Round eggplants, tiny eggplants, grape leaves, every spice you can imagine, mint leaves in the lemonade. A freshly squeezed glass of pomegranate juice or orange juice. "Arabic tobacco" that I simply do not believe is only tobacco - I know that smell... Cactus fruit (a sabra), pomegranates available like lemons, lemons hardly to be found, but you can always get a lime. The best falafel I've ever tasted, and the worst. French fries in the falafel sandwich. Men and women in the marketplace working harder than you can imagine.
Heaps and heaps of vegetables, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers served with every meal, along with the most delicious hummus, at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Only Spokane’s own Victor Azar's "Dazar's Catering” hummus comes close - actually it IS as good as the best here. Candy piled high in bins, usually a variation of a marshmallow or nougat candy in the shapes of fried eggs, pizzas, peanuts, bananas, other fruit. Water drinkable from the taps in the cities (after a short ... um ... introductory period.).
Kebabs and Falafel sandwiches and spinach pies (mmm...) available on the street. Busy, busy old cities, with cars, buses, donkey-drawn carts sharing the streets in many places. Women wearing scarves (some, but few, faces covered) and wearing long coats in spite of 100 degree heat, and didn't seem to sweat. Lovely, lively children. Men kissing their babies, women more serious. Little eye contact. The most generous hospitality - cold water (almost always bottled) followed by Sweet tea and fruit.
Again, how can you fight anti-Jewish racism when this stuff is being done by Jews, for Jews, in the name of all Jews, and only a few Jews - relatively speaking - speak against it? Yet I hear from the Palestinians we visited no hatred expressed toward the people responsible for their suffering - only toward their acts. I don’t fool myself that it's not there, but we didn’t hear it.
Very different from what we've heard from some Israelis, and from the settler family yesterday.
Yesterday visited a settler family in Efrata.. In all my 65 years I have never heard so much racism at one sitting. Shocking, left us reeling, feeling sick, after spending 12 days with Palestinian families and seeing the reality of their lives. To hear so many lies, so many racist declarations at one sitting from two intelligent well-educated people who think they don't hate yet speak their hatred and justify their brutality with such ease.
I was touched that this family (David and Rivka Moses) was willing to speak with CPT. Rivka, an American former Quaker, now married to an orthodox Jewish Israeli, converted to Judaism some years ago. She was soft-spoken and gentle-seeming. They served us cold water (a staple hospitality ingredient).
She described herself as "nationalized Orthodox" and "according to some people's definition, a West Bank settler", and spoke at length of her path from Quakerism to Judaism and another fairly lengthy discussion of Jewish ethics.
One stunning statement after another:
"Every interaction with a human being should be something that demonstrates god's glory".
Then they began to speak about Palestinians, though they never use that word - they use ONLY "Arab". Hold onto your hat - this gets really ugly.
Between them they said (this wanders a bit because the conversation wandered):
- "enough American and European money has been given to provide all Palestinians with medical care but their leaders won't let them take it".
- "These people live with such violence, the only thing they understand is more violence."
- "People should know that when they try to get land by killing and violence, they just might lose."
- "This is a war between civilized people and insane barbarians."
- "We had to go into Gaza, and the soldiers took great care not to injure innocents."
- "We have a very moral army that always protects the innocent when they [the army] have to attack."
- "They (Arabs) sent 8000 missiles on us so we had to go to Gaza, and soldiers took care not to injure innocents.”
my note – (Ha'aretz carried news of the use of phosphorus, though I don't know if they spoke of the DIME and other experimental weapons of horror this moral army used).
- "not only is there not a scorched earth policy (this came out of context, with no previous reference to scorched earth), but we make every attempt to protect the lives of the innocent."
- "It is hard to understand how evil men can be in the name of Allah"
- "The Palestinian Authority still maintains an entitlement to all of Israel."
- "They (Arabs) have no red lines (limits), they can do anything they want."
- "In Islam, if you're a man and you're not lying, there is something wrong with you They are lazy thieves, even in Europe."
- "We believe we are fighting for our lives."
- "We live well here. We like to have parks for the children, and lawns and swimming pools. Palestinians do not want those things."
Because Rivka had spoken at length of Jewish ethics, I reflected back on that with my question
MT: "in light of your discussion of Jewish ethics, I'd like to ask a question vis a vis those ethics. The water distribution in the West Bank is 85% for Jewish settlers and 15% for Palestinians. Could you talk about that distribution and how it fits with those ethics?"
- they suggested my question was skewed and said it was like asking "have you stopped beating your wife?". [I still don’t understand that reference in this context]
- “they don’t want more water. They are dirty. We like lawns and parks for our children, they don’t care about those things”
- "there is little water for Palestinians because their leaders want them to remain poor refugees to gain world sympathy."
- "there is no place that has no water, not even Gaza."
They then said:
- Arial Sharon wanted to make life better for the refuges [in Jabaliya] and built 3000 apartments there, but no Palestinians took them. "That shows you what happens".
How that related to the imbalanced distribution of water was not clarified.
After my question was not answered, Hope asked again, with a story:
"Ryan and I have just spent two months in Bethlehem, and I saw with my own eyes how little water Palestinians get. The place where we stayed got water delivered to the cistern every 2 weeks. If they ran out, it cost 500 shekels for more [an enormous sum for most Palestinians]. There is no water for parks or lawns there."
Rivka referenced for the second time how "dirty and uncivilized" Palestinians are and said they do not want to have those things.
- I can assure you there is no thought to giving all the water to the Jews."
- the Palestinian leaders artificially maintain substandard living conditions and "that's a human rights abuse".
- "there are areas of Bethlehem where they have refused to develop in order to keep these refugees. They artificially maintain substandard living conditions in order to keep them refugees"
- (where Hope and Ryan stayed was in the municipality, and the man (Zoughbi Zoughbi) who runs the house with his wife Diana is a member of the City Council, and they were not in the refugee camp.
Hope asked: "What of wells and cisterns destroyed? Israel has a policy of destroying Palestinian wells and cisterns".
- "Israel has a permit and engineering process, but Palestinians build without those permits."
Jonathan (nephew of Jonathan and Daoud Kuttab, names familiar from the first Intifada) : "but the situation is that 90% of Israeli permits are approved, while less than 1% of Palestinian permits are".
Answer: - "this cannot possibly be true." (IT IS TRUE.)
So we “learned” that Palestinians
a) have plenty of water
b) don’t have plenty of water because they themselves have no use for it.
c) don’t have plenty of water because they don’t follow the law required to get it (meaning they don't get permits - see Jonathan, above)., and
d) don’t have plenty of water because their leaders don’t want them to have it.
David spoke of having been "chosen by God" and gave story of a student who has "good energy and showed him that he was eager to learn and help", the teacher "chooses" him to be an assistant". This is what God did - we have a job to do according to the Bible. We have to create a state. We have an obligation to this land"
- "The navy was criticized for not doing more to protect Israel (re flotilla - missed part of this sentence) "the army does the best it can do to minimize damage."
David - "I was in the army. We're so careful not to injure innocent people." (SPEAKS TO THE DESPERATE NEED FOR BREAKING THE SILENCE!)
- said the nearby Palestinian village nearby (don't know which they were referring to) "has not harmed the settlement, and some of the people work in the settlement. Other Palestinians are angry with that village and they starved them (??? no more detail - this was an odd story and I have no other information)
David said he organized food for them.
Jonathan asked:: "All Arab nations have recognized Israel, including the PLO in the 80's. Why does Israel still say they don't?"
- But their charter still says..." (THERE'S ALWAYS "JUST ONE MORE THING".)
- "We will live with anyone who will live in peace".
- "When we brought all those terrorists from Tunis (leadership?) things got worse."
- "We cannot afford, living among 300 million Arabs, to give them a state."
- "We have a higher standard of living. We like lawns and parks and are cleaner. They don't need as much water because they live differently than we do".
- "If an international power splits Jerusalem, then the Arabs will fight it because they [want the Jews there?] because they know they can't live as well as Jews."
- they both said they believe strongly in human rights for all."
- David told a story out of context about the Palestinian men's tendency "rape young girls". He said "the only way to keep Arabs from raping is to let them know they will be punished."
- "Those people live with such violence that the only thing they understand is more violence".
Steve asked what they thought would happen if a two-state solution were arrived at, with the removal of settlements.
- this would work "only if there were mutual agreements and I cannot imagine anyone making that trade."
Rivka and David feel strongly that people should be working on conflict management NOT resolution.
I was glad we visited with this family. And far, far more glad when the visit was done.
a note about settlers:
We were told by Amos and at least one other person, and I’ve read it for years, that about 80% of Settlers are there for “economic” reasons, not “ideological.
Yet I have to ask, is there really a difference? Certainly the settlers at Kiryat Arba, Gush Etzion and Old City Hebron, etc are there out of extreme zealotry. But if the only way my living in a part of a city can only be accomplished by physically removing its inhabitants (e.g. East Jerusalem) or by demolishing their homes to make way for mine (many of the West Bank settlements), and I choose that because it’s more affordable, knowing that I’m “fully entitled” to it, how am I not also “ideological”.
Aren’t I choosing that less expensive residence specifically because I’m “entitled”? Certainly more “entitled” than the people whose homes were demolished for mine? They know that the “other kind” (Palestinians) can’t live there.
Every young Israeli must go into the army, and most of them serve in the West Bank. If they don’t serve, they speak with those who did. There is simply no way I will ever believe that the knowledge isn’t present in the general population for if nothing else, nearly every one of them served in the army, most in Palestine, and as they’re all in the reserves most of them return there from time to time. These people all age and become the adult population of Israel – the “ordinary Israelis” who then say they “didn’t know”. I certainly believe they might choose to deny it or ignore it or change their memories or justify it by their own entitlement, but I will never believe they do not know.
Shooting and crying…., shooting and crying… As if that wipes the soul clean.
8/4 Getting out - !
Leaving this land that has left such an ache in my heart but which has given me more hope for a just and peaceful resolution than I have had in years - because of the determination and courage of the Palestinians and the growing awareness among Israelis of courage and good will of the horrors being committed in their name and their willingness to speak up.
I have at least one more write-up to do - will probably send it after I get home. Will need to spend some time in contemplation of all I've seen and heard and done, try to analyze and integrate it, to examine what surprised me, what was new, what confirmed what I knew before and what contradicted what I thought I knew. Sort of daunting...
"ON THE ROAD", SO TO SPEAK...
...so after an interminable 5 hour wait at the Tel Aviv Airport, I breeze through security with no hint of issue - didn't even know I'd "gone through security" until a security person pointed that out to me. Have been lucky every step of the way. Finally start to board, but at the "ding" of the bar code swipe, she asks me to "stand over there". Oh oh...
Less than a minute later, they call my name and give me a new boarding pass. Instead of my seat 40H in steerage, I have 9F. Omigod, it's First Class! Omigod!
I still have an aisle seat, and it's a huge cocoon, with a special toiletry zip packet, ear phones, big pillow, serious blanket, flight attendants who smile constantly and address me by name and give me theirs. They seem not to know I'm a peasant. And of course I hardly know how to act in this First Class milieu, though surely they'll soon realize the magnitude of their mistake. Finally figured out it was Delta I had to thank - for noticing my high flight miles - a reward.
Two good meals - no idea whether economy got two. Feeling slightly uneasy that Dick and I were on the same plane, and after we got through security we sat together and talked while we waited and boarded together after an "adventure" or two at the airport where it seemed I was being singled out but each time was for an innocuous reason, though he didn't know that. When I was put aside after the first class designation kachinged, neither of us knew why and he continued on board. I'm sure he didn't see me again so probably assumes I'm being detained. Have to email him as soon as I can pull his address out.
All of a sudden, I'm in a completely different world where it's always cool, water is in abundance, no one here is going to attack anyone else or steal their land or tear down their home. No conversation about anything of substance.
Very old Jewish couple across the aisle - she's very old herself with difficulty moving around yet is bringing her even older husband (I suspect about 90 or so) back from visiting their daughter in Israel. She has to take him to that tiny lavatory, and sit him down when she brings him back and fix his seat belt. I don't know how she is able to make this flight alone. Because I had taken her hand at one point to help her get out of her seat, she felt comfortable enough asking me to help her with the customs form. She's a US citizen and speaks English but she can't read it or write it, and couldn't fill out the form. I filled it out for her (she was tickled when I asked her if she was carrying more than $10,000 - we had a chuckle).
Nice to end the trip with a reminder that at some point, we can "reach across the aisle" and communicate in spite of barriers.
I wish the exchange had done something to ease the pain in my heart. It didn't.