What’s it Like Being in Palestine a Second Time?

D67 Delegates Walk past Soldiers in Hebron (D67 Huwaida Arraf).jpg

What’s it like being in Palestine a second time? I still feel anger and disgust seeing and hearing about the egregious mistreatment and injustices to the Palestinian people. But I also have a stronger feeling of sadness on this trip.

We spent 4 days in Al-Khalil (Hebron). Spending time at the Youth Against Settlement Center (YAS). It’s a scrappy little building with a few rooms and hardly any furniture. Since it is small, we spend most of our time outdoors on the patio (“patio” makes it sound fancier than it is). Like nearly every place in Palestine, a land of hills, it has a great view, but I digress.

International youth activists visit YAS so I met Barry, a young man from Scotland, accent and all. Barry saves his money and comes to Hebron as often as he can to volunteer. Since the Israeli government refused to renew the 20+ year mandate of the Temporary International Presence (TIPH) that has unarmed civilians reporting human rights violations, people like Barry volunteer to be present as Palestinian children walk to and from school in the hopes of deterring the Israeli settlers from attacking them.

The YAS center is only about 100 feet from an illegal Israeli settlement so an Israeli soldier stands in the yard all day long in full army gear, including his MR-15 assault rifle, “protecting” the Israeli settlers.

Since there are so many roads in the city that Palestinians cannot use (for Israeli use only) Palestinians do a lot of walking along paths. So walking the path, an Israeli soldier said to Barry: “You’re just like the Nazis, you hate Jews, the whole world hates Jews.” Barry was taken aback, no neighborly talking over this backyard fence.

So in addition to my anger at the unnecessary suffering the Israelis cause with their racist policies, I have a feeling of sadness, pity, and sorrow for the Israelis.

In my own journey to live my life more fully, I have learned that a victim identity is the belief that the past is more powerful than the present. It’s the opposite that is true. So I feel sadness and pity that the Israelis miss the opportunity to get to know their neighbors.

I never would have thought this midwestern girl would fall in love with the Arab people of Palestine. We’ve spent time in family homes, met farmers, artists, child care center workers, grade school teachers, women’s cooperatives organizers, handicapped/disabled therapists, musicians and more. We’ve eaten lunches and dinners with Palestinians in all kinds of settings and I can’t adequately convey the warmth and inclusiveness of these people. And yet Israeli Zionists, in their quest for land? security? revenge? power? miss the present reality of these wonderful people in their midst; instead actively trying to eliminate them from their indigenous land and destroying their culture.

I hope you will spend a few minutes reading about some of the organizations we have been to in the last few days:
Youth Against Settlements
Hebron Womens’ Charitable Society
Aida Refugee Camp
Noor Society for People with Disability Palestinian Child Center
Shu’fat Refugee Camp
Grassroots Al-Quds
Palestinian Art Court