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Jul-19-2010 16:39printcommentsVideo

Tisha B'av/9th of Av and a Few Experiences While in Jerusalem

"70% of all the conflicts in the world can be traced back to the Israeli Palestinian conflict" - Tomy Blair

Tisha B'av at the Kotel by Susan Heller Courtesy: jewishhalifax.com
Tisha B'av at the Kotel by Susan Heller Courtesy: jewishhalifax.com

(CLERMONT, Fla.) - Today is Tisha B'av: The 9th of Av; the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, which begins at sundown on July 19, and recalls the collapse of the Jerusalem Temple.

According to the Talmud, the First Temple, was destroyed by the Babylonians because the Israelites practiced idolatry, rape, incest, and murder. The Second Temple was destroyed by Rome, because of hatred between people.

On Feb. 19, 2010, I taped an introduction to Mark Braverman's FATAL EMBRACE, where he recalls his 9th of Av experience and I spoke of another one of mine which followed after attending Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions 2007 kick off day:

On July 16, 2007, from Jerusalem I wrote: ICAHD, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is a non-violent do something group opposed to the occupation of Palestine which resists the Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories. This summer ICAHD has committed to rebuild 300 of the -so far 18,000 Palestinian dwellings the Israeli government has destroyed which has created far more than 18,000 homeless families, for many were apartment buildings and Palestinian's share their homes with their extended family.

According to international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention forbids home demolitions in occupied territories and demands that the occupiers maintain the status quo and not pilfer the resources of the indigenous population.

Indigenous Palestinians are denied building permits in the Orwellian democracy of Israel while USA fundamentalist Christian churches financially support and pray for the illegal settlements/colonies which have been erected on legally owned Palestinian land.

In contrast to the misdeeds of empire, twenty five internationals, dozens of Israelis and scores of Palestinians have created a community upon the rocky barren land of the Hamdan family of nine with intent to hand the keys of the house over to Hassan Yussef Hamdan and his family fourteen days from now.

The land has legally been owned by the Hamdan clan with the deeds filled-out in Hassan Yussef's great-grandfather’s name, during the Ottoman Empire. The oldest son, Mohammed’s grandmother, Um Mohammad addressed the media in Arabic which was translated in English by Nadia another ICAHD volunteer, while the foundation of the house was being laid, “We own twenty-five pieces of land, twenty-five meters is one piece. After building our home here, we received papers demanding we demolish our own home. We got a lawyer in Tel Aviv, and after paying $10,000.00 she did nothing. The soldiers came under our window and we hired another lawyer and had to pay 70,000 shekels within two hours to hold off the soldiers. The soldiers came back two more times, after more negotiations the soldiers came back a third time and destroyed our home.”

ICAHD spokesmen, Meir Margalit admitted, “We are here because we are embarrassed and ashamed of our government. A decent person cannot handle what this government puts innocent people through. We are doing this for both sides; for the innocent families and to keep the moral values of Judaism alive.”

American Israeli, Aviva Joseph wrapped it up when she informed the crowd, “We are here building on the 9th day of Av, the day the Jewish Temple was destroyed…I was born in Chile into an Orthodox Zionist home. Both my parents are Holocaust survivors. When I was ten I use to go to Bethlehem, but after the first intifada, things began closing down; physical walls and psychological walls. I lived in Gilo, some call it a settlement, some a neighborhood and I lived in a small box with my own myth. Now I live in California and things you see from there you can’t see here and other things you must come here to see what cannot be seen anywhere else. I love Israel but until I began listening to the voices of the marginalized did I see I was living my own myth. The work is not just in the head, but in the heart; opening both sides to a new paradigm with compassion. It must be like hydrogen and oxygen the sides coming together; who could have thought that would make water?”

Jeff Halper, American Israeli, founder and coordinator of ICAHD and a twenty-first century secular prophet was unable to be at the site due to a family emergency, but on March 17, 2006, the 7th day of my third journey to Israel Palestine, Jeff greeted my group of nearly one hundred Internationals attending a Sabeel/Arabic for THE WAY, reality tour through the West Bank, in the East Jerusalem YMCA conference room with:

“I don’t want to depress you too much but the issue of the occupation is a global issue that transcends boundaries and Israel Palestine impacts all global realities...We have a country created by the UN and supported by the USA that has a brutal occupation while International Law defines occupation as a temporary situation.

“When you incorporate occupied territories, highways, settlements and use resources it is all illegal according to the Fourth Geneva Convention which states the status quo must be retained so that negotiations can happen. Unilateral actions are illegal. The occupying power is responsible for those under its control.

“Tony Blair said 70% of all the conflicts in the world can be traced back to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. What gives us hope is that as this conflict worsens maybe Europe will figure out that American policies are against their interests and intervene...This conflict impacts the global community and especially everyone in the USA.

“If we do fix this conflict it would be a tremendous step forward in global reconciliation...This whole issue is based on Human Rights and it is a global issue requiring global intervention. …Israel is not a democracy, it is an ethnocracy: full rights to Jews, but not Palestinians.”

After our group said goodbye to Jeff and hi to Angela, another dedicated ICAHD volunteer, we went for a reality tour of east Jerusalem. We witnessed the remains of many demolished homes and saw the tents where the home owners now lived. Angela informed us, “There are forty-two illegal settlements in the Muslim, Christian and Armenian quarters of Jerusalem. The only green area for children to play will soon have a high rise for the settlers which will be 7 meters taller than the walls of the Old City...Out of site of most Israelis is the Hebronization of east Jerusalem. The Wall has been deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice but America continues to allow it to grow. The wall is way over the Green Line proving it is not about security but about grabbing Palestinian land. Israel’s policy of Quiet Transfer: getting rid of the Palestinians is a huge humanitarian crisis.

“There is an advertisement that runs in the USA that reads: “Have a Holiday Home in Jerusalem.” The ad does not mention this home is 100% ILLEGAL! It is clear how the wall zig zags that it is not about security but about grabbing the maximum land with minimal Palestinian occupation.”

When I returned to Israel Palestine in October 2006, over sixty internationals gathered in Jerusalem for another ICAHD tour. Jeff informed us:

“It has been said that the Israelis do not love this land, they just want to possess it. There have been three stages to make this occupation permanent. The first was to establish the facts on the ground; the settlements. There are ½ million Israeli’s and four million Palestinians here. They have been forced into Bantustan; truncated mini states; prison states. It is apartheid and Bush and Hillary are both willing collaborators.

"In 1977, Sharon came in with a mandate, money and resources to make the Israeli presence in the West Bank irreversible. The second stage began in April 2004 when America approved the Apartheid/Convergence/Realignment Plan and eight settlement blocs. This is just like South Africa! The Bush Sharon letter exchange guaranteed that the USA considers the settlements non-negotiable. The Convergence Plan and The Wall create the borders and that is what defines Bantustans. Congress ratified the Bush plan and only Senator Byrd of West Virginia voted no and nine House Representatives.

“Israel has set up a matrix of control; a thick web of settlements guaranteed to make the occupation permanent by establishing facts on the ground. Israel denies there is an occupation, so everything is reduced to terrorism. It is our job to insist upon the human rights issue, for occupied people have International Law on their side.”

I asked Jeff if the settlements were in actuality colonies; meaning foreigners had invaded and set up residence in another’s territory. He agreed and added that, "When Jerusalem was controlled by Jordan, the East side was 6 sq. km. Since 1967, Israel has added 64 km. The West side was 38 sq. km until ‘67 and is now 108 sq. km’s. Israel plans to develop 17 settlements. Israeli policy is to maintain a 72% Jewish and 28% Arab population. Palestinians cannot get building permits to build upon their legally owned land. The Arab land has been re-zoned as green space, and the green space will be re-zoned for the settlements. Every single Palestinian home in Jerusalem has a demolition order. The entire West Bank has been zoned as agricultural land by Israel, and that will also be re-zoned again for more settlements.”

Orwellian doublespeak has also been employed in the USA government and media to turn the illegal colonies: for all the settlements are considered illegal according to International Law, into “neighborhoods”.

A new highway has already begun to link all the settlements in a ring around the Old City of Jerusalem. The Eastern Ring Road will have bridges for Israelis but is just another wall against the Palestinians. As we rode past acres of olive trees that had been chopped off by the Israeli army, on our way to the house made for peace, Jeff stated, “I don’t just have a political problem with this Judiaization of the Old City, it is ecologically and environmentally offensive.”

I add it also is spiritually impoverished. The raping and pillaging of what is claimed holy ground refutes and denies the biblical meaning of dominion. The ancients understood dominion meant to nurture, love and protect and the destruction of Palestinian homes, the stealing and destroying of their legal property, is an abomination.

We concluded that day at the Beit Arabiya Peace House, which is at the crossroads of Areas A, B and C and which has been demolished and rebuilt four times and the owner has just received his fifth demolition order.

“We are here building on the 9th day of Av, the day the Jewish Temple was destroyed."

Beit Arabiya is the name of the home of the Arabiya family with seven children that has been demolished four times by the Israeli government and rebuilt four times by the efforts of ICAHD and the JCHR/Jurist Center for Human Rights, a Palestinian NGO focused on legal advocacy for Palestinians in the Jerusalem area.

The home has become a meeting place for Israelis, Palestinian and International peace activists and is the cornerstone and intersecting point of Areas A, B, and C.

The smallest of the three is Area A, which is under Palestinian authority. Areas B and C are under Israeli control. Since 1967 over 18,000 Palestinian families in the occupied territories have been left homeless due to home demolitions. According to Jeff Halper, the reasons for these home demolitions are purely political: to confine the 3 ½ million residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza into small, crowded, impoverished and disconnected enclaves.

The Beit Arabyia home/Peace Center’s closest neighbor is a soon to be dismantled Bedouin camp. The Israeli government’s policy of “Quiet Transfer” will mean extinction for the nomadic Bedouins for they have been denied the inalienable right to move about to graze their dwindling herds. On a hill in front of the Arabyia home/Peace Center is the newly erected Sheen Bet [similar to USA FBI] prison and interrogation center. A new portion of the Ring Road which will connect the illegal settlements/colonies runs between the two and The Apartheid Wall is in full frontal brutal view.

Upon the wall of the home is a mural donated by the North American Workers Against the USA occupation of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The mural depicts Rachel Corrie, the American who was run over by a Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza when she stood up to defend the home of a Physician with five children, and a pregnant Palestinian woman of ten who was also killed in Gaza. The angelic images of the two women float above a depiction of a USA made Caterpillar bulldozer tipped to one side and flanked by tanks and weapons of destruction. On both sides of the weapons of destruction are many people. A railroad track reminds the viewer that prior to 1948, Jews and Palestinians once worked together in peaceful solidarity to build a railroad.

The Arabyia home/Peace Center is the cornerstone of the village of Anata and the Shufat refugee camp, in the very area where the prophet Jeremiah in the 6th century B.C. critiqued the violent conflicts in the Mid East, which were already old news: “I hear violence and destruction in the city, sickness and wounds are all I see.” [Jeremiah 6:7]

The Arabyia home/Peace Center is a visible persistent witness of hope and solidarity that stands because of the cooperation and unity of locals, Israelis and Internationals with one mind, one heart and with The Great Spirit on their side.

Mohammad Alatar, film producer of “The Ironwall” addressed our group after we broke bread and ate a typical Palestinian feast prepared by the Arabiya family:

I am a Muslim Palestinian American and when my son asked me who my hero was I took three days to think about it. I told him my hero is Jesus, because he took a stand and he died for it. What really needs to be done is for the churches to be like Jesus; to challenge the Israeli occupation and address the apartheid practices as moral issues. Even if every church divested and boycotted Israel it would not harm Israel. After the USA and Russia, Israel is the third largest arms exporter in the world. It is a moral issue that the churches must address.”

 "We all need a psychiatrist, but we cannot afford one, so we do activism."-Ashraf Abu Moch, Israeli Palestinian, ICAHD Volunteer.




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