Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Most Excellent Week in the Life of a Palestinian Peace Activist

Today's news from Jamal Muqbel (see more of his story in previous posts below) -

You may remember that Jamal is involved in an Israeli-Palestinian organization, Wounded Crossing Borders, that brings together Israeli and Palestinians who have been wounded or lost loved ones in the conflict. Last May, my Compassionate Listening delegation met with their group in Jamal's home in Beit Ommar, between Bethlehem and Hebron in the Palestinian West Bank. We had a delicious Palestinian feast prepared by his wife Sadiyeh and her friends and family.

Today Jamal writes about the work he is continuing to do, bringing understanding, reconciliation and healing to places filled with fear, frustration and hatred.

Earlier this week, on Monday and Tuesday, he traveled with his Israeli friend Gadi Kenny, to Sderot, an Israeli town on the northern edge of the Gaza strip. It's a town very much aware of the ongoing conflict - they live with frequent rocket attacks from angry Palestinians in the Gaza strip. When I visited with a group there in May, they described the trauma of never knowing when or where the next rocket will land. Although these homemade rockets usually land in empty fields and rarely hit anyone or anything, they have occasionally killed people and they are terrifying for the people - going to school or to the market or sitting in their homes. Everyone always knows where the nearest bomb shelter is.

Anyway, this week Jamal went to the "Gaza-Sderot Conference 2011: Moving from Crisis to Sustainability." He describes meeting many Israelis, many who are very angry, some who wanted to hit him and others who yelled at him. He persevered, however, talking with them, telling them about himself and his family, showing them photos of Palestinians. He taught them about the situation of Palestinians who cannot travel (it's a small miracle that he was able to attend the conference - I can hardly imagine how that happened!).

He says he talked to them about why the people of Gaza shoot the rockets across the border and he says that he is now in touch with many of the participants by email; one of the families invited him to stay in their home.

Then on Wednesday he visited the home of the former director of the Hebron prison, where, he says, he could not find much agreement in their dialogue. But, he spent the night in their home.

Photo shows Jamal, with Margee, his long-time friend, who was on our Compassionate Listening delegation in May. Photo: Ellen Greene

Then he and Gadi drove to Tantur (an ecumenical center near Bethlehem) and met with the Bereaved Families Forum. The good news for us Americans is that this workshop was sponsored with USAID funds! Our tax dollars finally buying something besides bulldozers, M16s and tear gas grenades.

Jamal reports that he and Gadi did not get much sleep in those five days, but his energy level is very high. He and Gadi are talking about new projects - visiting people in their homes to talk about peace, talking to people on the roads and in the schools.