Israel Trip: Day 8

by guest bloggers Stephanie Rosekind and Wendy Segal Another very full and fascinating day in Jerusalem, and beyond to Judean/West Bank settlements. What a politically […]

Another very full and fascinating day in Jerusalem, and beyond to Judean/West Bank settlements.

What a politically filled day. We started out with a presentation by Khaled Abu Toameh. He was formerly a Senior Correspondent for the Jerusalem Post for 26 years, and for Al-Fajr which he describes as a mouthpiece for the PLO. He has paid a very high price for his honesty for representing the facts he presents. He describes himself as a Muslim Israeli Palestinian Arab.

Khaled explained about Arafat’s corrupt dictatorship up to the current powerless and ineffective Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas; describing the failed peace processes and the reasons why we are unable to move forward towards peace. Khaled is a moderate who lives within the safety of Jerusalem, allowing him to speak freely. He explained that without a true partner in peace and a government willing to negotiate rather than demand the annihilation of the Jewish State, we will go nowhere. There is no Palestinian leader willing to stand up and say that they must be willing to compromise and that the bloodshed of their own people must end. Instead they lie to the western media and then in Arabic, say something completely different, continuing to spew Jewish hatred to their own people. This perpetuates the narrative of Palestinian victimization by Israel. According to Khaled, if Israel were to withdraw to the pre ’67 borders, the PLO would collapse and Hamas would take over. He believes that Arabs are doomed if Islamic radicalization, the hijacking of Islam and the Koran, is not stopped. And this must happen from within the Muslim community itself. Western influence will not help.

According to Khaled, the media has promoted anti-antisemitism in Europe and the world with lies and fabrications about Israel to the point of excusing the Holocaust by promoting an image of how bad the Jews are.

Khaled illustrated to us how world media is at fault, ” has committed crimes against Israel”, in informing public opinion, with lies and fabrications fitting their narrative. “No Jews, no news…” The bottom line, according to Khaled, is that settlements, checkpoints, etc., can be negotiated. It is not about this, or economics…  It’s about Israel’s existence.

He is also very concerned about the “pro-Palestinians” on U.S. campuses, who he describes as not really promoting anything pro Palestinian, but rather demonize Jews and delegitimize Israel.. A lot of info…

And our terrific, knowledgeable guide Danny continues the teaching. We are learning a lot about modern Israel history…

On to happier things, we visited Yad LaKashish. What an amazing  and productive senior adult day center founded 50 years ago. They employ over 300 seniors from the former Soviet Union Ethiopia, and elsewhere.

FullSizeRenderPeople spend the morning creating all sorts of crafts, which are sold in their gift shop.  They eat a hot lunch there, receive a monthly stipend, a bus pass, and seem to enjoy a fruitful day. We mingled amongst them, and then did some serious shopping, of their handmade and beautiful items, many of which we watched them making – jewelry, judaica of silk, metal, ceramic, paper mâché…. Some of us are coming home with beautiful new tallits.

Onward to The Judean hills – West Bank settlements of Efrat and the Gush Etzion area. We listened to Danny tell us about his hometown of Efrat, a hill town of 9500 people, 30 synagogues… From there, a short way to Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, where we were told of the community of 260  people murdered, and their entire development destroyed in 1948.

A remarkable and difficult thing to describe, finding ourselves standing on the very spot where this happened. This kibbutz was rebuilt after 1967… Jews could not live on this land between 1948-1967. We’re continually marveling at the experience of standing where so much history has taken place.

Riding along in the bus between these settlements and small towns, cars, pedestrians, bus stops, normal life… Danny told us it was here the three boys were kidnapped from a bus stop this summer. Here, not somewhere remote… Devastating…

Nearby, we were taken to a govt. building, where Bob Lang ( a good Israeli name), an area govt. official told us more about settlements…there are 150 jewish communities, totaling close to 400,000 people… comprised of 30% orthodox, 30% Chassidic, and 30% secular Jews. He believes in a one state solution… opinions…

More time on the bus with the beautiful views of the rocky, olive tree, terraced land of photos and our imagination; blanketed in green and wild flowers.

We are packing so much in, and quickly moving between emotions…  Much to think about and feel.
Grateful for this fascinating trip and shared experiences and camaraderie!