Board member Sue Swartz reports from the ground in
Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Hebron on last week's
only to live...
in Hebron and in Sderot!
are like a bone in our throat!
Enough of the
we want 2 states for 2
It is already hot in Hebron at 11
a.m. as 300 of us disembark from the comfortable bullet-proof
buses which started out in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Be'er Sheva,
buses which passed through the checkpoints outside Kiryat Arba
and inside Hebron itself, and -- accompanied by IDF and police
vehicles -- down one of the main thoroughfares of the city, past
Palestinians gathered outside their small stores and auto repair
shops, past young boys carrying containers of soup given out on
Tuesdays, past Christian tourists in red baseball caps. The open
space, normally a dirt parking lot, where we are to hold our
demonstration quickly fills up with large banners and small
hand-held posters, sound equipment, protestors in Peace Now
t-shirts, reporters, and the familiar sound of chanting.
Shalom Kein! Kibush Lo! It is my third event during this week of
protest, although it is the first Peace Now rally pemitted in
Hebron by the government for many years (and then, only by High
Court order). I feel a bit like an old hand as things get
underway, a bit like an outsider, and a bit like an activist
just out to have fun.
|Demonstration in Hebron organized by Shalom
Achsav (Peace Now).|
|Counter-demonstrators with signs that include:
"Peace Now are traitors," "Ethnic Cleansing of Jews from their
Land," "Hebron was a Jewish city when Europe was Still a
ARE WE BORING?
ride to Hebron, I talked to Tzippora, a former Canadian who came
to Israel 45 years ago as a young bride. She was eager to hear
my American take on Israel and to give me her own opinions. As
we drove through Hebron, Tzipporah, waving at the police and
Palestinian residents with equal gusto, said "the Left is so
pareve". Pareve -- kosher both for dairy and meat -- so
well-behaved, she explained, so boring. Always doing the same
|The banner reads: "Occupation and war are
catastrophes. Only a just peace equals security." The photo is a
door in Hebron. On the door it says "Revenge" and on the wall it
reads: "God is King."|
With all due respect, I must
disagree. The first 10 days of June were a whir of
anti-occupation activities, much of which was definitely not
boring: a car convoy and bicycle parade, photo exhibitions and
films, vigils and street theater, demonstrations, concerts, an
academic conference, a daily cable TV show. The earthly laws of
physics (i.e., not being able to be in 2 places at once) and
other obligations made it impossible for me to see and do
everything. And word limits makes it impossible for me to tell
you everything I did do. What follows are highlights from those
days, days which also saw much public discussion about the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as the 6-Day War and its
My favorite event was "Critical Mass", a
bicycle and roller skate convoy through the streets of Tel Aviv.
Well over a hundred cyclists (most, but not all, under 30) and a
dozen skaters fanned out from Cinemateque Square to "paint the
city with messages of freedom and equality". Several were
dressed in clown make-up and fabulouly mis-matched clothing,
others rode bicycles of their own design complete with streamers
and balloons, still others looked like kids you would find on
U.S. college campuses, with orange converse sneakers, baggy
clothes, and tatoos. Before they took off -- with a police car
leading them through the most congested areas during rush hour
-- there was a drumming circle so contagious, even folks setting
up a simulated checkpoint for a later event paid
Though not a
cyclist, I did join the Geneva Initiative's car caravan from Tel
Aviv to Jerusalem. Three dozen cars and a bus decked out in
posters ("support the Geneva Initiative) and balloons ('yes to
an agreement") traveled the main highway to Jerusalem where we
met up with a similar-sized Palestinian contingent. Together we
made our way around the Old City, then up to the Mount of Olives
for a short rally opened by Saman Khoury of the Palestinian
Peace Coalition, who spoke of the mundane -- make sure you have
your hats on and drink water in this heat -- and the existential
-- you're always welcome in East Jerusalem, even after it is the
capital of Palestine.
|The banner reads: "Yes to the agreement.
We support the Geneva
|"Tree of Life" performance art on the Tel Aviv
boardwalk. They ended by putting oranges on the
What else? There was also "Until She Opens Her
Eyes", a day-long mix of performance art, panel discussions,
photo and video exhibitions, and personal testimonies on the
boardwalk in Tel Aviv's port sponsored by several human rights
groups; "The Desert Generation", an exhibit by Israeli and
Palestinian painters and photographers, whose hundreds of
9" X 12" works covered an entire room in Jerusalem's Artist's
House; a "Day of Protest" with music and postering at Tel Aviv
University; and the "main" demonstration Saturday night attended
by 5000 people.
|The hand signs held by Women in|
"End the occupation."
There was a special gathering for members of Combatants for
Peace outside Jerusalem with speeches, music, and pledges to
pursue non-violence; the launching of a campaign to re-build
every Palestinian home demolished by the Israeli government
during the upcoming year; vigils held by Women in Black at main
intersections in Haifa, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv throughout the
week. People lined up to walk through a "checkpoint" built of
wire fencing and warning signs eerily similar to those you see
in the West Bank, where "soldiers" checked your ID (I had to
explain why I only had a U.S. passport), detained suspicious
persons, and made you extremely nervous -- even though it was
all happening in the middle of Tel Aviv.
By the end of the week, I
had amassed 4 souvenirs. First, a collection of
t-shirts. Second, a glimpse at how hard it is to build momentum
for peace when national political leadership is absent, and many
-- if not most -- Israelis are convinced there's nothing they
can do to change things. Third, a series of frightening and
disturbing comments made by those who disagree with ending the
status quo: from being called traitors by settlers in Hebron to
being told that Arabs were worse than animals by a fellow
American in Jerusalem to 4-letter words shouted from passing
cars. Fourth, the opportunity to spend time with people who
truly believe that despite their mutual suffering, Israelis and
Palestinians must -- and will -- make peace.
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance
for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
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