Sunday, December 2, 2007

Marty Federman's 2007 Visit Journal - Entry #6

Marty Federman, the co-chair of the Boston Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, is traveling in Israel and the West Bank. On his trips, he always keeps a journal of what he sees as well as his observations. I have asked for his permission to post each entry on this blog and he gave his approval.

This message, Entry #6 is longer than the previous messages but worth reading especially the section where Marty describes "An Awful Day in Twana and Tubah" and then gives some highly personal observations about the Jewish settlers of that area.

(As is obvious, when I cut and pasted his text, I lost the photographs he included in his Entry.)

Journal Entry #6

Thursday, November 29, 2007 – Arab Women’s Union, Beit Sahour 10:30 p.m.

An interesting conversation this morning in the guesthouse dining room. There are two young men from Amsterdam staying upstairs and they were in the kitchen with Steve, a Welshman (although he doesn’t identify himself as Welsh anymore) who is married to a Palestinian woman from Beit Sahour. We all sat at one of the tables, sipping Nescafe (seemingly the universal national drink – after, of course, “Arab coffee” – and talked about the situation here. For the most part I sat and listened, neither being asked nor offering much about why I am here and what I am doing, intrigued by the conversation and so, choosing to be the proverbial “fly on the wall” albeit a rather large and unavoidable fly.

There was little that I heard that I particularly disagreed with, but I have to acknowledge some discomfort that was somewhat difficult for me to identify. I know that there was something off putting about the self-important way in which Steve presented his having left Wales behind, found love with a Palestinian woman and thrown his lot in with the Palestinian people. I did not derive this feeling from any particular thing he said, but rather a general sense that is difficult to “put one’s finger on.” It is a bit harder for me to articulate my discomfort with the two Dutchmen – really quite nice and seemingly sincere. There was a sense, however, of absoluteness asbout their experience of Occupation – very little that I haven’t felt myself, but with an edge that did not only reject any and all Israeli/Jewish viewpoint, but did not seem to acknowledge that there m might be one to reject. It is an absoluteness that I have felt from many of the “Internationals” I’ve met – even more so, in some ways, than from Palestinians. Many Palestinians, of course, carry a much deeper anger towards those they experience as occupiers and oppressors – but many with a more nuanced point of view that does not completely discount the possibility that there are people on the other side who have feelings born out of their experience that cannot, or at least should not be simply discounted. This is, by no means a universal perspective, but I have found a wider range of perceptions and ways of seeing the situation amoung Palestinians then I have among Internationals.

Later in the day I caught up on my e-mail using the WiFi at the Siraj/Rapprochement offices. There I overheard the phone conversation of one of their journalists who I had heard earlier had been beaten by Palestinian security forces yesterday. There is a complicated set of political realities within Palestinian society that rivals that of the Israelis. The sense in the West Bank (as opposed to Gaza) of support for Fatah rather than Hamas – but a simultaneous (appropriate?) suspicion of the aims and motives of Fatah’s leadership. Consequently, there is a lot of hostility towards the much vaunted possibilities of the Annapolis conference. Yesterday there were large demonstrations planned in opposition to the conference, but Palestinian (i.e., Fatah) security was instructed to stop or at least minimize them in order to avoid the appearance that the grassroots opposed, in any way, Mahmoud Abbas’s participation in Annapolis. The police attempted to make this journalist leave one of the demos, he refused, there was a scuffle and, ultimately, he was beaten, somewhat severely, an attempt was made to take his camera and notes but he eventually was able to leave.

It would be easy for me to write obsessively about the unfortunate kind of infighting that is clearly present within Palestinian society – and how destructive it is for their cause – but I will leave that, perhaps for another time. I’ll only say that it is very depressing for me to see this playing out here.

I had the opportunity later to spend some hours with three people from the Michigan Peace Team group. Like the CPT (Christian Peace Team), they are committed to having a presence at various hot spots in order to support Palestinians and offer some buffer in places where Israeli security is less likely to mistreat Internationals than Palestinians, and sometimes less likely to mistreat Palestinians if Internationals are present. They have considerable interaction with CPT, their main philosophical difference being that, while CPT is fully faith-based (supported by a number national church groups), MPT is not, although they have people who are affiliated with churches, but they take a more “Ghandian” approach to there work, which has, as M, one of the people I spoke to acknowledged, a significant spiritual if not religious component. M stressed that they have a open acceptance of “non-believers.” At the same time, the major practical difference they have vis-a-vis CPT is numbers. MPT is a group that formed locally some years ago to engage in domestic non-violent, third part intervention and branched out over time to address the situation here. They never have more than a handful of people here, so there role is somewhat limited and they are struggling with how – and whether – they can have an ongoing presence in some particular region similar to what CPT has been doing for years in the Hebron area. I was impressed by the approach, commitment and general attitude of these three – and they certainly have a well-developed philoshopical base for their work. At the same time I have serious questions as to what effect thay can have over time unless they are able to recruit a larger core of people on the ground here. For now they are sharing some space – and living – in the building where Siraj and the Rapprochement Center are and their commitment to staying and making a difference is clear.

Ended the day with supper and conversation at SJ’s house – and to bed to rest for tomorrow.

Friday, November 30, 2007 – Arab Women’s Union, Beit Sahour 11:30 p.m.

Demonstration Against the Occupation/Wall near Masara Village (Southern Bethlehem Region)

Another amazingly full day, with two major firsts: A taxi driver who asked me to put on a seat belt this morning, and another this evening that actually used his turn signals! Now I think I’ve experienced everything there is to experience in this world – or at least in this part of it!

Began the day by taking a taxi (ordered by SJ) to the area where most Fridays a group of villagers along with Israelis and Internationals come to demonstrate against the Occupation and the extension of the Wall that will run between the ten villages in this area and the settlement of Efrat and a number of smaller settlements that pinch the area of the villages and will eventually take a large chunk of Palestinian farmland for the “natural growth” of the settlements. The starting place of the demonstration was changed and we had to drive around a bit. At one point the driver, who was, I think, trying to be nice but was impatient to get going and nervous about a couple of Israeli APC’s (Armored Personnel Carriers) sitting on the side of the road we were on, told me he would be happy to leave me anywhere I’d like or take me back to Beit Sahour. While I did not want to have to return, I definitely did not want to be left alone on the side of a road in the backwoods of the “Bethlehem District” with Israeli soldiers and a bunch of settlements around me. As we sat there an IDF vehicle came down the road in the opposite direction, slowed down and, to my great discomfort, made a u-turn and stopped next to the taxi. He asked for the driver’s license and travel permit and my passport. We explained that I was a tourist who was to meet someone who was going to take me around the area but we had gotten lost and were trying to get my “guide” on the phone (which, in fact, I was since SJ was my only contact with anyone who knew where the demo was to take place. The soldier looked dubious, but too harried to really hassle us any further and handed us back our documents and waved us on. I was finally able to get SJ on the phone and, after some back and forth with the driver we found the first group of demonstrators down the road. I got out of the taxi, thanked and paid the driver – despite our pleasant conversation and good connection, he seemed extremely

I introduced myself to a couple of the protesters who seemed quite happy to meet me, and they explained that they were waiting for a few more people before they started down the road I had just come up on and headed towards Efrat. Eventually there were about two dozen people, more than half local villagers, about four or five Israelis and a few Internationals, three of them with the World Council of Churches Accompaniment Project. About three villagers held very large Palestinian flags on poles that flapped assertively as we began to walk.

After walking only a few meters we were joined by three or four Israeli soldiers who had gotten out of a vehicle and now began to walk behind us. As we got near a back road that seemed to me to lead in the direction of Efrat we had accumulated a healthy squad of soldier-chaperones, spreading out within our line of protesters like some sort of squad sent to protect us. All of the people in the group totally ignored our uninvited escorts until we reached the road, where an additional group of soldiers informed us that we could not go any further. There was a good deal of (contained) give and take with these new protectors which involved a couple of the leaders from the village an an Israeli, SP, who seemed to be the most knowledgeable and in control Israeli with us. After a conversation, in mostly Hebrew and a little Arabic, the soldiers were asked why we couldn’t proceed given that we had not done anything wrong and were walking peacefully on what is, the soldiers were reminded, Palestinian controlled land. This, of course, made no difference what-so-ever to the soldiers and, after a few minutes more of this “discussion” the group formed around the beginning of the dirt road and one of the villagers picked up battery operated megaphone, stood on a rock and began the Muslim call to prayer. After a few minutes of this he came down to the road and, in front of a half dozen men sitting on the side of the road gave what appeared to me to be a rousing traditional Islamic sermon – after which the men stood and began their mid-morning prayers. I actually found it quite moving to see these somewhat hardened men, in the midst of a protest against the Occupation, bowing in the dust as devoutly as if they were on their prayer rugs in the local mosque. All of this took place, of course, under the watchful eyes of a large group of Israeli soldiers standing nearby.

When the prayers were over, the group coalesced by the side of the road, there was a bit more speechifying (in Arabic, of course) and we began the walk back to to where we had first grouped. On the way back I had an interesting conversation with one of the Accompaniment people, an older German woman who has been in the area for some months and will be staying for a few more – and was walking this morning with her husband who is on holiday and visiting her! We talked a little bit about the complex situation in Germany given the history of the holocaust and how that colors the conversation in German, as well as the growing anti-Muslim/Arab/immigrant mood there. Finally we got to our starting point where there were a few cars that people had come in, and the mayor of one of the villages, Masara, invited – or perhaps instructed me would be a better word! – to come with him in his car back to his home for a cup of Arabic coffee.

In the car we had a very interesting, enlightening and thought-provoking conversation. He asked me what I was doing here and, when I told him about our Cambridge/Bethlehem People to People Project, he began to share his thoughts about “twinning” with Bethlehem. He had, he assured me, no problem with people supporting the city of Bethlehem, or the population centers in Beit Jalla and Beit Sahour – his problem, he told me emphatically, was that there are “dozens” of cities around the world that have some sort of “twinning” arrangement with Bethlehem. “We are” he informed me, “ten villages with 10,000 people spread out over a vast area of some 60,000 dunams, and no one ever makes it past Manger Square to come to us.” These villages, despite the fact that they are part of the Bethlehem region, get little or no funding from the city, the Palestinian Authority and certainly not the Israeli government. If we want to help them, he stressed, they need support for education (particularly a kindergarten), health care and economic development. By the time we reached his house he had done an admirable “pitch” for his village and those around it. Inside we were able to sit for a while, talking, learning about the area, exchanging contact information and sipping coffee. When I left with a “service” taxi, MZ gave me a warm, hearty handshake and expressed his hope that we would be in contact with one another.

The “service” dropped me off at a major intersection (I think on the edge of Beit Sahour) where there wer many taxis whose drivers began to yell at one another as soon as they perceived that I was looking for a taxi. When I showed one of them a card from Siraj to show him the address I was going to, he took it out of my hand, walked to his taxi and got in as he motioned me to get into the passenger side. I asked a couple of times how much the trip would coast and got no useful answer, only the repetition of “I know where you are going” over and over. By this time there were four or five taxi drivers shouting at “my” driver and beckoning me to there own cars. I was able to get SJ on the phone and, after retrieving my cards, was able to find a driver who spoke a bit of English, gave me a fair price to get me back to Siraj to do some computer/e-mail work.

Later in the evening I had a chance to meet Daniel Moses over a lovely dinner prepared by SJ’s mother at their home. Daniel is a lovely, incredibly well read man who works with Seeds of Peace. Our conversation was fascinating and, as it related to Seeds of Peace, complicated like everything else here. There is no question that Seeds of Peace is doing important work, creating connections not only between young people, but with parents, other adults and the “Seeds” that go on to be “Delegation Leaders,” fostering, if not agreement on everything, at least some understanding and friendships that cross the awful lines of conflict here. At the same time I was disappointed – although not surprised – to hear that Seeds of Peace, like virtually everything here in Israel and Palestine, is burdened by a full complement of personal and political issues. On the Israeli side the choice of participants is carefully overseen and regulated by the Ministry of Education with those chosen thoroughly prepped on how to present Israel in the most positive way possible. On the Palestinian side there is, not surprisingly, much less of an organized process making the choice far looser. On both sides, the influence of the elite, policy-makers and powerful plays a significant role, many of the “seeds” apparently coming from the ranks of their children. Never the less, it would appear from what Daniel described, the effect of the program (which, by the way includes participants from a number of other countries) is extremely hopeful and its true value probably won’t be seen or felt for some time to come.

Saturday, Dec. 1st, 2007 – 9:00 p.m. – Arab Women’s Union Guest House

An awful day in Twana and Tubah

SJ had me picked up by a taxi early this morning and I met him at the YM/YWCA. Our day began with a taxi to the edge of Bethlehem where we were picked up by Ezra, an Israeli activist who drove us in his van, to a large action in the villages of Twana and Tubah. This was the beginning of one of the worst days I’ve had since Yom Ha’atzmaut (“Israel Independence Day) in Hebron in 2001.

Twana is a tiny village south of Hebron, near the settlement of Ma’on – one of the most vicious of the settlements. After waiting a little while in the “center” of the village, two busloads of people, mostly Israelis, with a significant number of “internationals,” began arriving. Our charge for the day was to march to the village of Tubah, about two miles away, and sit while the people of Tubah plowed their land. The whole thing sounds simple, a reasonable walk to do something that shouldn’t need doing to begin with.

[Just something of a side comment: The village’s mosque was demolished, I believe someone said around 1998. Recently the village rebuilt an amazingly simple structure and this past week they received new demolishment orders, apparently because the village could not obtain the proper rebuilding permits.]

We started out along a narrow dirt road that moved up and down rolling hills - a bit challenging but certainly nothing overly difficult. As we marched a number of Israeli vehicles, both police and an array of different kinds of military vehicles, fell in line in front and behind us. Before long the road curved and soldiers appeared in front of us and we were told that we were forbidden to continue. There was a small amount of conversation between the soldiers and the leaders of our group and we were instructed (by Israeli demonstrators) to continue on. With that the 200 or so marchers surged forward, making it impossible for the soldiers to do anything but allow us to pass. What I realized at that point is that our movement had taken a new direction, off the already challenging road, and across the open hillsides. It is difficult to describe the terrain – mostly it is hard and rocky, with hill after hill that make San Francisco seem like thte flatlands of Iowa. As I trekked along, trying to keep up with the mass of people, I would climb up a hillside and feel a great surge of success having made it to the top, only to realize, as we reached the crest, that we had only arrived at another huge (and, thanks to the rocky terrain, even more difficult that going up) another steep descent into a deep valley with another hill on the other side. At one point, trying to direct my mind away from the discomfort of this trek, I imagined that this is what it would be like to do the Walk for Hunger or run the Boston Marathon on the tracks of the largest roller coaster at Coney Island. Attempting to navigate a terrain that was not meant for two-legged creatures, actually made a tiny bit easier by my cane, I began to fall back a bit. A number of people stopped as they passed to make sure that I was OK and ask whether I needed help. A wonderful young Israeli man, Asaf, actually slowed down and, with no fanfare or explanation, began to walk with me as we struck up a conversation about him and about what I was doing there.

All along this tortuous route we were watched from the distance by residents of the Mo’an settlement, whose large, modern agricultural buildings were obvious on the hilltop to our right. There was obvious interaction between the settlers (dressed almost all in white) and the many soldiers and police officers also on the ridge. As the few of us that had fallen a bit behind began to climb the next hill we were confronted by about half a dozen settlers screaming in Hebrew, telling us to go back, leave them alone, and get off their land. Since I was looking mostly at the ground, trying to negotiate the ever-present rocks, I was suddenly surprised by a woman, i would guess in her 30’s, dressed in an ankle-length skirt, long sleeve top and head scar, all in white, who began screaming at me to go off with my “Arab friends,” to “get off our land,” and repeatedly asking me what i was doing there. I continued to walk, trying to ignore this near-hysterical woman and avoid any direct contact with her, until she began to push me back down the hill and, at one point, attempted to grab my cane. As I maneuvered around her, trying to minimize the intensity of the interaction,

I was aware of a number of Israeli police officers about 50 meters away, watching everything that was happening without moving, talking or taking any kind of action. Finally, the woman pointed away from the settlement buildings and told me “go with your Arab friends, you Nazi!” I was relieved that I was then able to go off, with Assaf and a friend of his, and make our way up the hill.

When we finally arrived at a hilltop where the group had gathered, most people sitting on the larger stones or on the ground, listening to speakers talking through battery-operated megaphones (this seems to be a staple of these demonstrations) I was somewhat confused as to what was going to happen, but grateful that we hade apparently reached our destination. I cannot adequately express my feelings when I realized that we had, in fact, not yet reached our final destination, that this was merely a rest stop and, as one of the “veterans” was kind enough to inform me, “the roughest part is ahead of us.” This turned out to not be empty words. After informing us that, when we got to the fields of Tubah, we would form around the perimeter allowing the Tubans to plow the field unmolested by the settlers who regularly harass them when they try to work their land. When we arrived, we sat around the large field we had come to and watched as a middle-aged man riding an ancient tractor drove back and forth across the field, while three older teenage boys walked behind two donkeys pulling crude plows. I asked someone what they would be planting there and was told that they are expecting to grow coarse grass for their sheep!

After about an hour of this the plowing was halted and the word spread that the residents had invited us to their homes. As we began moving over the (thank heaven) last ridge I was told that either the soldiers or the police (it’s not always clear which of them is responsible for what) had halted the plowing because the settlers had demanded to see official maps confirming that this field did, in fact, belong to the residents of Tubah!

Over the ridge we arrived at the “village” of Tubah. If Twana is a small village, Tubah is barely an encampment. With virtually no permanent structures, these Bedouin-like people live with no electricity, no running water and no sewerage system, in lean-tos, semi-structures built with and into the rocks around the area, with kerosene lamps and “stoves” and virtually no furniture. And yet I was not particularly surprised when the women and children began distributing large circles of a a rustic, pita-like bread to all of us, and, from one of the shelters down the side of the hill I saw a man emerge with a tray of about half a dozen little glasses of, tea. The almost obsessive hospitality of these people is almost surreal – and adds to the overwhelming feeling of shame that I feel in situations like this.

After a while we began our hike back. An attempt was made to leave by way of the dirt road that circled the settlement (circuitous, but without the rock climbing), but the soldiers/police/settlers barred our way and we continued back the way we had come. About what I would estimate was a quarter of the way back I slipped on some rocks and pulled my knee. When i sat down to rest a number of people came over to see if I was OK. A very lovely – I was to find out later – professor of Indian literature and Sanskrit at Hebrew University, originally from the U.S. many years ago, identified himself as a medic and asked if I needed help. Although I told him that I thought I’d be alright he insisted on walking me over to a group of police officers nearby and, after some conversation I could only partly follow, the two of us were escorted to a group of military vehicles. I was ushered into one of them, protesting that I did not want to go without DS – but he insisted that I take the ride and was soon off on the dusty, rocky road from the settlement. The four soldiers (three men and one woman) were pleasant, although we had very little meaningful interaction, even offering me the first cup of ice water I’ve had here (from a tank in the back of the vehicle). At some point we converged with the line of returning protesters who had found their way back to the road leading to Twana and I asked the soldiers to let me out. When I got out a number of police officers came over and began speaking to me in Hebrew. I asked the one who seemed to be in charge to speak a little slower since i couldn’t understand everything he was saying – he then asked if I spoke French (!), and when I said no, English or some Hebrew, he asked if everything was alright and whether I had been treated well (I told them I had been), He then asked me my name and told me that I should go back to America and tell everyone how well I had been treated by the Israelis!!! Amazing. I happily rejoined the group and limped the final lap back to the village.

Back in “downtown Twana,” after some speeches thanking everyone for coming, SJ and I headed for Ezra’s van, and started back to Beit Sahour. After a couple of kilometers, however, Ezra began a frenetic round of calls and circled back to where the buses back to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were loading their passengers. After some conversation with the people there we headed down the road again and stopped at the paved road to the settlement. In a few minutes the two buses arrived, pulled to the side of the road and people began moving from one to the other. I was finally able to ascertain that, as we were leaving Tubah, some settlers had beaten a boy from there and stolen his donkey – and now part of the group was going to remain behind and walk to the settlement to demand that the donkey be returned. As I write this in my room at the guest house in Beit Sahour I don’t know how that situation was resolved – and I don’t expect to find out at least until tomorrow.

As if this wasn’t a enough, heard some distressing news on the way back: earlier I wrote about having stopped in the village of Funduq which was closed because a settler had been shot (not by someone from Funduq). Yesterday a band of settlers went through Funduq, beat up local residents and apparently destroyed a significant amount of the town and some homes. When I heard this news I was overcome by the feeling I had a half dozen years ago in Hebron witnessing the effects of what can only be described as a pogrom perpetrated by the settlers there on the people, stores and homes of the people there. A horribly fitting cap to my experience in Twana and Tubah.

I hate clich├ęs, but today I felt as if I was in the belly of the beast. As I’m writing this, I’m sitting at my desk in the Arab Women’s Union Guest House – my feet ache, my knee is still throbbing (just a little), I’m exhausted – but mostly I’m emotionally totally drained. At the beginning of this entry I said that this was one of the worst days I’ve had since I was in Hebron on Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) in 2001. My feelings stem from much of the same place that they did then: it is impossible for me to understand or internalize the ugliness of people who identify themselves as observant Jews committed to their people and Jewish values and yet do what the people of the Ma’on settlement are doing. Here is a community of people who identify themselves as devout “Torah-true” Jews who are merely attempting to reclaim a land they believe was given exclusively to their ancestors – and, by extension, themselves – by a loving, caring God. They would have you believe that they have God’s blessing to do anything necessary to claim the land, clear it of anyone who is in the way of their special destiny. Anyone who challenges them, especially other Jews, is at best misguided, at worst a traitor and – as I was called today – a “Nazi.” These tsitsis- (the fringes worn by orthodox men at the corners of a special rectangular cloth) wearing hooligans have expropriated the land of the people in the villages in this region, pushed the legal owners out, created an exclusive enclave for their own use, and yet they still want more, are voracious in their quest to claim the land and vcious in their desire to cleanse that land of anyone who is not, well, them. It is impossible for me to express how I felt – when the woman called me a Nazi, when I saw and heard the ugliness of the settlers arrayed on the crest of the hill on which their transplanted agri-business is affixed; when bearded men in Sabbath clothes shouted filthy epithets at peaceful walkers avoiding their land, when these criminals made use of a legality that is never applied to them and finally, when I see that today in the “Jewish homeland” beating an unarmed boy and stealing the animal he relies on is apparently an acceptable Shabbat afternoon activity.

I will read this tomorrow, after what I hope will be a reasonable night’s sleep, and decide if it needs to be edited. As I write, however, I cannot help but think “If this is the face of ‘Torah-true Judaism’ I want nothing to do with it.” I know of no one with a greater potential for fomenting anti-Semitism than these ugly, vicious people. I have worked diligently to help people understand that they must listen to the stories of the other, not necessarily to agree with them or what they do, but, if not for any other reason, because they are their stories and they help to understand why another does what s/he does – and it gives us an opportunity to find the good in the other if it is there. I cannot, however (and heaven help me) find anything good in these people, nor does their story offer me very much insight into why they act as they do. Arthur Waskow talks about those he “stands with” and those he “doesn’t stand with.” I do not stand with these other Jews, not on anything or ever – and that saddens me. It saddens me because I have always believed that, underneath all of our self-created schisms, we Jews shared a core of values that transcended what divides us. (And make no mistake. As much of an idealist as I am on one level, i am a realist at the same time and have always known that there are those in our community (as there are in virtually all communities) who are extremists that live and function outside of those values. I do not know, however, where to place these people on the spectrum that is the Jewish community – if they are there somewhere it shames all of us who identify ourselves as Jews, and, perhaps worst of all, these people are not only condoned, but embraced by an Israeli state that has jettisoned the values of our tradition along with the platitudes that our Zionists forefathers/mothers built the dream of a special place on. And the institutional Jewish community in the U.S. – along with individuals with seemingly endlessly deep pockets – justify and support behavior like this? And how do I begin to explain, much less justify, my self-absorbed inner struggle with SJ, a Palestinian who sees his land, life and his past being stolen by my people.

Around 1:00 p.m., about the time that many synagogue-attending Jews might have been ending Shabbat services and, possibly, singing “Oseh Shalom” (“Oseh shalom bimromav, Hu ya’aseh shalom alenu, v’al kol Yisroel, v’imru, imru amen.” – May the one who creates Shalom, grant Shalom to us and to all the people of Israel, and let us all say Amen) when a few people sitting on the top of a hill near the village of Tubah began singing the familiar tune, substituting “kol olam” (the whole world) for “kol Yisrael” (all Israel). I want to believe that we other Jews can take back our Judaism, our Jewishness, from those who have tried to highjack it, but, as I sit here I just don’t know.

Just a couple of observations (written the next morning) to end on a little bit of a brighter note: Along with the 200 or so demonstrators were at least three children who walked the entire way with their parents and one baby in a carrier on her father’s stomach. The beautiful little girl in the picture here went off with her abba (daddy) who was carrying a roll of toilet paper thoughtfully carried from home! I’m not sure exactly where they “went” since there are few trees here, accept in the area taken for the settlement, but they returned a few minutes later, the little girl skipping happily.

I must say that one can understand why the settlers want this land – aside from the ideological desire to own and control it, it is a magnificently beautiful, even if stark place. Looking out from the top of the hills one has a vision of truly biblical proportions which risks one seeing the place in nostalgic, picturesque ways, rather than in terms of the political realities. But one cannot deny the grandeur.

Finally, while I’m tired and my knee still hurts, it only hurts a little and I actually feel quite well, better after doing much more physical exertion than the last time I was here and my heart feels 1000% better! I’m watching myself carefully, but sometimes surgery actually does make a difference!

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