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Resistance is the stubborn red poppy growing out of the Israeli army bunker on the Golan Heights.
Resistance is the purple hollyhock climbing proudly out of the rubble of what was a Syrian house on the Golan before 1967.
Resistance is when the Israeli bubble you live in bursts when your daughter is blown up yet you decide, in all your devastation, to make a difference, a pledge, in fact, to get to know your enemy rather than seeking revenge.
Resistance is being able to recognize that pain is a power that can be used for revenge or reconciliation and you choose the latter.
Resistance is living the occupation, going through the humiliating checkpoints, waiting in long lines to reach work and school with silent dignity.
Resistance is the recognition that one’s voice, the one who struggles for justice, can make a difference.
Silence in the face on nonviolent resistance, on the part of the world community, is a crime.
-- Cathy Sultan
Nazareth and the Galilee
Al Tufula Center-Nazareth Nursery Institute: We spent part of the day in Nazareth meeting with Nabila Espaniola, who has been instrumental in working on advocacy and lobbying on women’s issues. Whatever action is done has a song. These songs are part of a daily routine Palestinian women establish with their children and extended families.
While Nabila’s focus is on early childhood and women’s empowerment, her work branches out into three crucial areas:
1. Work with unrecognized Palestinian villages within Israel. These villages operate off the grid and are virtually ignored by the state of Israel. Evictions and demolitions pose a constant threat. Nabila seeks to build strength in women who will eventually work for their own communities.“For those left alone as orphans on the tables of the ungiving,” women can share in a “herstory”, children have access to a decent education, and extended family members sow the seeds of capacity through their collective abilities for generations to come.
2. High school students. Students are recruited for a year of training to become volunteers in their own communities. The Center works in conjunction with the students to look at their roots and history as well as abilities. Many of these continued on to University.
3. Disabled women. Here the Center stresses “different abilities” as opposed to “disabilities” for the reason of awakening each individual’s abilities and capacity-building. No longer must these people be silenced and invisible.
Visits to Destroyed Village Sites: This afternoon we got a glimpse through our tour guide, Ali, of the devastating impact of the destruction of 530 villages in 1948 described as “ al-Nakba” (the disaster). Most of these villages are in the Galilee. Today, Karmiel, with 60,000 Jewish inhabitants, is part of the “Judaization of the Galilee”. We viewed remnants of stone structures from Palestinian houses abandoned in 1948. “What is it like for Palestinians to see remnants of their houses, their village,” someone asked, “for those who are able to go?
A Bedouin Unrecognized Village: Karmiel is a Jewish settlement inside Israel comprised of 60,000 immigrants, primarily from Russia. In between their concrete high rises sits an “unrecognized” village a family refers to as Rimya.
“How long have you been here?”, one of the visitors asked. A young man cheerfully replied, “We were here before the Turks came”. Within minutes we were invited into a hospitable world. Initially uncomfortable about our seeming intrusion and whipping out cameras, I began hearing laughter from the two teenage girls who stood in the background. A young Bedouin had pulled out his cell phone camera and began photographing us! “How can you help us?,” an elderly man named Mohammed asked. The two groups of people shared in discourse about changes that needed to be made in governments complicit in what was happening to these “living stones”, and what we could do in our individual communities. As we prepared for departure, a settler passed by.
-- Karen Clarke
Calling people by the name they choose to be called is an indication of respect. I learned that the US cultural convention of saying “Arab Muslims” is inappropriate for Palestinian residents of the Galilee. Nabila from Al Tufula Nursery in Nazareth said the women she worked with liked to be called “Palestinian Arabs who are Israeli citizens” or “Palestinian citizens of Israel.” I will be more careful.
Today we drove to Kibbutz Haogen near Tel Aviv where we met Ruth Hiller from the New Profile movement. Ruth grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and moved to Israel as a young idealistic Zionist to help build the nation of Israel. She met her husband in the kibbutz and they had six children (2 girls and 4 boys) who they raised on the kibbutz. The two older children (both girls) served in the military but when the oldest son turned 15, he announced to his parents that he was a pacifist and would not serve in the military.
After deep soul-searching, Ruth and her husband decided they would support him on two conditions -- that they would do it together and that they would do everything they could to keep him out of jail. He agreed, and so began a six-year sojourn -- searching for lawyers to represent them (the first 7 rejected the case as "not win-able"), three appeals to the High Court of Israel, and eventually to the High Court's decision that her son was "unsuitable" for military service.
"My son knew he was 'unsuitable' for military service at age 15," she said. "When we asked him how he came to the decision that he was a pacifist, he told us that he had learned pacifist values as a child on the kibbutz."
In his early teens, he sought out books by Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time he had to read Gandhi in English, as his autobiography had not been translated into Hebrew.
The process radicalized Ruth who moved from attending weekly vigils with Women in Black to getting together with a small group of women to form a study group around the issues raised by her son's case and that of all Israeli refusers.
Over the years, the New Profile movement emerged.
Today its aim is to work toward changing Israeli society "from a militarized to a civil society; from a discriminating and oppressive society to an egalitarian one; from an occupying nation to a respectful neighbor."
Ruth's stories illuminated the militarization of Israeli society and the normalization of militarization. When her son first came out as a pacifist, she remembers whispering as she described the situation to a "left-wing" friend. After two years of working together as a study group, New Profile organized a day long conference around the question, "Who has the right of conscience?"
They planned to hold the conference in the community meeting room at Ruth's kibbutz, the room where we our delegation met with her. However, as people arrived, a group of protestors ((Ruth's friends and neighbors, residents of the kibbutz) assembled at the entrance, holding protest signs, "Auschwitz, Never Again!"
Out of respect for the other members of the kibbutz, the organizers decided on the spot to move 150 people to a nearby neighbor's backyard. Ruth described the heartbreak she felt at the protest and her sense of joy at the number of people who showed up -- 150 people! She knew then that their work was touching a deep need in Israeli society.
Ruth and other members of New Profile now travel internationally, speaking in Europe and the United States about their work.
Her message to American Jews: "I don't want my children to die for your belief in Zionism."
Ruth says that the majority of "refusers" are "grey refusers." For example, her second and third sons, unlike their older brother, took the easy route out. "If you can get out because you wet the bed at night or because you're afraid of the dark, that's much easier than the route of direct political refusal."
New Profile provides counseling and legal aid to refusers of all kinds. Visit their website at www.newprofile.org/english to learn more about their work and services.
Voices….voices….diverse, pained, filled with an active hope that says, I must do something, or I will die. The voices come from extraordinary people doing amazing actions in horrific circumstances. They also come from people, Palestinians and Jews alike, who believe in the right of a democratic homeland.
On a street in East Jerusalem a good-natured merchant invited me into his shop; He told jokes, like my father’s, introduced his daughter, described his wares, and expressed his hope that a united country someday could be like America with everyone neighbors and friends regardless of nationality.
I heard the story of the Palestinian working as a gardener at his grandfather’s house, now in the hands of a Jew, an example of the slogan “More Land, Less Arabs.”
A resident of the Dheisheh Refugee Camp spoke of his detention. Palestinians cannot speak out. It is illegal and subject to detention. Sixty percent of the residents of the camp have had these administrative detentions, jailed with no say, no trial.
A soft-spoken, gentle young adult at the same camp just wants to sleep at night without fear, see the ocean, return to the village his grandmother describes to him as home.
A mother told of the trauma to her children after seeing their friends killed…she pleaded for the United States to be a peacemaker.
A poet father mourned for his daughter who died without seeing her son during his 21 years in detention. He recited his poem….”This year is gone without any taste…”
The Fatah party member in Bethlehem works to “transform the garbage of anger to flowers of compassion” by reawakening spirituality because that is the language of the heart. His work is meant to “empower the weak and bring the strong to their senses.” He was firm in his belief that no one is an enemy except he who denies human rights.
A man with Hamas leanings pleaded for the American press to report the fact that “justice delayed is justice denied.”
A victim of the siege of the Church of St. Catherine described police brutality as it punished a whole neighborhood for the act of one.
A UN spokesperson enumerated UN resolutions disregarded by Israel that were meant to protect people from illegal transfer and the need to provide physical return, restitution/reparation, and compensation.
During a tour through Galilee, “This used to be a Palestinian town,” echoed over and over.
An Israeli woman in Sderot, though traumatized by the rockets from Gaza, admitted through every assault that she never stopped thinking about the other side. “When you don’t see the other, you develop stereotypes and stigmas, not solidarity.” She pleaded for her country to break the wall and build a bridge.
An Israeli man identified Gaza as the largest prison in the world. He felt it was time to raise a new voice since Israeli society does not want to see what it is doing, what it has done, and fears it will only become more racist. Both accept social isolation when they state, “Not in my name or for my security.” Instead, they invite person-to-person dialogue.
At a nearby kibbutz, the Israeli members admitted that the threat of rockets make their situation bad but acknowledge that Gaza is worse; they understand Palestinian suffering. They believe the onus is on the stronger to act, not the weakest. They believe “we can all live here together in peace.”
The director of an NGO meant to empower women by identifying and utilizing their skills remarked that “the national priorities are Zionist priorities and overlook real needs; minorities have become invisible…. but identity and existence cannot be suppressed.”
Another Palestinian described the killing of six peaceful demonstrators who responded to government confiscation of the town’s farmland. This event is now commemorated on March 30th as Land Day, an illegal observance but necessary as a statement against continued illegal government action.
An Ethiopian Jewish immigrant would like to see the Palestinian-Israeli issue settled after careful study, but “now I want to buy bread for my kids and cannot focus on a political issue.”
While all these voices touched the heart, the most poignant for me was the one of the Bedouin man, surrounded by his family, who said, “I have no place to go; this is my home.” His family has owned and worked the land since before the arrival of the Ottoman Turks, centuries ago. He has received a demolition order to make room for a Jewish settlement. Multi-story apartment buildings surround him already, inhabited by newly arrived immigrants from Russia. His small piece of land is dwarfed by Goliath.
What do these voices have in common? They acknowledge that people are human first; that people must act in the face of indiscriminate brutality, that people preserve hope through community action, that people must maintain their empathy.
These voices are the answer to Israel’s future and redemption. Will Israel and the US government, its co-conspirator, hear them.
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