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May 2015 Delegation to Palestine/Israel
Co-Sponsored with the University of Georgia's Catholic Center
and the Central Presbyterian Church of Atlanta


Overview: The first collection of reflections from the delegation begins with a quote from Interfaith Peace-Builders' incredible guide, Sa'id Rabieh, tweeted by delegate Dan Fishback. Subsequent reflections include first impressions from Christopher Ellingwood and Dan Fishback, Ann Hunter's thoughts on hope in Jerusalem, and a collaborative group reflection on the walls they witnessed in Jerusalem.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, BUS RIDE FROM AIRPORT l Christopher Ellingwood - Cumming, Georgia

Day one of our trip to Israel and Palestine. Our immediate group had no major complications at the airports, though everyone was eager to get to the hotel and relax by the end of the day. The bus ride in from the airport was pretty enjoyable due to our guide Said answering questions and talking about the region as well as the view from the bus.

Israel/Palestine really is a beautiful place both in terms of physical geography and in terms of architecture, such that I think it would be well worth a visit even if the religious sites and sociopolitical issues were not there. From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem the countryside is filled with hills brimming with numerous rocky embellishments and terraces that I found quite stunning.

Said provided a great background on the country as well on the topics of things that we drove by. I learned that Tel Aviv means "spring hill" and that until around ten years ago Palestinians had no representation in the municipal city government in Tel Aviv. Travel was also problematic for Palestinians as a main highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv had been closed off to them until the courts decided to allow them. Unfortunately check points were then placed on the roads leading up to the highway, and the hassle made it impractical for use.

In terms of land holdings Palestinians who can prove property ownership would be offered compensation when Israel wanted to expand, but the former group is very against ever selling their lands and so the latter might just claim it anyway. Read this article to learn more about the issues surrounding this highway.

It's been a short time in Israel, and yet I've already seen quite a bit. I am looking forward to hearing more from Israelis and Palestinians about these complicated issues.

PRIMARY IMPRESSION l Dan Fishback - Brooklyn, New York

Primary impression from Day One of Israel/Palestine trip. The apparatus of violence and injustice is at once completely visible and totally camouflaged.

EDIT: This might prove untrue tomorrow.


JULY 25 - AUG. 7

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 “WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE?” l Ann Hunter - Decatur, Georgia

That was the last question our group asked of Micha after the presentation about his work and his guided tour of East Jerusalem. 

Micha is one of the founders of Grassroots Jerusalem, an organization run mostly by Palestinian activists. He is an Israeli Jew who was born, grew up, and was educated in Israel. He served his required duty in the military and over time began to understand the reality of the occupation and has worked for years, committed to influencing change.
After reluctantly sharing his own story of transformation – from an Israeli Jew who did not know the truth, to one passionate about telling what he now knows is true – he spoke about the many Palestinians he works with who inspire him every day, who give him hope, even in the face of overwhelming, discouraging injustices of the occupation. He knows the work of Grassroots Jerusalem is about hope for Palestinians and he is fed by their hope..

We briefly met his Palestinian colleague Fayrouz who was scheduled to speak with our group, but had to leave to meet her boyfriend as he was released from jail. It seemed like a routine matter to her – a Palestinian arrested and jailed – yet startling to us so removed from the reality of the occupation. But her smile, radiance, and eagerness as she left was inspiring – just as Micha had said. May we find and hold such hope with us as we continue to listen and learn from our new Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters.

WALLS l Collaboartive Group Reflection
5.15 - Western Wall (Dan Fishback, D53).jpg5.15 - Western Wall 3 (Chris Ellingwood, D53).jpg
5.15 - Wall in jerusalem (Tori Lange, D53).jpgwallIn Jerusalem it is hard not to notice walls.

Built by the Ottoman Empire in the 16th Century, the Old City is surrounded by defensive walls and city gates. The Western Wall is a relatively short segment of the walls which surround the Temple Mount which itself is split by a partition dividing men and women who visit the site. And last but not least, the most imposing wall, the Separation Wall which divides Palestinians and Israelis. While many see these walls as solutions for problems, these walls are a constant reminder of the arbitrary and often times very artificial divisions we create among ourselves. 

But there are cracks of hope. We heard from Nathan with the Carter Center who on the macro level is working with various political and diplomatic state actors to engage in conversations that will hopefully one day lead to steps and processes for a lasting peace. We heard from Micha with Grassroots Jerusalem who through community organizing seeks justice for Palestinians. We also witnessed women (Yemeni Jews) looking and reaching over the partition at the Western Wall in celebration of their young boys celebrating a bar mitzvah while a man brought the Torah to each of them to kiss.

We saw more walls today separating Palestinians from Palestinians, maintaining the status quo of keeping the demographic benchmark of 70% Jewish population in Jerusalem and 30% or less Palestinians in Jerusalem. Whole neighborhoods of Palestinians who have been living in Jerusalem for generations are more and more cut off from the center of their lives, behind the walls, the Qalandia checkpoint and others , their lives constantly in flux. And amidst Palestinians neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, Israeli settlements stand as a reminder of the ongoing occupation-- Israeli Jews are settling there illegally under the 4th Geneva Convention, of which the state of Israel is a signatory. 

A couple of us with Jewish heritage put notes in the sacred stones of the Western Wall wishing for a Free Palestine, and the liberation of Israeli Jews from being occupiers. 

We heard from Jean Zaru from the Quaker Meeting House in Ramallah when she said: "I don't accept to be reconciled to hopelessness, that's why I don't give up....when you hope for something, you don't get it in silence, you have to work hard for it. "  She cannot rest because this is the journey (and Ella's song finds its way to the surface) and "we who believe in freedom cannot rest."




We invite delegation participants to comment on and react to the experiences they have during our Israel/Palestine delegations in written Trip Reports

Individual delegates contribute pieces to these reports.  As such, reports are not comprehensive accounts of every meeting or experience, but impressions of those things that most impact individuals.  Submitted reports may be edited for clarity or brevity. Trip reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Peace-Builders, trip leaders, or delegation partner organizations.  We hope you enjoy reading and we encourage you to share these reports with others.


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