An insight into the MidEast struggle

June 11, 2015

After accompanying UCC’s Global Ministries to the Middle East in April this year, Director of Social Responsibility Katie McCloskey witnessed firsthand some of the needless suffering the Palestinians face. Read her blog piece here —

Let’s Go

Yallah. In every place we’ve been, this has been constantly uttered. It’s Arabic for “let’s go”  which can be used, for example, to indicate that chit chat over breakfast is finished and the group must hoof it somewhere. But as our learning and sharing has deepened in the Middle East, yallah is taking on another meaning – a reminder that time is fleeting and action must commence.

[quote_right] Employed Palestinians face hours of waiting time to go through checkpoints to get to get to their jobs in Israel.[/quote_right]

Most things here in East Jerusalem are complicated. Time is no exception. Many Palestinians here “have too much time on their hands” because the conditions on the ground prevent the creation of a meaningful job market and they don’t have the right to travel freely to find work or new opportunities. On the other hand, we are told again and again by our partners in the region that on a daily basis the lucky, employed Palestinians face hours of waiting time to go through checkpoints to get to get to their (mostly agricultural) jobs in Israel. These people wake in the middle of the night to ensure that they get to work on time so as not to jeopardize their work permits.  So time also comes at a premium.

Children at the Rawdat al Zuhur (Garden of Flowers) have to go through checkpoints to get to school.

Children at the Rawdat al Zuhur (Garden of Flowers) have to go through checkpoints to get to school.

There is no exception for children. After meeting the children at the vibrant primary school Rawdat al Zuhur (Garden of Flowers), a partner institution of Global Ministries, it’s hard to imagine that these kids may wait hours to get through checkpoints to get to class. Inside the walls of the school these children bloom. The school has modern amenities while maintaining traditions. We were delighted to watch girls and boys dance the dabkeh, a high-stepping line dance. 226 children from kindergarten through grade 6 learn English, Hebrew, the arts, math and science in this wonderful haven. Many of our delegation will long feel the bittersweet emotion of joining a classroom of Palestinian children singing “We Shall Overcome.”

The Tantur Ecumenical Institute, on a hill in Jerusalem on the way to Bethlehem, welcomed us next. We learned about this place of scholasticism and retreat before being honored by the opportunity to speak with the Rt. Rev. Dr. Munib Younan, Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. We had a far ranging conversation – but the highlights were his requests of us, American Christians:

  • Speak about Jerusalem and the injustice and encroachment that is happening here
  • Stop the settlements in any way you can – including boycotting those products made in settlements
  • Speak about the inequity in resource sharing – especially water
  • Support the right of return for Palestinians
  • Don’t accept “aspirin for cancer” by applauding acts by politicians that are so diminutive as to make no difference to the situation on the ground

Before we parted, we expressed our excitement for his upcoming address at the Global Ministries/Council on Christian Unity dinner at the Disciples General Assembly.

Mt Olives

Mt of Olives, a highly policed area where a 17-year-old boy was shot at point blank range 10 times.

We stopped at a tiny falafel shop near the Mt of Olives. Israeli Police presence was inexplicably heavy as middle
school and teenagers walked home from school, and then tensions rose as the police donned riot gear and made a show of having their tear gas guns and machine guns raised and ready. When they walked down the road a bit, 30-40 nursery school children came out of the school that the police had been right in front of. A young Palestinian man watching our delegation said to us “You should go away now if you don’t want to get shot. Go into your church and pray.” Despite his warnings, we stayed. By standing there a little while longer, we learned that a 17 year old boy had been shot 10 times at point blank range by the police there a week ago.

This event laid heavy on our visits to the Mt. of Olives, the Garden of Gethesmane, the Church of All Nations, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The sites of Jesus’s persecution and death continue to be linked to persecution and death.

We then boarded the bus to Ramallah to meet with Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of BDS Palestine. The BDS Palestine movement has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception in 2005, asking for the international community to boycott products, divest of companies, and call for sanctions against the Israeli Occupation. Part of the growth of support for these actions can be attributed to what the world saw happening in Gaza last year, Dr. Barghouti explained. He reminded us that John Dugard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Israel-Palestine said the “litmus test for human rights” is Israel Palestine. If you fail here, you fail on human rights. His thoughts and information were especially helpful in light of the UCC General Synod Resolution that will be deliberated in June, but he also illuminated for us that doing right by the Palestinians was in accordance with, not opposed to, doing right by the African American communities in Ferguson, Baltimore, and all the places in our country that are seeking justice from racially motivated oppression.

[quote_right] God will not choose you at the expense of the liberty of others.[/quote_right]

We ended the evening by sharing a meal with Jean Zaru, the clerk of the Friends Meeting in Ramallah and a long-time collaborator with Global Ministries. An outspoken advocate for Palestinians and women, Jean is the only female head of communion in the Middle East. Jean’s deep faith and intellect captivated our group and left us wiser. Two things Jean said are particularly instructive to our delegation: “God will not choose you at the expense of the liberty of others” and “There are many things in the Bible that need to change with the times.”

So here we are again at the crux of it: Time is pressing in and changing circumstances and calling us to act. We have been tasked. Yallah…

Reproduced from globalministries.org. To read an account of the whole trip from each traveler’s perspective, click here.

 

 
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