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VERMONTERS IN PALESTINE
REPORT FROM INTERNATIONAL ACTIVISTS

Contents:

1) Mission in Israel and Palestine
2) Messages From Andy to the Support Group
3) Ruby and Lisa Report From Palestine

August 14, 2002: Update re Charles Williams

Charles is now back in the US and headed to the midwest with his mother. I don't know any details yet of his journey except that he is home, the story will be his to tell. Welcome home charles! Hurray!!!

Love, Ruby

 

August 11, 2002: Update re Charles Williams

I spoke with Charles this morning - he seems to be doing fine, if quite a bit bored!  It appears that he will be leaving Ben Gurion airport at midnight tonight Israel time (5:00p.m. eastern) to fly to Amman, JOrdan where he hopes to catch a Royal Jordanian flight into NY at 9:00 am tuesday which would have him on US soil around 4:00 pm tuesday.  We are working on getting his original ticket changed or if that is not possible, purchasing a new ticket. His mother is already in NY waiting for him having driven from Michigan yesterday to be there when he arrives.  

Nothing is certain, so if you haven't made calls yet, still do so. Any opportunity to raise awareness is worth every second of your time...

{American citizen from Vermont, passport # 300903407 being held in Ramle prison in Israel awaiting deportation for nonviolent peaceful demonstration for the human rights of Palestinians. Request that the American Embassy act now to speed up his processing and demand that the US government uphold the right of free speech in a democracy.  Side note: Israel receives billions of dollars every year from the US - that's $10 million of your tax dollars DAILY. I was at a meeting last night where someone referred to the Israeli/American occupation...}

Picture him sailing out of the Israeli prison in a few hours, traveling to Ben Gurion Airport safely, boarding a plane to Amman for a short 30 minute flight, sailing through Jordanian customs and ticketing like a feather on air and settling down in a comfy 1st class seat (why not?!) to sleep, perchance to dream throughout a 12 hour flight and arriving in NY to a cheerful reunion with his mother.  Picture him walking on the lush earth and surrounded by the trees that are his real home.  So mote it be.

Love,
Ruby


 

August 11, 2002: Back Home Again

Greetings friends,

First, on Charles Williams:

Charles is still in jail in Israel as I write, charged with obstructing the machinery of war.  Please call your representatives again to demand that they act now to insist that the US Consulate intervene on Charles' behalf. Let them know that you are watching, that Charles is not one man alone, but one of thousands who believe in a just peace and who are working to bring that about.

Home now in green Vermont, I'm feeling wonderfully delighted by the water and the grass and the trees, the quiet.  In the weeks preceeding the trip to Palestine and Israel, I was often asked the question "why are you going there?" and I got pretty good at coming up with an answer - something about putting my body on the line, bringing new energy, gaining insight, developing understanding, being a nonviolent presence in the midst of violence. In reflection I see that it had nothing at all to do with me or anything that I brought with me.  The last 3 weeks have been about gathering stories, and the next weeks will be about telling those stories.  Your support enabled me to be present in Palestine, to the people and to the land and for that I offer much gratitude.  Not a day went by when I was not aware of and did not tap in to this living, breathing network of support.  Thank you, thank you.

In so many ways, the work has just begun.  I am eager to tell the stories - I promised the people that I met that I would, that there are many, many who care about what is happening there.  I am energized and committed to making change, to putting my body on the line here !  I know that we do this work together, that each of us has a vital role to play.  Our challenge is to ACT NOW (and tomorrow, and the next day.) with compassion and commitment.  The stories I have are about the courage to choose to live, no matter what.  Our challenge is to find the new ways to make change and to live the changes that will help build the future as we envision it.

Love,
Ruby

You can find out how to contact for your own U.S. Senators and Congresspeople at http://government.aol.com.

Other offices to contact. Use phone AND fax AND email:
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvanian Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Phone: (202) 456-1111
Fax: (202) 456-2461 --
E-mail: president@whitehouse.gov

Vice President Dick Cheney
(The White House, as above)

Condoleezza Rice
National Security Advisor
(The White House, as above)

Secretary of State Colin Powell
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Phone: (202) 647-6575 -
Fax: (202) 261-8577 --
E-mail: secretary@state.gov

ISRAEL:
Ariel Sharon, Israeli Prime Minister:
rohm@pmo.gov.il or webmaster@pmo.gov.il
Fax: +972 2 651 2631

Shimon Peres, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs:
Fax: +972-2-5303367
Email: sar@mfa.gov.il


UPDATE, AUGUST 8, 2002

Dear Support Circle, 

Charles is being deported from Tel-Aviv to New York. He was brought to the hotel room in chains to pick up his bag by three police officers. It didn't appear that he had been beaten though that is a story for Charles to tell when he gets back. His father had been in contact with the U.S. Consulate and an Israeli lawyer. Lisa's account below.
 
Andy

URGENT ALERT - AUGUST 7, 2002:

INTERNATIONALS BRUTALIZED AND ARRESTED BY MILITARY FOLLOWING NON-VIOLENT DEMONSTRATION

For more information, see: Latest ISM News

Message from Andy to the Support Group:

Dear Friends,

Charles Williams, a Vermont resident and a member of Ruby's affinity group, has been arrested during a demonstration near the village of Huwwara, outside Nablus. A group of 250-300 people, Internationals and Palestinians, was marching, with hands up to demonstrate non-violence, to a checkpoint. Before they arrived, police jeeps swept in, surrounding them. Percussion grenades, tear gas and helicopters were used by the police. The demonstrators were violently herded toward a steep hill. One of the ISM organizers, Huwaida, was thrown down the hill but was not badly injured. During the confusion, several demonstrators were singled out by the police and arrested, including Adam Shapiro, another ISM organizer, Charles, several other internationals and at least three Palestinians.
 
At last report, the arrested demonstrators were being held at the police station at a nearby settlement. Negociations are under way to try to secure their release.
 
I will keep you updated as I receive more information.
 
It is imperative that you contact the office of your Congressional representatives to help secure the release of the demonstrators. Since we are in a period of summer recess for Congress, contact them at their local offices.
 

You can find out how to contact for your own U.S. Senators and Congresspeople at http://government.aol.com.

Other offices to contact. Use phone AND fax AND email:

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvanian Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Phone: (202) 456-1111 -- Fax: (202) 456-2461 -- E-mail: president@whitehouse.gov

Vice President Dick Cheney
(The White House, as above)

Condoleezza Rice
National Security Advisor
(The White House, as above)

Secretary of State Colin Powell
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Phone: (202) 647-6575 -- Fax: (202) 261-8577 -- E-mail:
secretary@state.gov

ISRAEL:
Ariel Sharon, Israeli Prime Minister:
rohm@pmo.gov.il or webmaster@pmo.gov.il
Fax: +972 2 651 2631

Shimon Peres, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs:
Fax: +972-2-5303367
Email: sar@mfa.gov.il

Mission in Israel and Palestine

July 21, 2002

Our small group of 9 activists from the U.S., Canada, England and Germany will be gathering in Jerusalem for several days starting the 22 of July.  We are part of a much larger group of internationals who are being called to the area to be witnesses and provide non-violent intervention.  We have made connections with peace activists in Israel and in Palestine and are willing go where we are needed.  Not surprisingly, the situation on the ground is evolving as is the role of internationals. We are skilled community organizers, non-violent direct action trainers, direct action strategists and general "process" workers. Our intention is to bring heart and spirit into whatever we do.  We are committed to helping to strengthen both the Palestinian and Israeli peace initiatives.  How we do this will largely be determined by those there on the ground, living amidst the violence. 

 
Certainly a large part of our work will be to coordinate with all of you in developing the peace efforts in our respective home communities when we return.  When we are there, we will be the eyes that may help make the situation real for those at home; strong bodies to help rebuild the fields and the lives of the Palestinians; an international presence that might create a pause in the violence; a witness to the rights of a people to live their lives fully without obstruction by another; and hopefully, a steady voice for a just peace.
 
In peace,

Ruby

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Messages from Andy to the Support Group:

July 22, 2002

Dear friends, 

Ruby just called from Jerusalem (Monday 8 AM, EDT). She reported that they had no trouble at all getting across the border and they were lodged in a hostel in East Jerusalem where many of the international volunteers of the International Solidarity Movement stayed. Lots of people who had just come back from the Occupied Territories were there and Ruby said they were exhausted and overwhelmed with the enormity of what is going on there, the brutality of life under the current occupation.  They have done some exploring around the Old City of Jerusalem: "the quintessential Mediterranean city", lots of men in the street (where are the women?), streets blockaded, army presence everywhere. She was struck by the intensity of the atmosphere and the level of burn-out that the Israelis lived with all the time. However she is "safe, happy, staying grounded".  Her group will be going up to Tel Aviv tomorrow to plan for a full moon ritual with Israelis on Wednesday. I will keep you posted on events as I hear about them. Thanks for your support, dear friends and family. 

Andy

 

July 25, 2002

Dear friends and family,
 
I just talked to Ruby (Thursday afternoon) and, even though the conversation was garbled by a bad cell phone connection, I did get a fix on where she is. When I called her, she was in Tel Aviv waiting for a taxi to take them to Jerusalem. I think taxis are a fairly common, safer and not too expensive means of long distance travel in Israel and Jordan. They will spend the night in Jerusalem then go to the Occupied Territories (the West Bank), probably tomorrow. There, they will participate in the ISM (International Solidarity Movement) "Freedom Summer" campaign that aims to support the embattled Palestinian communities and to shine a spotlight on the brutality (for both sides) of the Israeli occupation.
 
I have included (below) a short article received this morning on an ISM action in the West Bank yesterday. This is an example of the "shining the spotlight" type of activity I mentioned above. If anyone on this list wants more information on ISM, check out the web site (link below). Also I can send you other articles on recent events in Israel/Palestine or web sites for more information.
 
Ruby sounded strong and energetic and said she was feeling good. I will keep you posted on her activities as I find them out.
 
As always, thanks for your support.
 

Andy

 

July 27, 2002

Dear friends and family,
 
I finally talked to Ruby last night. It took a call to her cell phone at 1:30 A.M. (EDT) but it was great to make contact. Both cell phone and e-mail connections have been spotty because their phone wasn't working well and they have been moving around too much to settle into an e-mail routine.
 
Ruby and her group were in Jerusalem again when I talked to her. They had been to Meggido for a powerful ritual with Israeli women. Now they are heading to Jenin, where the International Solidarity Movement is in desperate need of experienced volunteers. Apparently most of the "internationals" there were fairly new at this kind of work and weren't helping the situation. Ruby sounded very alive, engaged, glad to be heading to the West Bank. She said they had been making wonderful connections with Israelis and Palestinians, "weaving a strong web" of connectedness with people there.
 
Everyone there is expecting retaliations from Hamas and others for the Gaza assassinations and then the seemingly inevitable Israeli reaction. The cycle of violence continues and, despite a glimmer of hope that seemed to flicker at the beginning of last week, the situation promises to get more tense and more dangerous for Palestinians, Israelis and international volunteers.
 
Thanks for your support, prayers, and thoughts for the safety and effectiveness of Ruby and the other internationals currently in Palestine. And for your continued political pressure on the U.S. government!
 

Andy

 

July 28, 2002

Dear friends and family,

 
I have had two phone conversations today with Ruby in Jenin. The first (at 3 A.M. EDT) was chaotic and discouraging. The second, a few minutes ago, expanded the vision of the kinds of "witness"/action that international volunteers can do in Palestine. The early morning call found them back in the apartment after a confrontation with Israeli tanks. They had been on the street when a group of local women was confronted by an IDF tank and they had put themselves between the tank and the women. Their actions were heroic but they were searching, Ruby said, for a vision of how to be there effectively.
 
When I called the second time, her group was just finishing a long session with a group of local women who were gathered at a neighbor's house that had recently been destroyed by the army. Ruby said they were very welcoming and had "smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes". When the internationals asked what they could do to help, the reply was "Go to Israel and get rid of Sharon!" Even with language difficulties, there was much communication and a strong connection. Ruby told the owner of the house that if she had known about it, she would have put her body in front of the bulldozers.This vigil with the women gave them a strong sense of "supporting the spirit of the land and the people, the spirit of life" that is still so strong there.
 
After, as I was still talking to her, they walked along a path overlooking Jenin. She described the beautiful Mediterranean landscape that reminded her of hikes we've done in France or Greece. But then there was the "Zone of Destruction" in the middle of town, the huge pile of rubble from the Israeli "incursion" that has yet to be cleaned up. And the tent city set up by the U.N. that was completely boycotted by the Palestinians as a symbol of their refusal to be displaced again.
 
Ruby promised to get to a computer to give first-person accounts of some of her experiences. In the meantime, I will keep giving you updates. Thanks, as always, for your support, thoughts and prayers.  
 
Ruby and Lisa Report From Palestine:
 

 

July 29, 2002 - Ruby

I'm on a veeeeeerrry slow machine, don't know how much patience I have... middle of the afternoon, hot. We spent the morning in Jenin camp at a childrens school. There is a French group working with the kids on a "border project" an art project where they talked about borders and then had the kids draw pictures and make an exhibit. We went to see the exhibit, wonderful. Things seem deceptively normal today, shops are open despite the curfew. At 4:00 AM a tank went by and some huge gun fire, no one knows what. There is a feeling of something about to happen, but in the meantime, people are behaving as if normal. At the children's center, we had brought the drum which became a quite a hit among the boys (all of whom seemed to have taken lessons from Hamsa El Din for years!) and was included in a football award ceremony that was going on - see what i mean about being normal? There is no doubt that there is a war, and any minute the tanks will arrive and begin firing guns and the people will go back into their homes (except for the young men and boys who will pick up anything in sight and get ready for the days target practice. The tanks are faceless monsters that have become a part of this community. They roll through every day either lifting or imposing curfews, but i can't really tell the difference because as soon as they leave, life returns to "normal".

Day before yesterday we heard that tanks and bull dozers were rolling into a nearby town to destroy a house. Those of us who were around jumped into a taxi to get there while some of us stayed in Jenin. The military had already blocked the road so they could only get within 100 feet. But they witnessed and filmed as a helicopter fired shots into the house (the people had been herded out at gunpoint and were forced to sit and watch.) The soldiers entered the house firing into the walls and kicking down doors. I only know that because i went up there to see the house yesterday and the family was there with friends/neighbors. They welcomed us in, Donna filmed the father telling what had happened. The women were gathered on an upper floor and one of them took me there with them. They showed me the door with the boot mark on it, the holes, the broken windows...They wanted to know where we were from and laughed when I said America... Shook their heads and muttered Bush comments in Arabic probably more genteel then the comments we ourselves use... I felt so sad and wished there were something i could do. I told one of the women that if i knew ahead of time that a house was going to be destroyed, I would put my body in front in front of the soldiers. They gasped all together and a tear slid down one woman's face. It is a sad thing this business of war. I felt that i could have sat all day with the women, that somehow here was why I am here. I wanted to convey that my heart was with them, that i cared, that I would tell their story. I wished that I could say that it would stop...But for them, life would go on, it always will - the Jenin spirit is resistance, yes, especially manifested in the men, but in the women and children it is pure life force - the will to continue to make life no matter what happens. In their eyes there is sadness, but they are eyes that have seen many, many things and still they are willing.

We are here, but how can we make it stop? Last week we met with many Israeli women, several from the radical left who expressed a sense of hopelessness about the future, a kind of collective depression, deadly...We also did a ritual at Meggido with some suburban women who were feeling helpless... This is perhaps the hardest thing for me to accept. There is a lack of spirit in their shutting down feelings in order to tolerate what their government is doing. In the soldiers it is very evident. I don't believe you can carry a gun and point it at another human being day in and day out - even if you are not one of the ones who humilitate Palestinians - without losing spirit over time...

At the children's center, I was taking pictures with the disposable camera and they loved them. When I come home, I want to see if Kodac or Fuji would donate hundreds of them and next time (!) do a photography project with them. Also music. We were told by organizers in Jerusalem that we might want to be sensitive about using drumming/dance in Jenin since the people had been through so much. But in fact they were eager to play. Charles had his penny whistle and one of the young men got an electric keyboard from somewhere and several of them began to dance (a connected hora like dance, only the men...) So maybe the children are ready for music! We are going to go back on Wednesday and make streamers and musical instruments and maybe have a parade through the camp if the kids want. We will bring strips of red, green and black...and gather stones and sticks and what ever else seems useful at the moment and see if we can create a bit of magic out of the ever-present rubble.

love,
Ruby

 
 

August 1, 2002 - Ruby 

We woke up this morning to an explosion again and went out to see what was going on. There were tanks by the Red Crescent ambulance place but not blocking it and we went in to see if they knew what was up. Everyone was sleeping still. We stood for a while watching the tank blocking the main road out of town and as we approached, the turret slowly turned toward us and lowered pointing directly toward us, but not moving anywhere. We backtracked a bit and went up into the camp where there were several other tanks and APCs. We went as close as we could, I didn't want it to throw a sound bomb or tear gas since it would go right in to people's homes, so we watched and waited. Suddenly there was a tremendous explosion about 100 ft from us and a huge mushroom cloud of dust grew into the air above. Moments later the tanks drove off and all the people who had gathered rushed toward the demolished house... We waited a bit and entered with the Reuters reporter who lives in Jenin. The air was too full of dust to breathe, and people were slowly moving through the rubble, climbing up from inside and down from the house above. It was the first house that we were invited in to visit and drink tea on the day we arrived. Now it was demolished. We learned that the inhabitants had been taken to the hospital just around the corner before the blast and held until it was all over...

While we were watching , witnessing this scene (feeling powerless beyond belief) the phone rang. It was a woman we had met on the street several days ago whom we accompanied home when the tanks arrived just as she was leaving work. (The tanks are there to enforce curfew and right now Jenin is under 24 hour curfew. in reality, the curfew is only in effect when the tanks are actually there. People proudly say that Jenin has the highest level of "resistance" in the occupied territories...) Anyway, the woman asked us if we would accompany 5 girls to Nablus so they could take their exams at the university. Lisa and i met them at the taxi at 9:00 and set off for what we believed to be about 1 or 2 hour ride (depending on checkpoints and road closures). 3 hours and 3 different cars and some walking later, after driving through olive groves and 5 different Arab towns, farm fields and straight up and over an intervening mountain, we arrived at the university. We avoided all checkpoints, several road closures and got to go through some very wild areas we would never have seen if we had been riding only on the well traveled roads. The return without the women was another adventure still - i don't know if my 50 year old body can take too much of this! - over the top of mountains that usually only goats trespass (Andy called while we were climbing up a dirt track that felt too close to vertical for comfort!).

When we returned to Jenin, it had become a totally different city. Shops that haven't been open all week were open, there were cars and people everywhere. There have been no tanks yet tonight - maybe they will never come again?

Ruby

 

 
 

August 1, 2002 - Lisa 

Hello....

Well by 8:30 this morning I was crafting a story about the Jenin Refugee Camp. It was time to tell it. By 8:45 a turn of events added so much more to the day. I will try to tell it all briefly.

The military was active again through the night. An explosion early. We awoke to a sense of something about to happen...helicopters, police jeeps with ampliphied announcements cruising the street. We got up and headed toward the hospital. It turns out that it was here yesterday that the tanks took out the electrical poles, but fortunately the hospital had a generator.

Anyway, there were tanks down the street and then two tanks behind the hospital in the refugee camp in front of what is called the Zone of Total Destruction. This is an area about the size of a New York City block that is almost completely demolished, huge piles of rubble with bits and piece of people’s lives woven through. 440 homes destroyed. Many other homes in the area are also missing parts of walls etc, but the Zone is just horrifying. Anyway, we approach the tank as close as feels safe. We can see soldiers doing something behind it. They swing and point the guns at us. I hate that!!!!! The next thing you know there is a huge explosion. We see parts of the building flying into the air followed by a huge mushroom cloud. We were shaking from the force. Again, just unbelievable. One of the few remaining homes blown to bits, with damage to all the adjacent buildings. Soon the tanks leave and the community gathers. It turns out to be the home of the very first family we were introduced to on our first night. The women were shocked and crying. The story was that the man they arrested the other day was making bombs there. Does not ring true from all we could tell.

As I crawled over the rubble, I could see a girl of maybe 1 or 2 surrounded by debris sitting there amongst the rocks. The door/wall to her home destroyed.

The camp is somber, there will be no children's workshop or march today. We wonder if we can ever do it...

Soon we get a call from a woman we met earlier in the week asking us to accompany 4 students to the university in Nablus were they have to take final exams on Friday. Ruby and I agree to go. In what is usually a 30 kilometer ride becomes a 2 1/2 hour journey through small mountainous villages. Between check points and road block, there is no easy way. It is tense at times, not knowing if the military is ahead or not. But clearly these back ways are monitored to keep people safe. Funny how well things can work when there is no government. There is an amazing network of people who make things happen. A car ride to the top of the mountain, then transfer to bigger 4 wheel drive vehicles, then on foot in the city. Various cars will just pick you up and take you to another point. So steep at one point that tractors cruise around to pull you over if you can't make it.

We get the women - studying math, law and education -- to the univeristy. Their lives so much harder from this occupation, so brave and determined to get their education. Now their university is under threat for retaliation for the Jerusalem bombing. Nablus is under curfew and the military is present. We catch a ride to Balata Refugee camp and meet up with the ISM contingent there. The camp of Balata is also known for its resistance. While most of Nablus was closed down and empty, Balata was thriving, people everywhere.

We watch as young boys hold the tanks at bay by throwing rocks at two tanks in the field, the tank accelerate and charge, then fire machine guns in the air, then retreat. This plays itself out over and over. Soon, one young man is grazed by a bullet in the head, the crowd surges down the street taking him to the hospital as blood pours down his arm.

Soon we headed back to Jenin. We thought we would have a two hour walk - 110 degrees today, but we got a taxi to a pick-up and traveled back over the mountain to another village and another taxi. The young man who drove us in the truck had his wife and two children ages 1 and 2 killed by the military three months ago. He said he must get out, leave, go to US, Germany, UK, Sweden, anywhere or I am going to explode, making a gesture from his belly outward.  I did not percieve this as a threat but simply desperation and hopelessness.

We made it back to Jenin where the city was thriving. We could hardly recognize it there were so many people out and stores open. The tanks only came through once and it was quick. So far no sign of them tonight. We walk past the building bombed yesturday, the woman and her small children dig through the rubble still trying to gather pieces of her life.

Let us hope for some peace tonight.

This evening the children in our building came into our apartment tonight and helped us prepare for, we hope, a children's parade tomorrow. We made chin-chins - noise makers made of soda cans with pebbles inside (used by Justice for Janitors), streamers made of thing ribbon on sticks, we have a flute and drum and whistle, sashes, candy, a juggler prepared to do fire juggling and with a little luck, no homes will be blown up and we can gather and process through the camp - a little break from the sorrow.

We hope to remove a roadblock on Saturday. It is so hard to know what is possible when there is a war going on. Again, we do what we can. Sleep well,

love, lisa

 

 
  August 2, 2002 - Ruby

We heard this morning that the military had invaded Nablus - 100 tanks, 5 people killed so far and others injured. We had been reveling in the quiet here in Jenin last night - no tanks since the morning (when they blew up the house) and no tanks during the night or this morning... We've talked with the internationals in Nablus and they are unsure as to how to respond since they are fairly sure it would be immediate arrest if they go into the streets... Most think it is retribution for the bombing at Hebrew University which was supposedly a badly thought out amateur response to the Gaza attack which was a response to...so that is the scene here... I am having great difficulity finding my way through the swirling violence.  

The talk (and the action) is in a political language that speaks of strategy and policy, justifications, support, symbolism and security - does this language allow the heart's voice to be heard? I know that hearts are breaking everywhere, I see it everywhere, I feel it myself. I know that many people care deeply about what is happening. I also know that when the heart is threatened, it curls into itself to protect against the pain or seeks the relative relief found in the passion of anger and hatred. No one is going to win this war, NO ONE IS GOING TO WIN THIS WAR. This echoes in my brain like the reverberations of a bell, punctuating every other breath. Over and over I must call myself back to my center, to hold to my belief in humanity and our ability to create life-sustaining cultures of beauty, balance and delight.

Here on the ground, among the people of Jenin and Jenin camp, I am struggling to keep my heart open, and my mind clear. Though each day the details change slightly, there is an overarching reality that I am witnessing and it is this: The Israeli government wants to destroy the Palestinian people and they are actively doing it with your money. The words talk of strategies for peace, but peace is not what it wants. How do I know this?  Because I see the faceless might of government policy every day. It seeks to humiliate and destroy. I do not believe that the Israeli people, in their hearts - if they could hear that voice over the voice of fear - want to destroy a people. Yet that is what their democratic government - of the people, by the people - is enacting on the ground here in the occupied territories. The Palestinian people are fighting for their lives. And i see that it is a battle until death.

Do you know what it is like to live under occupation? To be restricted in every aspect of your daily life at the mercy of a government's policy? Would you like George Bush - as the face of the government that is of you and by you - to decide when you can leave your house, when you can have water and how much you will pay for it, when your children will go to school, whether you can visit your relatives in the next town....? Would you like to receive the punishment for every murder that another American commits? This is a reality in Palestine. I do not believe that this is about some grotesque balance between numbers of Palestinians/Israelis killed.  

So, I am struggling to keep my center, to keep my heart fire alive; to find a language and action that gives voice to that life force...

With love,
Ruby

 

 
 

August 2, 2002 - Lisa 

Hello friends,

It is now Saturday afternoon. The past two days have been full, but in a completely different way. There have been no tanks since Thursday.

I am sure you probably all know by now about the Israeli military offensive in Nablus. They took control of the Old City with over 100 tanks (some say 150 tanks) (now we know where ours are....)  They have been conducting house to house raids, arresting at least 50 men so far. Between 5-6 have been killed and another 15 wounded. We understand that they have not been allowing ambulances in. At least 7 homes there have been destroyed. As of today we hear it is quieting down some. It is not clear how long the military offensive will go.

In Jenin, it is like a completely different city. What has been mostly empty streets are now filled with people, hustling and bustling about. All the shops are open, cars, taxis and buses everywhere. People shopping, going to the bank, children buying toys, a pleasant community living everyday lives. You might not even know there is a war going on, at least until you see the bullet holes in the glass counter of the bakery or look up at the blasted out walls with racks of clothes on the other side, or stumble on what remains of the sidewalk where the tank crushed the corner.

In many ways it is quite unsettling. Almost feels like part of the psychological war. You know they will be coming back. But you don't know when. There is a feeling of anxiety that I feel and I'm sure I am not alone. Such uncertainty of the certainty. It is hard to imagine how one really lives their lives like this. So many have died or been shot or been arrested. Walking down the street and seeing the blood stains on the walls. One of the young men who hangs around our apartment was shot by a sniper a little over a week ago.

Then knowing while there is some semblance of normalcy, that there is an assault on Nablus. We were just there. Almost spent the night. If we had we would be there now. Feeling frustrated about not being able to do anything about it - bearing witness, being present, whatever. There are enough Internationals there and the ISM organizers did not want us to leave Jenin, in case they decided to retaliate here as well.

So during this respite we have been able to work more with the children. We did a "workshop" at the school in the camp with the intention of turning it into a childrens march. The people at the school however did not want to let the kids out because it was so hot, so we will return this evening in the cooler temperatures - 90 degrees and go free form through the camp. This piece of work brings new openings but also some completion.

Despite how much there is that can be done, we will soon leave. Our time here is coming to an end and we want to be able to see and experience at least another city in Occupied Palestine. So it looks like we will travel to Ramallah tomorrow.

It will be hard to leave Jenin. It is hard just thinking about it. I feel I am abandoning the people in this community. I have seen what the military will do to us and in front of us. I have heard stories and fear what they will do when there are no more internationals here to see, to intervene, to say no - enough is enough.

But I know that I cannot stay and that this conflict will require a lot more from all of us, if it is to end. So I leave with some vastly new experiences, a deeper understanding of the challenges of working in a war zone, images of beautiful people, with warm and loving eyes and heavy hearts. We have been welcomed here, not for the little we have done while here, but because they know that their story must be told and that we can be a part of telling it. And some ideas about ways we can organize to End the Occupation. More on all of that later. For now, I want to continue to be open to the people, the conflict, the traveling and the land and learn all I can with the precious time we have left.  Now I will go water the little fig tree that is taking root among the rubble in the heart of the zone of destruction in the camp.

hoping you all are well,
love, lisa

 
 

August 3, 2002 - Ruby

I have been out in the streets for several hours now, wondering through crowds of people (men and women!) out for a day of shopping and meeting with friends. Shops are selling furniture and light fixtures, rugs, sweets, kitchen supplies, womens clothes, books, refrigerators, toys, jeans, and underwear. There are barber shops, hair salons and pharmacies; carts selling tee shirts, watermelons and sun hats. There are men walking around with brass coffee urns beating out a rhythm with brass cups to get people's attention - chuck chuck tic chuck chuck chuck... Does it surprise you when I tell you that I am still in Jenin? I am walking the same streets where a tank rolled over a car, tore apart  the median and pointed the barrel of their huge gun at my belly the first day I was on this street. I have been trying to comprehend what I am seeing, to incorporate this reality into my understanding of reality...the sands are shifting under my feet as the waves come and go...

Ruby

 

 
 

August 3, 2002 - Lisa

So we did a fantastic children's march in the refugee camp tonight. We had noise makers (cans with pebbles inside - decorated by children earlier in the day), colorful ribbons on sticks, bubbles, candy, fire juggling and Charles on his flute. We started on a main road and sure enough kids started pouring out from everywhere. Boys and girls of all ages came together and we surged through the dirt roads, narrow alleys up and down the hills. Stoping here and there to gather and juggle for the crowd. It was a sight to be seen. Tremendous energy, laughing, clapping, outpouring of joy. The parents were delighted as well. Smiling and telling us thank you, thank you.

We ended up at the zone of destruction and were organizing for a spiral dance. (We actually did one earlier in the day with the children at the school.) But just as we formed up in the circle we got a call. The army had re-entered the city. We knew we had to go as so many had been out in the streets. We also knew that the children needed to go home. We said our goodbyes, gave our hugs and hurried up to the center of the city. Sure enough the tanks were back.

They had circled around a side road and were headed back to the main road. We waited out in the street, with our hands in the air. We wanted to let them know we were here. First the tank came, pointed his gun, waited then continued up the street. Then the APC. He stopped, I saw the lid lift and knew something was coming. Told those around to watch out. Sure enough, in a matter of moments I saw the sound grenade rolling our way and was able to cover my ears in time. The impact was felt nonetheless. The APC continued on. There was more firing of the machine guns up the street and then they left.

Not much later they were back. We cleared out as it got to dark and as the resistance prepared for another round.

Back at the apartment, I sat on the roof. Looking out into the clear night sky, stars all around, a cool breeze across my face. I noticed again how the Jenin is cradled by hills. Light scattered from sweet homes nestled on them. Such a beautiful place. On this roof a man is praying, children are playing, and the women have gathered. Laundry strung everywhere waves in the wind. I soak in these last moments of peace even as machine gun fire and explosions echo through the hills.

Love and Peace from Palestine,
Lisa

 

 
 

August 5, 2002 - Lisa

Hey everyone, (second try, I wrote this earlier this morning, but lost the whole thing)

As you know the violence has intensified these past few days. All feels pretty horrible and we carry a sense of frustration...sometimes powerlessness....we can't be in Jenin, Nablus, Qaulqilya, Haifa and Gaza all at once. Nor can we be there all the time. Things are really shut down and the attacks by the military are escalating.

Our trip from Jenin offered new experiences in Occupied Palestine. The first check point was fine. As we approached the second, we saw dozens of cars lined up and we pulled up behind them. We learned of the bombing in outside of Haifa and could feel the tension within the Palestinians. We soon notice that Israeli cars (yellow license plates) drove right on through. After a while we decided to go up near the front and observe, hoping it might speed it up for the Palestinians. One man came up to us with hospital discharge papers for his son and asked our help in getting him through. We were able to negotiate this with the soldiers. Another woman in a similar situation was denied, even with our intervention. The soldiers then started asking us lots of questions and took our passport info. Soon our car came up and we were allowed through. This stop took us over an hour.

We reached the check point outside of Ramallah - Calondria. It made us think of a concentration camp. Soldiers, guns, big fences, barbed wire everywhere. To our left was were the cars went through and they had stopped and were searching an ambulance, leaving the patient inside exposed. To our right were concrete barriers shaped to funnel people. Felt like a herded cattle. Maybe a hundred or more people were trying to get through, standing in blazing hot sun. Above us on a hill an Israeli soldier held a tear gas or concussion grenade and acted like he might throw it. You could feel the fear ripple through the crowd.

Soon we were near the front and then an agitated soldier came up on the bull horn and demanded we all get back. This was hard to do since people were pushing from behind. He was very aggressive. Two other internationals there intervened on behalf of a pregnant woman, finally another soldier came up and allowed her through. Then the agitated guy pulled this huge roll of barbed wire in front of us keeping any of us from moving. After the group in front had cleared, we were allowed to go ahead with no questions asked.

Ramallah was busy. People out everywhere. We had our first real meal in days and started to walk around. We found the Friends School and took a rest in the shade. We then heard gunfire. We started out and you could tell something was going on. People were fleeing the city center, we asked and were told that the military had come in and opened fire. We made our way to the center, which is a traffic circle with statues of lions in each direction. A spontaneous demonstration had started, angry young men clapping and chanting through the streets.

The people of Ramallah are known to be compliant with the curfew. Apparently the military had come in, a small boy approached them and they knocked/threw him aside, people got angry that the military had come in during the few precious hours they were allowed out. Some rocks were thrown and the soldiers opened fire. Fortunately no one was hurt.

We accompanied the demonstration and then ran into Adam and Huwaida, two organizers for ISM, both very impressive people. Since it looked like the worst had past, we all headed over the the Palestinian Authority Compound, were Arafat has been confined. We got a pretty complete tour. The Israelis have done quite a good job of pounding the place. Buildings collapsed from shelling, walls strafed by machine guns, cars destroyed. Sand bags filled the windows. It looked like we might meet Arafat, but it was his birthday and many delegations had come to see him.

After some coffee in the compound, we headed back into town where the young men still gathered in the center, tires were burning, rocks had been piled up, but the military had not returned. After a while the streets began to clear.

The city becomes a ghost town under curfew. Except for the kids, who have developed their own form of resistance -- flying kites, dozens and dozens filled the sky, many carrying Palestinian flags.

The next morning we made our way to Jerusalem where we re-connected with some of our group. Charles and I are staying at the Faisal Hostel since it is only $5 a night and we are short on money. This is right by the Damascus Gate where the shooting was on Sunday. The Intelligence Police had entered our hostel and roughed up some ISMers. The thing that is interesting is that the story by people here was that it was a Settler who came into the area and started shooting, not an Arab. While I don't really know for sure, it did seem really weird to me that a Palestinian would start shooting in East Jerusalem, an Arab area.

Anyway, know that we are safe, but tired (woken up at 5:30 by police on bullhorns outside just messing with people. We go to participate in a Check point observation action later today with a group of Israeli women. Tomorrow we will try to get into Bethlehem, then Amman and back to New York

While we will soon be home, this war seems to have no end. Perhaps with this growing awareness, we can shift something more into action that will end this criminal occupation and free Palestine.

Thank you all for your notes, kind words and openess to sharing this experience and for integrating it into you world and your workings as well.

Love,
Lisa

 

 
 

August 6, 2002 - Ruby

I am in Jerusalem now, having reluctantly left occupied Palestine. Waiting for the computer to come online, I read a report this morning of a 3 hour long military siege  in Jenin today and I feel very sad not to be there in solidarity with the women that had touched my heart. Last night the news was of a helicopter attack in Gaza... there appears to be no end in sight. 

Being in Jerusalem has a feeling of being out of the center of things. There are no tanks pointing their guns at us nor explosions in the night... I have been wandering around the city letting my feet follow their own calling in some attempt to integrate, to ground, to understand... There is much history here, intertwined threads of peoples and beliefs that span time - much of it older than the relatively recent desert religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). Our visit to Gihon Springs (when we first arrived) put me in touch with the source of the water that fed the earliest settlements here, well before the kings and their wars... Back in Jerusalem now, I find myself trying to trace the roots that feed from that spring even now. I am speaking metaphorically, of course - the springs are closed now because they run with the sewage from Jerusalem... I am talking about a voice that affirms life, that remains undaunted in the face of violence and degradation - life force. The voices of our leaders are grotesquely, frighteningly devoid of life... Their actions are about power and money and ambition and alienation and the newspapers and TV repeat the same lifeless words over and over. It seemed to me that the women I met in Jenin embodied a willingness to continue to live. They only wanted to be left alone to be allowed to live their lives and they asked us over and over to tell the story, to say what is being done to the Palestinian people. And I will. We all need to listen for the voices that are speaking about life, that are feeding the life force, that are rooted in the springs that flow underneath the monuments of power. I am looking for the voices which embody life everywhere - among the Israelis and there among you in my own community. This is my challenge.

This morning I met with Gila Svirski from Bat Shalom, a coalition of women working for a just peace. Her voice rang clear and powerful like a zen bell in the midst of the babble of gun talk. She said that there is no description of the day to day life under occupation in the Israeli news and that as a result, Israelis have no idea of the constant punishment suffered by the innocent population in occupied Palestine. She said that it is impossible to get any information either about life in the territories or about protests against the occupation.

By way of example, she said that 500 women organized an action at the Defense Ministry. A handful walked up and blocked the entrances with their bodies holding signs saying in Hebrew "closure" to protest the closing off of Arab towns. Within minutes the women were surrounded and dragged off. Then another wave stepped up to the gates with signs and were again dragged off and another and another, the police  becoming progressively more brutal until 500 had been arrested. She said that there were lots of lots of cameras there recording the action, yet NOTHING appeared in the media. The same day there was a small demonstration of a handful of settlers that received coverage in the papers and on the TV. 

I have read Gila's writings on the internet, but never in the mainstream media, have you? Bat Shalom has been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize - have you heard this? Did you know there was a growing movement of people working for an end to the occupation here? Where are the life-affirming voices? Seek them out because we need them to sustain us, to sustain life. Better yet, become a voice for freedom, for creativity, for life. Seek out the springs that continue to feed life. Look underneath the lifeless news reports for the stories of life. These are the springs that will feed us and feed the struggle for life sustaining freedom. The news that you are hearing on TV and reading in the newspapers is a lie, it is not about life. 

From Jerusalem. Love to you, in struggle for life, Ruby

 

 
 

August 7, 2002 - Lisa

Dear friends,

I know some of you got this info from other lists. Sorry for the duplication. I am back in Jerusalem from an intense day in Huwwara. A strong, peaceful nonviolent action to challenge the curfew and city closures met with fierce attacks by the police. The 9 internationals arrested including my buddy Charles.  He is facing imminent deportation. The charge...disturbing the peace. Funny, we weren't the ones who launched over 30 concussion grenades or fired numerous canisters of tear gas or opened fire with live ammunition. We weren't the ones driving jeeps through the march or hitting people with the rifle butts.  We didn't throw the sound grenade under the ambulance or send snatch squads in grabbing people. We didn't push a groups of people down a hill into a thicket of thorns, nor did we point any guns directly into people's faces. We simply marched in an orderly fashion, young and old. At times with our hands in the air. No stone was thrown, no aggression at all. I was really impressed by the discipline of this community. The police action was unbelievable.

I am too tired to tell the whole story, but just a little addition, several of us went to the police station deep in a settlement to see those arrested. We were treated horribly. Then we had to walk out. No one would help us, look at us.  Such a stark contrast to the Palestinians.

If you can put in a call to your legislator about the deporation of these internationals = 3 US, 5 French and 1 Irish. I will. I write more tomorrow I hope.  Now is time to sleep. 

love, lisa  

 

 

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