Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Being a part of Christmas in Bethlehem this year has been fascinating. The holiday season here is much different from home, and honestly, it didn't quite feel like Christmas for me, even though I'm in the Christmassy-est place on the planet! There was so much to see and do here this past week, but unfortunately, I've had the flu since Christmas day, so I've spent most of my vacation asleep. Luckily though, we still have Armenian Christmas and Orthodox Christmas to celebrate, which are both in January, so I'm expecting to be healthy for rounds 2 and 3 of celebration! I'll definitely be filling you in on my interesting Christmas experiences once I'm feeling up to par.

I hope that you have a wonderful time celebrating the New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas in Bethlehem

Thank you so much for supporting me on this journey! Without your love, prayers, and support, I would absolutely not be here. Know that I'm thinking of you this Christmas.

Being in Bethlehem during the Christmas season has been both awe-inspiring and incredibly upsetting.
Here are some images that are present in or reflective of Bethlehem this Christmas. 

Apartheid Wall Grafiti
photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler

Bethlehem Checkpoint

Star Street

Desmond Tutu Quote

Manger Square/The Church of the Nativity

If Mary & Joseph had wanted to come to Bethlehem today...

Christmas Tree in Nativity Square

Peace Graffiti

Christmas in Nativity Square

Santa vs. Israeli Soldiers

Santa at the Wall

The Manger in front of the Watchtower

Right in front of the Bethlehem Checkpoint

 I hope that you have a very Merry Christmas, and a totally restful break from work/school/normal life.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Human Rights March

On December 9th, I went to the annual Human Rights March in Tel Aviv. I could try to tell you all about what it was like to march alongside thousands of Israelis who were there in support of different human rights groups. I could try to express the hope that I felt after meeting Israelis who were not completely hateful toward Palestinians. I could try to explain the different groups that were marching. But instead of trying to tell you, I'd like to just show you.

(Look at the watermark in the bottom corner for info about where the image came from - all images not watermarked are from, unless otherwise noted.)

One of my few photos from the march.
From left to right: Eitan Bronstein (director of
Zochrot), Ryan, Rachelle, Me, Sarah - all MCC staff.

Me holding a sign with a photo of a Palestinian refugee.
Originially, these photos of refugees were printed at human size and installed in the remains of their villages, which are now in Israel. Photo by

Palestinian Arabs marching for equality - these are Palestinians who live in Israel and/or have a Jerusalem ID, as most Palestinians who live in the West Bank or Gaza are not allowed into Israel and therefore are unable to protest.

African immigrants (especially Ethiopian Jews) are often treated unfairly and even allegedly denied citizenship based on their race.

Trauré, an immigrant from Cote d'Ivoire, holds a sign saying "Refugees are not criminals" in front of the municipality building.

In what was definitely the most shocking display for us Americans:
Young Jewish protestors parodied far-right activists by dressing as Klu Klux Klan members holding signs reading "Kahane was right," and "Kill the (non-Jews) in order to save Israel."

The Zochrot signs that we were carrying were too large for just one person, so we paired up and each took a side. My sign-carrying partner (who we'll just call "L") was an Israeli Jew who was born and raised in Tel Aviv. She was so helpful in translating the Hebrew signs, and sharing a little bit of her experience with me. When we walked past these two boys, one blindfolded and tied up and the other with chains around his wrist, we had a very interesting conversation. I literally wrote it down right after it happened so that I could share it with you:

L: "You know, these guys did this same thing at a protest a few months ago and got arrested for it."
Me: "What? Why? They're being completely non-violent. They're not doing anything wrong."
L: "Their message hit too close to home. It was the truth, so the soldiers arrested them."
Me: "But... you can't just arrest someone. You have to have a legitimate reason!"
L: "What do you think this is, a democratic state? You can't just go around saying whatever you want. We're not in America, Meredith, we're in Israel. We don't have freedom of speech like you do. They say we do, but it is a lie."

"It is a lie."

Those words haunted me for quite some time after leaving the protest. I mean, I knew some things were a lie. Well, maybe not a lie, but an omission of the truth. No one ever talks about the Palestinians who lived in the land before 1948. No one talks about the families who were ripped out of their homes and are now refugees. No one talks about the children who saw their parents murdered. No one talks about the injustice, or the permanent damage that has been done to millions. But those aren't lies, they're just... the absence of the truth. But if, as L said, "freedom of speech" here is a lie, well then that's something else entirely.

Something to think about when I've had a little bit more sleep.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

One More Death *Warning: Graphic Photos*

When blogging, I do my best to stay out of the politics of the situation here as much as I possibly can. Getting on my soap box and preaching politics does nothing but divide people, especially because I am no expert. I try to stick to what I know, which usually means writing about my first hand experiences here. But today, right now, I have to speak out.

I came back from Tel Aviv yesterday feeling so optimistic. Marching alongside Israelis gave me hope. "Things are getting better," I thought, "look at all of these people who are working for human rights." I was there with a group that advocates for the rights of Palestinians, and despite some dirty looks and some heated conversations, I felt like the majority of the people marching would include Palestinians in their list of "all people" who deserve human rights. But today, my optimism so quickly turned to despair as I heard about another Palestinian man who has been killed.

I need to share this story with you. Please realize that this isn't just about one person dying. This isn't just about today's one death. This is about people being senselessly killed for decades. This is about genocide. This is about the deliberate slaughtering of an entire group of human beings. And this is about our collective decision to ignore it, to pretend that one group of people has the right to destroy another, to fund a nation that is killing civilians because we think it is in our political best interest.


Mustafa Tamimi was a 28 year old young man who was protesting the route of the Apartheid Wall. The wall is planned to be built on land that belongs to the people of Nabi Saleh, a small village near Ramallah. He was attending a non-violent demonstration that takes place every Friday, and began throwing stones at an armored Israeli military vehicle (which is done as a symbol, not to injure anyone or destroy any property - as a golf-ball sized stone obviously isn't going to damage the heavily armored jeep in any way). A soldier then opened the door to the jeep, and shot Mustafa in the face with a tear gas canister. The soldier was between ten and thirty feet away.

Just in case you know nothing about tear gas (I didn't, before I came here), a canister is intended to be shot into the air above a violent crowd from about 100 feet away. It is never, NEVER intended to be shot directly at people, because it's known to be deadly, and it is NEVER intended to be used on one person. Its purpose is to sedate an angry mob.

The impact blew off half of Tamimi's face, and when his friends and family cried out in horror, Israeli soliders laughed and said, "So?" (Mondoweiss)

Here is what happened:

This is Mustafa as he was being shot.
The red circle to the right is the gun, and the circle to the left is the canister.

This is immediately after being hit with the canister.

Palestinians rushing to his aid.

Immediately after being hit.

Friends Comforting Each Other

Here is a video of the aftermath.

Mustafa was rushed to the hospital, and died less than 24 hours later.
The pain of his death will be felt by his family and village for years to come.
The damage done by losing a child, a brother, a friend, will never be erased.

Rest in peace, dear child.
May your life's story be a light in this dark corner of the world.

Friday, December 9, 2011

We Teach Life

Today, I was at the Human Rights March in Tel Aviv. Such an incredibly powerful experience. I will definitely be posting about it in the near future. Not only do I need a little bit of time to process everything, but I also  need to wait for all of the photos start to roll in. There were so many talented photographers there. I would much rather wait for them to upload their (undoubtedly wonderful) photos, rather than use my subpar ones.

So until then, you should spend the next 4 minutes and 39 seconds watching a spoken word poem by Rafeef Ziadah, a Palestinian activist who is currently a PhD candidate at York University in Toronto, Canada. This video made the rounds on my Palestinian friends' facebook walls when it was first recorded last month, and I think that it is really powerful. Rafeef's experience is definitely worth hearing. Take a listen, and then let me know what you think!

‎"So I give them UN resolutions and statistics, and we condemn and we deplore and we reject, and these are not two equal sides: occupier and occupied. And a hundred dead. Two hundred dead. A THOUSAND DEAD. And between that war crime and massacre, I vent out words and smile, not exotic. Smile, not terrorist. And I recount. I recount. A hundred dead. Two hundred dead. A THOUSAND DEAD. Is anyone out there? Will anyone listen?"