Thursday, March 05, 2009

Just another Thursday in Jerusalem

If you were on my email list in the 'old days' you remember that I used to write kind of a travel journal about my trips here. I thought I might use today's blog to write a little about what I've been doing here since I arrived.

Today I took a young man we had staying with us here in Jerusalem to the East Jerusalem bus station. He is from the US and is trying to get into Gaza to work with a Palestinian NGO (the equivalent to a US Non-profit organization). Israel has to grant 'permission' to anyone who wants to enter Gaza. Usually this process takes '5 business days.' This guy has been waiting for 3 weeks and counting. At the present time, Israel is delaying these applications and denying most. Because he can't get in to Gaza, his NGO is placing him in Ramallah for 2 weeks to see if the permission is forth coming. I have a rental car, but didn't feel comfortable driving into Ramallah (with him) and then having to come out alone, through the checkpoint, etc. So, I took him to the bus station and he made his way from there. I'm hoping he gets in to Gaza. The people there are suffering greatly, and need a great deal of support. God bless the people like this young man who are going (or are trying to go) to help in any way they can.

After that I planned to go to the Jerusalem mall to purchase a new tea kettle (ours in the apartment broke), a new cell phone face for my friend Steve (who I'm staying with) and a stapler (which I can't seem to live without, so I've discovered). On the way, I made a stop in Abu Gosh (an Arab village near Jerusalem) to have coffee with my good friend Deb who is a writer and peace visionary here. She recently wrote an essay called "Choose Life" that is making quite a splash on the Internet. You can find it here at Counterpunch: Choose Life - by Deb Reich @ Counterpunch.

Deb works for a wonderful organization called Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom:
(ne-vé shal-om / waah-at i-sal-aam: Hebrew and Arabic for Oasis of Peace [Isaiah 32:18]): A village, jointly established by Jewish and Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, that is engaged in educational work for peace, equality and understanding between the two peoples.

Read more about it here: Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam - Oasis of Peace Website.

Deb and I had a great visit and then I headed off to Malcha (Jerusalem Mall). I was on the Begin Highway. I was getting close to Malcha when the traffic suddenly stopped. We were ushered off the highway by two motorcycle cops blocking the 3 lanes. I saw police vehicles and news crews speed past (they were the only ones allowed to continue on the road.) I wondered what had happened, but was mostly preoccupied with finding another route to my destination, since I don't know my way around all that well.

I got a little lost, tried a couple things and finally figured out that I was getting close to the mall again, approaching from a different direction. As I got close the main intersection I was looking for (next to the mall), I realized that the police were now routing us back onto the Begin Hwy (going the opposite direction I had been traveling in). In front of me there was a huge crowd of people standing in the middle of the road I was on. i could see police vehicles, ambulances and lots of police tape stretched across the road. I had to get back on the highway and head for home. When I arrived home, I found out what had happened. A guy driving a bulldozer attacked a police car, injured the policeman and was shot dead by police.

Link to article: Jerusalem Bulldozer Driver Shot Dead After Ramming Vehicles.

If I had left just a little earlier from Deb's I very well could have been there to witness this terrible event.

As it was, I returned home, and here I sit writing. It was an awful, violent event, to be sure, but I cringe as I read the article and am reminded that Israel has a policy of demolishing the family homes (which often house multiple generations of people) of people who commit these acts. It never ceases to amaze me that punishing family members of people who commit crimes is seen as acceptable. Can you imagine this happening in America? Misguided at best, at worst it fans the flames of hatred and resentment and worsens the situation for all concerned. "Collective punishment" for individual acts never brings a good result.

The same situation is happening to the people of Gaza. "Collective punishment" for individual/small group acts. It is happening there on a much larger scale, and with a lot more innocent people being harmed by the blockade and the ongoing Israeli military action. None of this will bring peace... it will only prolong it.

On that cheery note... I'll call it a day.


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