Saturday, July 5, 2008

July 5, 2008 - The Road Map to Peace

As I packed my suitcase for this trip, I thought about recent visits by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to Israel. She was promoting the "Road Map," a peace initiative begun in 2003, that offers a plan for creating a two-state solution to the conflict - two independent states, Israel and Palestine, existing side-by-side. I thought this was a hopeful sign. All that needed to be determined was the boundaries. It sounded so logical and practical as I put pajamas and toothpaste and sunscreen in my bag.

Until I visited Jayyus. Standing in this village at the top of a hill north of Jerusalem, I looked out over the land, the "road map" starkly visible below. This Arab village, like many throughout the country, stands at the top of a hill. The 300 families that live in the village earn their living by farming - mostly the olive groves in the valley surrounding the village, land they have inherited from their fathers and grandfathers. They had constructed irrigation systems which allowed them to produce vegetables and citrus fruit, figs, apricots, loquats, mangoes and almonds. There are also thousands of olive trees on these farmlands.

The road map I see as I stand at the top of the hill in Jayyus shows a winding road - wide, new, well-maintained, wide shoulders. This road is not for the villagers to use to get to their farms or to the market, to facilitate trade for the Palestinians. This road, flanked on both sides by a six-foot wire fence topped with barbed wire, is the security barrier, part of the system of walls and fences Israel is building to keep terrorists out.

The picture says it all - the road here is the wall - the separation barrier between Palestinian lands and Israeli settlements. Remember, all this land is within the West Bank as marked by the 1948 Green Line. The road snakes around the hilltop, between the village on the hilltop and the villagers' olive groves below. The wider road in the picture is the separation barrier; the smaller road is the road the villagers must take to cross the separation barrier to get to their farms. Where the two intersect is the checkpoint the farmers must pass through - the one that is open an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. Further along there is another checkpoint that is open 7 am - 7 pm.

That's the one we visited. Our bus pulled up to the checkpoint and we got out. The soldiers told us we could not cross the road to the olive groves, so we stood at the checkpoint and watched the farmers come through. There were three groups of farmers waiting in line. The soldiers waved the farmers through, and, as they drove past us, the men on their tractors cheered and waved. They shouted to our guide that we should come again tomorrow - this was the easiest crossing they had had.

Americans. Standing in an olive grove belonging to the farmers. WE had made their lives easier for a few minutes? Our tiny blue passports carry more weight than hundreds of years of living on this land, farming it, raising children, making a life? Our blue passports make their lives easier.....on their own farmland?

Jayyus sits at the top of a hill and as our bus climbed up to the village, another "hill" came into view on our left. This hill, unlike the dry, tan dirt of this semi-arid region, was black....and square. An odd bit of geography. Our guide explained that this is the dump for the nearby Israeli settlements. The settlements are 2-10 miles away, but his is their garbage dump, a few hundred yards below the village of Jayyus.

1 comment:

Jeanne said...

hi jan -- it's good to see that you're still writing even though you have returned home. i find myself waking up in the midst of thoughts about all that i'm witnessing here. the "teacher dreams" i've had in the past are being replaced with "occupation dreams." so much to process.