Apologies to Carpenters fans for the title, but that song stuck in my head as I was looking for inspiration to write a post. The view from my apartment window was not so inviting this morning. The weather here for the past couple of days has been horrific. As one Palestinian shopkeeper put it today, “we’re getting our second winter.” The daytime temperature probably never even reached 50 deg., it’s been near freezing at night and there was intermittent pelting rain with strong wind. I thought I was brilliant in having the foresight to pack an umbrella, but darned if I could find it today. I must have left it in Hebron on my first (rainy) day there. So, on the way to church, I stopped and bought one. It helped a bit, but the wind was so strong I had to stop several times because it had collapsed outward, and by the time I got to church, my shoes and pants were soaked. I actually broke down and took a taxi home.
Yesterday was similar. Thankfully, I didn’t need to go to Hebron because it was Friday, the Islamic day of rest and my first weekend day off. I was able to take a little road tour up to Ramallah. At one point, the rain actually turned to hail. In a way, the gray, unforgiving weather was an appropriate backdrop to what I was witnessing – the deliberate decimation of the Palestinian homeland. Bethlehem, my home for the month is now surrounded on three sides by walls and Jewish-only settlements.
Between bursts of rain today, I took a walk up the steep hill toward the Har Homa Settlement. As I mentioned before, I can’t see it from the beautiful view from the apartment, but it is right over the hill from me.
You can see the snaking wall, and the fortress-like construction high up on the hill which is typical of all of the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which now house nearly 1/2 million Israelis.
This has been a slow and deliberate Israeli plan to annex all of Jerusalem from the West Bank notwithstanding that East Jerusalem is and has always(or at least for the past 800 years) been primarily Palestinian. In addition to making travel from East Jerusalem to the West Bank incredibly difficult because of roadblocks and the wall, Israel continues to confiscate and destroy Palestinian homes in the East Bank and is planning to build a huge Bibilical theme park. If this does not comprise ethnic cleansing, I don’t’ know what does.
The other thing that I experienced yesterday was something I only just learned about. I knew that Israel has built Israeli-only roads traversing the West Bank to allow “safe passage” to Israeli settlers to their illegally built West Bank settlements – all part of the continuous land confiscation of the West Bank which has made a two-state solution a pipe dream. What I didn’t know was that Israel has built a Palestinian-only road here and there., or I should say allowed them to be built, because they are financed almost exclusively by the US and other nations. How good of them to recognize that Palestinians need to get places too. These roads are euphemistically referred to as “fabric of life” roads – 1984 anyone? One of the roads I traveled on replaced a direct route which went through the outskirts of Jerusalem to Ramallah. Since Jerusalem is being slowly annexed, this route was closed down to Palestinians, and instead they now have a crazy, roller coaster, hair-pin turning, absolutely treacherous road through the mountains. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, but a hazard for the heavy traffic that traverses it. During the rain yesterday, we saw semi tractor trucks unable to make it up some of the steep inclines, and some actually sliding down the slick, rainy road. Fabric of life indeed; shroud of death would be more appropriate. So, our US tax dollars are poured into projects like these. On their face, they look like they’re helping the Palestinians, but in reality, they are furthering Israel’s Apartheid policies.
Now, the Palestinians of the West Bank are not allowed into Jerusalem without a special permit, and those permits are given very stingily. The Al Aqsa Mosque/Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, one of Islam’s holiest sites is now off limits to the majority of Palestinians in the West Bank.
This photo is just outside of Bethlehem and from this vantage point, you can see the dome of the Al Aqsa mosque. Unfortunately, “you” can’t see it in the photo, unless your eyes are better than mine, even though it was visible when I snapped the shot. it seems to have disappeared. This illustrates the sad irony that this is the only point at which many Palestinians will ever be able to see it, and they often come to this very spot to catch longing glimpse.
Of course all of this crazy quilt of road building and walls is done in the interests of Israel’s security. To justify the confiscation of land, the separate roads and the wall, they cite instances of Israelis injured and killed by Palestinans. Never mind the fact that the number of Palestinians injured and killed by Israeli is many times greater, http://israelipalestinian.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000639 but this excuse begs the question: Why are Palestinians targeting Israelis? The obvious answer is because they are resisting a brutal occupation. I am not an advocate for violence, but even international law recognizes the right of resistance. As explained by human rights lawyer, Linda Brayer:
““The Palestinian’s legal right to resist occupation—to fight for their ability to promote, sustain, and nurture human life, to fight for their right to grow, to flourish—comes from two documents: the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and the Fourth Geneva Convention and its subsequent protocols.
Taken together, people have the right to “fight against colonial domination and alien occupation in the exercise of their right to self-determination.””
The system they have created is unsustainable and it will collapse. It is just a matter of time. All the walls and separate roads they erect will not create security. Wouldn’t it be wiser for Israel to reconcile itself with the fact that it has served grave injustice on the Palestinians and move toward a truth and reconciliation process?
Since I can’t end on a completely gloomy note, I think this pictures sums up the situation beautifully. Poppies springing up amongst shards of porcelain tile.