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Palestine in 2010 w/CPT - Day 3 ICAHD, Sheikh Jarrah

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7/23 Day 3 - ICAHD, Women in Black, Demo in targeted neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah

hi ALL - Well, truth is I'm so exhausted, I have to fall into bed soon.

Went to ICAHD first where we had a 30 minute presentation then off on the bus, where we saw the differences between East and West Jerusalem, Jewish quality of life and Palestinian. It was a tremendously valuable and informative morning.

Excellent details, horrendous details. Some of them, from Mohammed:

What we learned about “illegal” building:

- 96% of Jewish permits to build (or dig a well or pave a road… are granted, less than 1% of Palestinian applications are.

- a building permit costs anywhere between $1500 and $20,000, due at the time of application.

- the application process may take years.

- if the permit is denied, as it is about 96% of the time, your application fee is not refunded.

This is why Palestinians build without permits – they can’t get them anyway, but will lose large amounts of money in the process.

- if their home is demolished, they are billed (and must pay) 8,000 shekels ($2,000) AND must pay additionally to remove the rubble.

- a demolition order may not be carried out for as long as 20 years after issuance. Palestinians with a demo order against their home live every single day knowing their home could be demolished at any moment.

A home, to Arab families, is the center of their lives. Demolishing their home is more than just tearing down their house.


Demolished Palestinian home[/b]]
Mohammed took us to a section of the Wall in East Jerusalem. Staggering. Ugly. Inhumane.


The Apartheid Wall[/b]]

Then to West Jerusalem (Jewish) to stand with Women in Black, courageous Israeli women who have stood vigil to end the occupation for 20 years. On the way two of us, Kathy and I, who both had all black on, were hissed at by a middle-aged man: "Scum!" as we went there. A young man on a motorcycle spat a large one at us, and we heard more loud honking (nasty, I found out) and finger flips than we have ever seen in Spokane. People screech ugly stuff from their cars as well. A middle aged man passed Kathy and I as we were walking (in black) to the demo, and said, loudly, "BITCH!" Another rode past on a motorcycle and spat at the women. [b


Women in Black weekly demonstration - with motorcycle[/b]]A young man came to talk and spewed the most vile racism and media/government-generated fear, and told us that if we went into the Arab Quarter we'd be cut into pieces. Well, we've been in the Arab Quarter for 3 days, and it's just like any other city in the old world.
Women in Black weekly demonstration

Women in Black weekly demonstration

Then to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood where the people are being evicted one family at a time, their homes being given to Jewish families. At 8 a.m. a truck comes, the knock on the door, the soldiers enter the house and take everything in it, put it in the truck that is rarely seen again, and the family forced to the street, By 5:00 p.m. the Jewish family is moved in and barbecuing and dancing in front of the house (this has been witnessed).

The regular Friday demonstration calling for an end to the evictions has 700-800 people, this one organized by Israelis. I'm learning that there are indeed more than 12 people in the Israeli peace movement. It is still miniscule, and the way they are treated makes the American Peace Movement’s marginalization look like mainstreaming, but it lives.1Sheikh_Jar..Cropped.jpgSheikh_Jar..ROPPED_.jpgSheikh_Jar..CROPPED.jpg

Met up with Jeff Halper (ICAHD) again. Good to see him.at Sheikh Jarrah Demo - with Jeff Halper

at Sheikh Jarrah Demo - with Jeff Halper

I'm on major overload with the thousands of petty inhumanities that are daily dealt to Palestinian people. As two of us were saying tonight, it's hard to imagine that all these petty awful things that happen are anything more than the general plan for Ethnic Cleansing:

A house built with full government knowledge, without the Permit the government never gives Palestinians, and they wait until the family moves in before the deliver the demolition order to them; a school built in a neighborhood that hasn't had a school to send their kids to for 10 years, but the government deals with it so slowly that it's now been building for six years and still not open while the nearby settlement gets built in a year; land taken and crops destroyed because it hasn't been farmed for a year, when in fact the olive trees were bulldozed a year ago or the Wall is built to keep a farmer from his land, and so he loses it) There are millions of those petty and not so petty things every single day. If I told you all we learned today, I'd be up till morning writing it.

The dehumanizing inhumanity, to think that someone actually sat in a room with other people to plan… it's far too systematic to be the result of just a whole lot of ugly people. This is not about “bad apples”. This is about a system that is rotten to the core! If a nation is founded in racism and chooses to continue it rather than to change it, how can it be otherwise?

I'm going to bed not just exhausted, but with a heavy, heavy heart tonight. It's one thing to have known every one of these things for years, but altogether another to hear someone telling it who has experienced it, as Nancy and Rusty know from their experience in El Salvador. It's also altogether unbelievable, that ANYONE could do these things to an entire population, except that I can see it with my own eyes. And I remember the racism of Professor Lefcourt from Gonzaga the night of our "debate". I see it and hear it in its manifestation here daily.

Luckily, we de-brief every night, and the team helps one another to hear these things and to keep them. These gentle people keep me sane.
Tomorrow we go to the Negev to visit with Bedouin families, who are "unregistered" with Israel though they are Israeli citizens who live inside the Green Line. This means their villages have no sewage, no water, no schools (even worse than in some Palestinian areas elsewhere). They also cannot vote, in this "only democracy in the Middle East".

It's such a good thing we saw so many Israelis fighting at least the occupation today - though for the most part you can go no further with that, for most see the occupation as bad for the Jews, which of course it is, but for many it's seen as the only problem. For me it isn't even the tip of the iceberg. I'm really heartsick.

Off to call Michael, and then to bed - another lucky thing, to have such fine and loving people with me.

Hugs to you all


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Posted by mtorres55 13:32 Archived in Israel Tagged jerusalem sheikh_jarrah women_in_black icahd Comments (0)

Palestine in 2010 w/CPT - Day 2 - Sabeel, Parents' Circle

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7/22 Day 2 - Sabeel
Rev. Naim Ateek

Rev. Naim Ateek

After a leisurely and very good breakfast (boiled egg, hummus, cucumber, tomato, cheese, labaneh [Greek yogurt], jam and pita bread), we spoke of non-violence and of sexual harassment, both of which are important issues to CPT's work.

We're told not to be surprised if we meet with harassment in Hebron, and possibly even a stone, as, while CPT is well known in the area, there are times the young men seem to equate "white people" (non-Arab) with the "white" settlers. Or don't differentiate between Americans and what the American government pays for....

There was a worship service. I am a part of them, in that I am in the service, though I don't pray. I want to be "with" the group even though I cannot participate, but also want to avoid making them uncomfortable with me. While they know I am atheist, there seems to be no judgment. These are such good people, all religious and fun to boot!

We were asked to speak of what we want to get from this trip. Some of the responses:
- to learn what life is like under occupation
- to learn compassion for the other side (Israel)
- one woman - probably the most deeply religious of the group - said that she, in fact, did not have much compassion for the other side any more, which is also where I am.
- to be sure not to hate
- to remain neutral
- to be open, not to confirm what we know, but to learn new things

Temperature was very pleasant in the very early morning, but by the time we left, about 9, it was HOT!

Before we left, we heard chanting coming down the street of the market (our hostel is inside the souk). There were no shoppers at that early hour. We heard many, many young men passing by, went out to see what it was about. It was a VERY large group of men and women making haj to Jerusalem (it's the third (?) most sacred city after Mecca, and a haj here is almost as important as one to Mecca). Young men walking three abreast, dressed all in white, most pulling rolling luggage. After they passed, chanting, came the young women, all dressed in black, also pulling luggage. All were chanting, but no one knew what the chant was.

Walked out to Damascus Gate and took three taxis into the edge of West Jerusalem to the Sabeel office, where we heard from a former CPT Board member who now works for Sabeel here. Her story was compelling, though much of it was about God and Jesus, with which I could not relate yet understood. Her explanation of dispossession and oppression did not differ from my own second-hand perception of it. Also met (again) Father Naim Ateek, whom we had met at the February Sabeel conference in Seattle. An Episcopal service, then lunch, then a bus back to the hostel with some free time this afternoon (so here I am...). Damascus Gate

Damascus Gate

Tomorrow it's Women in Black, and an action in one of the targeted Palestinian neighborhoods here.

At Sabeel, the young man Jonathan Brenneman from Ohio was talking about his Palestinian family (mother's side). I asked him what their last name was - Kuttab! Are you related to Jonathan and Daoud? I asked - yes, he said, they're my uncles. !!! Small world!!!

For all but the leader of our group, Steve, this is the first trip to Palestine. They seem to have a good understanding of the situation, though not necessarily a lot of history of it. This is Steve’s third, his first as leader of a delegation, and he has deep knowledge of the history and the conflict.

Saw a bit more of the city - it is indeed all cream color, and so bright overall that I am looking for sunglasses, which I normally never wear. I asked about why (seems like someone, somewhere, would have painted some of the buildings - you CAN paint stone). Jonathan B. said that the stone sheds sparkly bits on you when you rub against it, and we wondered if perhaps the stone simply doesn't take paint. ??? Good thing – it would be a shame to see this beautiful stone painted!

Everywhere you turn there is an historic or religious wonder. God, I wish I could visit this whole area as a tourist! But not while Israel controls it.
I find I tense up when I see soldiers or police - always in groups of minimum of three, always armed to the teeth. This even when they're groups of baby-faced 18 year olds, for they shoot unarmed people with the same casual attitude as a 30-year old, and I don't much care whether they're scared or not, for their bullets kill and maim as certainly as those from one without fear. It would be good if I learned that there are mitigating factors, but I simply have no room for the usual Israeli excuse of "shooting and crying", which I find to be a morally bankrupt concept.

At this point, I have no interest in learning to love them or to understand their perspective (been there, done that), and suspect that by the time I hear the stories, I will be even less inclined. Still not sure what I will come home with, aside from the roaring outrage I brought here with me. It will be interesting to hear what other folks come through this with, and even what I find for or about myself.

Enough for today - dinner soon. We all take turns providing dinner, and one of us is Vegan, which makes it challenging. Last night was Steve's night, and I had offered to help him so I was the chopper and he was the cooker - this was before I found out we would team off in pairs to cook dinner. Boy, was I glad I had offered to help the first night! That took care of my turn, yay! I don't have a clue what to fix for a Vegan and the only kind of group meal I ever cook is Spaghetti or lasagna or Macaroni and cheese - all of them a no-no.

Forget if we have something planned for evening. The itinerary is jam packed for the most part, with today being what I suspect might be the least interesting of our days (that's not to say today was not interesting - just that I prefer action to meeting).

Sign off


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More of Day 2

This one is a little longer, and more "thinking" than doing.

The Parents’ Circle/ Bereaved Families
Parents' Circle

Parents' Circle

Last night we spent 2.5 hours with Sihama Abu Awad (?) and Aaron Barniyah , a Palestinian woman and an Israeli man from the Parents Circle (parentscircle.org), who are bereaved families. It was very powerful, very compelling, very sad, and yet gave what may be the best hope in this struggle. They both are working for "reconciliation", as the people of South Africa, Rwanda, Guatemala did, and as we have probably all hoped might happen here. But their hopes are not pie in the sky, nor do they call for the old "dialogue" that has stopped our work cold so often in the past.

I'm not sure I can articulate it well here in this hurried morning post, with a computer that has a mind of its own. What I think I want to do is share just some thoughts about it right now as folks are already getting up and we will soon leave - today is first Halper's Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, then to stand and to talk with Women in Black, then to the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood here in Jerusalem to demonstrate with Palestinians who are about to be evicted so Jewish families can move in, or whose homes are demolished in order to build housing for Jews.

Sihama and Aaron spoke their stories - very hard to hear, and sometimes surprising. The Palestinian woman raised her siblings from age 14 because her very political mother was in prison for 4 years. Her brothers Yussef and Ali were also imprisoned for resistance. In 2000, her mother and Yussef were both released (I don’t know when Ali was released), and on the way home from a celebratory party for Ali, Ali was shot (but not killed) by an Israeli settler. The same day, Yussef was shot in the head by a soldier, and killed.

Aaron’s son Noam was fighting in Lebanon in 1999, even though he did not agree with Israel’s policies that had him there. He was killed when he was defusing a bomb – a job for which he had volunteered.

Sihama, Ali and Aaron joined The Parents’ Circle as a way of dealing with their loss – being with other bereaved families was a healer for both of them, as is the work they do to end the violence. The group speaks with Israeli Jews and with Palestinians, primarily high school students. They hope their stories and their work will help the young people to see the humanity of the other side, though I’m skeptical about that – as we saw with Noam, acknowledging your “enemy’s” humanity doesn’t seem to stop many people from killing them anyway – the Israelis are the world’s experts at “shooting and crying”.

I asked whether they have any way of measuring their success. Aaron said they do not, but they must keep doing this work (aside from any concrete success in bring peace, the work clearly is an important ingredient in many families’ ability to heal). He said his biggest surprise was his discovery that, overall, the higher the economic level of his audience, the more antagonistic the response to their mission.

The challenge for me after listening to them had to do with "dialogue". Before the First Intifada, it was almost not possible to raise the issue of Palestine.

Silence was required, and anything that was not silence was anti-Semitism. Particularly coming from my own place of once also not having allowed discussion in my presence if I could prevent it, I know the thinking behind this - sort of like if you know you're guilty of beating your children, the last conversation you want to engage in is the ethics of beating your children. So shut up.

So, when finally the Intifada broke out in 1988, the number of people who wanted to work on Palestinian issues and support their struggle grew quickly, and all of a sudden, the very people who would not allow discussion or criticism of Israel (by that time I was thankfully no longer in those ranks) entered the fray, not to support justice, but to say "Stop! We must dialogue first! You must understand our pain, and why our position is just".

Many people stopped working for justice at that point to engage in dialogue about it. Stopped working and started talking. I believe in talking, I believe in communication, but we watched that "dialogue" be used as a way of diverting attention from current injustices to past injustices, from action to talk, from who IS a victim to who WAS a victim, never discussing how to move forward.

It was frustrating also, because those of us who did not want to "dialogue" were accused of anti-Semitism, and were considered fringe. But finally (after several years!) people in the movement began to see that "dialogue" was getting nowhere. For the most part, no minds were changed, no work got done but enemies did get made. It was a terribly destructive element.

But we got past it, and work happened. So here we are now, 20 years down the road, dialogue didn't work, action didn't work. The only bright spot was that Palestinian people were still there, still "samed" - steadfast, still struggling. Under unbelievably inhumane conditions.

And now, I think we know we have to figure out some more and better ways of working. Palestinians are working on their end, intensifying their own non-violent resistance, which has been alive and well for 40 years (though Americans don't know it for it is either ignored or twisted in our media and in our schools) - and that non-violence carries its own risks. Each time non-violence has strengthened here, and/or one of the factions held a truce for "too long", Israel has attacked in order to break it. But Palestinians remain Samed, they remain in the struggle.

Our challenge is to figure out how to work differently in the United States, and I believe the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement is the work for us. Here in Palestine and in Israel, from what I heard last night, from how it feels this morning, I am thinking perhaps the time has come at last for talking - but not "dialogue". Rather, as one of this wonderful CPT group put it last night, "encounter".

This one is still loaded for me though. Aaron said his work to ensure a Palestinian state ensures that his Jewish state remains and both states will be safe, so that at the end of the day, he does his work to support apartheid. I’m looking for where the compromises are made, who has to give up what, and what role the American movement plays in it all. We have to take our lead from Palestinians of course, but Which Palestinians? It's just all damn difficult.

What was not addressed last night, in this coming together of two people who had lost loved ones to the violence, which sort of leveled the playing field, was an acknowledgement of the asymmetry of the struggle – overall, this playing field is NOT level. And that's a whole 'nother issue, isn't it?
Well, didn’t mean to go on so long. Will write up their stories to share with you all, as well, but have to go for now.

Posted by mtorres55 13:32 Archived in Israel Tagged jerusalem circle sabeel parents' Comments (0)

Palestine in 2010 w/CPT - Day 1 - Jerusalem


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7/21 Day 1 - Jerusalem

Took a shared taxi to Jerusalem, thinking all the time “you haven’t a clue how to get to the Golden Gate Hotel. This is gonna be quite an afternoon.” Sure enough, after being dropped at Damascus Gate (had been told that’s the closest gate to the hotel), I negotiated my way through extremely crowded streets in 95 degree heat with backpack and rolling carry-on.

Navigate to where? So I asked. And just as in the U.S, people will give you directions whether or not they actually know where the place is. Finally gave up, and in a moment of sheer brilliance I thought “why don’t I call the hotel?”

Turns out I was looking outside the Gate of the Old City and should have been inside. By then I was about ½ mile from Damascus gate where I should have entered in the first place. The delightful young man Hani (never got his last name) said to go back to Damascus and he would walk out to meet me, which he did. Took me inside to Golden Gate Hotel / hostel, which I highly recommend – but don’t confuse it with the Golden Gate Inn outside the walls. It’s very basic, very clean, inexpensive. Would stay there again – 150 shekels per night, about $35.

Hot here, especially when one has to "dress modestly"! Don't know how women do it! Got in with no problem. don't know how looking like someone's Florida mother-in-law affected it, but no issues. Tucking away the dark lipstick and eyebrows to dig them out at Exit.

Jerusalem seems to be all one color - variations of a creamy stone. Seeing the magnificent ancient wall that surrounds the old city was just .... what? amazing? stunning? moving? So bright I needed sunglasses, which I never got.

more later, hopefully more interesting stuff.

What a visual feast is the Old City of Jerusalem! such narrow streets, and SO many people walking.

We're having a vegetable curry for dinner tonight, which Steve is cooking. He had asked if I wanted to cook dinner tonight, but I deferred. Didn't exactly want to tell him that had learned my skills from Leticia, so I said I'll do the chopping.

I already told you how lovely the City is - all cream colored stone, everything so old it makes England look like a whipper-snapper. The market here in the Old City is a maze of streets - you have to be very careful to note landmarks as you go, or you will never be seen again! But you won't starve while you're lost as there are shwarema and kabob shops all over.

The spice stores, especially, are a wonder. The smell, the arrangement, the variety. Saffron is about $3.00 for a large bag - I believe it goes for something like $280/lb in the states! Can’t imagine this stuff is pure saffron. I took a picture of a spice pyramid that defies belief - that it ever got built in the first place (only about 18 inches high, striated in a complicated design, with the dome of the rock at the top). It sits on the counter where at home someone would have bumped into it and knocked it all down soon after it went up.

Beautiful formal dresses in the shops, such as you would wear to the opera, or the prom. With so many women covered here, I don't understand yet who buys and wears them.

Stealthily took a picture of 3 soldiers who looked like 9th grade students, but fully armed with rifles and ugly batons, standing under the sign for the Via Dolorosa. Too much irony!

Got our itinerary tonight. Partial list: over the next two weeks, we'll join the Israeli Women in Black and then a demonstration in East Jerusalem in support of the Palestinians whose homes are being demolished daily to make room for more Jewish settlements(both of those tomorrow), to Sabeel, and to Jeff Halper's ICAHD - Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions - ; BADIL, a Palestinian human rights organization, school accompaniment in Hebron, a women's cooperative in Hebron that produces fabric and embroidery (there goes my suitcase!), to a weekly demonstration in Hebron in support of Palestinians who had their homes welded shut in order to allow Jewish Israelis free access to Shuhada St (Hebron is a Palestinian town, mostly under the control of the Palestinian Authority, but that's just an inconvenience – CHECK THIS OUT – you’ll be shocked! )

There's much more to the itinerary, but unfortunately I left it in my room. Will tell you more tomorrow nite.

The folks in this CPT group are all quite simpatico, about 1/3 of them ministers, most are Mennonite, though there are two Lutherans and one Nazarene. All but me are Christians and all but one drawn to this work for religious reasons, though one of us expresses no sect and is not very religious. My atheism does not appear to be an issue with folks (we had a round where people talked about their faith path, so had to share mine). They seem a very good group of folks to be doing this with.

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Posted by mtorres55 13:33 Archived in Israel Tagged jerusalem Comments (0)

Palestine 2010 w/CPT - ARRIVAL

On traveling to Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Team July 2010 - Dispatches sent more or less daily from Palestine

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WARNING - This “travelogue”/Report starts out fairly routine, but becomes more painful by the day.

Marianne going to Palestine with a Christian group?! Indeed, imagine my own surprise when I found that Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) was the group I wanted to travel with.

After checking with Barbara Lubin (Middle East Children’s Alliance) only to find they weren’t going this year nor was the Rachel Corrie Foundation, and knowing I can’t run fast enough to go with International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the search was on.

There are a number of groups that take delegations to Palestine, including American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Interfaith Peacebuilders, Global Exchange, Code Pink, and a good Palestine-based tour company Alternative Tourism, but CPT was the only one other than MECA that did more than witness. Witnessing is extremely important but I felt that because the situation was so dire, I wanted to do more. And there was CPT.

I checked their website, watched You Tube videos of them at work. What a group of people! Their mission is faith based, Mennonite and Quaker, standing witness, doing school and farmer accompaniment to provide some measure of protection against attacking settlers, intervention in military invasions of homes.

There is no faith litmus test, and after checking to see if they would accept an atheist, I started preparing.

They ensure that you’re well prepared and will arrange your flight if you want them to. You need to raise about $3,000 either paying it yourself, or better, raising it in your community (an educational opportunity, and it provides ownership of the trip).


I arranged my own flight, and after deactivating my Facebook account and taking down my Palestine Papers at http://www.sonomacountyfreepress.com/palestine/palesndx.html, I headed to Jerusalem via Tel Aviv airport a day ahead of the delegation, thinking I might have some difficulty getting in. I wanted to be sure I was in when the rest of the group arrived, for I thought I might have trouble at the airport.

As it turned out, I sailed through with no questions other than “why are you here” – “Tourist”. By the time I landed in Tel Aviv, I had serious eyebrows, bright lipstick and pink cheeks, with necklaces and a bracelet – I wanted to look like somebody’s mother-in-law from Kansas and was apparently very successful. They had no idea I was just a small fish in a big pond – they had no interest in even knowing if I was a fish! They only looked at my passport long enough to determine that there was sufficient resemblance.

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Posted by mtorres55 13:33 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

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