Jonathan and I started our journey to Jerusalem when we first agreed to go on the Christian Peacemakers Team. Then we read books together, and studied current events in the Middle East. We sat down to have a meal with friends who know the region well. Some Friends feel that Quakers have no role in mediation, others believe in the two-state solution, and some state that we need to stand in solidarity with Palestians, join the boycott, divestment to stop the aparteid state.
The drama of our plane trip came when we were delayed from entering in Tel Aviv by over 2 hours. I was hoping the airport wasn't shut down due to rocket fire. With Hilary Clinton's arrival and Egypt's crafting a ceasefire, we are relieved that there is dual agreement to stop the rocket-fire. Last week the Hamas military leader, Amhed Jabari was killed. Palestinians sent off a series of rockets. Israel 's Iron Dome missile defense system can detect when projectiles will hit populated areas and can interrupt them mid-air. Israel's death toll as of today is 5. Palestinian deaths are up to 180 this week with the Israeli government's Pillar of Defense. (In Hebrew the term is Pillar of Smoke referring to the Pillar of God that led the Israelites during their journey for 40 years in the desert with Moses.)
We arrived through the Gate of Damascus last night. We descended down the smooth stone steps under a crescent moon. Shopkeepers were packing carts, the sheep butcher was scrubbing his floors. I felt amazement to be alive, a bit giddy, surprised that the trip had succeeded. From our orientation we were told to be quiet going through customs, and not to speak publicly about the purpose of our trip. Thus, I felt like I'd snuck onto private property past moats and alligators.
In the morning I arose at 7 am to walk up and down the narrow streets of the Old City, all blonde stones. The smell of cumin and the meowing of hungry cats struck me. I followed behind school children, many of them chattering in Arabic. We went to the Garden Tomb (where some think Jesus was entombed).
For dinner we met with Mordechai Vanunu, who was the whistle-blower in 1986 of Israel's clandestine nuclear weapon industry. He was imprisoned for 18 years, in solitary confinement for 11 of them. He has an important story and feels that his voice and freedom have been curtailed. We (CPT) gave him a sweet honorarium sincbe he can't get a job. He reminded me of some of the men out of Concord prison with a bad CORI report, cast aside by the workforce [Below, we have posted a 60-minute BBC documentary on his full story]
I am reminded that I can't fix the complicated problems here; we are practicing a ministry of presence. We are here to listen and be compassionate in the midst of volatile emotions and rigid positions. With someone like Mordachai how can we honor the truth but find a harbor of love and understanding?
by Minga Claggett-Borne
Along with UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-Moon, and US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Minga and I arrived at the airport in Tel Aviv only 3 hours later than expected. Earlier this morning, we sat on the ground at the Charles de Gaualle airport in Paris, likely waiting for these dignitaries and their entourages to enter the country.
After much prepping on what we were and were not to say to the people at the passport control, we said hello and thank you, but heard not a word from the passport official, only a smile. We are staying at a hostel just inside the old city, near the Damascus Gate. We had a quiet dinner with three other people in our group, and now to bed, adjusting to the time difference and getting ready for 5 days here in Jerusalem. Good night, all.
by Jonathan Vogel-Borne
When Hazel was two she was fascinated with my old cat, Ocelot. She would prance into the living room, her feet 2 boulders rolling along. Ocelot would get up out of slumber and slink out the back door. Hazel would spend an hour looking under the bed, beneath the recycling bin, and anywhere to find the cat, who was avoiding the flailing child like a pestilence. One glimpse of the cat furtively escaping down the stairs, would give Hazel a boost of energy to find the cat’s hiding place.
I feel confused why Peace evades us. I’ve been looking at the peace in the Middle East, and it’s a thicket of vines. I understand the history, but still I’m baffled as to why peace doesn’t grow. It’s tough when most of the world recognizes the odious killings in Syria, but it’s also beyond the pale that Zionist settlers destroy the homes, schools and hospitals of Palestinians. Israel has been building new towns and the separation wall for decades. Every country knows it. We in the US let it happen.
Yes, we are angry at the gross military support bolstering Israel. Yes, the current exchange of rockets and killings saddens us. I will be traveling on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Jonathan, and our mission is one of understanding, peace and compassion. We leave Monday 11/19 and return Dec 5th, traveling to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah. Our visit to the Negev desert to stay with some Bedouins may be canceled due to recent attacks.
Jerusalem is a mystical word. the world clamors for a new Jerusalem, a citadel of love and a symbol of God’s presence among us. It’s more than exciting to take this trip. Mostly because I’ve heard David’s mellifluous psalms since I was a child. I think of Soloman’s Temple, the wedding of Canaan, the palm tree where Deborah held court; Jesus healing Syro-Phoenicians, the smell of the olive harvest; the strength of Joshua at Jericho, night skies speckled with stars. This land holds mythical stories for us all. Ever since the Babylonian exile, through the Middle Ages and through the British Balfour Agreement, the west has dangled a promise for a Jewish homeland. Don’t we all long for a homeland, a place where our people hail from? Jews, Muslims, Christians all share this land. Our homes are safe places where we are told to invite the stranger into the center of our hearths. The 3 religions relate to each other like a triple clove hitch knot.
Israelis and Palestinians are convinced that negotiations are the way to reach peace. 77% of Israelis and 71% of Palestinians find a negotiated peace to be either "essential" or "desirable” according to a poll by OneVoice in 2009. Who wouldn’t want children to grow up without check points and fear of snipers and suicide bombers. Wouldn’t we want our children to be in school worrying about the next math quiz instead of whether their home will be demolished? Can we all pitch in more, discuss the problem, and compassionately reach a solution without guns. For there is one Unity with God.
This unity embraces peace and justice for us all. I’m OK that Hazel spends hours searching for a cat. Even if we just get glimpses of our dream, it’s worth chasing it. May we all have the persistence of a two year old as we reach for peace in the Middle East. I know that this dream is possible. It’s been promised.