Laila Liddy Returns Home on Delegation, Born in Ramallah, Returns Years Later with Eyewitness Palestine
Laila Liddy’s first Eyewitness Palestine (then called Interfaith Peace-Builders) delegation to Palestine/Israel in summer 2007 was a trip home. Laila was born in Ramallah and had family in Jerusalem and Jericho. When she was eight years old, her mother died. Laila and her three siblings moved to Alabama and were raised in an open adoption by family friends. Although Laila stayed in touch with her natural family and traveled to Palestine several times, her Eyewitness Palestine visit was revealing and affirmed her belief that the Palestinian story wasn’t portrayed by the mainstream media.
Before Laila’s 2007 delegation, the first of four Eyewitness Palestine delegations and soon-to-be five that she has joined, Laila had not visited a refugee camp or many other places. “Interfaith Peace-Builders has educated me in a way that I could not be educated any other way,” she said. “Going for yourself and meeting both Palestinians and Israelis who are called to work for a just peace really gives you a view that you’re not going to get unless you experience it first-hand.”
Laila returned to Alabama determined to share the stories of people she’d met. “You come back and you feel like you know, with much more authority, what’s going on,” Laila said. But many friends and acquaintances weren’t open to what she had to say, nor was the local media. “I can’t get my foot in the door on a radio station or talk show.”
Laila found a way to share her knowledge about the Palestinian struggle and, at the same time, support olive growers and oil producers. She ordered Palestinian olive oil and gave bottles to friends for birthdays and holidays, enclosing brochures about farmers and distributors. The olive oil often begins a conversation about Palestine, Laila said. “The whole purpose is to make them curious. It does. The uprooting of the olive trees is symbolic of the whole occupation and the erasing of the culture. The Palestinians are just earning their livelihoods. I think the olive trees are almost synonymous with Palestine.”
Giving olive oil is meaningful for Laila because her family grew olives. Some of her fondest childhood memories revolve around that business.
“Going for yourself and meeting both Palestinians and Israelis who are called to work for a just peace really gives you a view that you’re not going to get unless you experience it first-hand.”
“When I was a child, my grandmother would let me go with my grandfather when he was harvesting olives,” she said.
Now, the olive oil is so popular among her friends that Laila takes requests before ordering and sells oil to her friends at cost. Laila would like to do more to spread the word about the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation, but is pleased with the impact of olive oil gifts and sales. Even a staunch pro-Israeli friend is changing his mind about the Israeli government, she said. “He loved the olive oil. It was something he could relate to.”
Many other Eyewitness Palestine delegates remain active after their delegations as well. To see what others have been up to recently, view our Delegates in Action blog.