Israel’s occupation of Palestine is so much worse than I ever imagined. That is not to say that I did not think that the occupation was a moral and human rights disaster before spending time there on the Just Faith ‘17 Delegation. I was just incapable of picturing the violence and the unpredictable arbitrary decisions Israel makes in order to make the daily life of Palestinians living under the occupation as miserable as possible. I was mentally unprepared for what I saw in Palestine. I don’t think anyone can be.

I’ve been trying to write about my experience since we arrived. It has been a challenge for me to put my thoughts down on paper/a computer screen. I was only able to write after returning to work yesterday, just four days after our delegation traveled to the border with Gaza to witness and pay respect to the Palestinian people there fighting for their lives. Yesterday, while I was on the subway on the way to work, an entire spectrum of emotions washed over me. I felt mournful for the ways that my community, the American Jewish community, has been complicit in upholding the occupation. I felt, and feel, anxiety because of how removed my life is from the urgency of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, dignity, and liberation. I felt anger towards people who know about the occupation and do not act to end it, and towards those that ignore the reality of the occupation. I was also afraid at how easy it could be to compartmentalize my experiences in Palestine, fly back to the US, and just get on with my routines.

Since I got home, I’ve been thinking a lot about Jews. For me, this isn’t anything new. I am a proud Jewish person and spend a lot of time in Jewish communal spaces. I think that the occupation exists in part because of the Jewish community’s historically-justified fear of annihilation. That fear has led the Jewish community to align itself with empire, militarism, and white supremacy. Those tendencies and ideologies have never been safe havens for Jews. We need a movement that will allow Jews to feel safe, that will recognize their fears, and that will show them how much we have to gain by realigning ourselves with our values and with oppressed communities around the world, starting with our Palestinian brothers and sisters. 

Going to Palestine and learning what the occupation is like for those that endure its daily nightmare was a life changing experience. I cannot wait to go back, and I cannot wait to build the movement we will need to end the occupation as soon as possible.

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