Tuesday, November 2, 2010

More Miscellany

More images, stories, experiences - reflecting both hope and despair - that make up the strange collage that is this holy land:

A RESURGENT RAMALLAH As we drove with Estephan from Ramallah to Kufor Ni'Ameh, we talked about development in the northern West Bank. Fellow passengers who had seen Ramallah in 2002 remember seeing cars squashed by Israeli tanks lining the streets. A new auditorium at the Friends School in Ramallah, built with money from the Pilgrims of Ibillin and totally destroyed by an Apache Israeli helicopter gunship during the Intifada, had been rebuilt by 2006. A sign next to the auditorium read, "Built with US Aid." Joan Deming, a friend working with the Pilgrims of Ibillin, commented, "It was destroyed with US Aid and rebuilt with US Aid."

Due apparently to a new approach by the Palestinian Authority, there is measurable improvement in the Palestinian society. Corruption is drastically reduced; drivers stop at stop lights and citizens actually queue up. The windows of new buildings are no longer covered with bars; streets are repaved and garbage is collected. Yet when we drove back to Kalandia, we entered an area designated C by the Israelis, where traffic is congested and chaotic, and where the Israelis will not allow repairs to the roads or Palestinian policeman to manage the traffic. As we crept along beside huge semis, Palestinian children ran alongside, marketing their wares. Estephan knew one and asked if he was going to school. Another child persistently banged on the window as he ran backwards with our car. One slip and he would have been under the wheels of the truck that was no more than a couple feet away.

DAILY TRAUMAS Joan Deming is staying in Bethlehem with Usama from the Wi'am Center. Usama's wife reported an incident that had just occurred. Her sister and husband were taking their four children through the Bethlehem checkpoint for a day in Jerusalem when they were detained in a room for two hours with the weapons of Israeli soldiers in full riot gear pointed at them. When released, they were given no explanation for their detention. Beside the trauma of the experience itself, Palestinians have no way to file a formal complaint for this type of mistreatment. And there are few who do not have a similar story. The tragedy is compounded by the fact that few Israelis have any awareness of what is being done in their name. Or if they do, they do not speak of it. And that may be even worse.

A SOURCE OF ENDURING HOPE Ahmad Al'azzeh is the nonviolence program director at the Holy Land Trust. Ahmad grew up a student leader and activist, organizing fellow high school and university students to resist the occupation. In 2003 he met and began working with the famous Peacemaker, Sis Levin from Birmingham, Alabama. As he learned the philosophy of nonviolence from Dr. Levin, he soon realized they were the principles by which he had always acted. He has now trained thousands of children, young people, activists and teachers in living non-violently and becoming Peace Builders.

Ahmed has paid a price for his activism. He was imprisoned for three months for leading this year's Palm Sunday march through Israeli security into Jerusalem. Israel has made it impossible for him to honor recent requests from Poland and the U.S. to travel for speaking engagements.

Asked by one of our group how to respond at home when Jewish Americans explain the wall as needed for security, Ahmed responded, "Security will not bring peace; peace will bring security."

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