Here in Marfa, Texas, a group of us who call ourselves the Hogaristas celebrate the installation of another keyhole garden. This one is for Ken and Shere Whitely. We’ve got nearly twenty of them up in the community now. We are developing the reality as well as the vision for sustainable gardening. Keyhole gardens are small raised gardens that have a spot for adding compost material, such as kitchen waste. This type of garden was invented in Africa to maximize scanty resources. We add goat and llama poop provided by local ranchers, and the city gives us the dirt. We layer the garden with these materials, leaves, and wetted cardboard. You water it through the compost cylinder.
Here is a link to a good article about keyhole gardens: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/3726/#b
Drought Where There is Water
Christian Peacemaker Team
November 15-28, 2011
King Grossman / Edited by Delegation
Where there is dry, parched land in Jerusalem, it is where Palestinians live; where there are flourishing olive trees and almond trees and cedars and redbuds and willows and grassy lawns, it is where Jews live. This is also true throughout much of the West Bank, though more obscene if that is possible, because the green areas are illegal Jewish settlements. Israel controls the water and has a mandate to distribute it fairly to the Palestinians. But it is much more than water for the land that is being withheld. Waters of justice for a Palestinian homeland nation and for peace and for economy and for housing and for education and for sanitation and for medical care and for the soul is dammed off by Israeli Walls—the ever-present gray concrete behemoth topped by concertina wire that calls to mind the Berlin Wall, and other more insidious Walls invisible to the untrained eye.
Blessed by the work of all the CPTers that came before us in this region, the current CPT team based in Hebron, and so many Palestinian and Israeli people in support of peace and justice along with CPT, our delegation saw through these walls and into the apartheid state Israel brutally imposes on the Palestinians. Our delegation was lovingly, and brilliantly (deftly) led by Sally Hunsberger from Washington, DC, USA, and our members were Richard Chilvers from Oxford, England; King Grossman from Houston, Texas, USA; Kelsey Hutton from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; Klaase Maarse from Leiderdorp, Netherlands; David Pritchett from N. Manchester, Indiana, USA; Maurice Restivo from Angleton, Texas, USA; Chad Rimmer from Edinburgh, Scotland; Irene van Setten from Nijmegen, Netherlands; Ineke Steen from Bad Nieuweschans, Netherlands; Yvonne van de Vijver from Leiden, Netherlands; and Rosie Williamson from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We became friends, indeed, through this life-changing experience.
After getting settled in to the Golden Gate hostel in the Palestinian sector of the old city of Jerusalem, we headed out for a get-to-know-you dinner at the Jerusalem Hotel. I particularly remember the lemonade with fresh mint served at dinner. The next morning we met with Hanna of Yesdin, an organization of Israeli women who work to advocate for Palestinians tangled up in the Israeli unjust justice system. Oftentimes it takes months for Palestinian families to locate the whereabouts of their imprisoned family member. This organization works to help connect the families with the imprisoned and attempts to seek more timely and fair justice. Hanna also works with Machsom Watch, a group of Israeli women who monitor the military checkpoints.
We then went to Sabeel, Ecumenical Liberation Theology center in Jerusalem. There we participated in a Christian Eucharist, and it was particularly nice to hear the Eucharistic Prayer spoken in the Arabic language. Cedar Duaybis, of Sabeel, told us the story of the occupation by Israel of the Palestinian homeland in 1948, the history before that of Palestinians, Christians, and Jews living together in relative peace, and of the continual violations to the 1967 UN resolution for a Palestinian state and wind down of the Israeli occupation.
The Israel Committee Against House Demolitions took us on a tour of east Jerusalem where we stood next to a billboard advertising condo sales of a first-class gated community for illegal Jewish settlers. There was a phone number for the US sales representative that was particularly telling. This tour allowed us a view of miles and miles of barren Palestinian land that the Israeli government will not allow building on under the auspices of holding it open for greenbelt park area. The truth is this land is kept free for illegal Jewish settlements to be constructed, as so many already have been on Palestinian land.
Later that day my first sight of the Barrier Wall sickened me, as I watched two young Palestinian schoolchildren—a boy and girl in light giggly conversation—making their way home from school right beside this humongous structure with military turrets. When living like this becomes normal, what will be next for humanity to suffer?
The next day was public protest day for our delegation. The morning took us to a busy street corner in the modern city of Jerusalem, where we stood holding placards calling for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. A group of Israeli women called The Women in Black, who are tired of seeing sons of Israelis and Palestinians killed in this conflict, have been holding a protest on this street corner for over twenty years. We got some thumbs up from passersby, as well as other more dubious waves with one finger.
The other protest was in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah that is being systematically stolen from Palestinian families who have been living there for decades. Stolen legally that is. Israeli settlers take over the homes with authorizing paper from the kangaroo Jewish court system. One home is half taken over by Jews, while the Palestinian family lives on the other half of the property.
The next morning we traveled into the Negev desert region of Israel and met with Bedouins of Palestinian descent. These good, hospitable people are Israeli citizens who are being driven off the land they’ve inhabited for over a century. The Israeli army uses force of arms and bulldozers to take their homes to nothing and oftentimes attack them physically. They are forced into a few larger poverty-stricken, crime-ridden towns approved for relocation of Bedouins by the Israeli government. We all pretty much agreed this is gruesomely reminiscent of the annihilation and forced relocation to reservations that the US government perpetrated on its own First Nations People.
That afternoon we toured with the head of the parents’ organization and the headmaster of schools for the Bedouin children in the entire region. When the school became overcrowded, exceeding the Israeli limits on size, the Israeli government simply built a concrete dividing wall through the middle of the campus and stated, “Now you have two schools.”
In this tour our delegation was shown a home leveled to the ground by the very man who had built it. It is custom in the Bedouin community for the groom to build a house for his new bride, and upon marriage to move in to it together. The Israeli government waited for the house to be built and then issued an order for demolition. If the Israeli bulldozers come in and do it, the young man would’ve been in violation of the law, facing prison time and a charge for the demolition of his own home. So he demolished it himself. This is common practice by the Israeli government.
Our last stop in Jerusalem was at a community-organizing group funded by the European Union called Grassroots Jerusalem. This organization works to empower local Palestinians to advocate for themselves. This is where they showed us aerial photographs of Jerusalem, in which the green area is the west Jewish sector of the city, and the brown area is the east Palestinian sector. This graphic depiction of the morally bankrupt commandeering of water resources by the Israeli government inspired the title of this report.
Then, we were off to set up our base at the CPT apartment in Hebron. The old city at night is otherworldly in its all-but-deserted streets and stark silence. This is the way of Israeli militarism, death even for the living. But behind those old city walls, inside homes, there was life abundant, Palestinian hospitality. Layla and her husband along with her daughters opened their home to our delegation and blessed us with a Palestinian feast. The conversation was lively, and love abounded. The highlight of that evening for me was the passing around after plenteous hugs and oohs and ahhs of Layla’s infant granddaughter, Silina (sp?).
In Hebron every morning and afternoon, our delegation went out on patrol to monitor Israeli military checkpoints, especially mindful of children passing to and from school. Oftentimes teenagers were held and questioned, some younger boys too. I pray our presence had a dampening effect on the rough treatment Israeli soldiers may have otherwise meted out against the Palestinians passing through these checkpoints. We also escorted schoolchildren past illegal Israeli settlements, in which settlers have regularly attacked and harassed the children.
Touring the old city by day, there was life in the streets, markets, arts and crafts, eateries, and more, but overhead chain-link fencing had been laid down to catch trash and bottles and rocks dumped and/or thrown down from second-story dwellings by Jews living there illegally.
Walid Abu-Alhalaweh, Public Relation Director for the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, gave us a wonderful tour of the city, including a particularly moving time in the Ibrahimi Mosque, where it is believed the Judeo/Christian/Muslim patriarchs and matriarchs Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah are buried in a cave underneath the mosque. But this holy place is tainted with Israeli militarism and bullying. In 1994 an Israeli settler, Baruch Goldstein, made his way into the mosque and opened fire with an assault weapon, killing many Muslims. In response to this, the Israeli government brought in the military and took over half the mosque as a synagogue, and they keep the entire structure under military control today.
The next day’s tour was led by the affable and courageous Hani, who works with young Hebron males in non-violent training, resistance and documentation of Israeli military and settler abuses. He took us along al-Shuhada Street, which had been the busiest commercial street in Old Hebron. It, like many other streets vital to commerce and ingress and egress from Old Hebron, had been closed off by the Israeli military, leaving shuttered storefronts that had been thriving Palestinian businesses. The reason given is for security as a buffer between Palestinians and illegal Jewish settlements. We saw the only medical clinic in the old city of Hebron, but it is on a street where no autos are allowed as a result of a blockade once again by the Israeli military. How would one get medical attention in emergency, or if immobilized by disease? On this tour we also went to a school for Palestinian children. An illegal Jewish settlement is directly across the street, and the school basketball court has a very high netted-metal-fence to protect against rocks and bottles and such being thrown at the schoolchildren from the settlement. Pregnant teachers being subjected to excessive amounts of radiation from going through metal detectors several times a day at checkpoints, were given the alternative to walk over a mile through rough, rugged dangerously undulating terrain to get to the school–in a word, inhumane.
Our destination the next day was the Al Arroub Refugee Camp that has fifteen thousand residents. The year 1948 along with the symbol of keys to one’s home is at the heart of this community. This was the year that the military came in to create an Israeli state and provide “security” to the Palestinians in the process. The Palestinian families were instructed to leave their homes during the insurgence, and were told that they would be able to return once things calmed down in two or three weeks. They still have the keys to their homes; to this day, they have not been allowed the right of return. Wall art throughout the camp depicts the year 1948 and a key.
The director of the Al Arroub Camp Women’s Charitable Society gave us a tour of the camp. We were sung to by children who attend the kindergarten and community center in the camp. If families leave the camp to take up permanent residence elsewhere, the Israel government maintains they have given up their right of return to their original homes. So, the hearty souls in this camp stay.
The next day we went to the fertile Palestinian area of Bweireh. We first served as patrol to Palestinian schoolchildren who have no choice but to traverse a pathway home that skirts along the border of an illegal Jewish settlement. Barbed wire fencing is on one side of the pathway, and the settlement on the other. The Israeli military is charged with providing security for the schoolchildren, as settlers routinely attack them. But the military does a marginal job of this. Oftentimes, they are nowhere in sight.
Later that day we were treated to another feast in the home of the Zbeideh family. They farm this land that they’ve had in their family for generations, yet their home has been demolished by the Israeli military four times. They cannot get building permits on land that is theirs. Agricultural land in the West Bank is particularly targeted by the Israeli government to make it difficult on the Palestinians who own it. If they can drive them from their land, then they can confiscate it for the state of Israel long term.
A particularly challenging time for us to learn something about loving the oppressor was our visit to the home of Rifka and her family, who are living in the illegal Jewish settlement of Efrat in the West Bank. On the one hand, my heart went out to Rifka, as she had a son killed in a Palestinian terrorist attack. On the other hand, she justified Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land and violence perpetrated against the Palestinians in the name of security. This was justified by something Rifka referred to as “religious Zionism.” She spoke of deciding to become Jewish (she had been raised Christian) because of the compassion their faith tradition lives out. She spoke of deciding to live in the illegal settlement because of the “good home value” as a financial investment. This visit is best summed up for me by a bumper sticker I spotted on a car parked in front of a Palestinian peace and justice organization we visited in Bethlehem, which read: “When Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies,’ I think he probably meant don’t kill them.”
In Bethlehem at the Badil Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, we were given a wonderful rundown of the history of Israeli encroachment on Palestinian land from before 1948 through today. It is clear that there has been a long slow march to take over the entire homeland of the Palestinians without offering them much of anything in return other than apartheid rule.
The next day we traveled to the village of At-Tuwani, where CPT had had a team that was successful in working with the community to help empower them to monitor their children going past illegal Israeli settlements to and from school, as well as empowering the women of the community to have their own small businesses of arts and crafts. We met in the home of Keifa, and while there a young man from the organization of Breaking the Silence spoke with us. Breaking the Silence is a group of former Israeli solders who are going on record in video productions, telling the truth of the brutality they regularly dealt Palestinians. One example Breaking the Silence has disclosed are random home raids without evidence or provocation called Straw Widows by the Israeli military, where Palestinian men are taken into custody at gunpoint and the family is left terrorized.
That evening some of our delegation—Sally, Kelsey, Klaas, Maurice, Irene, Ineke, Yvonne, and Rosie led by Fataha and Nassar—went to the village of Susia where they confronted soldiers who were in the village of Susia. The village had had tents demolished the day before and the soldiers were there to see if they had rebuilt them. They spent the night in the village of Susia. Others of us—Chad, Richard, David, and I, led by CPT permanent team member Joe Wyse—headed out for an overnight stay with Omar and his family. They live in a cave dug by Omar’s grandfather. They are sheepherders. We were treated to yet another feast and more graceful hospitality. Omar told us Israeli military bulldozers sometimes destroy cave dwellings, though oftentimes they’ll overlook the caves to destroy homes as they are easier to knock down.
News had spread among the villagers that the Israeli military had bulldozed a mosque in the village of Um Fagara about two miles from where both parts of our delegation had spent the night. The next morning we met up at Um Fagara and the devastation was sickening. The military had taken two young women to prison and had broken the arm of one of the young women’s mother. In addition to destroying the mosque, they had knocked down two dwellings. Nonetheless, hope was in the air: As we arrived, the villagers were already working on constructing a new mosque. Our delegation was served tea, and great conversation (if much of it was unspoken communication). We pitched in and helped dig a perimeter trench for the foundation of the new mosque. A military jeep drove across the nearby ridge-top road; I could feel their eyes on us.
Our last destination as a full delegation was an afternoon at The Tent of Nations, a Palestinian Christian organization. On a hilltop surrounded by illegal Jewish settlements, Tent of Nations’s motto is “We refuse to be enemies.” They work to bring Muslims, Jews, and Christians together in cross-cultural peace training and creative camp activities. Daoud, who’s grandfather lived and shepherded this land before him, now is a director of Tent of Nations. He led us in a very cogent discussion about how there can be a peaceful two-state solution with free, open boarders for Israelis and Palestinians. He suggested all structures and communities remain in place, be they Jewish or Palestinian; refugees have a right to return; and one could live in either Palestine or Israel as a citizen of the country of their heritage. It made me proud that an Arab man who is a Christian was such a wonderful spokesperson, who could rise above the injustices to say let’s take it from here in peace. Everyone in our delegation participated in planting an olive tree sapling on Tent of Nations land. This was not only symbolic of life carrying on, but a practical barrier to Israeli government attempts to drive the Tent of Nations off its land. Where there are trees planted, the land is obviously “in use,” one of the many bogus legal criteria Israel abuses to confiscate land from Palestinians.
We had some free time in Bethlehem, and many of us toured The Church of the Nativity. Our farewell dinner was back at the Jerusalem Hotel, where we saluted one another and especially our delegation leader Sally, who made out with a set of nice candleholders as a show of our appreciation.
There was a late-night contingency on our last evening comprised of Richard, David, Kelsey, Klaas, Ineke, and yours truly, who partook in sharing a hookah and blowing some smoke rings of sorts.
Each morning we would meet up with the permanent team of CPTers in Hebron and have a time of worship. All of these were special spiritual times, and there was one in particular that captured what CPT means for me in a very special way. Fataha led the worship by making a statement that she has always believed Muslims and Christians had much more in common than not. She proceeded to present her homily by using Scripture from the Quran and the Christian Bible that made the same points for Peace, for Love, for Community, for All Peoples Everywhere.
And with this there was no more drought; the waters flowed freely—like a river.