"Nothing Like Being There", 2016 Delegate David Kerr Wrestles with Hope and Hopelessness on Recent Delegation
“I’m feeling torn between feeling hopeless about humanity and history because it keeps repeating itself. Power, land, resources, segregation, racial issues, differences. The flip side is hopeful because at every point of history, there is resistance, uprising and peace-building.”
Those thoughts were shared by Interfaith Peace-Builders delegate David Kerr at group time during the first week of his on-the-ground experience in Palestine/Israel with Eyewitness Palestine's 57th delegation in May 2016.
David’s passion for Palestinian justice began during his art activism while a student at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen, Scotland, where he engaged in messaging in public spaces “It was about interrupting your commute, interrupting your journey,” he explains. Currently, as owner of The Tavern in Omaha, NE, David partners with many non-profits that work on human rights issues.
To his delegation, David brought his camera, artistic and business acumen, legacy of human rights activism, and wry Scottish humor. Through his indomitable spirit, David energized his companions to share regularly on the delegation’s Facebook page, gather socially at various venues, sing “The Bonnie Banks O’ Loch Lomond” around the campfire at Tent of Nations, and reflect deeply on their experiences.
Before traveling to Palestine/Israel, David thought he had a grasp of the situation. “It turns out that there is nothing like being there and realizing that you are actually clueless, and will likely never understand what it’s like to live in that life,” he says.
“They were fearless, they were courageous, they have a hunger for life that's incredible."
-- David, on meeting children in Nabi Saleh
David had mixed feelings after spending the night with families in Nabi Saleh, a small Palestinian village whose residents have resisted the establishment of an illegal Israeli settlement on their land since 1977. In 2009, the villagers began weekly nonviolent protests against Israeli annexation of their fresh water springs and theft of additional land.
On a daily basis, Nabi Saleh families face the prospect of night raids by Israeli soldiers who arrest and remove children from their families. Their lives are confined by roadblocks, checkpoints, water scarcity, and their nonviolent resistance is met by tear gas and bullets fired by Israeli Defense Forces.
“I understand that IFPB (now Eyewitness Palestine and any other delegations have safety and liability issues to take into consideration,” David says. “But I almost feel that if you want to be here, you shouldn’t have the privilege of being in a safety bubble. We should almost have to smell the tear gas and feel the tension because that’s the reality of their daily lives. I feel privileged to witness it and feel safe, and I almost feel guilty for that.”
The children of the village inspired and captivated David. “I had no expectations of speaking to children at all,” he observes. “It was mind-blowing to hear a generation growing up right now. Those kids were adults way before their time. They were fearless, they were courageous, they have a hunger for life that is incredible.”