PALESTINE: Reflection of a CPT Steering Committee member: What I learned during my travel to Palestine

CPTnet

25 April 2017

Reflection of a CPT Steering Committee member: What I learned during my travel to Palestine

by Timothy Wotring

I attended the Christian Peacemaker Teams’ Board Meeting as the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship representative, not expecting anything life-altering, but transformation waits for no one. CPT organized their Board Meeting in Hebron, Palestine during the week of March 13th. It just so happened to coincide with my Spring break and I decided to travel halfway around the world, instead of resting from my other part-time jobs.

When we landed in Tel Aviv, I prepared to be questioned. My first encounter was with an Israeli soldier. He asked me the standard questions of who, what, when, where, why of my time in Israel. I passed the test and finally made it to passport control. There, an officer asked me the same basic questions but this time more directly about my time in Iraqi Kurdistan, which was actually my first delegation with CPT last May. Unimpressed with my answer, he sent me to a separate room with a few others who apparently had red flags about their passports as well. 

About 10 minutes in, an Israeli Security Force agent called me our for questioning. She first handed me a sheet that looked like this:

 security sheet

I filled it out and she asked about where I worked, organizations I financially support, if I have ever protested, if I give to organizations who support BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), and other pointed questions about where I was staying on my visit. Finally, she requested to see my phone, searched through my emails, contacts, Facebook, and text messages, and asked if I knew Arabic.

When I got back to the holding room, I texted a CPTer to let them know that I was okay. After another hour of waiting, the same security patrol person sent me to another room, Border control. When the room emptied around 7:45 AM, I was called in. I was asked if I was going to Palestine and if I supported BDS, both of which I denied, hoping that they wouldn’t go through my Facebook again. Eventually they handed me back my passport and I left at 8am.

The rest of the days were split in two. We spent every morning with the CPT Palestine team patrolling several checkpoints in Hebron. We high-fived kindergarteners going to school in an attempt to bring some kind of hope, in spite of the apartheid state. These children are among the Palestinian people who are designated as “other” by a green passport, as opposed to the blue passports held by Israeli citizens. Those with blue passports are allowed to breeze past these checkpoints while the others are held and interrogated; there's a similar system for license plates, though obviously none of our new kid friends were driving. I noticed that despite this repression, kids will always go to corner stores to pick up chips and candies, and the latest sneakers and fashion will always be a priority for high school students.

CPT in Hebron

We spent our afternoons at the Hebron hotel listening to reports from the CPT directors, committees, and having lively discussions about what it means to be a Christian organization even when many of our team members practice different faiths.

We adjourned on Friday afternoon and leaving Israel was much easier than arriving. 

I come away from the whole experience with a few fractured thoughts. 

 

  • I am more convinced than ever that Israel is an apartheid state. The segregation found with different color passports and license plates to identify who should be targeted is a disgrace.
  • CPT's work on the ground in Palestine, Canada, Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Lesbos is crucial in our global political climate with more right-wing fascists spewing their hate-filled rhetoric and creating racist and discriminatory laws without caution or pause. I am thankful for their endurance and courage, and honored to be a part of it.
  • Peacemakers and truth tellers are politically dangerous. To call out oppression and imperial nonsense startles the mighty. 
  • I could not do any of this work without the love and support of this community of peacemakers, creative folk, and rabble rousers.

 

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't add that what I experienced was not even a fraction of what thousands experience every day. From Iraqi Kurds denied entry into Turkey, to Black Americans unsafe in their own neighborhoods, or to migrants who attempt to find safe passage through dangerous desert terrain. This week altered my perspective: it’s not that I think that I’ve walked in the shoes of a Palestinian, but that I have seen with my own eyes a sliver of the harsh reality imposed by a seemingly outdated system of oppression. It only then makes sense to me to find hope in a God who calls us to act peacefully and justly.

 

To read the original reflection, please visit: http://www.presbypeacefellowship.org/blog/funny-thing-happened-way-hebron#.WP9oDhS-YhZ