I have been in Palestine for one week. I will be living in Bethlehem for the next three months as an Ecumenical Accompanier (EA) with the Ecumenical Accompanier Program in Palestine and Israel. Part of my role is to experience the impact of the occupation on people’s lives (including human rights abuses), collection of data for other agencies and support for both Palestinians and Israelis working for peace. When I return, I will share my stories and advocate for a just peace in this land.
In a recent team reflection, I tried to summarize my experiences of the last week in three words. My first word was “land”. My choice of land was due to the on-going confiscation of land, eviction notices and demolition orders imposed on Palestinian owned land. For the Palestinians, the loss of land has obvious economic impacts as well as a loss of identity and heritage. The on-going loss of land, primarily for the benefit of expanding Israeli settlements, is a source of great tension in this area.
My second word was “bureaucracy”. There are well over 100 permits in the system that the Palestinians are subjected to. These permits appear intentionally designed to restrict movement, strip people of their most basis rights, antagonize, embarrass, and punish (for those who do not adhere to both defined and undefined terms).
My final word was “filmishmish” which in Arabic means “when the apricots bloom”. The English translation is roughly “wishful thinking” or “when pigs fly”. I witnessed the use of this term by a fellow EA when negotiating a taxi fare – when the driver heard this word coming from a foreigner, he was both impressed and amused and the requested price was quickly agreed to. This event impressed upon me what a friendly and fun loving people the Palestinians are and that my time in this land will be rewarding.
Most of the injustices and acts against human rights I have witnessed and have yet to witness will be impossible to explain in a blog, let alone a single word. While my challenge is simply witness and articulate, the people here have to live it on a daily basis.