We engaged in a historic and incredible journey just as Advent began. Reverends Lewis Tait, Jr., Anthony Moore, Patricia Fears, Wanda Thompson, Louise Green, Raymond Bell, Rosa Frias, Madison Shockley/his wife Gayle, and myself journeyed into Palestine to witness the changing and challenging realities. What you will discover on the entries that follow are clergy speaking from their hearts of what their eyes had seen. This journey to Palestine is a story that needs to be told because there is so much will to silence the Palestinians and their cause and those who support them. But silence is not an option when your eyes have seen and your heart is filled with historical memories of Jim Crow, apartheid, discrimination, and human beings inhumanity to other human beings.
We traveled extensively and our travels took us to meet the Prime Minister as well as speak to those living in Bedouin villages under the threat of more land loss, and the discriminatory polices and practices that do not recognize the people, their history or their culture. We met with Mayors of towns like in Bethlehem and Hebron. These political leaders where full of hope but also looking forward to that day when there would be real freedom and people will be able to move around in the land that they were born. The Mayor of Hebron warned us that the Old City had all but been lost to armed settlers. The few shops left operating in the old city of Hebron is under pressure of daily harassment, threats, and violence. Indeed while we were there we witnessed settlers armed with assault weapons and other automatic weapons walking to and from the synagogue. They were usually followed by Israeli military safeguarding them. They and the military were rude to the Palestinians living and working in the environs as if those Palestinians had no reason to exist – particularly in a city like Hebron.
It was extremely painful to see the encroaching and strategically placed settlements creeping onto Palestinian villages and eventually forcing them off the land. It was painful and angering to watch people who could not and would not see the other. This was the same scenario in Jerusalem where Zionist settlers felt that Palestinian – whether Muslim, Christian, Atheist or Agnostic had no right to be in Jerusalem or even on the West Bank and the occupied territories solely because they were Palestinian.
We met along our journey with leaders of the Palestinian Authority, Mayors of Cities and Towns, Theologians, Church leaders and Bishops. It was just about every sector of the society that we encountered. Having dinner in a restaurant we found out our waiter was well known because of his sacrifice in the Second Intifada, he was shot seven times by Israeli forces, and then after he healed was jailed, and yet with gentleness and dignity he served us our meals. We were thankful for all of the encounters and experiences.
There is a refugee camp, Aida, which is located in Bethlehem. We also went to this camp to dedicate a monument to the memory of Abd al-Rahman Obeidallah, age 12, and Tamir Rice age 13 killed by Israeli and Cleveland authorities. Children and parents gathered for the event and particularly the parents of Abd al-Rahman were there. We are indebted to Playgrounds for Palestine for working to erect the monument and coordinating with leaders in Aida to make certain that the dedication was a success. If you want to read more about Playgrounds for Palestine you can click this link.
I am thankful for the ministers who accompanied me on this trip, and I invite you to read their entries as they speak from their hearts and attempt to touch our souls.