Sunday, 16 November 2008

Talking Peaces by Martha

Over the last few days I have received more information from the many people we have met than is humanly possible to take in. It is hard for me to describe to you the many stories which have influenced and inspired us during this time, and there are so many more which I can’t put into words, yet - or maybe ever - but which have been equally important for me to hear.

One of the reasons why I have been so enthusiastic to take part in the delegation has been the variety of people, places and experiences which it introduces us to. As each day progresses I realize that everyone connected to Israel and Palestine has their own story to tell and view of the situation. I have had to reframe my thinking from a conflict of two sides, to a conflict of many sides and stories - more than I could have possibly imagined. And it feels like quite a responsibility to record them and think about how I can convey them once I get home to everyone who is interested in our work and supported me during this journey.

On Thursday we visited an urban Kibbutz in Sderot, just north of the Gaza Strip. You will probably recognize the name as Sderot is an area which often receives Kasam rockets from the Gaza Strip. This week, in response to the rocket attacks, Israel sent in troops and killed four combatants. During our visit we met Eric Yellin, a member of the Kibbutz and a founding member of a local group called ‘Other Voice’ which tries to bring out another voice in their community through trust building processes and building relationships with people on the other side of the Erez check-point, in the Gaza Strip. Part of the work, as Eric described it, is creating a place where people don’t feel alone – both in Sderot and Gaza and creating what he described as “small peaces” (which I assume was a deliberate play on words by Eric).

On Friday we drove up to Jenin and stayed with local olive tree farmers for the night. Our host family were welcoming and keen to talk to us about why we were here and what we were doing. Our hosts had 12 children – 9 daughters and 3 sons, and their oldest son, his wife and 10-month old son also lived in the family home. This family live 800 meters from the wall, which has not only carved up their village but also their land. They described how before the wall they used to visit friends in the nearest Israeli village – 5 minutes drive away. But since the wall they would have to drive via Jerusalem – which would take about 5 hours. They no longer have any contact with their friends in this village. On Saturday morning the father and son walked us down to their fields – two of which are on their side of the wall, and eight of which are on the other side, and no longer accessible to them. In broken English we heard from the son how for the last four or five years he does not come to their field – which is next to the wall – alone, as he is too afraid. If he goes near the wall Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) forces will come to talk - or to kill - him. I was starkly aware of how uncomfortable he was being there, and how he took us there, despite this.

I am aware that the more information I have and more people I meet, the harder this conflict is to understand. People’s generosity in sharing their homes, lives and stories with us has been truly awe inspiring and I just hope can encapsulate some of their passion one I return home.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Am enjoying reading your blog. Re Wed 12th: It is nearer 450+ checkpoints not 93 isn't it?
Well done.
jack

David said...

Jack,

Thanks for the comment. You're right to call me up on the 93 checkpoints thing - there are over 500 roadblocks and other obstacles around the West Bank.

I should have made it clear that there are 93 checkpoints where Israeli soldiers are present.

The other 400+ do not have soldiers checking ID cards, but are a huge inconvenience to the everyday lives of Palestinians.

Planning to post some photos of checkpoints and roadblocks soon.

David