In Maine, when asking for directions, they say, “you can’t get there from here.” Sometimes we have to take a circuitous route to meet our destination, but if you really want to get there, you will.
For years, I have pondered doing volunteer work overseas. Even as a child, I have always been drawn to one underdog or another. I was the kid who was bullied for sticking up for the bullied kid. A few years ago, I attended a Bar Association meeting hosted by the International Law Section of the Maine Bar Association encouraging volunteerism. It was an idea I parked in the recesses of my mind, hoping for time to avail itself and for something to come up that really grabbed me.
I was first exposed to the history of WWII as a child, through one of those Time-Life coffee table books, I was entranced and horrified by and became somewhat obsessed with the Holocaust. I’ve visited numerous Holocaust memorials and the preserved death camp in Dachau, Germany, I had read many books and seen countless movies and documentaries on the subject. At one point, my husband would roll his eyes when I was entrenched in yet another PBS documentary on the topic, quipping, “Oh, It’s Sunday Night with the Nazis?” I internalized the trauma in a very deep and personal way. When I read Leon Uris’s Exodus as a young adult, I totally rooted for the founders of Israel and I’m sure I felt that the Arabs that they were battling deserved everything they got.
It wasn’t until maybe 10 years or so ago that I started questioning the narrative that I had come to believe was God’s truth; but, it dawned on me one day that things are never so black and white – absolute good vs. absolute evil. When I started digging deeper in attempt to unravel the truth, I discovered that there was a whole narrative to which I had never been exposed; that it was dramatically different from the one that I had been raised on; and that no one , at least in the U.S. main stream media was telling the story from the perspective of the Palestinians. One of the first sources in changing my view was the blog of Juan Cole, Professor of Middle Eastern studies at University of Michigan. http://www.juancole.com/ He, in essence helped open the floodgate and I have now read more books than I can remember relating the Palestinian, or a more balanced narrative. My other two favorites are Edward Said, recently deceased Palestinian professor of literary theory at Columbia University and Ilan Pappe, Israeli historian and social activist.
All of this led me to take my first trip to the Holy Land in May of 2014. By then, I knew that the true underdogs of the day in that geographical area are the Palestinians. That trip to the West Bank confirmed for me all of the things I had recently learned about the occupation and cemented my desire to go back to exercise my dream. By this time, the time issue had also somewhat resolved itself in that I was now inhabiting an empty nest at home
After searching for several months, I weighed a number of different volunteer positions, from assisting in a music/theatre program at a refugee camp, to being part of a peace-keeping team to counter Israeli settler violence against the indigenous Palestinians when a posting for a legal research position came up at the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee. http://www.hebronrc.ps/index.php/en/ That was it! Using my legal background to help with research on possible venues for human rights abuses.
I will only be here for a month, and I know it will fly by. I hope that I can be of some service at HRC in this short time, but I am even more hopeful that my experiences in the West Bank will help inform others back home. It is way past time that Palestinians found a voice in the U.S. When I feel like my efforts can only be a veritable grain of sand, I like to remind myself of the rippling effect of the touch of a dragon fly’s wing on a still lake.
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