Sixth Trip Report filed by the Interfaith Peace-Builders

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The following are excerpts from the sixth Trip Report filed by the Interfaith Peace-Builders delegation to Palestine/Israel in partnership with Central Presbyterian Church of Atlanta and Joining Hands for Justice in Israel and Palestine. The delegation returned this weekend and this report comprises their final thoughts. 

DEPARTING THE DYSTOPIA (FINAL THOUGHTS)
An Honest Broker? The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Delegation Report 6 
June 10, 2013 

The following are excerpts from the sixth Trip Report filed by the Interfaith Peace-Builders delegation to Palestine/Israel in partnership with Central Presbyterian Church of Atlanta and Joining Hands for Justice in Israel and Palestine. The delegation returned this weekend and this report comprises their final thoughts. 

Click here to read this report in full: www.ifpb.org/del46/report6.html
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Travel Documents
By Susan Bramhall 

As we prepared to leave and travel out of Israel, travel documents and restrictions were on my mind.  Israeli policies create a maze of bureaucracy in its tangled and twisted requirements for different people based on where they were born and what their ethnicity is. Consider travel documents. 

One delegation member was born in the United States of non-Jewish Palestinian parents.  She is a US citizen and travels on a US passport but to avoid extended interrogation at Ben Gurion airport she must enter and exit through Amman, Jordan.  

Another delegation member is also an US citizen, born in the USA to a Jewish Palestinian parent. His father was born in Palestine in 1944. . . 

Click here to read this report in full: www.ifpb.org/del46/report6.html

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Know What You Fear
By Nabill Idrisi

On our last day, we heard from Reverend Naim Ateek of Sabeel [ http://www.sabeel.org/ ], who discussed how theological ties to this land is often used by Jewish settlers to confiscate Palestinian land, exterminating the previous inhabitants along the way. 

In response to textual-based claims to the land, Reverend Ateek also responds with textual evidence, but of a more inclusive nature: God said to Ezekial, “You have to live together on the land. And you have to share it.”

In the post-9/11 Western world, the media often portrays Muslims and Arabs as a violently-inclined, religiously-extremist people who are unable to make peace with their neighbors or each other. Through my interactions with Palestinians coming from many backgrounds, however, I know first-hand this to be untrue. . .

Click here to read this report in full: www.ifpb.org/del46/report6.html

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VIDEOS: Voices of Palestinian Christians
By Ralph Watkins 

Ralph posted these two videos featuring prominent members of the Palestinian Christian community whom the group met during their last few days on the ground. Click here for all the video posted during this delegation. [http://www.interfaithpeacebuilders.org/multimedia/video/delegation46_video.html ] 

The  first video features Father Jamal Khader of the KAIROS Palestine [http://www.kairospalestine.ps/ ] committee: http://youtu.be/J4fzulMTX6Q

The second video features Reverend Naim Ateek, a founder of Sabeel: The Palestinian Center for Liberation Theology [ http://www.sabeel.org/ ]: http://youtu.be/x46rCfdy0TE

Click here to read this report in full: www.ifpb.org/del46/report6.html

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Seeing with One Eye
By Ralph Watkins 

As a photographer/videographer I spend my time on the road taking pictures and making video by looking through a viewfinder. The viewfinder is that little thing you look through with one eye to compose the picture/frame. To look through the viewfinder demands that you close the other eye while simultaneously squinting the right eye to see through the viewfinder. As you frame the shot you are making an intentional decision to see some things and not see others. The shot is intentionally discriminating. You are trying to compose the shot in such away as to make it interesting or at least to what interest you (the one doing the framing). 

What does all this photography talk have to do with my trip to Palestine/Israel? When we come on journeys like this we are looking through the viewfinder. We can only see so much in the time we have on the ground . . . 

Click here to read this report in full: www.ifpb.org/del46/report6.html

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Wishing for Peace, Praying for Justice
By Susan Landrum 

One of the highlights of this trip has been spending time with Viola, our youngest delegate. She is vibrant, intelligent and a shock of energy to our group. Viola is four years wise and her insights into this conflicted place are invaluable to my experience. 

We spent the night in Bil’in [ http://www.bilin-village.org/english/ ] last week, the town featured in the documentary Five Broken Cameras [ http://www.kinolorber.com/5brokencameras/ ] (watch it if you haven’t yet!). While walking along their section of the wall, where brave men protest week after week with acts of non-violent resistance, Viola picked up a rock that quickly became a magical wishing rock. As she and I strolled together with a few of our other friends, she taught us the wishing ritual to activate the rock. We took turns stroking the rock, rubbing it in our hands, tossing it gently into the air and after these imperative steps, were ready to make wishes. Viola gave us clear instructions that our wishes had to be “about stopping the occupation or peace.” So, I wished that the wall that divides Palestinians from one another, from land that they have cultivated for generations, come tumbling down. Viola, with deep conviction and passion, wished “for the occupation to stop and for Palestinians to be free.” 

Later that night, while sitting on the porch of a beautiful home in Bil’in, we celebrated the birthday of our hosts’ son, Muhammad . . . 

Click here to read this report in full: www.ifpb.org/del46/report6.html

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Playground Tour of Palestine
By Ilise Cohen 

Our four year old Viola also participated in the delegation to Israel/Palestine. At some point early on she asked me, “Mommy, are you really mad? I am really mad at the Israeli government and what they are doing!” 

Viola had her own delegation experience through the eyes of child and shared some of the experiences she was having with us. 

When we visited the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, several children approached Viola and immediately started to interact with her. Viola asked them “Shu Ismeek” in Arabic to find out their names and replied in Arabic to share her own name. They held her hands and hugged and kissed her throughout the walk through the camp. At some point one of the little girls invited us to come to their house for her birthday the next day. Since we were on a schedule it would not have been possible. 

At some point when the group was far ahead of us and we had to say goodbye to the children, Viola burst out crying saying “these are my new friends, I am sad I may never get to see them again”. . . 

Click here to read this report in full: www.ifpb.org/del46/report6.html

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Hebron
By Larry Hendel 

Of all the places we visited, Hebron felt, to me, like the craziest and saddest. In the other West Bank cities we saw, the Israeli settlements are built on the hillsides surrounding the Palestinian towns. When Palestinians look towards the horizon, they often see thousands of settler apartments, carefully planned suburban communities, with green lawns, pools, and plenty of water and space, while they struggle under apartheid conditions. This is bad enough. But in Hebron the settlers are right on top of the Palestinian residents. 

To protect the settlers, who are among the nastiest and most aggressive, the Israeli government has taken a piece of the center city, called “H2”, where they run the show. Literally. Even though under the Oslo Peace Accords, the Palestinian Authority is supposed to have civil authority in the big cities, in Hebron there is this special arrangement, and the Israeli government runs everything in H2,  protecting the several hundred settlers who have moved in. 

The UN, Christian Peace-Maker Teams, [ http://www.cpt.org/work/palestine ]B’Tselem [http://www.btselem.org/ ], and other humanitarian organizations, often list Hebron as a place where the occupation has been the most starkly devastating to the political and economic rights of the Palestinian people . . .

Click here to read this report in full: www.ifpb.org/del46/report6.html

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Day Ten: Hebron 
By Noura Erakat 

Hebron is the harshest site of structural and physical violence against Palestinians. 

Settlers began to colonize Hebron in 1967 in what they regard as their “homecoming.” They are ideologically motivated and are more committed to being on the land – which they believe belongs to them by divine decree – than they are to the State of Israel. Their nonsensical conception of divine real estate is upheld by the presence of three Israeli soldiers and a brandished weapon for each settler together with complete impunity for their systematic attacks on Palestinians. 

Unlike other settlements that are built on Palestinian hilltops to facilitate the surveillance and control of Palestinians, the settler community in Hebron is built in the middle of the city forming a donut hole that geographically, socially, and economically fragments the entire city. There is nothing holy about Hebron today. 

Click here to read this report in full: www.ifpb.org/del46/report6.html

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Hebron’s Dystopian Reality
By Stephanie Simpson 

In a once bustling city marketplace the shops are welded shut. The street that once housed the meat sellers, the fruit sellers and the artisans are blocked off, and the most beautiful of all, the Gold Market, is now filled with refuse. The older generation remembers a time when people would travel great distances to purchase the textiles, glass and pottery produced in his city, but not anymore. 

Today, members of a different faction of society build rooms on top of existing structures, reigning garbage and stones from above to intimidate their neighbors into leaving. Today, there are soldiers patrolling from the roofs of the buildings, watching everything and governing all of those unlucky enough to live below under strict military law. Tensions are high and as the summer begins and water is scarce for the people on the ground, anything is possible. Sound like the intro to a new, bestselling dystopian fiction novel that will sweep stores this summer? . . . 

Click here to read this report in full: www.ifpb.org/del46/report6.html

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When All You Have is a Rock!
By Ralph Watkins 

We started our day by hearing a settler make his case for settlements . . . As David Wilder gave us a tour of the museum in the Israeli settlement in downtown Hebron he was brandishing his gun on his waist like all of the armed settlers. As we ended the tour and he began to engage us in dialogue I concluded that ideologues on both ends of the continuum are very difficult to learn from because they don’t give ground to other side. 

Let’s get back to my rock issue. One of the things that has gotten my attention the most while being here has been stories about little boys who are put in jail for throwing rocks. What does this have to do with David Wilder? While David Wilder was brandishing his gun on his hip in response to a question from our delegation about rock throwing and kids being put in jail he basically responded, “We have to do what we have to do to protect ourselves.” My response to David Wilder . . . 

Click here to read this report in full: www.ifpb.org/del46/report6.html

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Tel Aviv’s Underbelly
By Noura Erakat 

. . . Within Israeli society there is a stark hierarchical order that privileges Ashkenazi – or European white Jews – above all others, namely Mizrahim (Middle Eastern) and Sephardim (Spanish), non-Jewish Russians, Ethiopian Jews, and well below the last rung on this racial ladder – Palestinians are steadfast. 

The non-white Jewish population is a majority in Israel but white Ashkenazi Jews control government, capital, and the highest military posts. As put by one of the founders of Windows [http://www.win-peace.org/ ], a Hebrew-Arab youth magazine, “To be accepted in Israeli society, you must be racist . . . the government convinces us that the only way that we can survive is by controlling others.” 

We saw yet another dimension of this racism in Levinsky Park this morning. Located in south Tel Aviv, the park has become an open air homeless non-shelter for African refugees who have been granted entry, but not absorbed into Israel. In its effort to whitewash its colonial racism, Israel has admitted entry to nearly 40,000 Sudanese and Ethiopian refugees. It will not, however, consider them for asylum . . . 

Click here to read this report in full: www.ifpb.org/del46/report6.html

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The Words of the People We Have Met
By Leslie Leonard 

. . . I have learned more than I ever thought I could learn about this region and its struggles, to the point of oversaturation. I’ve been taking notes fairly dutifully during our meetings and collecting a lot of publications, so I have a wealth of information to bring back with me. I hope I will be able to use this in constructive ways. One thing is certain: I will come back changed. You can’t come here and see/hear/learn/eat what we have seen/heard/learned/eaten and NOT be changed . . . So. Without over-dramatizing the situation (it speaks for itself), I’d like you to consider these last thoughts, in the words of the people we have met (a sample of Palestinians and Israelis, secular and religious) . . . 

Click here to read this report in full: www.ifpb.org/del46/report6.html


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