Tuesday, April 3, 2012


A Palestinian living in the West Bank is stuck behind walls, not unlike the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland in 1942. At the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem is a photo of people climbing a building in the Warsaw Ghetto in order to see outside of the ghetto. Palestinians cannot even go on their roof to see over the 30' wall that separates them from freedom of movement. I am not trying to compare the holocaust to the occupation. But there are some parallels that seem to have been lost. The death camps were unspeakable as they were fully able to euthanize hundreds of unsuspecting men, women, and children in a few minutes. Fellow Jews then lifted the bodies out, cut off their hair and removed gold teeth before placing the body into one of the many ovens for quick cremation. Another team of Jews would shovel out the ashes in preparation for the next set of bodies.

While on our mid-term "break" we visited an Israeli village located a couple of hundred yards from the wall separating it from Gaza. Every home, school, business, bus shelter either has or has been built as a "safe room" that children learn early on to run to when they hear the sirens which indicate the launch of a Palestinian rocket. They have 15 seconds to make it into the safe room before the rocket lands. They have about an additional 45 seconds before it is safe to exit the safe room. Over the previous weekend one hundred rockets were launched. They are incredibly unsophisticated and not very accurate, so there is not a huge chance of harm. However the villager cited two deaths from the village: one a young girl who had not made it to th
e safe room, and the other an agricultural worker who took cover, counted to 45, and then attempted to resume work when he was cut down by a rocket that was slower than normal. Every time a village is sent to safe rooms each wonders if this is the day they will die. What we did not hear was that many Palestinians living in Gaza were killed by the sophisticated system owned by the Israeli military. The numbers of deaths are significantly higher in Gaza than in Israel.

Yesterday we visited Naser Al-Din in his village of Al Ja'ba. Naser's home has been demolished three times by the Israeli military. His "sin" was not having building permits for his home which is in Area C. There are no building permits issued for Area C, so his only way to provide shelter for his growing family was to build a home anyway. This last demolition occurred just as the home was being finished, but they had yet to move in. As the 50-year old father of 10 talked to us about his experiences we lounged under an 80-year old olive tree, drinking coca cola and eating cookies. He talked about his years living in New York, and his return to this village where his father owned much land. He returned because while he experienced freedom he had
never known prior to his journey, wealth beyond his dreams, and a life of security and peace, his family was missing. Now he lives the traditional Moslem Palestinian life in the Occupied Territory and is very content to be living with his two wives (a maximum of 4 are allowed by law) and ten children and his Mother. The village of 1000 is essentially the melding of two families and has not grown over the last 50 years, not due to the low birth-rate of children, but due to the fact that the children are leaving. Naser's first wife is also a first cousin and as a result all of their children are moderately to severely handicapped. Naser showed us the land that has been taken by the Israeli's, for the pretense of security. Much of the land is on the other side of the separation barrier and he has no access to it. Some of it is so close to the checkpoint which is on the border between the occupied territory and Israel, that the military sees it as a threat and refuses to allow him to cultivate the land. If the land remains uncultivated for a period of time it will become automatically State land, and he will no longer own it.

So, let's measure the pain. Who has more? Less? The one truth that a settler told us is that none of the pain is acceptable. None. Life itself is painful. We experience many disappointments in life, many deaths, some tragedies, and a lot of pain without any influence from the outside. Add to the pain of daily living the deliberate causing of pain on one human being from another human being and what happens? Needless suffering and pain.

There can be no viable solution while both parties are in pain. And understand that the West Bank and Gaza are occupied territories and the power of that occupation is held by the Israelis. So while there is pain, there is also a huge disparity in power. The pain needs to stop. The power of one people over another needs to stop. Only then can justice begin. Without justice there will be no peace.

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