Friday, June 20, 2008

June 20, Jerusalem

We began the day with Hannah from Maccsom Watch - the 500 women, mostly grandmothers, who stand at a few of the hundreds of checkpoints and witness what is happening. Fortunately, there are now rarely any incidents of physical mistreatment of Palestinians at the checkpoints. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have learned how to behave to avoid bad publicity and getting themselves in trouble. The mistreatment has become much more subtle. Instead of strip searches and beatings, the soldiers humiliate by ignoring those who are waiting or requiring them to go back home for yet another document before they are allowed to pass.

Our tour guide meets us every day at our hotel in Jerusalem. He must leave his home in Bethlehem at 6:30 so he can meet us at 9:00. It's about a 15 minute bus ride. The rest of the time he allows for holdups at the checkpoint. You see, he never knows if he will have to wait 15 minutes or an hour and a half. It's the same people lining up to go to work each morning, but the IDF have complete discretion as to whether the people go through smoothly or not. There are no written laws or procedures for what might be required at the checkpoint - only the whim of the soldier, who may choose to disallow the pass he holds.

Hannah, a Jewish grandmother, began her work with Maccsom Watch after she became a widow - her husband would never have approved of what she does and her children do not approve. That was all she would say about it. She does the work because she sees how the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is destroying the heart of the Jewish people in Israel. The way the soldiers are trained and their treatment of the Palestinians changes the hearts of the young Israelis, all of whom must serve a mandatory time in the army.

Today we also stood with other grandmothers at an intersection in Jerusalem, the Women in Black, holding signs saying "End the occupation." We got lots of reactions - some supportive, but mostly negative - hand signals we didn't recognize, but they definitely were NOT friendly! One woman signaled a "thumbs up" however!

Ending the occupation is the only solution for any of the people we have spoken with, Jewish or Palestinian. There are wonderful human rights workers gathering information and documenting what is happening. So, as a truce is declared in Gaza, no one we have talked with sees this as much progress. It's more stalling, with nothing really changing. Until IDF soldiers leave Gaza, nothing has changed.

But- pray for the ceasefire - it IS something!

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