Monday, April 30, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The view of Har Homa from the Zawahra Property
Following our visit to Har Homa we visited Salama abu Tarbush in their family home just outside of the Bethlehem checkpoint. As with the Zawahra family, their ID is Palestinian. When they go into Bethlehem for work or school, they exit back into the Jerusalem side. As they do not have the proper ID, they are often detained while the soldiers look up their information, or they are sent back to Bethlehem. As an 11 year old child, the Tarbush's daughter was frequently denied access to go home from school. She would have to return to Bethlehem to stay with an aunt and try to get home the next day. This photo was taken from within the checkpoint and shows not only a flock of sheep grazing alongside the road, their house is in the background.
We also visited with George Khalilha in Beit Jala which is a predominately Christian village just next to Bethlehem. George and his family live in a very old home in Beit Jala and own another home that is located at the agricultural property owned by the family and from which George earns his living. He has fruit trees--apricot, apple, peach, pear of many varieties. The home on the property was over 60 years old, but they had the audacity to re-tile the patio area and build a toilet in an outside building as there was not adequate plumbing. Due to his "renovations" the house was demolished by the Israeli army two weeks ago. You can see George explaining to Esteban about the rocks that once held up this old stone home--rocks that were cut in half by the heavy equipment brought by the military for the demolition. Ironically, the only structure remaining is the new toilet and surrounding building. George talked about his feelings of being discriminated against as he is a Christian living in a predominately Moslem world and being governed by Israelis.
Life gets fractured in the Occupied Territories. We notice daily how difficult it is to navigate through the land due to the rocks, steep drops, and mud. It is tough to get from one place to another. It is also difficult for the Palestinian to get from one day to another with all of the roadblocks that are placed before them. (Not to mention that their roads are so far inferior to the wonderfully paved Israeli roads upon which they cannot ride.) Israel is a country that prides itself as the only democracy in the Middle East. Personally I prefer the democracy we have in the US, not that it's perfect, but the blatant discrimination that occurs daily could not happen in the US.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
While suffering is happening all around, there is good news in the Holy Land. I have had the pleasure in recent months of meeting with strong, humanitarian leaders of NGOs in Israel. The common thread is the desire for Israel to end the occupation peacefully. Most are Jewish Israelis. One is a Christian Israeli. They all believe that continuing the occupation is bringing moral decay to Israel and could lead to its destruction. They all love their country but deplore the violence. They are speaking out.
Hanna Barag leads a group called Machsom Watch. The members are Israeli women, most over 50 years old, who come to the checkpoints to learn and document what they are seeing and hearing from the men who pass through. They have tremendous respect for the Palestinians and their strong faith. The women make our job easier by their presence. http://www.machsomwatch.org./
Avihal Stollar from Breaking the Silence is a former Israeli soldier. His group was formed by soldiers to tell the truth about the military and the occupation. These young men are despised by current enlisted Israels (although one veteran of 15 years told us that they tell the truth), but they continue to spread the word. http://www.shovrimshtika.org/