Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday October 19

This morning everyone but myself and another lady from the Netherlands left for home. We brought the bus back to Jerusalem and Heather picked us up at the bus station in West Jerusalem. Henrietta from the Netherlands is Mennonite and wanted to speak with Heather & Ryan about the work they are doing here in Palestine. She stayed for about an hour then left for another appointment before returning to Tel Aviv & then home.

The experience with CPT these two weeks is one I would not trade for the world. It has been life changing & I pray I will be obedient as God ask me to tell the Palestinians story to anyone who will listen. We as Christians can no longer be silent about the abuse of other human beings whether they are Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Israeli. If anyone is interested in hearing more details of my journey I will be willing to share it with individuals or groups. My email is

I will be writing more about my additional time here in Palestine and the people I met who continue to change my life.
Sunday October 18

Our last day with the group was spent in Tel Aviv. We took a bus type taxi to Tel Aviv which normally takes about 45 minutes from Jerusalem but 2 ½ hours later after being stuck in road construction and a taxi with no air conditioning in temps of 95 degrees and high humidity we arrived at our hostel. We dropped our bags at the hostel then went for a presentation by Yesh Din, an Israeli group of attorneys and volunteers who work within the Israeli laws for prosecution of Israeli’s who violate Palestinians human rights. Yesh Din is Hebrew for “there is law”. They monitor the check points and other human rights. They are a relatively new organization but doing a great service for the Palestinian people. They are having some real successes and letting Israelis know that are going to be held accountable for their actions. Up until recently the settlers and soldiers thought they could do whatever they wanted and would not be investigated. The government provides the settlers with guns for “protection”. The action of the settlers is organized to provoke the villagers to violence then the settlers will have cause for their actions but the Palestinians are reacting in nonviolence and within the law. Yesh Din works throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They first started with the settler violations, then moved to the military, boarder police and now soldier violence. Palestinians have limited access to justice. The police stations are usually located inside the settlements so it is very difficult for them to file a complaint. Yesh Din does not make the decision to file a complaint, they just facilitate the action. Many times the Palestinians are afraid to file a suit because they do not trust the Israelis. They will accompany them to the police station and assist in filing a charge. Many times the Palestinians, when going on their own, will be intimidated, the report gets “lost” or an investigation is not completed. Yesh Din follows a claim through to the end and to as high a court as is necessary. They work with land confiscation by the settlers and government. The OFRA settlement is the capital settlement with most of the settlement leaders living there. The land was owned with documentation by a Palestinian family but the settlers and military came in, cleared the land and built 9 homes to start. According to Israel, the land all belongs to them. Israel knows the settlements are illegal but they continue to issue home demolition orders to provide land for settlement expansion. Enforcement of Israel Law would halt the settlement expansions and destroy many existing settlements, so they drag out the cases in hopes the land owners will give up and leave. According to the Israeli law, if a land owner has documentation of ownership they are not permitted to take the land, but the government does not adhere to its own laws. Yesh Din said, “If Israel followed its own laws there would be no occupation.” Settler harassment has decreased some due to the law suits filed by Yesh Din.

Basic human rights and private land ownership that we experience in Western Nations does not exist for the Palestinian. Israel uses the banner of terrorism to deceive the world. They feel if they disrupt the normal life of villages this will control terrorism. Intimidation of the Palestinian citizen is terrorism!

The reaction to the Goldstone report shows that pressure is working. The Israeli reaction shows they know their actions can not continue as they are.

After this we walked quickly 13 blocks in the heat & humidity to our next meeting which we found out was postponed until later that evening. We went out to the beach 1 block from our hostel & had ice cream. It was so refreshing and quieted the abdominal sounds since we did not have any lunch.

That evening over dinner we listened to Ruth from New Profile. This group supports Israeli youth who do not want to enter the army after high school graduation due to their convictions that what their government is doing is very wrong. Three years service is required for males and two years for females. Many young people are even serving their years in prison rather than serving the army under the occupation. New Profile helps young men and women get deferments for legitimate reasons or get approval for alternative services. They even work with career service men who have also decided they can not continue to serve their country with the occupation. They are doing a remarkable service for the Israeli youth.
Saturday October 17

I had the devotions again this morning for the group and talked about how we live our lives when we think no one is watching. Do we remain faithful to the Lord at all times or just when others are watching us? We had free time until 2:15 when the group had a tour of the local Holy sites. Since I had seen all of them in 2008 and would be seeing them with Greg the next week I had Heather pick me up at Damascus Gate and went to their place for the day. I washed my stinky clothes and took different ones along for the last 2 days. I returned to the group at 7:00 pm for dinner at the Jerusalem Hotel.
Friday, October 16

This morning we toured Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum in West Jerusalem. I had been at the museum when I was here in 2008. I have also been through the one in Washington, D.C. On the first visit there I became very angry because, yes, it was terrible and horrific what was done to the Jews during the Halo cost, but they are now the perpetrators of the same atrocities to the Palestinians and they can not or will not admit it. This time I tried to not become angry but looked at the many statements within the museum that “Palestinian” could be inserted for “Jewish” and it would be a true statement. The Palestinians are paying the price for the Holocaust. It was very difficult to see the pictures and listen to the injustices done to the Jews while the world sat in silence and did nothing. Today we are doing the same with the Palestinians. When I came out of the museum and was standing there to take a picture, I heard a Jewish woman talking to another couple about the view you see when exiting. She told them the museum was placed there so they could see the Jordanian boundaries on the horizon to remind them that the Arabs are their enemies. It reminds them of the 1967 war when they won the land for Israel and that today it is all theirs. There is a forest just below the deck when exiting that was planted to cover the remains of a Palestinian village taken by the Israelis. I visited it a third time when Greg came. That time I took my notebook and wrote down the statements that I saw and read on the second visit..

We left Yad Vashem and met Nora Carmi who works with Sabeel, for a tour of Lifta, a village where people were forced to leave or be murdered during 1947. Sabeel is an organization that works with ministry to youth, women, pastors and community within the occupation. Micah 6:8 talks about justice but it can only be accomplished with compassion. This is their focus as they work with many Israeli Human Rights Groups for justice and peace. Nora told us that the Tramline being built by is illegal according to the Oslo Accords because an occupier of land has no right to make changes or move their people into the land. Israel is building a tramline (high speed train line) within Jerusalem and West Bank areas. However, it is thought Palestinians will not be permitted to use it for a number of reasons. One of the builders of the Tramline backed out because many countries told them they would cancel contracts with the company if they continued this construction project. Sad to say, USA was not one of them. We are helping to fund it which will further divide the Palestinian people making transportation more difficult for them.
Thursday, October 15

This morning we visited a presentation by ARIJ, Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem.
This group monitors ground work expansion of the Israeli illegal settlements. According to the Oslo Accord Israel and the West Bank is divided into three areas. Area A, 18%, is under complete Palestinian control. Area B, 19%, the Palestinians control the military and Israel is supposed to supply the infrastructure, Area C, 60 % is under complete Israeli control. This would be adequate if Israel supplied the infrastructure in Area B but they ignore this part of the ruling. A settlement starts with 50 caravans which look like our construction trailers. Then the infrastructure is completed with homes built later. In 2008-2009 there were 963 new buildings and 468 new caravans built within the existing illegal settlements. These were needed for “natural growth” but the Palestinians are not permitted the same privilege. This year alone there was 755,000 square meters expanded in 107 illegal settlements within the West Bank. From April to October of this year the Israelis population has increased by 73% in the occupied East Jerusalem which is to be Palestinian land but only by 12% in West Jerusalem that is Israeli land. In 2001 Israel agreed to dismantle 78 outposts in Palestinian land but instead they established 98 new ones. Outposts are usually smaller settlement blocks that are near an existing settlement, with a plan to connect both areas in the future. Both the settlements and the outpost are placed in strategic areas to squeeze out a village and confiscate more land. This year there have been 12 new outpost erected. In April 2008 Israel agreed to evacuate 20 outposts but asked that the existing settlement homes be made legal. The Palestinians denied this request as they would have not gained anything since the expansion of the settlements would continue. Israel asked the Palestinians to agree to the expansion in Gilo settlement in the Gilo area just outside the Old City and in return they would grant some building permits and change the separation wall line. Palestine denied this request because when the wall is completed they would still be in a ghetto type area with only one entrance.

Prior to1994 the Gaza strip was 134 sq km with 37% agricultural land. Israel then took 8% as a security buffer zone and in 2005 this was increased to 17% and in 2008-2009 29% of their agricultural land was destroyed. Israel is now annexing this agricultural land. Prior to the 2008-2009 invasion the incoming products to Gaza were very limited and since the invasion Israel s boarder control is not permitting any produce, building materials and many other life sustaining products to enter. Why would these people still be angry? Israel is offering the Palestinians a mediocre existence that is not viable or sustainable. In the fertile Jordan Valley 38 square km of land has been confiscated for agricultural settlements. Total land confiscation in the West Bank & East Jerusalem just since 2000 is 40,532 acres.

Our next stop was one of my favorite visits of the two weeks, The Tent of Nations. This is land outside of Bethlehem that is wanted by the Israeli government to expand five settlements that surround the Bishara land. The settlers have harassed them by uprooting 400 olive trees, blocked access to the land by placing large concrete boulders on the road, constantly watching all their activities and notifying the soldiers if they see any building activity going on and generally harassing them. The owners now or digging new caves underground rather than building on top. Their goal is to become self sufficient by the time the separation wall is completed, since at that time they will have no access outside their land. They are surrounded by 5 illegal Israeli settlements and the wall will completely hem them in. The hope of the Israelis is that the Separation Wall will force villagers to leave their land but the Palestinians say “We are preparing for the worse but hoping for the best.” These people say they are not victims but want to move beyond that mentality. This family is truly amazing. I invite you to go to their web site to see an example of Christian Palestinians who are following Christ example. They have a sign at the entrance to their land which states, “We are not your enemy. You may call me your enemy but that is your saying not mine.” The following are excerpts from their web site,

Daher Nassar (Bishara's father) purchased this land in 1924. Since that time, many family members have worked the land by day, and slept in caves by night. The land has produced olives, grapes, and wheat…etc.

In 1991, the Israeli government declared the whole area including the Nassars portion to be an Israeli state property.
The Nassar family has all the original land papers and contributed plenty of work to the land from the time of Ottoman, British, Jordanian, and Israeli governance, which shows that the Israeli government has no right to declare it because obviously the land belongs to the family since 1924 the date of purchase.

The Nassar family challenged Israel's declaration and therefore the case was brought to the court.
In 2001, though the land case was still unresolved, the local council of Israeli settlements decided to open a road through the east side of the Nassar land.
Nevertheless, in 2002 once again the council took a decision to open a road all the way through the Nassar land, this time through the west side. The Nassars were able to stop both road projects through the Israeli court intervention.

In 2005 the case of the land ownership is still under debate in the high court, and the court kept postponing the case. And for more than 13 years now we are still struggling to win the case of the land. Look at Daher’s Vineyard Land Case for updates on the continuing struggle.

On the long-term Tent of Nations desires to prepare young people for a positive contribution to their future and culture by bringing values of understanding and tolerance into their life experience, and to teach them the true belonging to their country. Tent of Nations is devoted to address cultural conflicts around the world, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by facilitating positive encounters between young people from different cultures.

Two weeks after CPT’s visit Ryan, Heather, their pastor’s wife Marsha, Greg & I went out to visit again. Just a few days before the soldiers broke down their gate, came on their land, entered the sleeping tents and placed their guns in the volunteers faces. They were there approximately an hour & a half with no explanation as to why they were there. Their response was nonviolent. My heart is really drawn to these people. How would you and I have responded to be awakened with a gun barrel in our faces?

After this we visited B’tselem, a Human Right Organization. They research and publish data on human rights abuses in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Most of the information we were given here we already knew but it once again confirmed the information. The one fact that stood out for me was about the Separation Wall. The most crucial area of the wall is at the Maale Adumim settlement that when completed will cut the West Bank into north and south and cut Jerusalem off from Palestine. Also that the Separation Wall does not follow the green line of 1948 but cuts between Palestinian villages. The wall in our country separating Mexico and the USA is being constructed by an Israeli company! Were you aware of this?

We did hear a story of abuse involving the “Rubber Bullets”. These types of bullets are safe only at 10 meters distance to target. Several months ago the Israeli soldiers shot a Palestinian in the legs from 1.5 meters away. He was blind folded and hands tied behind his back and legs tied together at ankles. He required extensive treatment and rehabilitation. This group filed charges with the Israeli government. The commander and soldier were suspended and the army wanted them to be charged with just inappropriate behavior. Bt’Selem filed charges again saying that they need more than discipline. The army argued with this but in the court said there needed to be a criminal investigation and if convicted the men would have a criminal record. It is still in the courts.

Tonight my left SI joint became displaced as it does sometimes and I was unable to walk or go stairs. Lord, why? I tried to put it back in myself but it would not budge. Our leader noticed my difficulty and asked me about it. At first I tried to deny it but she insisted so I explained to her what needed to be done & Praise the Lord she did it and I could once again walk. The Lord sure walked me through this trip in a miraculous way. Tonight I told my life story. We all took our turn in the evenings to tell our story. Only 3 days left in our delegation. The next day we went back to Jerusalem to stay at the Hashimi Hostel.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wednesday, October 14

After devotions we went to an organization called Badil, who works primarily with the refugee camps. There are four in Bethlehem alone, but I only visited 2, Deheisha and Aida. We listened to Hasem speak concerning the history of the refugees which was very informative and interesting. Prior to this session we heard bites and pieces of the history but not explained in an organized manner. Briefly, in the 1800’s Europe felt they needed to address the “Jewish problem” and felt they had two options of response. One, they could try to hide the Jewish race, or two, they could respond with a revolutionary response, which is what they chose. This resulted in oppression and racism. In 1897 Theodore Herzel had the first Zionist conference to organize the framework for a Jewish state which in itself was not what has developed today. The Jewish National Fund was established, which still functions today, to acquiesce funds to purchase land in Palestine. Eventually the money was used to just confiscate the land and fund Jewish people coming and living in the land. Then and now they take care of all paper work; supply housing, jobs, plane tickets, stipend and pay a large percentage of any money still due on existing mortgage or lease. The Palestinians realized what was happening and together agreed not to sell any land to any Jew or anyone representing the Jews. So land confiscation started by the wars and actually throwing the Palestinians off their lands and killing them. Christian Zionism came into existence and today is more about politics then Christianity. The goal of Zionism then and now is “take control of maximum land under Jewish control with minimum number of Palestinians.” The slogan of Herzel and the Zionist was “a land without a people for a people without a land”. They failed to recognize the many thousands of Palestinian people who have been here for over 2000 years. It is no different today. If you can prove you have any Jewish heritage according to the requirements you are automatically a national and can come to live in Israel or the West Bank and have Israeli citizenship. During the war of 1947 five Palestinian cities and over 530 villages were completely destroyed and the residents were either murdered or displaced. They were placed in refugee camps in tents. Years later the UN built concrete shelters, 3 meters by 3 meters, where 5-10 people were housed. I saw an example of this on our tour of the camp. It was not until the 70’s that they were permitted to build more permanent housing. However, the ground size land has not increased so the housing is only permitted to go up. Today there are many towns and villages in Palestinian land that are not “recognized” by the Israelis so no infrastructure is permitted; no water, no electricity, no sewage or anything else needed to provide a sustainable community. There are over 75,000 now living within these restrictions. Any building structures in these villages can be demolished at any time. A tent or tarp is considered a structure. Every day there are homes demolished leaving the Palestinian people without shelter. As of today there are 1064 homes on the list for demolition in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. These families include many children and elderly. They live in constant fear of loosing their homes, lands and lives. Yet, maybe only meters away there is an illegal settlement with all the infrastructure plus swimming pools and green grass. Answer this question for yourself, “Who lives with the greater fear?”

After the session we took a walking tour of the Deheisha Refugee came which now houses approximately 14,000 people within a 1.5 sq. km area or 1,640 sq yards. This is the same as in 1947. You ask, “Why can’t they move out of the camp?” Where would they go? Financially they are not able to leave as the employment is 25% and housing is limited. But the camp is very clean and they are proud of what they have so there is no crime rate within the camp as they protect each other as well as their property. When they came to the camp the villages stayed together in blocks and continue to live this way. Deheisha camp is made up of 23 different destroyed or confiscated villages. There are 1,300 children with 30 teachers in the school.

In the afternoon we were free to visit Bethlehem. Since I had been there numerous times and would be visiting again over the next month the leader and I went to a café for something to drink and talk. It was very relaxing and enjoyable.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tuesday, October 13

This is now day six (6) without a shower with temps in the 90’s and we have been in the same clothes (undies included) now for approximately 65 hours.

We left Tuwani at 8:30 a.m. for a visit to the Bedouin people in the Negev. Our van driver for the day had a very poor sense of direction, had never been to this area and spoke no English. Our leader is very specific when arranging for the van in our requirements, one being they must speak English. Anyway we knew we were in trouble when he went only about 50 yards and stopped to ask directions and continued to do this many times through out the day. The Negev is in Israel which meant we had to go through a check point on the green line. We were detained over an hour as they made us get out of the van and walk through the scanner. Then they searched the van and our luggage. Our gang was upset but I was happy it happened since this allowed us to experience what the Palestinians endure daily. We finally met Amos Gewirtz, an Israeli, who works with the Bedouins in human rights, at a convenience store. We visited a Bedouin village that has been destroyed 32 times, the most recent was ten days ago. The soldiers smashed their water tanks and the tractor used to haul their water to the small village. They now just have a tarp over them for shelter from the sun and weather elements. Of course, there is no electricity or any other infrastructure, even though the power lines run over their land. They are not permitted to have electric or erect any buildings. They expect their tarp will also be taken. At one time the village had block homes, then when these were smashed they put up metal sheets, then tents and now using what they have left, which are the tarps. We stopped at a site where bulldozers up rooted olive trees and vegetation plants on land that was owned by a Bedouin family. The family had documentation with the government stamps that showed their ownership but the army had been working there for several weeks already. The family filed suit in the high court and asks the army to wait until the decision is made but the work began anyway. Israel is planting a forest which is the easiest and quickest way to take the land. They deem it agricultural green land. Military police and soldiers where there to keep the land owners from trying to do anything. Israel has offered to buy the land from Bedouins but when the refuse to sell, Israel says it is not their land anyway. They tell the Bedouins they can move into a local city where infrastructure will be provided. But they have to move to one section which is a “ghetto” typical to what the Germans did to the Jews during the Holocaust. We visited a sheikh who told of land confiscation, and unbelievable abuse from the Israelis. Again the stories from these people are almost unbelievable and we in the United States would most likely react in violence or retribution.
Many times today we stood out in the sun with 105 degree temps to listen to the translator tell the stories. We had no potty breaks from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm but with the heat & sweating we managed. We left the Negev and headed for the Deheisha Refugee Camp in Bethlehem and stayed at the Ibdaa Center. I sat in the back seat of the van traveling to Bethlehem and the smell was not pleasant. We all prayed there would be showers at the guest house where we stayed. Praise the Lord, there were showers and even though they were cold it was the best shower ever. We stayed there 3 nights prior to heading back to Jerusalem.