those injustices –  humanity suffers.  Yesterday we visited 3 villages.  As we sat in their tents, listening intently to their stories, it was clear that humanitarian needs are intensifying and are even greater then when we arrived 2 and 1/2 months ago.  It was heart wrenching to hear these stories. We cannot be silent  -we as EA’s, and anyone else who has an awareness of this reality.  As Christians, as followers of Jesus – the one who lived us his life standing with and for the poor and oppressed, we must speak out.  As people of conscience, regardless of our faith tradition, we must speak out.  It is imperative that we speak on behalf of those who are hurting. As Terry Fox once said “Somewhere the suffering must stop.”

Peace, Salaam, Shalom

Jan

Russell Tribunal on Palestine

In previous blog postings I have written about the hardships faced by people I have met in the West Bank.  Many of their problems are directly related to the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, an occupation that has been going on since 1967.

This past week, as part of our Mid Term Orienation, we traveled into Israel and  attempted to hear the Israeli perspective.  This included a visit to an Israeli settlement. Some of the Israeli’s we met, including a former soldier,  are courageously  challenging the occupation.  It is a difficult and complex situation.  As Ecumenical Accompaniers working for the World Council of Churches, we are clear that we do not take sides in the conflict.  We are neither for or against either Israel or Palestine.  We are for peace.  We are for justice.  We are supportive of international humanitarian law and are against abuses of those laws. We support human rights.  We believe that injustice must be addressed.

In a July 17, 2011 column in the Charlotte Observer, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:

“I, for one, never tire of speaking out against these injustices, because they remind me only too well of what we in South Africa experienced under the racist system of apartheid. I have witnessed firsthand the racially segregated roads and housing in the Occupied Palestinian territories. I have seen the humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children at the checkpoints and roadblocks. I have met Palestinians who were evicted and replaced by Jewish Israeli settlers; Palestinians whose homes were destroyed even as new, Jewish-only homes were illegally built on confiscated Palestinian land.

This oppression, these indignities and the resulting anger are only too familiar. It is no wonder that so many South African leaders in the anti-apartheid struggle, including Nelson Mandela and numerous Jewish leaders, have found ourselves compelled to speak out on this issue.

Though the situation deteriorates daily, I am not without hope. Before apartheid ended, most South Africans did not believe they would live to see a day of liberation. They did not believe that their children, or even their children’s children, would see it. But we have seen it, and I know that if apartheid can end in South Africa, so too can this occupation.

We could not have won our freedom in South Africa without the solidarity of people around the world who adopted non-violent methods to pressure governments and corporations to end their support for the apartheid regime. “: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/07/17/2459590/tiaa-cref-should-hear-us-divest.html#ixzz1cwzQY5Mw

South Africans understand the situation in Palestine.  Given their history, they are able and willing to question and challenge the Palestinian occupation in ways that other nations seem incapable of.  In South Africa this weekend, a courageous conference is being held to discuss this troubling issue.

From November 5 – 7 the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will be broadcast live on the internet. Live proceedings will be embedded on the Russell Tribunal on Palestine website.

Here is the programme:

Third International Session of the
Russell Tribunal on Palestine

Are Israel practices
against the Palestinian People in breach of the prohibition on Apartheid under
International Law?

Cape Town, 5-7 November 2011

District Six Museum

Jury Members: Stéphane Hessel, Gisèle Halimi,
Ronnie Kasrils, Mairead Maguire, Michael Mansfield, Antonio Martin Pallin,
Cynthia McKinney, Aminata Traoré, Yasmin Sooka and Alice Walker.

Saturday 5
November – Day One

09.15    Doors open.
10.00     Introduction: Pierre Galand and Stéphane Hessel.
10.30 Opening Remarks: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. 

Setting the Legal Context:

The Palestinian Right to Self-Determination

10.45  Raji Sourani will explain the content of the
right, the nature of its denial in the Palestinian context, and its relation
to apartheid and persecution.

Apartheid

 Apartheid in South Africa, and
the Prohibition of Apartheid in International Law

11. 15 Max du Plessis will detail the treaty and customary international law status of the
prohibition on apartheid in international law.

11.45 Coffee Break

 The Law and Practice of Apartheid in South Africa and Palestine

12.15 John Dugard will give a reminder of how the apartheid regime operated in law and policy in
South Africa, and provide an overview of Israeli law and policy with respect
to the prohibition on apartheid.

Elements of the Definition of Apartheid: Racial Groups under International Law

12.45 David Keane will explain the broad construction given to the term ‘racial’ in the
context of ‘racial discrimination’ in International Law.

13.05 Lunch

14.35 Ingrid Jaradat will discuss Palestinian identity and
Palestinians as a distinct racial group for the purposes of the definition of
apartheid.
Ran
Greenstein

will discuss the
extent to which the legal definition of apartheid, based on the notion of
racial domination, applies to the practices of the oppressing group in
Israel/Palestine.

Elements of the Definition of Apartheid: an institutionalized regime of systematic domination

15.05 Joseph Schechla and Emily Schaeffer will go
over discriminatory
elements of the Israeli legal system and the separate legal systems and
courts for Jewish-Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the occupied
territories.

Acts of apartheid

15.45 Marianne Blume will discuss whether there is a case
of deliberate imposition on a racial
group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their
physical destruction in whole or in part.

16.00 Coffee Break

16.30 Dr Allan Boesak and Mahmoud Hassan
will give testimonies about extra-judicial killing, torture or
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and arbitrary arrest and
illegal imprisonment during Apartheid South Africa, and in the West Bank, the
Gaza Strip and in Israel.

Acts of apartheid: Exploitation of labour of members of a racial group or groups

17.00 Rafeef Ziadah will discuss this topic in relation to the facts
that Israel has raised barriers to Palestinian employment inside Israel since
the 1990s, and that Palestinian labour is now used extensively only in the
construction and services sectors of Jewish-Israeli settlements in the
Occupied Palestinian Territories while Zwelinzima Vavi will remind people of the conditions of
employment under Apartheid South Africa.
17.30 Closing remarks
   

End of Day One

Sunday 6 November – Day Two

09.30 Doors open.
10.30 Opening remarks.

Acts of apartheid (continued)

10.45 Luciana Coconi, Shawan Jabarin and Lea Tsemel
will give   testimonies over the denial of
the right to freedom of movement, of residence, to leave and return to one’s
country, to a nationality, to work, to form recognised trade unions, to
education, to freedom of opinion and expression, and to freedom of peaceful
assembly and association.

11.30 Coffee Break

Acts of apartheid: Measures designed to divide the population along racial lines

12.00 Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Jeff Halper and Jamal Juma’a
will speak of the creation
of separate reserves and ghettoes, the prohibition of mixed marriages, and
the expropriation of landed property in Israel/Palestine as well as in former
Apartheid South Africa.

Acts of apartheid: Persecution of organizations and persons, by depriving them of
fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid

12.45 Haneen Zoabi and Shawqi Issa will testify about the arrest, imprisonment, travel bans and the
targeting of Palestinian parliamentarians, national political leaders and
human rights defenders, the closing down of related organisations, and the
current legislation being enacted to punish those who initiate or promote
boycott measures for opposition to Israeli domination.

13.15 Lunch

Persecution

14.45 Rafaelle Maison will set out and explain the status
of persecution as a crime against humanity and Raji Surani, Mohammed Khatib
and Jazi Abu Kaf will present evidence pursuant to the above with
regard to the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the
Palestinian citizens of Israel.

16.10 Coffee Break

Presentation by Israeli Government

16.40 Speaker to be confirmed by the
Israeli Government.

Third Party Responsibility and Remedies

 

17.00 François Dubuisson will elaborate on the third party responsibility and remedies if Israel were to be proved guilty of
apartheid.
17.30 Closing remarks.
 17.45  Jury Retires to Deliberate.

End of Day Two 

Monday 7 November – Day Three

Press Conference Cape Town

The Homecoming Centre

11.00 The   Jury of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will set out its conclusions for
the Third Session of the Tribunal at an International press conference.

As concerned citizens of the world, as brothers and sisters of those who are oppressed, let us applaud those in South Africa who are taking leadership in addressing the Palestinian situation. They are walking where others have feared to tread. They are asking difficult questions.  They are listening.  Let us learn from their courage.  Let us learn from their history.  Let us seek justice.  Let us seek peace.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,

Jan

Qalandiya Today

Returning to Jerusalem from Ramallah today, I found myself seated beside a young, articulate English speaking Palestinian girl from Jerusalem. She has been studying at the university in Ramallah and is excited about her upcoming graduation, with plans to work as a dietician in an acute care hospital.

A few minutes into the journey we arrived at the Qalandiya checkpoint. My seatmate explained that even though she has traveled here daily for the last 4 years, she must get out and go through the checkpoint. I attempted to get off with her but the bus driver instructed me to stay on.  the young student disappeared into the crowd.

As an international, I was not required to go through the walking checkpoint. I would stay on the bus with the elderly and the numerous mothers traveling with small children, all of whom would have their ID’s checked on the bus. We pulled up to the gate and a female soldier boarded. The woman sitting in the front seat attempted to show her ID. The soldier took one look at it and loudly and forcefully ordered everyone off the bus. I got out with everyone else and stood in line at the walking portion of the checkpoint.

The line started out with about 100 people, a number that only increased as time went on and more buses arrived. People lined up in a roughly 12 foot wide fenced alleyway. At the far end was one turnstile gate that was opened occasionally by someone inside for anywhere from 10 to 20 seconds and a gate marked “humanitarian gate” that opened once during the time we were there for one woman pushing a child in a stroller.  I looked around. The line consisted primarily of students carrying books, young parents with small children, and some older adults. We waited and waited and waited and waited. As time went on, people became increasingly more frustrated. As we drew closer to the front of the line, pushing ensued as people positioned themselves to get into the turnstile, a few at a time. Humanity crushed against humanity. Small children cried.

An elderly woman came towards us from one of the buses. Clearly, she had difficulty walking. She pleaded with 3 very young looking soldiers to check her ID and allow her to bypass the line. They refused. She pleaded again, and again they refused. She was visibly upset. I called the Humanitarian Hotline to report this situation and to ask them to intervene on her behalf. Meanwhile, the woman struggled to the end of the line. At once, people stepped back from the jostling and the line opened, allowing the woman to walk directly to the turnstile. Respect for elders is an important element of the Palestinian culture, something I have grown to appreciate in my time here.

The jostling continued. Like everyone else there, I felt pushed, shoved, and leaned on from every direction. The woman directly in front of me, a woman in her 60’s, was carrying a beautiful coleus plant in a deep 10 inch diameter pot. She lifted it onto her head and balanced it there for about 15 minutes. I was amazed. It looked like a very heavy pot. The line continued to move at a snail’s pace. The turnstile only opened for a few seconds at a time, with minutes passing between each opening. By now, we had been there for over 40 minutes. Unable to stand it any longer, the woman calmly took the pot off of her head, very deliberately ripped the plant off at it’s base, set it in her bag and placed the pot on the ground.

I got closer to the turnstile. The crowd continued to push forward, everyone desperate to get through. In front of me, a small boy of about 3 wimpered endlessly, his face inches from steel bars. To my side, a young mother held her daughter, a beautiful little girl of about 7 months. I thought of how sore her arms must be as the child squirmed in her arms. Off to the side was a young father holding his baby. Ahead was another woman with a small child.

I looked down and found a little girl beside me, about 5 years old. Her mother was behind, trying to get the child closer to her. It was impossible to move in this mass of humanity. My heart went out to this young woman. She was carrying a small boy of about 5 months and beside her was her 3 year old son. I smiled and motioned that I would look after the little girl. I asked the child her name and she said it was Saheena. I told her my name was Jan and she took my hand, holding it tightly. How could this precious child not be scared as she was pushed and shoved in every direction by adults several times her size? I looked to my other side and found the little girl’s 3 year old brother. Their mother was anxiously trying to get him back closer to her, another impossibility in this crowd. Again, I motioned to the woman that I would keep them together with me. I put my other arm around the boy. More pushing. More jostling. People pressing in from every direction. Eventually the turnstile opened. I manouvered the two children into the turnstile behind a young man and attempted to step in with them. We didn’t fit. My backpack was caught outside and was preventing the turnstile from moving. People were hollering. The man ahead pulled my shoulders forward, enough to get the back pack in. I noticed the little girl crying. Her beautiful long black hair was caught on the button of the coat of a man standing behind. I reached back and managed to free her hair. The man ahead pulled my shoulders even further forward. I felt as if I was losing my balance. The turnstile gate moved forward and finally, we were through!

I looked back at the mother who was still caught in the crowd behind the now locked turnstile. I smiled at her and she smiled back, her eyes full of emotion. Gathering the two children to me, we moved to the side of the narrow passageway. I knelt down with them, holding an arm around each child. The little boy leaned into me, his face almost against mine. The little girl stayed close, content to be comforted by this total stranger – a woman with no head covering wearing western style clothing. A couple of minutes passed. The children shared a water bottle between them. The turnstile opened and their mother and baby brother made it through and came towards us. “Shukran, Shukran.” Arabic words of thanks. She took the children and proceeded to put their belongings through the xray machine, take each child through the metal detector, and provide their ID to the soldier sitting inside the glassed in booth. I went through the same process. Unable to resist sharing my thoughts, I told the soldier as he read my ID that this was cruel and inhumane treatment of innocent individuals. He shrugged.

I left the checkpoint and boarded the Jerusalem bus. More than 55 minutes had passed since we first lined up.   55 stressful, exhausting, cruel, inhumane and humiliating minutes. As I got on, my eyes met the young mother’s. She offered her seat. I declined and found a seat further back. As the bus moved on towards Jerusalem, I went up to speak with them. A young man seated behind her interpreted for us. I wanted to know their story – why were they travelling? She responded that she and her children live near Ramallah and were going to Jerusalem to visit family. I explained that I was from Canada and would tell the story of how they and the others were treated to as many people as I could. I told her that I believed that what we had experienced was awful – that it was cruel and inhumane and I believed they should not have to endure this treatment. I gave her my card with a brief Arabic explanation of EAPPI. She asked my name. Smiling, she said in English, “God bless you.” I was speechless. We had shared a horrible situation. In the midst of it I had simply reached out to help, doing what any decent human being would do. In my heart, she is the one deserving of praise. She is the one to be honoured. I will go home in another 6 weeks time to a country where this kind of humiliating, degrading abuse does not happen. She will go through this checkpoint every time she goes into Jerusalem to visit family, to shop, to seek medical care. As we got off the bus, she took my hand and shook it, with the English words “thank you.” I smiled and responded “Peace be with you.”  Across cultures, across language barriers, across faith traditions, each of us had found the presence of the Divine in the other. God in all of life.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,

Jan