We have had an intense first four days, with many
emotionally and intellectually challenging experiences, meetings with more than
a dozen people and groups, and tours of East Jerusalem and the environs.
Particularly for this first part of our trip, we met with Israelis who are
committed to ending the occupation. Many are young; all are passionate about
building a country -- or countries -- where justice and democracy flourish.
There is no such thing here as a "simple"
description of what we are seeing and hearing; everything is layered with
levels of meaning, history, identity and emotion. As we continually get more
information, the way we interpret things is changing day by day and sometimes,
moment by moment. Trying to reflect and distill the many conversations we are
having with those we meet, and with each other, is going to take some time. All
of us are struggling in some way with feelings of anger, fear, shame, betrayal,
hope, and/or despair. Our conversations move from the realities we are seeing to
discussions about nonviolence, identity, and the similarities we find between
what we see here and what we have seen -- and still see -- in our own country.
I hope delegates will begin to post some of their own
writing here. Meantime, to give you some idea of what we have been doing, here
is an overview of our itinerary so far:
Friday morning, our first full day here, Ruth Edmonds, a
26-year-old activist working with the Israeli Committee Against Home Demotions(ICAHD), took us on a tour of East Jerusalem showing us both Palestinian and
Jewish settlements. Ruth also gave us our first view of the Separation Wall,
and talked extensively about the increasing number of separation (apartheid)
policies that differentially affect where Palestinians can live, own land,
travel, study abroad without losing status, etc.
afternoon, we met with Irene Nasser, a Palestinian activist working for JustVision (the media company that produced the film Budrus); Sahar Vardi, a young
Israeli Jewish activist now working for the American Friends Service Committee
in Israel; and Suhad Baba'a, a Palestinian-Korean-American activist and the
outreach coordinator for Just Vision in Washington, D.C. In a session called
"Living the Conflict, they talked about their lives, identities, activism,
struggles and hopes for the future.
Saturday morning, our guide, Said, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem
took us on a tour of the Old City. He had begun to story the landscape around
us on our ride from the airport in Tel Aviv to our hotel in Jerusalem. Now,
beginning at Damascus Gate, only a few blocks from our hotel, we walked through
the Muslim Quarter, down Via De La Rosa (the 14 Stations of the Cross) to the
Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
afternoon, Kobi Snitz, an activist connected to Anarchists Against the Wall and
Boycott from Within, and two other young activists, Ariel Bendanir and Nomi
Mark spoke with us about the international and Israeli allies who stand in
solidarity with Palestinians at the nonviolent demonstrations in East Jerusalem
and the West Bank.
evening, Dahlia Landau, an Israeli Jewish woman featured in the book, the Lemon
Tree and a co-founder ofOpen House, and
two other Israelis talked with us about their lives, hopes and fears for their
morning, a portion of the delegation went to the East Jerusalem Baptist and had
the opportunity to hear an inspiring talk by Sami Awad, head of the Holy LandTrust in Bethlehem and a member of a leading Palestine family in the nonviolent
resistance movement. This was the first Sunday in years he had been able to get
a permit to travel from the West Bank into Jerusalem.
Sunday afternoon, we made the one hour drive back to Tel
Aviv. We met first with Annalien Kisch, a Dutch Israeli immigrant and one of
the founders of New Profile and her colleague, Shahaf, a young Israeli. Through
New Profile, they work to educate people about the dangers of the
militarization of Israeli society, as well as to assist young Israelis to
obtain exemptions from compulsory military service.
We then heard from Noam Yachot and Noa Sheizaf, writers and
editors at the +972 bloggers. Both are experienced young journalists committed
to using media to share accurate portrayals and analysis about the occupation.
Jacob Pace, Interfaith Peace-Builders