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Final Reflections from the Delegation

O Palestine, My Bride …

Dreams … Aspirations,
Love … Laughter,
Tears … Sorrow,
All in you, yet unrealized,
O Palestine, My Bride …
Your Silwan … screams,
Your Gaza … gagged,
Your Hebron … horrified,
Your Ramallah … wrenching,
All in you, yet in tears,
O Palestine, My Bride …
Your green gardens … brown,
Your flowing rivers … dried,
Your mighty mountains … humbled,
Your dreamy deserts … ruined,
All in you, yet you smile,
O Palestine, My Bride …

O Palestine, My Bride …
You measure yourself not in miles … but in Checkpoints and Roadblocks,
You name your cities & towns - not by name …    but by Walls, Fences & Barriers,
You visit your Villages and Hamlets … but through Trenches and over Boulders,

All in you – keep smiling and
All of me - keep dreaming
for your Love & Laughter,
for my Tears & Sorrow,
One Day – O Palestine
You Will Be My Bride  

--Shakeel Syed


On Environmentalism

Blue Star PR boasts that Israel is "the only country in the world to enter the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees." They also praise the country's advances at irrigation.

It's true. I saw a lot of trees in Israel. These trees, however, are not native, and require a lot of water. The trees planted in Israel are mostly palm, pine, and cedar. They are planted wherever Palestinians have been removed. Changing the landscape both literally and metaphorically parallels the occupation. By bringing in invasive species, the ecosystem is destabilized. In fact, pine needles are toxic to the earth they fall on. Palm trees require remarkable amounts of water, especially when planted in such arid soil.

And while water is pumped from miles to make places like Nof Zion look like Palm Springs, Palestinians have to ration and store water on their roofs in black plastic buckets.

--Nancy Paraskevopoulos

To Exist Is To Resist

As we walked through the winding alleys of Deheisheh Refugee Camp, we saw bashful children standing in doorways and  not so bashful children playing in the street,  old bleached, curled remnants of martyr posters were still pasted on some walls, but it was the prominent martyr paintings and “Palestine” graffiti that caught our eyes.  During the second Intifada, Dheisheh, whose residents had lost so much to Israel, became among its fiercest resisters.  The Israeli response was severe, invading the camp and searching house to house, punching through walls instead of entering through doors and traumatizing families.  Some twenty multistory homes were demolished by Israelis as “homes to terrorists” despite the fact that made dozens of innocents homeless and only further radicalized those affected.  Nearly everyone in the camp knows someone who was killed during the Second Intifada and many of  the camp’s men have served lengthy terms in Israeli military prison without trial.  Post-traumatic stress would be rampant, if the trauma could be categorized as post rather than ongoing.

Yet, Dheisheh’s residents have held on, remembering their heritage and identifying themselves as being from their home villages.  Instead of agonizing, they have organized.   Lacking any community space, they pooled their together their meager resources and built the Phoenix Community Center, a place now that plays host to weddings, dance troupes, educational facilities and summer camps.  Today, just persisting or being steadfast- sumud in Arabic- is their main way of resisting Israeli military rule that is so hostile to their living an everyday life.

--Dave Matos

Kibbutz Zikim

Earlier in the delegation we visited  Kibbutz Zikim near Gaza. We met with Maayan and Ari. After lunch Ari talked to us about how there were only 50 or so kibbutz left that weren’t privatized. It almost seemed as if the kibbutz was a thing of the past in Israel. Ari settled in Israel from  San Francisco. He described how everything was done by committee and how things had changed over the years. They grow avocados and make Sabra, a liquor distilled from cactus. They also have one of the biggest dairies in Israel. Maayan then took us on a tour of the kibbutz and described how often Qassams fell on it from Gaza. The Kibbutz is located about 10 miles from Gaza, near Ashkelon. On the way out of the kibbutz Maayan told us to look for a sculpture he had made out of spent Qassams. It resembled a menorah.

In Sderot we had three presentations. The first was by Nomika Zion about dire situation is Sderot, economically and psychologically from the frequent shelling from Gaza. She described different programs her Kibbutz Migvan was providing to the youth at Sderot including one in which kids were supposedly given physical tasks to overcome the damage their psyches had endured in the mortar shelling.  The second presentation was by Chen Abrahams  and was more hopeful. Her organization Gvanim Association is trying to create bridges between Gaza and Sdoret by building friendships and establishing lines of communication. The third presentation by Eric Yellin from Other Voice was much more positive even though he was undertaking the Herculean task of circumventing the Israeli government, like Chen with Gvanim to establish relationships with the Palestinians in Gaza in order to ease tensions and stop the shelling in Sderot.

 --Jeff Kipilman

Terrible Tortured Holy Land

This terrible tortured holy land
With people stuck in their agony
Unable to breath
Unable to change
Unable to die.

Where compassion is prohibited
Where caring is restricted to family
Where humanity is almost dead.

And yet in this desert, a few small flowers bloom
and dare to lift their faces to the sun.
So delicate
So tiny
So easily cut down and trampled on.

While these few appear weak and fragile,
in truth they are the strong, the healthy, the authentic.
Because they have humanity, caring, compassion running through their veins.
Because they can see reality as it actually is.
Because the pain and joy of the world can still touch them.

These few are our hope, our passion, our only future.
We must follow them, love them, learn from them.
For without them, we are surely doomed.

--Kris Loken


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