I recently received solicitations for money from International Fellowship of Christians and Jews both by phone and mail. Their cause was supported by Pat Boone and showed pictures of elderly women sorting through refuse with claims that Jewish widows were going hungry.
I was greatly surprised by these claims. My husband and I had the privilege of going to Israel this spring and saw a very different picture. Jewish “settlements” in the occupied territory were actually walled cities with all the amenities including swimming pools in that arid country. They towered imposingly over Palestinian settlements in the valleys below them.
Our tour included a visit to a Christian Palestinian farmer whose family has worked the farm since his family purchased the land in the early 1900s when the Turks were ruling the area. The Israeli government has tried repeatedly to take the farm. He has had his water and electrical service shut off and when he put in cisterns and solar panels, they threatened to bulldoze “unauthorized construction” that they had refused to give approval for.
We had to climb over a pile of dirt, concrete and rocks that had been dumped on his access road. He made the effort to fight Israeli claims on his family’s farm through the court system, providing proof that the deed was legal and taxes had been paid. Their Supreme Court ruled in his favor, but the harassment continues.
We spent a couple of nights in a hotel run by other Christian Palestinians who also are facing difficulties with the Israeli government. The couple that owned it had met in the U.S. while in college. They had decided to return to make a go of his family’s hotel business when the peace process seemed to be making progress, but are frustrated by the current government.
We also heard from people with a group called Breaking the Silence, a veteran’s organization that is bringing attention to the “normalization” of the occupation of Palestinian territories. The speaker felt that young people who are trained to see Palestinians as “other” and act as occupiers will suffer in the long term as they face their current actions with a more mature outlook.
According to an interview on WILL, Israeli snipers now are told to aim for demonstrators’ legs instead of the central body mass when protesters get too close to the dividing wall. They man the checkpoints that keep the Israelis and Palestinians separate giving the impression that it would not be safe to be in Palestinian territories, which was simply not the case. We never felt unsafe at any point. The checkpoints seemed more aimed at causing fear and wariness and hindering trade and relationships between Jews and Palestinians than anything else.
If the Israeli government has the funds to continue building walled cities in occupied territory for new immigrants, surely it should be able to deal with hungry widows.
If you want to learn more about the situation, you might consider Jimmy Carter’s "Peace not Apartheid." Keep in mind that some of the Palestinians are Christians and have been for generations and are just trying to get by in a difficult situation. It is not a simple black and white situation, and I’m not at all convinced that this charity is doing necessary humanitarian work.
Constance Almy resides near Indianola.