Finding Another Side to the Story and Taking Action, Delegate turned trip leader Mark Braverman's journey
Eyewitness Palestine delegates are often told, “This trip will change your life.” For Mark Braverman, that’s an understatement. His first delegation in 2006 led him, a Jewish psychologist, to a new career advocating for Palestinian justice, mainly among Christians.
Mark was brought up in a close-knit Philadelphia Jewish community. Zionism was an integral part of his life. After college he spent a year on a kibbutz. “Arabs” were regarded as vanquished enemies, security threats. But Mark was coming to question the Zionist narrative. “The feeling was growing in me for years that there was another side to the story.…I had to find the rest of the picture.” So he joined an Eyewitness Palestine delegation (known then as "Interfaith Peace-Builders). Going to East Jerusalem and the West Bank “tore me apart. I felt enormous attraction to the Palestinians and was enraged, horrified at what the state of Isarel was doing.” Mark experienced an identity crisis, questioning his Judaism. Study and introspection led him to conclude that his activism exemplified Jewish values.
The next year he co-led another Eyewitness Palestine delegation. Since then, his advocacy has been nonstop. He has written two books and many more sermons and articles. He helped found Friends of Tent of Nations North America, the nonprofit that supports the Tent of Nations project at the Nassar family’s farm near Bethlehem, an important destination for many delegations. Currently Mark is program director of Kairos USA, a church-based movement in solidarity with Palestinians.
When Mark returned from that first delegation, “I wanted to tell the story to my Jewish community. The [Zionist] dream was becoming a nightmare. [Israel] was in big trouble; if we don’t do something to change it, it’s done for.” But his message was not welcomed. Many Jews “couldn’t accept the Palestinian story because they’re still preoccupied with their own victimhood” and the idea of Israel as their only refuge from persecution.
“The feeling was growing in me for years that there was another side to the story. . . I had to find the rest of the picture."
– Mark, on what led him to his first delegation with Eyewitness Palestine
So Mark took his message to Christians. He had been profoundly moved by reading the work of Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel, an organization of Palestinian Christians committed to liberation theology. Mark immersed himself in Christian theology and studied the Gospels. He sought to reassure guilt-ridden Christians that criticism of Israel was not anti-Semitic. “This is a human rights issue. Don’t be thwarted by being told you are anti-Semitic.”
Eyewitness Palestine, with its focus on meeting the people, was the catalyst. “You see the wall, the discrimination. But what really turned me around was meeting Palestinians. It went straight to my heart, my brain.”
Speaking recently at a Presbyterian church, Mark declared, “That summer changed my life, and I began my work for the liberation of both Palestinian and Jew from the evil of apartheid in our time…. I have not ‘become a Christian.’ I have become a better Jew.”