Thursday, September 11, 2008

Attempting to understand…

We had lunch at the Maxim restaurant today. It was a wonderful meal with several courses and a lovely view of the sea. But as you walk to the entrance you immediately get the idea that there is something different about this place. You are greeted by a security guard who searches you bags and runs a hand held metal detector over you body. We sit and eat the plates of hummus, kabob, falafel and such and notice that the restaurant was filled with Jewish and Arab staff who are taking orders from Jewish and Arab patrons. We are joined by the owner of the restaurant who tells us about the history of the restaurant as we sip Turkish coffee. The Maxim restaurant was started by an Arab couple and a Jewish couple who were friends. Many people told them they were crazy for such an idea but it turned out they were immediately successful. In October 2003 an Arab women came into the restaurant and ordered lunch from her Arab server. The restaurant was full, much like today. Two families were having lunch, Arabs and Jews. After she had sat there for 20 minutes, presumable watching the people, family’s of grandparents, children and grandchildren, laugh and talk she walked to the center of the restaurant and detonated the bomb. 21 people were killed. Jewish and Arab blood was mixed together on the floor.

The owners of the restaurant were traumatized, they couldn’t bear to restart the restaurant… but they did bc they realized that if they didn’t, the terror would win. Slowly the patrons and staff came back. Apparently, going back would help them move on, if they could. We thanked him for sharing his story and as we traveled to the Haifa cemetery I tried to imagine how that woman at there observing the children for 20 minutes and decided to do such a horrible thing. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.

We met with 2 fathers at the cemetery. Both had lost a child in when a suicide bomber had attacked a bus that their child was on in separate incidents. Both children were teenagers. I sat in that cemetery looking at a special section for terror victims, taking in the eerie twisted grave markers that were clearly unlike the others in the cemetery. Each on was intricate. I couldn’t read what was written on them bc it was in Hebrew so my mind tried to picture what I would right if I lost a child. I would probably be at a loss of words, as I am now.

I asked the fathers how the events had changed their view on the conflict. They told me that they hadn’t changed much. They said it was common that if you were right wing you stay right wing, and vice versa, “you just have receipts now.” Both fathers discussed their support of the “security fence”. They said we should build it tall and leave it there. He said it would take many, many years for the sides to talk. “They voted for Hamas, he said, how am I supposed to take that? As a sign they want to talk?” I understood. One said that it wasn’t that he didn’t care about the human rights of the people being walled in, but his daughters’ right to life was taken from her without any vote, and his right was to protect his other children in the best way he can. The tears that I had managed to hold back fell. This last week, I saw with my own eyes what it was like for those walled him, and it made me so angry to see them imprisoned like that. And now I sat there ashamed of my audacity to even presume to understand what was going on. What it was like to lose a child that way; to fear constantly for the lives of my other children. These fathers were forever imprisoned in their pain, and that fence was a lot more difficult to take down. I remembered something I had heard from our tour guide Shannon. She came to Palestine from Japan as an activist for the Palestinians 8 years ago. She hated Jews, until she met them and heard their stories and did what we are doing now. She volunteered for an organization that responded to terrorist bombings. She had seen a lot of blood. Her words to us, as the international onlookers of the conflict, were this, “How dare we come here and choose a side, how dare we join in the hate for the other. We do not have the right, nor the luxury of time to pick sides. We need to be pro-people, pro-life!” This, I think is my conclusion of the conflict. And so I am back to my final promise to myself, the best thing I can do for the Israel/Palestine conflict is NOT choose a side.


We met with Rami Levi who is the Vice-Mayor of Haifa. He is Arab, which is uncommon in Israel, I think. He said that they often try to hire Arabs and women in the city council of Haifa. Haifa is said to be one of the biggest cities where Jews, Arabs, Druze, Baha’i’ and others live and work side by side with little conflict. There are many projects happening to increase this and it seems it isn’t complete harmony but they are getting there. I asked what made Haifa work so well when places like Jerusalem only seemed to be dividing. His response was that it was not the religious center of the world. Haifa was a very cool city. The Baha’i gardens were amazing. I highly suggest you Google it. It reminded me of Lombard street in San Francisco, although this is definitely more beautiful. The view from the city was amazing, it looked much like San Fran on one large hill surrounded by the bay. It was extremely hot and humid though, even well into the night, unlike Frisco.

The Wall

Half of the 80% of Jews are of Arab descent.
65%-85% unemployment in the West Bank, the region largely relies on tourism but obviously that industry has been hit hard due to the check points and stigmas about the region. I felt completely safe there. We talked to Palestinians there and they talked about how Americans aren’t informed about what is going on in Palestine. I find this to be true, why is why I am here.

“The Wall”: The dividing barrier that Israel built to separate the Palestinian regions from the Israeli regions intended to diminish suicide bombings. This barrier is about 15% actually brick wall and the rest is actually a large fence or layers of fences with security towers, cameras and barbed wire. Israelis say that the fence has a reduced the number of terrorists attacks by 90%. One Palestinian asked if the wall is actually about security then why would it run through Palestinian villages, dividing them in two. Why is one side of the village safe and the other not. Palestinians see the wall as an “apartheid” wall (apartheid as in segregation) to cause such strife in the lives of Palestinians that they leave the country. This is what is thought of the check points as well since check points aren’t just between Israeli city’s and Palestinian cities but between neighboring Palestinian city’s. They also argue that the wall cuts into Palestinian land as way of Israel slowly pushing the Palestinians back. There is also the opinion that the wall is illegal.

These Palestinians were optimistic about a solution, thought they differed on whether it should be a 2 state or one state solution.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


We had lunch in a Druze village today. A family opened there house to us for lunch. They talked about their religion and beliefs. It is a very interesting religion. They believe in reincarnation and do not take converts. I am slightly familiar with this bc two of my closest friends on the trip, Dana and Amanda, are Druze. The come from Lebanon. The family served us dishes of local food such as hummus, eggplant dishes and lamb. I like these meals the best.


We visited another Jewish Settlement called Ariel and met with its mayor and former Knesset member, Ron Nachman. It was pretty cool to meet this high profile politicians. He was a very interesting and funny man and the group as a whole really enjoyed meeting with him. He knew Irvine very well and was please we came to Ariel to see what was going on there bc, as he stressed, the media only publishes negative stories and Ariel seemed to be very different than the negative portrayal of the settlements. Aiel is the capital of Samaria, Nachman came to this land in what some call the West Bank, but Nachman stresses that this was the valley of Jordan and never Palestine. The mayor came to this vacant land, and didn’t push any Arabs off it. They built Ariel from the ground up. In 1947, US President Carter came to Israel and agreed that 8 settlements were needed in Israel and Ariel was one of these. Nachman stresses that the ’67 line is not a border, it is a cease-fire line. He said he is not an occupier.

I found it very interesting when the mayor told us about his not only fine with Arabs staying in the Palestinian territories. He said he is responsible for Palestinians here having water, electricity, and roads. He says he is currently employing Arab Muslims as high position in his city municipality. He also spoke of an industrial plant that he had built in which 2,000 Palestinians are employed.

In Talking about peace, he criticized Peace Now hasn’t done anything productive except be against things. He said he has been constructive in creating peace. I feel this fits in with my idea that with economic security comes less radicalism. Nachman doesn’t believe that the “land for peace” idea brings peace, rather it brings war. He thinks Gaza should be annexed to Egypt and Palestinians there can go south to work rather than into Israel. A unique point he had was that the 2 state solution that is being negotiated in Annapolis is not a 2 state solution but rather a 3 state solution: Israel, Jordan Valley, and Palestine.

This place is definitely different from common ideas of a settlement, it is pretty big and very permanent and well developed. This meeting challenged my conclusions of settlements that I developed yesterday. Just when you think you have come to a conclusion…


WED DAY 9 Visiting Palestinian city Qalqilyah with Captain Shadi Yassin Druze IDF captain who was also in charge of all Israeli operations in Gaza. In Israel, army service is obligatory for Jewish men and women. Muslims rarely serve but Druze sometimes volunteer. Qalqilyah is a Palestinian city that is controlled by Hamas so in order to stop potential suicide bombings, which where said to be coming from Qalqilyah, the IDF built an illegal fence around the city, closing it off illegally. The IDF allows people to pass in and out of the city at 3 periods of the day for one hour intervals. At 6am-7am, 12pm-1pm, and 5pm- 6pm, the gate is open and those with permits can go out to farm their land which is outside the fence. They are not supposed to go into the city to work. Captain Shadi said that Israel is trying to help keep the economy there stable so that the people there can live and not become so poor that they have nothing to live for and resort to terrorist groups. Therefore, the IDF also allows people to come into the city on Fridays and Saturdays to shop in the village market. Shadi talked about how the fence not being a solution to the problem but helping stabilize the situation so that the two sides can work out their issues. I am trying to understand what it is like for the Israeli’s to fear terrorist attacks all the time but I can’t my thoughts are taken over with sadness for the people in Qalqilyah, and all of Palestine who are a non-violent majority and want peace with Israel. These people are being punished for the actions of a few sick people and as much as the IDF is trying to do to ameliorate the living situation of the citizens of Qalqilyah, I feel that their control over the city only increases the hatred of the Palestinians and pushes them into the arms of groups like Hamas. The IDF solider says that those non-violent people understand why this is being done but I don’t think they accept it at all. Putting myself in their shoes, I know Americans would fight to the death if some other nation were to imprison us like that. I use the word imprison intentionally bc the city of Qalqilyah is just that, a large prison.

Aida Refugee Camp

The refugee issue is a big and complicated issues in the overall conflict. I will try to keep my facts straight in all this but it is my understanding that just after the extablishment


Today we went to the holy city of Bethlehem. This region has 65%-85% unemployment. This region largely relies on tourism but obviously not many people travel to Palestine these days. I didn’t feel in danger at all. We went to the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People, an NGO in Palestine working for Peace. We met with it’s founder, Mazih Qumsiyeh. He talked about his support of a one state solution arguing that a two state is unrealistic bc it would be nearly impossible to divide the capital. He also talked about how American media avoids reporting about Palestine to the Americans. He used an example of 2 editions of Time Magazine from the same month. One was printed in Europe and one in the US. All the stories were the same except for one called Plight of the Palestinians which was presented as a cover story in the European edition and was replaced by an article about cooking in the US edition.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


At the Begin Center, we met with Gavriel Cohen and Ysrael Medad, two Zionist, settlers. They talked about how Israel is not occupying Palestinian land and think that can be full opportunities and rights to Arabs in “their” land. They talked about the idea of Israel as an apartheid state. I have heard this word used often by both Israeli’s and Palestinians. It is interesting how words can really have such heavy meanings in this conflict. Ysrael is originally from South Africa and states that this is nothing like it. He cited the fact that there are 11 Arab Knesset members, arab judges and that Arab Israeli citizens do have rights. They argue that where they live is not a settlement though this is a point that both Israeli’s and Palestinians go back and forth about. Some say that they are illegal under international law but Zionists believe that the Bible/Torah is historical truth that it is the land of the Jews. I have some difficulty with this because I personally do not take the bible as historical fact but rather an interpretation written by imperfect human beings and open to personal interpretation. Yisrael said that the “green line” is a cease-fire line and temporary rather than a border. He stressed that “we” cannot continuously sub-divide a land that is sub-divided. He also said that there is no 2 state solution but a 4 state solution meaning that the land is actual not only 2 regions but Israel, Fatah-istan, Hamas-istan, and Gaza-Jordania. This was an interesting point that I had never heard before.


We had dinner in Jerusalem with Noa Epstein who is an activist for an Israeli NGO called Peace Now. This organization advocates for Israeli peace with its neighbors. Just before the war between Israel and Lebanon, Peace Now organized something like 400,000 people who protested against the war. They are Zionists- they believe in Israeli’s right to exist. Now they are supporting a 2 state solution bc they feel that with a one state solution there will be no Israeli state. This is bc the Arab population in Israel is sure to surpass the Israeli population in Israel and the Israeli government ruling party is chosen by a majority population, meaning the Arabs will control the state. Peace Now also believes that the Israeli settlements are a huge detriment to peace and are against the expansion of them, which I agree. If a two state solution is implemented than some kind of land swap can be negotiated if Israel wants to keep some of their settlements. U gad a great conversation with Noa, but the thing I really took with me is something he said before he left us. He reminded us that though the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a huge problem and affects many, it is by no means the most pressing or most horrible conflict going on in the world today. He cited Darfur as an example. I think that is an important point to keep in perspective.


We met with the Mayor of Gush Etzioin, another settlement in the West Bank. Like the others, the mayor believed that this land was meant for Jews. He spoke of not being afraid of the Arabs, and does not hate them; he said he understood their mentality and respected them. He opposed the fence bc he believed it was a detriment to Israeli safety by increasing hatred among Arabs. I agree with this point very much. I feel that the more Israel tightens its choke hold on the Palestinians, groups like Hamas will be able to say, “see what the Jews are doing to you?” and sway them to that side. He said those who say the wall has decreased suicide bombing by 90% are mislead, the reason is due to better military operations by the IDF. He said that Israeli-Arabs have made the most recent attacks, not Palestinian Arabs.
The Mayor also stated that he believed that if Palestine was created it would be Islamic bc there was no proof in the world that Muslims could be democratic. He also mentioned that they were primitive and violent. He said there was no point in talking to Hamas bc they want to distroy Jews therefore he will fight them. One student said he/she disagreed and they mayor called him “sick” for believing otherwise. His comments offended many students and an argument broke out between the speaker and several students. As a group we agreed that we would not debate our speakers. That we are there to hear them, no matter what they say and talk about it, debate about it with each other at the end of each day. This system worked out very well. We asked productive and challenged questions and had constructive debates/discussions each nite with eachother. We had heard controversial speakers before and had always taken what was said in a professional manner. I don’t know what happened this time, maybe it was the heat, or the long day of meetings, but we all agreed that we broke down. We agreed it was disrespectful to the mayor and that it should not happen again. I am only mentioning this to show how difficult it is to hear some of these speakers. Of coarse some speakers go over well with some and not others bc we are a group of very different opinions, but emotions are high here for sure.


We went to a very interesting city called Hebron which is located in the West Bank. The situation there is very complicated and confusing. From what I understand, the city of Hebron is divided into two sections, H1 and H2. We walked through H1 and saw a very typical, busy Palestinian city. Arabs and Muslims walking down busy streets along market sides. Because we are here during Ramedan, most people were fasting so the few people were purchasing the locally grown vegitables, the grapes that are famous to the city, or the fresh baked breads and sweets that lined the streets. Out of respect to the community, we were careful not to walk around with a sandwich in our hand, or guzzling a cold drink. We reached a point in Hebron in which the city had been abruptly stopped. The Jewish settlement of Gush Etzion ran right into it. The wall dividing the Arab part of the city and the Jewish part was covered with barbed wire and dirt. It was clear that due to this and the IDF control of the city, the economy had been vitually wiped out. We bought items from the Arab market stands largely out of charity as most people there have no other means of income. The shop keepers told us about their plight as we searched their shops for something worth purchasing, feeling guilty about bartering with them over the price, as is common place in the region. As we over paid for cheap, items, we justified it as charity. In the narrow market streets we looked up to see fencing above us, separating the battered shops from the modern, well-kept looking apartments above. When we inquired about this, our Arab guide told us that the apartments belonged to the Jews in the city and that this fence was put in by the Arabs bc the Jewish residents above would throw trash, glass, dirty water and bleach down onto their Arab neighbors. You could see the waste, and pieces of glass that had caught in the net-like fence, weighing it down in a pile. Beyond the fence you could see an Israeli IDF solider keeping watch on the residence below. The Arabs said that these soldiers simply laughed when these things happened even when they asked for help. Just then two foreigners came up to us in uniforms and inquired about our being in this area that is rarely visited by tourists these days. They were from a Belgium NGO, called TIPH, that was there to simply observe the situation there and report their observations to high officials in Israel and Palestinian government. We asked what they saw and they admitted to seeing harassment from one side in the mornings and evenings. They were hesitant to elaborate but said they were sure we knew what they meant.

When crossing over to H2 we were stopped at metal detectors and the IDF soldiers with their machine guns watched us walk through. Just past this gate was a mosque that contained Abraham’s Tomb, which is an extremely holy spot to both Jews and Muslims. The IDF had taken over the Masque after there was a massacre there in which a radical Jew shot many Arabs praying in the masque. For the Muslims to pray at the there, they had to walk through additional metal detectors and give their IDs to the soldiers. It seemed unfair to make them do this but one student brought up the point that maybe the security was there to protect the Muslim worshipers. Who know? We continued further into H2 to meet with Noam a Rep. for the Jewish community of Hebron. He took us to the Jewish quarter which was pretty small and empty. The shops on this side had all been closed down by the IDF bc of terrorist attacks on the Jews there. I heard that the soldiers stationed there resented the settlers bc according to law their being there was illegal and the soldiers had to protect them even though they broke the law. Noam talked of the massacre there many generations ago in which they Jews there were raped and murdered. It was horrible to see the graphic photos of the victims. The Jews of Hebron left after the massacre and cam back recently to start the settlement. This is why they believed they had a right to be there. I keep thinking that if they keep playing this game of who did what to whom and who was here first, this conflict will never be solved.

For lunch we met with Rabbi Menachem Froman a really interesting rabbi who lived in a settlement in the settlement Tekoa, in the West Bank. He also felt he had a right to be there but he felt it necessary to make peace with the Palestinians. He even talked with Hamas often and believed in working with them for peace which many Zionists strongly disagree with bc they say Hamas’ doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exists. He also mentioned that he prayed that Obama wins the election. He talked about Obama’s visit to the Wailing Wall. He put a prayer in the wall as tradition, and someone grabbed it and leaked it to the press. Obama had written that he hoped he forget his pride long enough to make an impact in solving this conflict. Oh how my love affair with Obama continues!

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Why do I always get sick on my trips or vacations. I have lost my voice. This sux. bla.


I wanted to clarify that I am sharing with you what I am hearing here and throwing in my thoughts. Not all that is said is my belief. The important thing is what the Israelis and the Palestinians belief whether it is based on fact or not. That is the only way to understand what is going on here and find a plausible solution.

For my followers

Sorry that I am a little behind on the blog and some of the entries are just notes... we have such a packed schedule and I caught a nice little cold so when we get back to our hostel after a full day of traveling and interviews and intellectual stimulation I am so exhausted. I will fill in the blanks of the days but I just wanted to take a moment to share some over all thoughts. As much as I tried to stay neutral in this conflict, I'll admit that I was not. As I learned more about the conflict before this trip I found my self increasingly pro-Palestine. I was really against- not the Jewish people but the State of Israel and frankly the International community for really screwing all this up with the Balfour Declaration. I knew, though, that this conflict was extremely complication, far beyond my current understanding, which is why I was hesitant to make a bold stand on any one position.

It has been a week now of interviews with people of different positions and backgrounds and I have learned so much. though my position hasnt been switched to a pro-israel point of view, I very much see why the Israeli's felt the need to do what they did.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Such a lovely day today, we went to this place called En Gedi which was a beautiful national park in Israel in which there is wild life and waterfalls, and lovely hikes.
We climbed so rocks and came to a waterfall and pool. We swam in the water which was nice and refreshing since it was so hot in that desert. We continued the hike to look at the wildlife and the views. When then went to the dead sea and floated in the warm, salty water. It was a strange phenomenon to float so buoyantly in the water. The high contents of salt kept you at its surface. Apparently you had to be careful not to get it in your eyes or it would burn, if you swallowed it you would vomit and if you inhaled it into your lungs you could die. And let me just remind you about how salt feels on cuts and wounds.. well apparently shaving is like leaving tiny open cuts on your skin. Nonetheless, we had a great time. We found a mud puddle and smeared the nutritious minerals all over our faces and bodies. It was like a free spa and our skin felt so nice and soft afterwards. We also stopped at a Bedouin village that day to ride camels. Such a tourist thing, but “when in Rome”. After a long week of meetings and such it was a welcomed day off.

Friday, September 5, 2008


We had Shabbat dinner at the house of a young religious couple in the old city. We sat on the roof top of their building just before sunset to learn about Shabbat. Friday is a holy day for the Jews. In Israel, there are 6 day work weeks, and a crazy conflict. So, on this day, Jews all over the world forget about yesterday, tomorrow and the world around them and focus on friends and family, and the moment at present. They aren’t sad or angry. They reflect on being themselves. It is a wonderful concept that is important in this crazy world. They don’t drive, they don’t work, they even don’t use electricity. Which made me wonder how she cooked this wonderful meal and served it to us warm. The evening started with traditional Jewish hymns and prayers. Our hosts sang one particular song over and over again until we joined in and clapped. Then when 3 stars were in the sky, Shabbat had begun. The host blessed the bread and wine and shared it with us. Then courses and courses of food came out, fish, meat, salads. It was delicious and way too much food. Our host talked about the need to be practical about the conflict, but on Shabbat, it was the place to be idealistic. He talked about God putting each of us on this earth to do something for the world. It spoke to me so much.

East Jerusalem

We met with someone from the Israeli government today which was a unique opportunity. Yonatan Adiri who is a senior advisor to Shimon Peres took us around Jerusalem to explain how the city would be divided in a two state solution. This is a very complicated issue in the two state solution bc so many religions call it the center of their faith. West Jerusalem is mostly Palestinian and is by some definitions, Palestinian land and was split during the Oslo agreements. It was interesting to see a very pragmatic and detailed explanation to how the Israeli government felt this would be plausible.

We also met with Moty Cristal who is the Chief Negotiator for Israeli premier-ministers (Olmert) office. Pretty amazing to meet with him too. He talked about how he could come up here and show us picture of terrorist victims and convince us of his “facts.” But in the Mid-East, there is no reality or facts, only perceived reality and each person’s own facts. I was afraid of that I was beginning to feel increasingly more sympathetic to the Palestinians. This fact helped me to come back a little. To remember that I am not here to find the truth or find out who is wrong or right but to find out why each side feels the way that they do. Moty felt that the clock was ticking against the Jewish/ Democratic State.

Jonathan Adiri

Arab Jew chief negotiator with the red cross.
Israel is currently experiencing the greatest growth trend in the past 5 years.
Orthodox population 8%.
30% growth is high tech done by 5% of population. So if people invest in tech in India or China instead- the economy could collapse.
Israeli political system.
Knesset- parliament- 120 members
1948-1977 two big party’s- system worked well.
Today, Kadima is the largest party.
Says anyone, even Palestinians could petition the fairness of the fence and bc of international court ruling they spent a lot of money to rebuild it more “fairly”.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


We met with our Palestinian speakers of the day and their family’s for Iftar. Iftar is the meal that breaks the fast for Muslims observing Ramadan. Ramadan is for a month every year in which Muslims practice charity. They fast to remember those who are starving. This means that at 4:50am they start fasting. 3 of our religious Muslim students would wake up at 4:30 every morning to have breakfast and go to the Al-Aqsa mosque to pray, which is the 2nd most important site in their religion, second only to Mecca. This mosque is where their Prophet Mohammed is said to have risen to heaven. They pray 5 times a day. And at dusk, they break their fast, often with dates, or something sweet, as the prophet did, and then they may eat. This evening meal is called Iftar. If a Muslim does not fast, he may feed a hungry person instead. Also, Muslims must give 1/3 of whatever money they have to charity during that month and live particularly holy- do not lie or cheat, etc. I have so much respect for the Muslim students on our trip who wake up so early every morning to eat and pray, don’t eat- or drink (even water!), or smoke or chew gum, every day while we run from meeting to meeting in the desert sun. It was an honor to break fast with them. Some of our guests had joined us from Aida refugee camp, which we visited after dinner. The camp was such an experience. These people had left their homes during the first Intifada (meaning disaster) in 1948. They expected to only be away from their homes for a couple of days. 60 years later they still clung to the keys of their houses, horrified that some strange Israeli was living in the house that their family had lived in for generations. Often Israeli’s say that bc the Aras attached the Jews and lost, that they didn’t deserve it back. So they remained in this refuge camp, literally blocks away from their former homes.

The camp was tiny, 1 kilometer by 1 kilometer (1.6 mi) and held 5,000 residents. It was pushed right up against the wall, which was covered with graffiti that expressed the feelings of the Palestinians there. Pictures of the US Statue of Liberty as a skeleton, statements of anger, distress and frustration, quotes from Nelson Mandela and other revolutionaries and UN resolutions decorated the tall grey wall. Children followed us up the street through the city. Screaming and running after us, posing for pictures. One Palestinian girl, who didn’t speak English, ran around begging the women of our group to talk pictures with her. She hugged my legs and grinned. I felt like in a movie- I couldn’t even right moments like this. Young boys took immediately to Ali, one of our group who spoke Arabic. The boys eagerly told him their names and inquired about us. Teenage boys from the camp took us to an old building that housed families; we climbed, somewhat literally, to the roof to see over the wall to an empty plot of land just over the wall. They explained how they used to play soccer there but no longer could. I felt like in a movie and was so glad to be there at that moment, to see these peoples story and felt blessed to be able to take that with me.

Father of a Martyr

We met the father and young sister of a Palestinian martyr. On Saturday, October, 20, 2001 a 17 year old Palestinian teenager was walking to church after school in Bethlehem. He and his family had lived there for generations. Johnny was a deacon in the Greek Orthodox church in Bethlehem and very active in his community. According to witnesses and news reports, an Israeli sniper shot Johnny, killing him in front of the church. There was no reason given for the shooting. Within two hours, the Pope announced publicly that violence had reached Manger Square, Bethlahem. The father talked of how this had affected the family drastically. Johnny's mother has still never been the same and couldn't even bare to talk about it. They said that she spent so much time at the semitary after his death they had to forbid her to go, hoping she could somehow let go. Hoping for some kind of jsutification or response from the Israeli government about this injustice, none came. Days after the events, Johnnys father, who had been working in Jeruselum, was told he would no longer recieve permits to Jeruseluem. No reason was given though he suspects it is to quiet him about the events. Now his father has no job, and no means to fead his family. I asked how he feed his family and he replied that his extended family helped him.

Thoughts from Bethlahem

Check points- more than 400 check points in the West Bank,

Half of the 80% of Jews are of Arab descent.

65%-85% unemployment in the West Bank, the region largely relies on tourism but obviously that industry has been hit hard due to the check points and stigmas about the region. There are many people that cant find work there and they and special permits to enter and work in Jerusalem which are given out very sparingly. Bethlehem has been described as the biggest prison on earth with some of the people there not allowed to leave at all. I felt completely safe there. We talked to Palestinians there and they talked about how Americans aren’t informed about what is going on in Palestine. I find this to be true, why is why I am here.

“The Wall”: The dividing barrier that Israel built to separate the Palestinian regions from the Israeli regions intended to diminish suicide bombings. This barrier is about 15% actually brick wall and the rest is actually a large fence or layers of fences with security towers, cameras and barbed wire. Israelis say that the fence has a reduced the number of terrorists attacks by 90%. One Palestinian asked if the wall is actually about security then why would it run through Palestinian villages, dividing them in two. Why is one side of the village safe and the other not. Palestinians see the wall as an “apartheid” wall (apartheid as in segregation) to cause such strife in the lives of Palestinians that they leave the country. This is what is thought of the check points as well since check points aren’t just between Israeli city’s and Palestinian cities but between neighboring Palestinian city’s. They also argue that the wall cuts into Palestinian land as way of Israel slowly pushing the Palestinians back. There is also the opinion that the wall is illegal.

These Palestinians were optimistic about a solution, thought they differed on whether it should be a 2 state or one state solution.

DAY 3: September 4, 2008: PALESTINE: CHECK POINTS

Because of Ramadan, the West Bank sets back its time an hour from Israeli time.
We went to Bethlehem today with is part of the Palestinian territory, the West Bank. We were on a tour bus to get there and bc we all had our cameras out like tourists the guards at the check point didn’t make us get off the bus or search the bus. They let us go through surprisingly easily. Two of our group members are Israeli and there is a Israeli law that Israeli citizens cannot enter the Palestinian territories so these two couldn’t come with us which is really sad. This law is really a problem bc it keeps Israelis and Palestinians from ever meeting. I think the two meeting is important so that they can see a human face behind their image of the cruel, evil enemy. On our way out of the West Bank the guard, upon hearing we were Americans, stepped onto the bus, asked us to hold up our passports, took one look, and let us go. Didn’t seem very secure, but then again we aren’t Palestinian.

Parents Circle

Yizhak Frankenthal came to talk to us from the Parents Circle an NGO that he founded for bereaved parents. Frankenthal lost his 19 year old son, Arik, who was killed by Hamas in 1994. He is a religious Orthodox Jew. He realized that he lost his son because there was no peace in Israel. Once he started talking about peace and reconciliation he lost his friends.
Frankinthal works for peace now and has a lot of influence. He meets often with Arafat and Hamas, even though they killed his son. He believes that this is a political, not religious conflict.
He tries to explain to the Jewish government that the occupation is detrimental.
He believes Israel is for Jews but Palestinians are not second class citizens. He says Jews want peace but there is no partner. Though what I hear from Palestinians, they want peace too.
He compared what the US did to the Indians, the Jews did to Palestinians. I heard this comparison before with a right wing Israeli student who also compared the situation to what America did to Mexico. This student asked us to think about what we would do if the Mexicans asked for their land back. I thought this was an interesting comparison.
When asked what Muslim-Americans or Jewish- Americans can do to help solve the conflict he replied, “get out of the way.” This reminds me about an NPR interview I heard with a Palestinian woman who, when asked a similar question replied, “don’t choose a side.” I promised myself to try to remember this throughout this trip.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

09/03/07 WED DAY 2

We visited Hebrew University today. We went to the Gilo Center to talk to Palestinian and Jewish students there about their life and the conflict. They Gilo Center had lots of really amazing projects to help integrate Muslim, Jewish and Bedouin children in Jerusalem. They take classes together and learn about each other and civic participation in Israel. The university students talked about their views. They came from various backgrounds and it was great to see them all talking side by side though they definitley had different opinions.

The Lutheran hostel that we are staying in is beautiful and strategically placed in the middle of the four quarters of the Old City of Jerusleum- the Jewish quarter, the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Muslim quarter. We also can see the temple mount- the Dome of the Rock from our patio.

Today we toured the city, seeing so many amazing sites. We went to the Western Wall aka the Wailing Wall. We prayed at the wall and wrote prayers or wishes on pieces of paper and stuck them in the cracks of the wall, which is tradition. Then we walked backwards away from the wall as to not turn our back on what we just experienced. It was very symbolic. As usual there was a male section and a female section and many of the females were praying up against the wall. Some were crying and some had were reading the Torah. There were hundreds of crumpled papers stuffed into the cracks.

We couldnt go to Al-Aqsa mosque, temple mount because it is Ramadan and masses of people of praying. But in the evening I went with some Muslim travel friends to catch a glimps of these amazing masqs. I had to dress in the traditional Muslim wear- scarf and all and pretend to be Muslim. It was strange bc someone seemed to suspect my being an outsider so I had to follow the motions of my friend and pray. It was a very neat experience and the Dome of the Rock is so beautiful.

We also went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is said to have been crusified. This was beautiful as well. So many very religous sites. This is such a great city.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Tel Aviv Guron Airport is so nice. Looks very much like a western airport. People dress about the same as Americans except for the obviously Orthodox Jews. We step outside and immediately feel the humidity and I think about how if it is going to be when the sun is up. My hair is going to be so frizzy this trip.
We are on our travel bus going to Jerusalem to shower at the Austrian Hostel we are staying at and then go to dinner. I still cant believe I am here!
Doesn’t even look like a foreign country. Until the old city but you walk out of the old city and you feel like you are in South Coast Plaza, in Orange County, Ca with Zara stores and Mac stores all high fashion and high prices.

I made it!

Safe and sound in Israel. It's just past 6pm here. We are 10 hours ahead of the west coast. I wont have much phone access but hopefully I can get internet often. I am so excited to be here and jet lagged and confused on the time. haha. anyway, hit you up soon.