Israel - Day 9

I am starting with this, even though it happened at the end of the day, so no one will worry.
All Delta flights are cancelled, BUT Peter got me on a new flight with a connection in Amsterdam on Thursday morning.  I will be home just a little later than expected.  I am very safe where I am.  

We just found out that most flights even with layovers are now cancelled too, mine is not yet (neither is Lee's).  But I will let everyone know.  We will go into Tel Aviv tomorrow after this program ends...

We reconvened in the morning with a meditation led by Sheila Weinberg.  We did an opening circle of framing questions for the day.  Here are some of the ones that have stood out...
What sustains you internally and strengthens you to continue this work.
Why do they speak to our groups.
What do we hope will happen, what do we think will happen.
What is it like at home right now.
Under what circumstances could they imagine a 1 state solution, a 2 state solution.
What actions of support can we do back home.
What is the role of diaspora Jewish voices in this conversation.
How do they deal with Jewish fear.
Asking the same question to all speakers could yield interesting insight.  
How does your economic situation influence your life.
What is the next small step to get to the next small place.
What is the Palestinian relationship with Arab Israelis.
And there were many more...

We were reminded that all of our presenters were fasting for Ramadan.

We then went on a walking tour of the Separation Barrier and got a geographical overview of this area.  It was led my Mohammed Barakat from the Siraj Center.  Mohammed was born in Jerusalem 1953 as a second-generation Palestinian refugee, and received his education at the Mennonite Missionary School.  He was an eye witness of the 1967 and 1973 wars.  Between 1977-1996 Mohammed worked as a receptionist at the National Palace Hotel and was a member of the executive committee of the workers' trade unions in the West Bank.  He has been working as a guide throughout the country, focusing on the political situation.

They still have the status of refugee through the UN.  It is passed down from generation to generation.  This is how they keep track of the amount of refugees.  He has been living on the borderline.  A witness to the wars.  67-68 a good relationship with their neighbors.  Not anymore.  After 94 up until today, he feels that there is not a true negotiation for peace.  He feels that they have been just looking for their freedom.  Find their own state and build a neighborly relationship.  The amount of settlers has an impact on the psyche of the Palestinians.  Words about peace mean nothing compared to the actions of the government in support of the settlers.  After the assassination of Rabin the Israeli population became more right.  He believes that Israel needs to make a decision now, by the end of Ramadan.  Israel is the main power.  He feels that Israel has the power to stop this.  He feels that it is the right moment.  He feels that you can not separate the Palestinians in the West Bank and those in Gaza.  

The question was asked about the role of Hamas.  Hamas was built in the first intifada.  They are not a part of the PLO.  PLO was getting stronger, but Hamas took advantage of what was happening around.  They are building their support in the streets.  If it was over a month ago Hamas would not have won support, but now, after what is going on, Hamas is gaining support.

After the kidnapping of the 3 kids and the Israeli government went into the territory A which is governed by the Palestinians and killed and arrested people and the Israeli government did not allow the Palestinian Authority to deal with their people there became fear on the part of the Palestinians.  They felt that Hamas could protect them, the Palestinian Authority had no power.  By humiliating the Palestinian Authority the Israeli government is empowering Hamas.

Build the settlements to further separate the Palestinians from Jerusalem.  2002 build the wall.  

I kept on feeling that there are 2 sides to each story.  It feels so black and white, yet there is so much grey.  The wars were the devastation of the Palestinian communities and the building of Israel.  How do these 2 people reconcile that?

We went out on a balcony in Tantur and saw the area.  Where the settlements were developed, the Separation Barrier, the check points, and Rachel's tomb.  We learned about the different status of Palestinians. Israelis, West Bankers, Gaza, refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt... How challenging the check points were.  Most people are required to walk through the check points and not drive.   

We came into contact with 2 Palestinian workers.  They told us (through our guide) that they got up for prayer at 4:30 am and went straight to the check point after prayer.  It could take them 2 hours to get through the check point, and then they stand on the corner just like day laborers in the US. It was 11 am and they had not gotten any work that day.  Buses are waiting to transport them to places all over.  They have to pay 2,000 shekels to the contractors to even be able to apply for work, with the potential of making 6,000 shekels.

After the wall was built around the West Bank the attacks and suicide bombers decreased.  Was it as a result of the wall?  Mohammed does not feel that was the cause and effect.  He feels that a non violent resistance is more effective.  He feels that the Palestinian Authority was able to control this.  But if this war continues he feels the suicide bombers will increase because they have nothing to lose, they will have already lost everything.

The minimum monthly wage is a drastic difference between Palestinians in the West Bank and Israelis.  1,500 shekels and 4,700 shekels.  Yet Palestinians have to pay the same price as Israelis for everything.

We had lunch at a christian monastery, Mar Elyas.  It was beautiful, chandeliers, round stones making up the arches.

We came back to Tantur to have a Panel on the Civil Society in and around Jerusalem.   
Mohammed NasserEddin, Israeli resident, Jordanian passport.  He could get Israeli citizenship, but he will not.  He was born and raised in East Jerusalem.  He currently is the director of Palestinian Programs for Seeds of Peace.  Went when he was 16 to seeds of peace.  Before that he didn't know much about the conflict.  His parents shielded him and his brothers so that they wouldn't get involved in dangerous political areas.  

He feels that the ability to move around in Israel has become more and more challenging for Arabs in the past years.  Can't leave for more than 2-3 years without losing their residency of Jerusalem.  They pay taxes to Israel.  He learned through Seeds of Peace that there are other Jewish people in the world, not just Israelis.

He believes that Israel wants the enemy. Easier to maintain and build anger around the Hamas.  But this in return builds unity around the Palestinians.   

The 2nd presenter was Manar Assali.  She is from East Jerusalem, she experienced what it felt like to leave and try to return.  It was traumatic and challenging.  She decided to get a law degree to help work in this area.  There are so many impediments put into place that challenge the solutions.  Bureaucratic obstacles to specific rights.

Manar serves as the general director of the Jerusalem Community Advocacy Network.  It seeks to meet the needs of individuals and communities in order to access their social, economic, cultural and political rights.    

She believes that due to the political situation, it insights the men and boys to throw stones at the soldiers and both sides have the tools to escalate this.  Israel does this every 2 years to create national unity.

Both doubt the "kidnapping of the 3 boys" and think it was a tactic for Israel to get into the West Bank in a calculated way.  It is not Hamas that is paying the price.  It is the everyday citizen.  When you hit a child every week and then you wonder why the kid hits back, you can't wonder why.  He respects the voice of someone who wants to fight back and challenge the status quo.

The word "normalization" and how each presenter felt about it was thrown around.  What is the definition of "normalization?" Acting as if this arrangement is ok.  
There was supposed to be a 3rd presenter on this panel that I really wanted to hear from. Fatima Faroun works with the Shorouq Society for Women.  This organization was formed in response to the exacerbation of women's already weak status in Palestinian society by the second Intifada.  She felt too sad by the current events to be able to present today.  I felt a huge loss to not be able to hear this voice.  We have been inundated with the current situation and have been unable to hear about the cultural, political and social obstacles of their daily community.

We had a 15 minute break and then we met with Hamed Qawasmeh regarding changing facts on the ground and possible future implications.  His family is originally from Hebron, born in Kuwait, growing up in the Persian Gulf.  Returned to the West Bank in 1999 to support his family following his father's death.  He went to school in the states and Israel.  He works for the UN office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.

Area A- (17 percent of West Bank) Palestinian Authority provide social services AND security.

Area B-(22 percent of West Bank) Palestinian Authority provide social services.

Palestinian Authority has less than 40 percent of the West Bank, and 95 percent of the Palestinians live there.

Area C-Palestinian Authority has no control.  It encompasses 60 percent of the West Bank and 150,000 Palestinians live there.  Very poor, tent like living for Palestinians.  Israel was supposed to take on responsibilities of these people but Hamed says they don't.  They still need permits to have these tents and then these tents get destroyed because they don't give them the permits.

There are 517 closures between the different Palestinian areas in the West Bank as of May 2011.  

He believes that if there is not a cease fire in the next few days, this will be spilling over to the West Bank and intensified.

It was already a LONG and hard day and it was only 4:15 pm!  At 4:30 pm we began the Personal Narratives Panel.  

I asked the encounter group about "Friends of the Earth Middle East," the joint organization between Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian people that deal with water issues in these areas.  This organization has a fabulous reputation and often times they speak at Encounter programs.

2 out of the 3 participants were able to be there.  Suzan Sahori the co-founder and director of Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans was unable to get her documents ready to have access into Jerusalem.  

The first presenter Oraib Waari teaches English language in a secondary school for girls in East Jerusalem.  She has worked with Seeds of Peace as a facilitator and was supposed to be the head of the delegation this summer.  She was worried that she would be considered a traitor and make normalization.  In the end she decided that she needs to go.

She works in the Israeli municipality with the Palestinian curriculum.  Jerusalem residency with Jordanian passport. 2 of her daughters are in school in Jordan.  She feels that Hamas is looking only for the benefit of her people.  They are no longer the victims, they are fighting back.

The second presenter Ala' Nusseibeh is originally from East Jerusalem.  Lived with a Jewish Neighborhood right across the street.  Until she was 14 and was part of the Seeds of Peace Delegation.  Before camp she believed in a 2 state solution, and after she felt that the Palestinian people need to strengthen themselves to present a strong Palestinian State.  She doesn't want to feel like a helpless victim anymore.  To negotiate you need to come as equal partners.  They have never been equal partners.  They have always gone to negotiations as the victim.

Having a stronger economy for Palestine is a first step in gaining independence.  She feels that there is oppression and no support of Palestinians gaining independence.

She has an internal conflict, she stood with Rabbis, Muslims and Christians in peace AND she sees what is going on in Gaza.  She is constantly wrestling with both realities.

They all spoke about marriage and residency.  If a person with Jerusalem residency marries a person without, the person without will never obtain Jerusalem residency.  Therefore they can only look to a Palestinian with residency from Jerusalem.  This is severely limiting.  They can not do National Service.  Marrying an Israeli Arab ok as well.

Since the past few weeks these women do not go to West Jerusalem.  There is fear, they don't want to support West Jerusalem economy.  Wearing a hijab brings ridicule and the threat of physical harm.  It breeds anger and resentment.  The Israeli police should help Jerusalem residents.  They feel the don't.  Not in regard to security, trash collection, nothing.  One of the presenters spoke of an instance before the kidnappings of and killing of the 4 boys.  Her family home is near a settlement and she heard screaming one day and they ran out and 2 settlers were trying to grab an Arab boy and the mother fought back and they drove away.  When they called the police, the police did nothing.

These are the stories of the people who were willing to engage in dialogue.  Although they would not have come if it was a group of Israelis.  They feel that we could potentially help them.  Every single presenter said that this is the darkest time in Israel/West Bank and Gaza.  

The reason why they came for the conversation was that they had hope that sessions like this increase the humanity in the world.   Our ability to listen seems to be healing for some of these speakers.
We then had small group discussions with the exploration question, "Have you heard thoughts today that stirred fresh thoughts or feelings and what is an image that has stood out for me."

When we look back at this time period, is it going to be a skirmish or a huge political shift.

Josh, Lee and I took a cab into central Jerusalem to have a little break (and some food).  We were dealing with logistics, but it was good to get a break.  We are back in Tantur.  All my love.