Monday, July 30, 2007

2007-06-19 The Trip

( A depressing post, with nothing relevant to this newsgroup. I need to ventilate, you don't need to read it.)

The trip, May 28-June 3.
The web site of the sponsoring organization is
and the "official" diaries of the trip appear starting at

I haven't read those, having been too busy with other things. But it saves me writing as much about the trip here as I might. I suspect that on the whole I'm more understanding of the Israeli government's position than many other members of the group we traveled with. But that doesn't mean I'm in agreement with the actions the Israeli government and military have taken.

We walked through a Palestinian refugee camp, near Bethlehem. We visited the hotly contested neighborhoods of Hebron. We followed the "security wall" through Jerusalem suburbs and Palestinian villages, talked to families divided by the wall. We visited with people who had lost family members (on both sides, families of suicide bomber victims as well as families who had lost a member to soldier's bullets.) We prayed at the Wailing Wall, at a synagogue in Jerusalem, at the old Quaker meeting house in downtown Ramallah (on the way we visited Yasser Arafat's tomb and the Palestinian Parliament building.) Several places we visited experienced violence (shooting and battles) within a few days before and a week or two after our visits.

We visited and talked with demonstrators and officers of various organizations. We visited residents of a slum in Tel Aviv and an expensive suburb in Herzliyah, and "settlements", Israeli communities built within "Judea and Samaria", the "occupied territories", "The West Bank", or "Israeli East Jerusalem", depending on the political point involved. We visited Yad VaShem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum - I was startled at the fact that some of the Americans in our group knew so little about the ghetto experiences of the European Jews leading up to and during World War II.

We had an Israeli doctor in obvious distress say, "Of course I want to be able to treat Palestinians in this hospital. But after an ambulance arrives and is full of explosives, do we dare let in the next ambulance?" We had a Palestinian doctor in an Israeli hospital (we spent a lot of time in the hospital, not part of the original plan!) express worry about his son who has said he wants to be a suicide bomber so he can go straight to heaven - those of you who have trouble with your teenage kids, think about that one a bit...!

The preparation for the trip was depressing: it didn't show much hope for progress toward peace. The trip itself was depressing: peace is not likely to break out in Israel / Palestine anytime soon. We did see "points of light", schools for children with post-traumatic stress syndrome (US foreign aid to them was cut off, of course, when it was discovered that some of the kids had lost parents to Israeli bullets. US government money must not be used to help family members of terrorists, even 4-year-old kids.) Church-sponsored secondary schools (no US aid, for the same reason.) School teachers still working, although not paid since the US government disliked the results of the first real democratic election Palestine had ever had. There are groups teaching nonviolent techniques, and groups of volunteers who try to interpose themselves between Palestinians and hostile Jewish settlers. But these are bandaids on broken arms, they don't get to the real problem.

Too many people on both sides are trying to figure out when and where and how to retaliate next, too few are seeking ways to break the cycle of violence. And the press publicizes and emphasizes the worst on both sides, making matters worse.

Is Jimmy Carter's word "apartheid" too strong? Well, it is certainly the wrong word. I had enough South African relatives during my formative years to know quite a bit about apartheid. Apartheid, in my view, is much too weak a word for what is happening in Israel / Palestine. Israel is confining the Palestinians into ever-shrinking ghettos. Jews ought to know better than that, and it is not an approach that will bring peace.

I really don't want to get into a political discussion in this newsgroup. But, given the events since June 3, I needed to ventilate. Thanks.

Next post: the mugging.


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