Hakimah (the program of the Tantur Ecumenical Institute I am here in the Holy Land for) is not a political program, but it is impossible to be here and ignore the political situation. I say that for reasons like these:
One of the leaders of the program is a Palestinian Muslim who lives in Hebron. She could not be with us for the opening session of the program because while on her way to Tantur, there was a shooting on the road that resulted in all traffic to be stopped for several hours, after which she was forced to return home. (And, while she has a permit that allows her to be in Israeli territory, she is required to depart before a certain time in the evening.)
Another program leader a Jewish women originally from the US who is now an Israeli citizen, could not join us for our visits to either Bethlehem or Hebron, since the Israeli government prohibits its citizens from entering Palestinian territory.
Our guide for two of our trips, a Palestinian Christian man, could accompany us to some places in Hebron, but not to the synagogue we visited.
It is one thing to read about checkpoints, and quite another to see the wall, and to watch the stream of people going in and out as they move between Palestinian and Israeli controlled areas for school or work. To amount of time it takes…the ever present possibility of abuse…the uncertainty that one might be turned back at any time. (Our guide was punched in the arm going through a check point with us, for no apparent reason.)
Today in Hebron, we walked down street after street of a part of the old city that used to be a thriving Palestinian market area, but which is now empty buildings, as the streets have been closed to Palestinians, and nothing except broken windows and locked doors has taken its place. it is literally a ghost town.
I could go on and on with things that make me want to weep. We must find a way to do better.
Inside the wall in Bethlehem:
Al-Shuhada street in Hebron: