Editorial note: Erin Dunigan visited Palestine last fall. The following is part three of her journal accounts.
The Road to Jericho
Thursday, November 3
Greetings from Jerusalem, by way of Jericho …
The checkpoints are run by the Israeli military and are typically staffed with 18 and 19-year-olds who are performing their military duty. The checkpoints have often been the site of violence, from both sides, and the treatment of the Palestinians attempting to cross is often atrocious. Because of this there is a group of Israeli Jewish women (those who have the most status in this society and the only ones really with full rights) who volunteer to be present at the most volatile checkpoints. They are there to remind these soldiers that they are being watched, in a sense, by their mothers. The Palestinians say that the presence of these women helps to keep some of the arbitrary harassment in check.
We were on our way to Jericho to visit the YWCA kindergarten in the midst of the refugee camp. There are two refugee camps in Jericho, made up of about 5,000 people. What I was shocked to learn is that these refugees have been there since the displacement of the Palestinian people in 1948! I guess I interpret refuge camp to be a temporary thing, but here it is definitely not. These people are free to move away, but their land was taken in 1948, and they have nowhere else to go. I guess one of the phrases that was used when the state of Israel (not necessarily the same thing as the Jewish people) was created was "A land without a people for a people without a land." Meeting those "non-people" has made the phrase seem absurd at best.
The systemic oppression is staggering. But it is that very systemic oppression, which the Israeli government asserts is for "security," that is actually making the situation unstable. If you keep a people without jobs, without freedom, without hope for a future, you are giving them nothing to lose when they resort to violence.
On the way back to Jerusalem we took the "Road to Jericho" (for us it was the road to Jerusalem), which is the site in Jesus’ story where the Good Samaritan helped the man who had been beaten. Today I wonder if the Good Samaritan would be called the Good Palestinian, and the person he would be helping would be an Israeli soldier who had been beaten or vice versa?
One of the women we met with was a psychologist, and she talked about the idea that those who are abused as children have a tendency to grow up to be abusive. The way to break that cycle the psychologist said is by intervening and bringing healing; then you are able to break the cycle of abuse. I am not sure what that would look like for nations and entire peoples, but even in this one week it is easy to see that there is such a need.