Palestine-Israel Solidarity Tour 2022 Update

Dear friends in Fort Wayne and around the country, 

We are approximately halfway through our solidarity tour to Palestine and Israel. And we have had a very full last few days. 

Thursday, June 16, was spent touring holy sites. In the morning, we toured the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock; with the permission of the Islamic waqf, we were able to tour inside both sites with our guide, Mahdi, who explained the architecture as well as the religious significance of the buildings but also of the Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), what Jews call the Temple Mount, the plateau on which the two buildings stand. 

Friday, June 17, we met with Eid, the leader of the Bedouin community at Khan al-Ahmar, "the Red Inn," which remains under a demolition order from the Israeli military. These families along with families from five other local Bedouin communities have a school built out of tires and mud at which 200 students, K-10 attend classes. It was wonderful to see Eid again and hear the story of the Bedouin and how their existence is being threatened by the Israeli government. Israel has petitioned to remove all the Bedouin between Jerusalem to the Jordan River along Hwy 1 to confiscate one million acres to develop a "tourism industry," including - O, the irony - Israeli Bedouin reenactment "villages" for tourists with sheep, camel, tents. etc. On Friday afternoon, we met with Salwa Duaybis from Military Court Watch, who with her husband, Australian attorney, Gerard Horton monitor and document the Israeli military court system specifically focusing on the treatment of Palestinian children and youth. Salwa's story was very moving, heartbreaking at times, but inspired us in our own activism. She especially pointed out the inconsistency of US policy in supporting the Ukrainian resistance compared to the US's absolutist support of the Israeli colonial military regime. 

Yesterday, Saturday, June 18, was also a full day. We met with Omar Haramy of the Sabeel Palestinian Liberation Theology Center, who reminded us who are Christians that the church ought to be getting us into trouble, challenging our worldviews, but also taking the church out among the marginalized not trying to bring the marginalized into the churches. And we just returned this afternoon from spending time with our dear friend, Iyad Burnat, of the Bil'in Resistance movement. We walked along the apartheid wall built around the village and which encloses the 100,000+ illegal Israeli settlement of Modi'in Illit, built on Bil'in farmland. Iyad and other members of the Bil'in village have built an outdoor oasis of sorts for the entire community, with a picnic center, a small above-ground pool, and a meeting space.  It is lovely.  Having said that, it could be destroyed any minute. As we walked around the farmland, we came across scores and scores of tear gas canisters and some fragments of rubber-coated steel bullets. Bil'in is one of the main centers of Palestinian resistance, and was featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary, Five Broken Cameras. 

On our way back to Jerusalem, we were stopped at an Israeli checkpoint for 20 minutes as our passports and visas were checked individually on the bus by armed Israeli police, who also questioned me about why we were in the part of the country, what we had done today, etc.; quite an experience, very instructive for our travelers.       

Today, Sunday, June 19, is a free day in Jerusalem after church at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, the last Sunday (after eight years)  for Rev. Carrie Ballenger (who has taken a position as pastor of the ELCA church in Cambridge, MA, and Lutheran chaplain at Harvard University.  It's a free day today, our last night in Jerusalem, capped off with dinner at the rooftop restaurant at the Notre Dame Catholic guest house overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem     

Monday, June 20, we head to Jericho (Hisham's Palace and Tel Jericho), the lowest spot on the face of the earth, then to Qumran to hear about the Dead Sea Scrolls and tour the site there, and then to Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and the Ein Gedi kibbutz on the Dead Sea.  As we leave the Dead Sea we do not return to Jerusalem but then head to Bethlehem for four nights where we will meet with justice advocates and peacemakers there.     

Thank you, friends, for sending us positive energies and keeping us in your prayers.     

In solidarity,

Michael

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