25 April 2017
of a CPT Steering Committee member: What I learned during my travel to
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
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
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
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: https://www.presbypeacefellowship.org/blog/funny-thing-happened-way-hebron#.WP9oDhS-YhZ