Check Point 300 Bethlehem

On Monday, July 1, I had an early morning Check Point experience at the Separation Barrier between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

I joined two Bethlehem colleagues at 3:45 a.m. to walk to Check Point 300, the entrance on the Bethlehem side of the Separation Barrier for Palestinians with work permits to enter Israel.

And this is what I saw when we arrived – people streaming towards the “cage” that channels you up to the first turnstyle to enter the Check Point.  Image


We walked in the Exit lane with our cameras safely stowed out of sight.

A soldier sitting in protected room presses a button to open the turnstyle, then focuses on his mobile device for a game of Bejeweled.  When his walkie-talkie squawks, he presses the close button and the line stops.  EAs use a counter to record the number of men, women, girls and boys passing through the first turnstyle.  After recording for 30 minutes, we switch off with another EA and two of us enter the cage to go all the way through.

Here we saw men with their arms through the bars, the cage completely filled.


ImageOnce inside, workers carrying their lunches:


The more devout, with their prayer beads:Image


These Palestinian workers are among the lucky.  They have a work permit that allows them to earn money in Israel.  Some – only 50 shekels ($14) a day. No benefits. No health insurance. No pensions. Just money to help keep their families going.

You may have observed that almost all of these Palestinians are over the age of 30.  Younger Palestinians are considered a security risk and do not get work permits. Nearly 75 % of the youth and young adults in Palestine are unemployed.

It took us over 60 minutes to pass through the first turnstyle, walk into the security building, put all of our items in a tray, including our belts, hold up our pants as we walked through the scanner, retrieve our belongings and line up for the ID check.

At the ID check, Palestinians put their wallets on a scanner, hold their work permit up for the officer to see, and place their index finger on the fingerprint reader.  The officer verifies the permit number with the photo and information that comes up on the computer monitor.  If everything matches, the worker is cleared and runs to catch a bus to his or her workplace. If not, the worker is turned back.

For internationals like us, we merely hold our passport up to the glass and the officer waves us through.  The EAs then stand at the exit and wish the workers passing by a “good morning,” “good to see you,” “have a good day” in Arabic and English. Some stop to thank us for helping them.

The whole point of this exercise is to monitor the efficiency of the check point and try to keep things running smoothly so workers are not further delayed getting to work. In western countries we are also subjected to scrutiny when traveling from one country to another.  However, we have options for frequent travelers with access cards to get through security quickly.  And we are not put through wire cages in such a dehumanizing manner.

This is a daily nuisance and an intrusion into the lives of those Palestinians crossing into Israel.  Many others cannot for “security” reasons. They are locked into the West Bank and many cannot worship at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, visit relatives living in Israel, vacation on the Mediterranean Sea, or travel to other countries through the airport in Tel Aviv.

Sad, frustrating, undignified and tiring.

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Thursday is House Demolition Day in the Jordan Valley – #3 Sulieman Families

Having concluded our interviews in Khirbet ar Ras al Ahmar, we began our journey back to Yanoun.  We had a stop to make in Huwwara to pick up Ulrike, one of our colleagues from the Bethlehem placement.  She was joining us for a placement visit to see what life is like in Yanoun.

Oh no!!  Another phone call …. Another demolition underway further up the valley.  More devastation and chaos.

We  got Ulrike safely in the vehicle and sped back down to the Jordan Valley.  Our destination: Al Hadidiya, behind the illegal Israeli settlement of Ro’i.  We stopped at the home of our local contact Abu Sakker to take him with us. He is a man of wisdom and very current on world affairs.

We drove several kilometers further into the fields.  In this photo, you can make out several structures on the hillside in the distance built by the Israeli military for training exercises.  The exercises do not respect any fields planted in wheat or barley, or used by sheep for grazing.


We rounded a hillside and came upon this sight where a house had stood hours before:


On the concrete foundation of one of the four homes destroyed, one of the family members was praying for help:


We learned that four homes belonging to Abdul Sulieman and his sons had been demolished. He told us that 16 members of his family and sons’ families live here.  There are three children, one of whom was born with physical challenges and has difficulty breathing.

The four homes will cost over 20,000 Israeli shekels each to rebuild (US$5,500).  It will cost roughly the same to replace each of the seven animal shelters destroyed.  The total financial damage done was 220,00 shekels (US$60,000).  They do not have this kind of money.


Not only were the Sulieman’s homes destroyed, but several large animal shelters were also leveled.  The family hastily erected two sheep pens from the debris to protect their livelihood – a large flock of sheep coming in from the hillsides in 50 degree heat.


And outside and inside the temporary shelters were this year’s crop of lambs:



The family’s income is derived from the sale of cheese and lambs. Abdul was worried that many of the lambs would not survive the day.  All the sheep, lambs, ewes and rams, were panting heavily during our visit.

As we continued surveying the damage, this is some of what we saw:




While the men were busy tending to the sheep, the women and children were clustered under an acacia tree to avoid the direct heat of the sun.  And these infants/children were lying on mattresses retrieved from the rubble, flies buzzing and crawling everywhere, trying to go to sleep in the heat.



Here is what remains of the kitchen in one of the homes.


As we were finishing our documentation, Abdul Sulieman spoke about what his family faces.  They pay 100 shekels for each 3 cubic metres of water that is trucked into their village.  Their homes were build near a large water reservoir that supplies the Ro’i settlement with an almost unlimited amount of water.  Yet, the Palestinians are not allowed to use this water source that is pumped from their land.

He, his sons and his neighbours were emphatic — they will stay and rebuild.  The neighbours are worried that the Israeli military will target their homes in the next round of demolitions.  Their claims against the Israeli government are moving slowly through the Israeli military court system.  Most cases are heard and no compensation or protection is offered.  Yet these resilient Palestinians press onwards for their rights.  They do not have access to Israeli civil courts which handle cases from the illegal settlements adjacent to the Palestinian villages.

So, to recap the events of the day, starting at 5 a.m. and concluding at 11 a.m.:

  • ten homes destroyed in three villages
  • 11 families with 40 adults and 31 children homeless
  • hundreds of sheep and goats vulnerable to the intense heat

The question begs:  why is Israel treating these people in this way? The Palestinians suggest that Israel is trying to remove them from the land, increase the size of settlements and numbers of settlers, and claim all of the Jordan Valley for Israel.

The Israeli peace organization B’Tselem asserts that Israel is pursuing the appropriation of Palestinian lands at an accelerated pace (

And we wait in Yanoun for the next telephone call:  “Can you come now?  The army is bulldozing my house.”

Makes one wonder about humanity’s inhumanity, about law and order versus lawlessness, about honouring international agreements versus blatantly disregarding one’s obligations.

That’s life here, near the Jordan Valley.

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Thursday is House Demolition Day in the Jordan Valley – #2 Beni Odeh Families

After we said our goodbyes to the two families whose homes were demolished in Mu’arrajat, we received another urgent call.  The military were demolishing four homes in Khirbet ar Ras al Ahmar.

We traveled north for 30 minutes along Route 578 past the troublesome Hamra Check Point where two young men were killed on the same day two years ago.

On our left, to the west, is a large plain of agricultural fields.  Near the road the Israeli military has created a long row of earth mounds and on the other side dug a deep trench.  There are two gates that would provide access to Palestinian farmers if the gates were ever open.  Every time we pass they are locked. This means a further journey of 45 minutes to enter the area.


We skirted the locked gate and drove up over a hill on what was barely a track.  Bone-jarring, teeth-rattling, vehicle-damaging.

And when we arrived at the first home, this is what we saw:





Beyond the demolition debris, you can see across the highway to the Ro’i settlement, noticeably greener than the Palestinian fields.




Imad Hassan Abdullah Beni Odeh is giving us the information on the demolition. Three jeeps of soldiers and border patrols arrived with three cars from the Israeli Civil Authority and 2 front-end loaders.  The soldiers ordered the families to leave. The men hired by the Civil Authority threw most of the personal belongings outside on the ground.  The heavy equipment then leveled the homes, damaging some of the personal belongings.


Imad said that they lack the necessary pastures for their sheep. They lack a secure supply of water and have to pay dearly to have it trucked in, risking the confiscation of the water tanker. They have no shelter. And they plan to stay.

One of the final images that I take away is of the empty bed in a field, a donkey looking quizzically at all of us, and a young woman whose future is unsure.  Image

Is this what our nation, free and secure, supports?

Why is Canada allowing this to happen?

Is this a democracy where all people are equal before the law?

What is our own individual responsibility in complex situations like the conflict in Israel and Palestine?

The questions just keep on coming …

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Thursday is House Demolition Day in the Jordan Valley – #1 Molehed Families

We start out each week with a carefully thought out plan.  And within the space of hours, the plan seems to change as urgent calls come in to support Palestinian villages under attack.

Such was the case this Thursday, June 27, 2013.  We were planning to go to Iraq Burin, a community near the illegal Bracha settlement to prepare an incident report about fields and olive trees burned by settlers.  And then we get an urgent call:  “Can you please hurry?  The army is demolishing our homes …”

The note of despair and urgency in the voice was unmistakeable.

So off we went, my roommate Adam and our trusty guide Ghassan in the yellow Volkswagen van, down, down, down into the Jordan Valley.

Along the way, the landscape is breathtakingly beautiful:


We descended and drove down a very rough road to the village of Mu’arrajat, several kilometres north of Jericho.  We met Mohammed Ali Molehed (on the right) and his son Ali Sulieman Moussa Molehed (left) where their homes used to be.


They gave us permission to print their story and their photographs and said:  “Tell the people in your country what is happening here.  We will not leave.  Where is there for us to go?”

They were told by the Israeli military in 1984 that they could live in this place, next to a large water reservoir and a school.

However, at 5:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 27, 40 Israeli military and border police arrived, with three cars of workers from the Israeli Civilian Authority and 2 bulldozers.  They ordered the two families out of their homes and moved them away from the area, putting them down on the ground with soldiers pointing their weapons at them.  The bulldozers went to work.  By the time we arrived the Israeli military had left, and this is what we found:




Neighbours arrived and were clustered around to support the family as we took notes on the incident.

The families were devastated.  Their neighbours are fearful that their homes are the next to be demolished.

We were in a state of shock — that human beings could do this to others, in such a callous manner.  Mind you, it was still early in the day, and the heat in the valley was rising.  Their animal shelters were left intact, so their flocks of sheep had shelter while the family did not.  The families offered us tea and thanked us for coming to them, cultural gestures that are always present in good times and in bad.

From the Bedouin community of Mu’arrajat in the Jordan Valley, just north of Jericho, West Bank.

Posted in Bedouin, Galilee, Jordan Valley, Palestinian Families | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Road Trip to the Northern West Bank – Historic Sabastiya

The three northern teams made a fourth and final visit to the historic town of Sabastiya. This village is located north of Nablus in the West Bank, and has over 4,000 residents.

Six cultures have lived in this place for over 10,000 years:  Canaanite, Israelite, Hellenistic, Herodian, Roman and Byzantine.  The crusaders installed a bishop here during their time in the Near East. Unfortunately, the Israeli occupation of Palestine does not allow any restoration of the various sites.

Sabastiya is built on a prominent hill, surrounded by beautiful valleys all around, with mountains circling the valleys.  From this vantage point, one can see and easily defend the site.  This is likely the reason that it has been occupied for such a long time.

As you drive through the village to the top, you are greeted by these columns of the Forum.


Locals say that the columns will sway, but not fall, if you push against them.  We tried, the column seemed to move back and forth.


Continuing up the hill, the next site is the Amphitheatre.  In the summer, there are performances in this place, packed by young Palestinians and internationals.



Nearby is the remnant of a tower adjacent to the amphiteatre.








On the descending stairwell to the grotto, this carved stone is on your right.


And in the grotto itself, behind a locked gate, is an icon for John the Baptist.


From the hilltop, one can see the Road of Columns, remaining since the time of the Roman occupation.


One finds other interesting things other than ancient ruins in Sabastiya.  This four-legged was available for riding, but it was too hot to lope around the block.


Here endeth the road trip to the northern West Bank.

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Road Trip to Northern West Bank – The Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp

The road trip to northern West Bank continued on June 12.  Our third stop was at the Jenin Refugee Camp in Jenin.

First, a small bit of history.  On April 1, 2002, as part of Operation Defensive Shield, the Israeli military entered the Jenin Refugee Camp with infantry, commando forces, assault helicopters and armoured tanks.  They said the camp “served as a launch pad for terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians and Israeli towns and villages in the area.”  Between 52 and 54 Palestinians were killed, along with 23 Israeli soldiers.  The central area of the camp was completely demolished.  (

We went to The Freedom Theatre to learn about how drama is being used as a form of cultural resistance to the occupation of the West Bank.  Managing Director Jonatan Stanczak, a citizen of Israel, gave us the history and talked about the recent productions.


The Freedom Theatre emerged from a project, Care and Learning, created by Arna Mer Khamis, a Jewish woman who dedicated her life to helping traumatized children in the Jenin Refugee Camp through art and drama.  Her legacy lived on through her son Juliano Mer Khamis, a film maker, who founded The Freedom Theatre.  He was murdered in 2011 by unknown assailants.

In his following statement, he describes the purpose of The Freedom Theatre:

“You don’t have to heal the children in Jenin. We are not trying to heal their violence. We try to challenge it into more productive ways. And more productive ways are not an alternative to resistance. What we are doing in the theatre is not trying to be a replacement or an alternative to the resistance of the Palestinians in the struggle for liberation, just the opposite. This must be clear. I know it’s not good for fundraising, because I’m not a social worker, I’m not a good Jew going to help the Arabs, and I’m not a philanthropic Palestinian who comes to feed the poor. We are joining, by all means, the struggle for liberation of the Palestinian people, which is our liberation struggle. . . . We’re not healers. We’re not good Christians. We are freedom fighters.” – Juliano Mer Khamis

The plays produced by this company often reflect, comment upon and challenge the realities of contemporary Palestinian society, while exploring various forms of artistic expressions.  They include:  Suicide Note from Palestine, The Island, Stolen Dreams and the Caretaker. For more information click on this link: .

Helga, from Norway, is helping with the production of the next play, as Palestinian actors are learning their parts in English.


This is what you see on your way out of the screening room and coffee shop, with a Polish EA sitting beneath it, of course,


We stopped for a forgettable lunch on the outskirts of Jenin and then traveled to historic Sabastiya, the last stop on the northern teams’ road trip.

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Road Trip to Northern West Bank – St. George’s Orthodox Church – 4th Oldest Church in the World

On our road trip to the northern West Bank, we drove to St. George’s Church, a 1,800 year-old church in Burqin, just west of Jenin.

This church was built on the site where Jesus was said to have cured ten lepers.  Here is the view from outside the church gate.


As we entered, I was struck by the bell tower above the entrance.


Above the door, St. George is battling a dragon. St. George was born in Lydda in Palestine and became an officer in the Roman army.  He is venerated in the Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and and Oriental Orthodox churches. He is known and respected by Muslims in the Middle East, said to have defeated a dragon near Beirut.

Once inside, my eyes were drawn forward to the alter of the church. DSC03606

And to the right, a small alcove with a smaller altar.


And beside the altar are several paintings of Christ, Christ and the lepers, and St. George.


Here is a closer view of the miracle of healing the 10 lepers.  The lepers were kept in a cave and food and water were passed down to them through a hole in the rock ceiling, to avoid others coming into contact with them.


Returning to the larger sanctuary, I noticed a throne with the heads of lions carved into the hand rests.  We were told that this dates from the earliest days when the church was built.


My eyes were drawn upwards to the vaulted ceiling and the stone arches.  What skills would have been required to build like this.  The current congregation raises funds to keep the building well maintained.


A small number of families continue to worship here once a month, with Father Khoury traveling from Ramallah to lead the service.


Outside the church, we descended into a well / cistern that was originally used to store water.  In April 2002, members of the congregation hid in the cistern during the Battle of Jenin (



As we left St. George’s, I noticed the flag of St. George and the Palestinian flags over the building. And at the gate to the street, St. George again on his horse with the dragon pinned by his spear.



Next stop on the northern road trip: The Freedom Theatre in the Jenin Refugee Camp.

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Road Trip in Northern Palestine – Canaan Fair Trade – A Commercial and Community Success

On June 12, the three northern EAPPI teams — Yanoun, Jayyous and Tulkarm — met in Burqin to visit a number of important places and to enrich our knowledge of this part of the West Bank.

We visited Canaan Fair Trade and St. George’s Church in Burqin, The Freedom Theatre in the Jenin Refugee Camp, and the historic town of Sabastiya.

Our first stop was Canaan Fair Trade in a rural area west of Jenin, Palestine ( Founder and Director Nasser Abu Farha created a commercial success from a dream – to support local farmers during difficult economic and political times and supply the world with the finest cold press extra virgin olive oil.


Manal Abdallah, Promotion and Media Coordinator, welcomed us and led us on an informative tour of this spotless production facility. Over 1,700 farmers belonging to fair trade cooperatives in the northern West Bank send their olives to Canaan for processing.

Here are photos from the olive oil production line:

DSC03570 DSC03572


Once pressed, the oil is placed in large stainless steel tanks.  The virgin oil goes into these tanks before moving to the bottling and packaging line:


The extra virgin oil goes into these refrigerated thanks and is keep at 16 degrees to maintain freshness and quality.


Manal is holding a bottle destined for sale in Great Briton.


And now the oil is ready to ship to 18 countries around the world. Proceeds from each bottle contribute to the Trees For Life program in Palestine where over 1,700 olive trees have been replanted on their historic lands.  Canaan also funds 10 scholarships a year for children of farmers who could not otherwise attend university.


A visit to Canaan’s showroom wouldn’t be complete without a taste testing of the various products. And included in this quartet is a group photo of the northern teams with their shepherds/drivers/body guards/trainers.

DSC03585 DSC03598



And displayed above is our very own Zatoun oil, distributed by Zeit Zatoun in Toronto.

Owner Robert Massoud donates proceeds from the sale of Zatoun products to Project Hope in Nablus, West Bank, for education programs for children and youth in Nablus and surrounding communities.

It was through Robert’s kindness that we were able to arrange the visit with Canaan. Hope to see you in Toronto this fall Robert.

Next in the northern road trip series: a visit to 1,800 year-old St. George’s Church in Burqin.






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Mid-Term Meetings: Near Gaza – Netiv Ha’Asara and The Other Voice

For far too many years, the Gaza-Sderot region has faced war, rocket attacks and now isolation from each other.

The latest conflict in October 2012 saw Hamas-launched rockets reaching further into Israel, targeting Tel Aviv, Beersheva, Ashdod and other communities in the region.  The Israeli response, Operation Pillar of Defense was swift and extensive.  This this latest round, four Israeli citizens and one soldier were killed.  Between 158 and 177 Palestinians were killed, including militants, civilians, women and children.brutal.

On June 5, the EAPPI bus took us to the Israeli community of Netiv Ha’Asara, adjacent to the northern border of Gaza. The Separation Barrier isolates the two communities. This community is near the better known Sderot and both have been the unwilling recipients of rockets launched from within Gaza against Israel. We went to visit the Other Voice, a grass roots volunteer initiative of local communities.  We met with Roni Keidar, a teacher and resident of Netiv Ha’Asara to learn about the conflict and the work of Other Voice (


In 1973, there were 11 villages in the buffer zone between Sinai and Egypt.  With the advent of peace talks with Egypt, these communities had to be abandoned and residents relocated north of the 1950 Armistice Line.  They demonstrated, evacuated their homes, lost their plantations and set out to build a new community.  Fifty-six families came to Netiv Ha’Asara and created a community of beauty and friendships with Palestinians living in Gaza. Two hundred families live there now.



For the past 10-15 years, the Israeli communities outside Gaza’s border have faced despair, destruction and psycho-social trauma.  There threat of missile attack is constant, with only 40 seconds from the sound of an alarm to reach shelter.  A university student and immigrant worker have been killed.

Roni told us that the communities in this region have carried burdens of despair and anger.  Some are now ready to listen with an open mind.  Both Israelis and Palestinians are telling their own truths from their own histories.  She noted that there are solutions and that these will require compromise.

She admonished the group by saying: “Retaliation and war are not getting us anywhere.”  Israel seems to be taking the easiest route – fire back – and the conflict just deepens.

Other Voice provides a place where these issues can be discussed.  Members share the same view: violence is not the answer.

Other Voice does not talk about how who is right or who is wrong.  It concentrates on addressing trauma, facing death, the welfare of the community, and seminars. She noted that there is a lot of mistrust, lots of misunderstinding.  Roni said that both sides need to find understanding.  Jewish people need to better understand Palestinians – “we know what it is like to have a home. We need to live alongside the other.”

She emphasized that the prevailing climate of fear can lead to two outcomes:

love <  fear >  hate.

Fear needs to be replaced with dignity and respect.

After an informative series of questions and answers, we toured the community and drove to an observation point at the Separation Barrier.  This what we saw:


Here we find an exclusion fence between the community and the Barrier.


And a decorated wall facing the community to disguise the starkness of the Barrier.


Looking toward the Mediterranean, one can see the extensive separation of Gaza from Israel, with the Separation Barrier on the left, then the High Risk zone in the middle, and the No Go Zone on the right, with a guard tower close to the communications tower to the right.  These zones are under constant surveillance.


A reinforced, battle-hardened bulldozer was clearing the ground to make it easier for the Israeli military to detect any incursions from Gaza.


And here is a view into Gaza:



Roni led us to an intersecting wall where the Other Voice has initiated a program called “The Path to Peace.” For a small fee, visitors and students can glue ceramic figures on the wall under a dove of peace.




Note the green frog (ceramic) I put on the wall.  This a tribute to my daughter-in-law Monica, the expert on Oregon Spotted Frogs and their habitat in British Columbia.

And here was my contribution to Paths to Peace, seven small pieces in the hope that peace will come to this holy and troubled land.


We then boarded the bus and set off for Haifa, some three hours to the north.

To be continued …

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Mid-Term Meetings: Bob Lang, spokesperson for Israeli Settlements

On June 4, 2013, the EAPPI teams traveled to an Israeli Settlement to learn more about how Israeli settlers view the occupation in Palestine.

We met Mr. Bob Lang who lives in the Israeli settlement of Efrat in the Judean mountains.  He immigrated to Israel 38 years ago from the United States and has been active in establishing several new settlements. He was previously an advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu.

It is important to remember two facts at this point:

1. There are 500,000 Israeli settlers who live in 150 settlements and 100 outposts in the West Bank of Palestine (

2. Under international law the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in 1967 are illegal.  Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war states: “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territories it occupies.” (  Israel disputes this.

Mr. Lang accompanied us on a bus tour of Efrat, providing us with the following information.  Efrat was established in 1983 and has a population of 9,500 who are mainly religious Zionist (40 %), ultra-orthodox (30 %) and non-observant (30 %) residents.  It is located 12 miles south of Jerusalem between Bethlehem and Hebron.  It is 6.5 km east of the Green Line and lies within the Separation Barrier.

Mr. Lang informed us that the master plan for Efrat was approved 35 years ago by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, including construction of the settlement on seven adjacent mountains.  The settlement council plans to build homes on the seventh and final mountain soon to allow for an increase in population.


During the tour of this “suburb” of Jerusalem, Mr. Lang pointed out with pride the neighbourhoods, the schools and day care centres, shopping area, emergency medical centre, municipal building, and the road network.  He stated that many people commute to Jerusalem for work.  There are over 20 synagogues.  Here is one:


He then invited us into his home for a discussion and welcomed questions. As we walked into this neighbourhood, this is what we saw:




Here is a photo of Mr. Lang in his home.  He is married and has four children – one son who has completed his compulsory military service, a daughter who is between high school and military service, and two sons who are in the 11th and 10th grades.


He then provided information from his point of view:

– While we might call the area in which he lives the West Bank, he refers to it as Samaria and Judea.  These he termed political statements.

– While we might refer to where he lives as an Israeli settlement, he refers to it as a Jewish community.

– He says that there are 150 Jewish communities with 380,000 residents, while the UN says there are 150 illegal Israeli settlements with a population of 500,000.

– He posited that the key challenges for Jewish people and Palestinians is to find ways to live together and share resources.  He noted that 80 % of Palestinians get their water from the Israeli government.

– He stated that “we are not leaving; that they are here to stay.” He said that the terrorist activities must stop.  It is true that rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israel, causing loss of life and property, and the political party Hamas has taken credit.  However, he did not distinguish between Gaza and the West Bank, where no suicide bombings have been carried out since 2007.

– He noted that Palestinian extremists on Palestinian TV say that they will drive Israel into the sea.

– Mr. Lang stated that the best thing Israel can do is to Annex Areas A, B, and C into Israel.  He continued that to find peace it is important to dialogue.

– He pointed out that Efrat is adjacent to two Palestinian villages, that they live in relative calm and that the villages get their water from Efrat.  He did not answer the question “Why is there a fence between Efrat and these villages?”

When asked if Palestinian refugees who were expelled in 1948 should be compensated and allowed to return, he agreed that they should receive restitution for what they lost.  He did not answer whether they should be allowed back. He went on to say that Jewish refugees from the Arab states should also get compensation.

When asked if Israel should reduce its heavy-handed iron first treatment of Palestinians, to move toward a more equitable treatment, he stated that Israel would not give Palestinians living in the West Bank Israeli citizenship.  He did not answer my question.

Another colleague from Ireland mentioned the difficulties that had been overcome there, and asked whether he thought Israel’s use of force was proportionate to the Palestinian threat, he said that Israel needs to control the situation.  Again, he did not answer the question.

He noted that if there was an agreement, that there would be land grabs in both directions.

When asked what human rights violations have been experienced by Israelis during the occupation, he changed the topic, and elaborated on Gaza rocket attacks.

He stated that modern Zionism has increased prosperity. He did not acknowledge that the lands that he lives on were taken from Palestinians who occupied the land before Efrat was established in 1983.  He did not say that the almost unlimited supply of water that keeps his settlement green in the Judeah desert is not available to Palestinian villages at a similar cost.  He did not say that the restrictions on Palestinian development, access or work permit system negatively affects Palestinians. These all contribute to Zionist prosperity.

He pointed out that Arabs living in nearby villages are now able to work for industries and farms in the Jewish communities.  Without this, they would have no employment. He noted specifically the Rami Levi supermarkets where Israelis and Palestinians are employed side-by-side.  He did not say if they receive equal salaries for the same work.

His final three points were :

– Annex the Judeah and Samaria,

– Increase education, and

– increase economic and social cooperation.

These, he said, are the bridges to peace.

We thanked him for his time and hospitality.

We left with a much clearer understanding of the views of a Jewish Zionist living inside Palestine with support from the Israeli government for the expansion of Jewish communities/settlements.  And we noted his superb communication skills, how he stayed with his messages, and how he adroitly side-stepped our questions.

Observations from a lush oasis in the Judean desert, adjacent to dry and withered Palestinian villages.

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