Palestine Israel

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dsc00462-169x3002-17-14 Emmaus Road

Today we made our way to Tel Aviv for our flight home via the Emmaus road.  We saw sights of depopulated villages that had been turned into Israeli National Parks.  One such park is the Palestinian village of Emmaus where the bible tells us the risen Jesus was recognized by Cleopus and his wife when he broke bread in their house.  The village was evacuated then razed and planted with pine trees to hide the ruins.  Think of it like this…  what if someone forced you out of the home you lived in in as a child, then destroyed it and put a hiking trail past it so that people could admire its “natural” surroundings, poke around or camp in your former living room… how would you feel?  This is what has happened to Palestinian villages with in Israel since 1948.  No compensation for the property was paid.

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2-16-14 Last day of planting in Teqwaa

This morning we went to plant olive trees on the Palestinian side of the Nicodim colony fence.  After planting about 75 trees we were stopped by the Israeli army despite having permission and ownership papers.  We had several interesting conversations with Israeli settlers and soldiers alike.  Interestingly, they do not consider Palestinians their neighbors or subject to their blessing according to Abraham. Please pray for peace and justice in the Holy Land.

Although we had to stop planting today, “Keep Hope Alive” will get the additional permissions and resume planting this coming Friday with another planting group.  The work goes on…

2-15-4 Visit to Berzeit University, and Poet Darwish’s memorial 

Today we visited Berzeit University in Ramallah, the largest city in Palestine.  The University is beautiful but their financial and faculty situation is restricted by avoiding all association with those who cooperate with Israel.  Many students have been injured and even killed in peaceful demonstration against Israeli closures of the University.

From Berzeit we drove to Bil’in, the village of the movie “Five Broken Cameras.”  The brother of the film maker showed us film of their non-violent demonstrations to prevent the Segregation Wall from going through their village farmland.  They succeeded in having the Wall’s path moved 500 meters.  We passed the memorial of a townsman killed by a teargas grenade shot at him at close range in the chest (saw the video of the event) and sang “We Shall Overcome” at the current Wall.  The area is littered with smoke grenade canisters.
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We also visited the Memorial to Palestine’s poet Darwish who was killed by Yehud Barack in Lebenon.  Barack dress as a woman, walked up to Darwish, put a gun in his mouth and said you will not talk anymore and shot him.

The Memorial building itself was constructed to look like an open book and has an outdoor theater and speaker’s corner for public use.  It was paid for by individual Palestinian donations the largest of which was $2000.

Finally we stopped to visit the tomb of Yasser Arafat, solemnly guarded by very hospitable Palestinian Authority soldiers.

2-14-14  Third Planting Day and back to Jerusalem

Third day of olive tree planting, this time on the Patriarch’s Way — 500 trees before lunch.  Soldiers and settlers showed up.  The area we were planting is surrounded by Israeli settlement colonies and illegal outposts.  A group called the “Women in Green” have planted on this Palestinian land to expand the colony.  They mark their plantings with Israeli flags.  Palestinians are forbidden by law to mark their plantings.  I couldn’t help but think that the trees we were planting today would simply be taken over by the settlers as they squeeze the Palestinians out.

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This afternoon I visited the Mount of Olives including the church of Gethsemane.  This church is built on the traditional site of Jesus’ prayer of agony before his arrest. I had the most moving experience as I knelt with both hands on the bedrock in the sanctuary of the church.  I could feel the pulse of my heart strongly in my whole body and in my hands as if the pulse came from and returned to the rock where Jesus prayed.  I didn’t want to get up but enjoy the pulsing energy of my heart beating with the divine.

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2-13-14   Return to Hebron

I spent the day in Hebron today where 1500 soldiers “protect” 400 illegal Israeli settlers in the old city. Palestinian shops are mostly closed by force and checkpoints delay tourists and local resident alike. I prayed in the Ibrahimi Mosque– the site of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rachel and Jacob and Leah.

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As I walked through the souks of Hebron today, a Palestinian shopkeeper recognized me from my visit 2 years ago!  We were served lunch and coffee by another Palestinian family who own a shop.  These generous and hospitable people carry no guns or weapons.  The Israeli settler taxi driver wore a pistol visibly on his belt and asked me if I knew the bible.  I told him I knew the bible very well and asked if he knew the blessing of Abraham– that God’s chosen people beginning with Abraham were blessed to be a blessing to all people.  Then I asked how he was blessing the Palestinians who are his neighbors.  Was he loving them as he loves himself as the Torah commands?  He had no answer.

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2-12-14 Second day of Olive Tree Planting

Back at the hotel in Beit Sahour after a morning of olive tree planting. It was ironic that we were planting in the shadow of the ancient Herodion (King Herod’s palace) and the surrounding modern day occupation forces. Soldiers showed up again. We sang “If I had a Hammer” as we continued to work. After checking all the Palestinians papers they let us continue to work. 500 trees later we had lunch supplied by the family who owns the land–rice, lentils, yogurt, cucumber, tomato, mint and olive oil, pita bread, coffee with coriander. YUM!

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2-11-14  A day in and around Jerusalem

This morning I enjoyed returning to Old City Jerusalem.  An excellent guide helped us understand the religious sights (Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) and the political situation of the Holy Land.  I put my hand on a spot on a wall where pilgrims say Jesus braced himself as he fell carrying the cross.  And put my hand on the Western Wall, praying to be an instrument of peace.

We also heard that this morning 150 olive trees and grape vines in the land of the farmer we planted olive trees for yesterday were pulled up by settlers who live near by.  Soldiers stood by to protect the settlers.  One soldier had investigated our planting the day before.

This afternoon we toured the largest Israeli colonial settlement just outside Jerusalem (a beautiful gated community) which overlook the shack dwellings displaced bedouin families and flocks.  We visited a recently bulldozed bedouin village with an Israeli activist against the occupation.

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2-10-14  Olive Tree Planting

Just got back to the hotel after planting 450 olive trees at Al Hader village near Bethlehem, Palestine. A settler from the near by Navi Daniel Colony (settlement) came to take pictures of us to show to the authorities. The Israeli army arrived within 20 minutes to order us to stop work. However, the Palestinian owner of the land had all necessary papers so after some convincing the soldiers (4 jeeps worth) let us continue our work.

This afternoon we toured the largest Israeli colonial settlement just outside Jerusalem (a beautiful gated community) which overlook the shack dwellings displaced bedouin families and flocks.  We visited a recently bulldozed bedouin village with an Israeli activist against the occupation.

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2-10-14  Heading Out to Plant Olive Trees

Wearing work boots, and a Keep Hope Alive T-shit with my work gloves in hand we are off to plant olive trees near Bethlehem, Palestine.  These trees will be legally planted on Palestinian land which is under constant threat of confiscation by Israel.  Tens of thousands of olive trees that provide livelihood for Palestinian farmers are damaged and destroyed every year.  Land not under cultivation for 3 years are subject to seisure under the Israeli occupation.  Keeping Palestinian land under cultivation is an effective way to counter land confiscation.

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2-9-14  Spent the day in Bethlehem

Started the day at the Separation Wall that winds though Bethlehem and it’s surrounds cutting off farmers from their olive trees, wells and pastures; and may others from their jobs.  Then moved on to visit Deheisheh refugee camp where the people from 26 Palestinian villages have lived for 66 years (in 1 square kilometer, now 30.000 people) waiting from their land to be returned to them.  From there I went to the Church of the Nativity to light a candle for peace and finally visited the Shepherds’ Field site to see once again the Separation Wall preventing shepherds from pasturing their sheep.  The Wall must fall!

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2-8-14  Posting from Beit Sahour near Bethlehem, West Bank, Occupied Palestine

Last night I spent an evening with folks from Bar’am on the Israeli side of the Lebonese border.  These Palestinian folks homes and village were destroyed by Israelis who have subsequently seized their land and turned it into a national park.  The ruins of the houses make nice gardens but the former residents whose homes were taken have to pay a camping fee to live there.  They continue to live in the former school and church to protest the confiscation of their land.  Please pray for justice in this matter.

2-7-14  Posting from Nazareth, Israel.

Saw Capernaum and Peter’s mother-in-laws house where Jesus gathered disciples along the Sea of Galilee, the Church of the Beatitudes and spoke with Palestinian Human Rights organization. Did you know that Palestinian citizens of Israel do not have equal rights with Jewish national Israeli citizen by virtue of them not being Jewish? This is true because Israel is a Jewish State. By definition non-Jews are second class citizens.

We also visited Cana of Galilee where Jesus turned water into wine– six stone jars of approximately 40 gallons. Now THAT’S a party.  The locals sell holy water and Cana wine.  I bought the the wine, of course, for Communion at Christ Pres. (sorry there wasn’t a non-alcoholic version).