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The Palestine Papers: Part 2

Editorial note: Erin Dunigan visited Palestine last fall and she will share her detailed experiences with us over the next few weeks in a 3-part series. The following is part two of her journal accounts.

Sea of Galilee, Tiberias

Tuesday, November 1

We just arrived into Tiberias, along the Sea of Galilee. This area is officially in Israel—our first time to stay in Israel. The contrast is staggering. I will leave the comparison to saying that it is as if we went from the edge of the San Diego/Mexico border on the Tijuana side to the Ritz Carlton. The only thing is, Mexico is actually its own sovereign nation. Here, the difference is that the Palestinians are being locked in, not locked out. And the discrepancy in resources, wealth and roads is startling to experience so vividly. (We were on Palestinian roads all day, and my head, neck and back are killing me because of the bumps and pot holes we bounced over all day. As soon as we arrived back in Israel it was as smooth as can be.)

It is not that the Palestinians lack the smarts, desire or drive ro succeed; we met with one man today who is a Palestinian who holds a PhD in molecular biology and has published his dissertation through Oxford, yet has no work because of the occupation of Palestine. He lives in Jenin, which is an area that Israel sees as a hotbed for terrorists, so the people there are almost entirely quarantined. Each night the planes and helicopters fly over (very low), and the army comes in to the area and rounds up people (not to put too fine a point on it, but historically, does it remind you of anything?) in order to prevent them from sleeping in order to instill a level of fear.

The six-year-old son of this PhD that we met today woke up one night and came into his parents’ bedroom because he heard helicopters and was scared that he would be shot. I remember when I used to wake up scared in the night and make my parents check the house for burglars. I had absolutely no warrant for being scared—it was not as though we had been robbed or lived in an even remotely dangerous neighborhood. And here this 6-year-old boy is waking up in the night with every reason to be afraid. Children should not have to fear for their lives.

Why is anyone surprised when those with no hope, no future and have no one fighting for them and for justice, turn to violence as a way to be heard? I am not justifying the violence—it is never the answer and only leads to more violence. I am just saying that I am not sure if I were in their situation, what it might lead me to do. The difference is not our human nature, the difference is that I had the fortune to be born in the United States, and to be given such opportunity while these children have been born into slavery, for all intensive purposes.

In this family, the man has a sister in another town in the West Bank. He cannot see her, because even though supposedly the West Bank is "Palestine," the Israeli army (the people we have met with have made it very clear that they are not against the Israeli people, but they are against the occupation) controls it completely, and it is not contiguous land because of their building of roads and the separation wall.

When we as Americans ask what we can do to help them, their answer is, "We don’t want money. We want our freedom." Today even this PhD, who lived in Japan while he was getting his degree (one of two people given a full scholarship each year by Japan to pursue research) and has known a free life, said, "I just want to be able to go camping. To go fishing. To do something. But here, we can do nothing."

For those who might wonder, “Yes, but the Palestinians have suicide bombers, and isn’t this level of tight control necessary?” I would say, “Isn’t that the rationale used to justify Japanese internment during WWII?”

Palestinian suicide bombers do not represent all Palestinians any more than Jesse Jackson (or any politician for that matter) represents all Americans.

Just a few points of interest, as I am late for dinner … we are staying in the Scots Hotel, which they refer to as being in St. Andrews, Galilee. It is owned by the Church of Scotland and let’s just say the Church of Scotland seems to be doing a lot better here than in Scotland!!

See Also

Sea of Galilee and Nazareth

Wednesday, November 2

Today was more of a day of ‘Christian pilgrimage’ than peace and justice awareness, though I am coming to realize that they both intersect.

We started out the morning along the Sea of Galilee, to the place where it is believed that Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5). There is a church built on the site (which is true in all of these areas, that the site might be the humble manger/cave where Jesus was born, but now is a rather decadent display of extravagance, or of reverent beauty, depending on how you look at it). We were there in the midst of South Indian Christians holding a worship service inside, Swedish Lutherans holding a service outside, and another group of guitar playing evangelicals outside.

From there we went to the site where Jesus fed the 5,000 and close to the site where, after Jesus had risen, he appeared by the Sea to the disciples. Some of us even took our shoes off and walked in the Sea of Galilee, which was a bit painful, as the ground is quite rocky.

Tomorrow we will head toward Jericho and along the Jordan River. We will be stopping at the site of the baptism of Jesus along the way, and then arriving back in Jerusalem tomorrow night. And to think, there is still another week left!

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