EPF PIN member Tinka Perry reflects on her time in Palestine/Israel with Episcopal Relief and Development.
I returned last week from a trip to Jordan, Palestine and Israel with Episcopal Relief & Development, and I am still trying to process everything. We saw sites where Episcopal Relief & Development is helping to heal a hurting world, and we saw the Christian pilgrimage sites where many people have their faith strengthened and confirmed. We renewed our baptismal vows in the Jordan river, we experienced a desert sunrise, with a eucharist service just after sunrise, we sailed on the Sea of Galilee, experienced Nazareth and Bethlehem, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, etc.
But for me, it was experiencing the Palestine/Israel of today that touched my heart so deeply. Our guide, Iyad, is a Palestinian Christian, and was eloquent about what we were seeing. We met with a Palestinian member of the government, with a Palestinian Anglican priest in Nazareth, a Palestinian Muslim, as well as Dalia Landau, the Jewish woman in the book, The Lemon Tree. And we passed signs that warned Israelis not to enter this territory, by law, because it is dangerous. We saw that only people with certain color license plates may enter certain checkpoints or drive on certain roads which save an hour driving time. We saw young Israeli soldiers at checkpoints, uzis at the ready, walking through our bus to make sure we were no threat.
And we saw the wall. And we saw the wall again. The “security barrier’, wall of separation, the apartheid wall, the wall of exclusion, it does not matter what you call it. It is a wall of oppression. We live in a nation of racism, exclusion, inequality in education and services, classism, etc…which are very evident if you know where to look and what to look for. But this wall in Palestine is a constant visible reminder of the occupation and oppression imposed on the Palestinians. It does not separate the Palestinians from the Israelis as much as it separates Palestinian families and neighborhoods; it keeps Palestinians away from medical care if someone is in labor or having a heart attack; it keeps people from jobs, it keeps businesses from suppliers or buyers. What used to be a 900 foot walk to work is now over an hour’s drive. It keeps children from schools. It slices through neighborhoods like a knife. It is more than twice the height of the Berlin Wall, and runs 435 miles, whereas the ‘border’ is only 202 miles.
And the world sits idly by. I cannot wrap my brain around this. It is inhumane. I believe that this wall is another WAILING WALL…it is causing trauma and oppression. What would it be like if this wall had hundreds of people every day coming to a specific location to pray for peace, to press against its cold concrete to pray, to leave words of wisdom or pain on the concrete…To sing songs of peace and hope together. To lift our voices to the world about what is happening to Palestinians. What would we call THAT wall?