December 3, 2016
Today our delegation of pastors from the United States of America traveled to the Bedouins in Southern Hebron. We also traveled to Hebron and the old city of Hebron, where the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah – Rachel’s Tomb is near Bethlehem) is located. It was a intense day that did not end until approximately 10:20 pm after the lighting of the Christmas Tree in Bethlehem, meeting with Mayor Vera Baboun, the first female leader of Bethlehem, the Palestinian city believed to be the birthplace of Jesus. Then, our delegation had dinner with the mayor, along with council members. There is far too much for me to write about from what I experienced today. So, let me write briefly about what shocked me, overwhelmed me and made me angry.
Today, for the first time I understood what the “Jewish Settlements” and “Occupation by Israelis” mean to Palestinian life. As were entered the Bedouins in Southern Hebron, it took the bus driver awhile to find this living area, because the original name of the street had been removed by the Israeli government. So, this makes their home area very difficult to find and it devalues the Bedouins because there is no recognition that they exist at all. At this same location, “Jewish Settlements” have been built and there are a series of gates that separate “Jewish Settlements” from the Bedouins’ land. The “Jewish Settlements” have come about by the illegal confiscation of Palestinian land by the Israeli government. The people living in “Jewish Settlements” are protected by the Israeli military, they have subsidized housing, they have running water, they are able to freely travel and many other advantages unearned.
The Palestinians don’t have the same rights as Israelis including those Israelis who are illegally living in the “Jewish Settlements.” The Palestinians don’t have the right to move freely in their own country, they are harassed by the Israeli military daily by detaining or picking them up for anything without cause or due process. This is a violation of human rights! This is not something I read about, but I saw with my own eyes today. There were three “settlers” (persons who live in Jewish Settlements), who were out doing some shopping in a public area in Hebron and there were at least 15-20 military soldiers with semi-automatic rifles guarding them. They would not let the Palestinians pass, nor would they let us pass. Then, they told the Palestinians in a unfriendly tone to go around another way. The Israeli military also, detained a photographer that was with our delegation without cause, I guess because he was taking pictures of them in order to record how Palestinians are being bullied and harassed by the military. This made feel as if I was living in an Apartheid state or living in the deep South in the United States when “Black Codes” and “Jim Crow” was the order the day, even racial profiling as it relates to “stop and frisk” laws as well. I felt humiliated and devalued as a person, but now I had a real sense of what the Palestinian people are going through on a daily basis.
This injustice towards the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli government must stop and there has to be a two state solution that becomes a reality. There is no neutral position! The United States of America needs to take serious action to bring an end to the occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government. The Palestinians want to live in peace and they want to share the land by being a State that has all the rights and privileges that is afforded to Israel.
The Palestinian Christians are a remarkable people, who are determined to live for God in the face of being “occupied” and oppressed by Israel’s policies. They chose to love, as well as fight for their full liberation while recognizing the dignity and worth of the Jewish people, even while their value as humans is like that of African Americans in the not so distant past, 3/5th’s human (which is no human at all). I’m encouraged because of the courage and the tenacity of the Palestinian people to never give up!