It has taken a few days to acclimate with jet lag and to realize I am back to the normal routines in Philly finishing the school year, marking exams, and sharing the photos/stories with my spouse, family and friends. The normal post-trip malaise takes hold. The memories are still clear and poignant. It has been helpful to receive a few emails from my fellow pilgrims including an invite to respond to a Washington Post article on the Israeli settlements. Composing my response was liberating for me. With these new experiences and knowledge, there is a sense of obligation not to remain silent on the plight of the Palestinian people. By writing this letter to the editor, I was witnessing to the truth, as I experienced it, which is freedom. As I write, I see the human faces of those I was privileged to meet at Aida refugee camp, the folks at the HCEF center, the Tent of Nations farm, the Palestinian youth dancers, the Palestinian woman’s choirs, the speakers of Wi’am, Combatants for Peace, Christian Peacemakers, Rabbis for Peace, the staff at the HCEF Inn, our tour guide and bus driver, the people at the Nokba commemoration, the nameless huddled masses waiting for their cars to be examined at military checkpoints, the angry, the frustrated youth near the Wall, the Israeli military soldiers who looked so young covering their fear with outer displays of brash, aggressive displays. All of them. Seared into my memory.
I also finished the book, I will not Hate, written by the Palestinian doctor who lost three daughters and a niece in Gaza during an Israeli military invasion in late 2008/09 when two shells from a tank exploded into the children’s bedroom. He still refuses to hate based upon his Muslim faith and his experiences of Israeli people in his life who were kind, loving and respectful of him from working on an Israeli farm as a youth to being a doctor at an Israeli hospital with his Jewish colleagues to an Israeli reporter that assisted him and reported truthfully the oppression faced everyday in Gaza. Still his solution is establishing face to face relationships with the ‘other’ at the grassroots level through sports, education, humanitarian organizations,etc. To be able to dialogue honestly with empathy and respect for the other’s humanity and truth. He has formed a foundation to support Palestinian girls education in memory of his slain daughters. He believes that the women/ mothers on both sides are the best hope for Peace since children show us the way in their innocence.
The website is: daughtersforlife.com. Check it out! I will continue this blog with other reflections, books and actions regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Peace.