This week we have been on a break from our placements. I came to Jerusalem after the land action (see previous post). The Canadians here met up with two people from the United Church of Canada office, Patti and Christie, to have dinner together and plan for meetings on Sunday. The purpose was to talk to us individually to see how we are coping, etc. For my meeting, Patti and I just slowly walked in the old city and went to the wailing wall as we talked. On Sunday morning we went to a small Catholic church conducted in Arabic. The person on the piano, when seeing us there played “How Great Thou Art” since she knew that to be universal. I also recognized some of the other tunes.
On Monday and Tuesday, we had debriefing, advocacy sessions and a BBC documentary film on Jerusalem. Included in the schedule Tuesday evening was a trip to the Dheisheh Refugee Camp. Here children from the camp performed for us and we had dinner with them.
Wednesday included an Introduction to Israeli Society by Michael Warschawski. He has the company called Alternative Information Center based in Jerusalem. He had both Palestinian and Israeli employees but the time came when his Palestinian employees could no longer get permits to come to Jerusalem. He now has a branch of his company in Bethlehem. Very informative. What stands out for me is what he said about Gaza which he described as an open-air prison. He called what happened this past summer the Gaza massacre since Gaza has absolutely no chance against Israel. He called it a political war. Abbas had announced a coalition between Fatah and Hamas. This made Netanyahu angry. He thought he could cause a split. If Abbas came out in strong support of Gaza and Hamas, he could paint him with the same brush as Hamas i.e. call Abbas a friend of terrorists or a terrorist. If Abbas distanced himself from the conflict, then it would cause a split. Mr. Waschawski also said the rockets fired from Gaza are ineffective and cause little or no damage.
On Wednesday afternoon, we went by bus to Haifa. On the way we attended the Truth Commission on the Responsibility of Israeli Society for the Events of 1948-1960. See http://zochrot.org/en.
The following day, we learned about Palestinian citizens living in Israel and then an Israeli, Ruth Hiller, spoke on New Profile: Demilitarization of Israeli Society. Both very interesting topics. We had some free time after lunch. Our venue was a convent on the mountain overlooking Haifa and the Mediterranean Sea. Very picturesque. Most of the EAs went to explore Haifa. Friday we went back to Jerusalem stopping at Wahat al-Salam / Neve Shalom for a tour and lunch. This is a village of Jews and Palestinians living together. It is on land owned by a church. At first it was leased but now the church donated the land to them. Until very recently did not get any funding for infrastructure, schools, etc. although they paid taxes. It would have never been allowed on state land. In Israel, everything is state land. There is a waiting list to get into the village and they cannot expand at all.
In the evening we attended a reform synagogue. It is different then a regular synagogue in that men and women sit together and sometimes they have musical instruments. It is to modernize and be more inclusive. The service on Friday evenings is to prepare one for the Sabbath.
That was our week off. Didn’t include everything. If you want to know more about the topics we covered, let me know. Looking forward to being back in Yatta.