Sun. May 10
We spent the day at an Israeli school called Oranim. There we listened to lectures about the recent elections in Israel, the origins of the Kibbutz system, and spoke with some students about life in Israel and their thoughts on Palestine. We left to grab dinner at a Druze restaurant located on the top of a mountain overlooking Haifa. They served us an excellent dinner that was only eclipsed by the view from our tables.
For our second day with Oranim we spent our morning at the Ghetto Fighters Museum. The holocaust is always a heavy topic to learn about and our guide for the morning emphasized the true weight of the experiences of the Jewish people in that time. Our visit ended with an encounter with a holocaust survivor who spoke about his experiences during that time. We spent the rest of the day driving to the West Bank to meet with our host families. The group split apart to go to our new homes for the rest of the week and we experienced more true hospitality.
Tues. May 12
The day started with a long drive to the Dead Sea region in the south. After a few hours on the road we arrived at Masada and took a short cable car ride to the ancient stronghold overlooking the Dead Sea. We learned about the Jews who captured it and lived there for 7 years before the Romans took it over.
Finally we get to the events of today. We drove out to Hebron and made our first stop at the Hebron Glass Factory. There we watched how glass cups, candleholders, and vases are blown and some of us got to try blowing glass ourselves.
Eventually we reached the CPT building and spoke with the people there. The CPTers spoke to us about their advocacy efforts, their work walking children to school, and their actions in documenting what goes on in the city. They took us up to the roof and we looked at the various bits of the settlements we could see and watched settlers and soldiers walking by on the Israeli-only street below. We heard about the various actions taken by the settlers to force Palestinians out of their homes and keep them off balance and afraid.
We walked back to our bus through the city and left to visit the town of alTawani in the south Hebron hills. In the village we heard someone speak about the Palestinians resistance to Israeli efforts to evict the Palestinians and demolish their homes. In this town the Italian organization Operation Dove has been helping the people with their resistance efforts.
After spending a week travelling around Galilee and the Jezreel valley, going through the West Bank and Hebron has lifted the veneer of this place. We saw the tourist sites and the beautiful landscapes, but now we have seen some of what lies beneath. There are amazing and kind people who live their lives limited by military checkpoints and the whims of soldiers who can stop them and demand their papers. There are sections of the land that have been settled by people who call them names, throw stones, and sometimes shoot at them. There are so many people on both sides of this conflict that want there to be peace but have had so many barriers put up to stop them from working together.
In this last week and a half this group has had a privilege that very few people here have, we have been able to go visit and see the all the places in this land. When Israelis are not allowed into Palestinian controlled sections and Palestinians are not allowed to go to the Israeli areas (or Israel itself) these two peoples can’t even speak to one another. How is there going to be peacemaking when those in conflict can’t even interact?