Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Two-Week Holy Land Tour Frightens, Angers and Inspires

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Two-Week Holy Land Tour Frightens, Angers and Inspires

Article excerpt

Two-Week Holy Land Tour Frightens, Angers and Inspires

By Nuha Marchi

The glorious ethereal splendor of East Jerusalem is beyond description or imagination. Looking down on Jerusalem from any place on the Mount of Olives, where our Palestinian hotel was located (and from which Jesus Christ ascended to heaven), takes your breath away. The ever shimmering golden Dome of the Rock--adjacent to the holy and historic Al Aqsa Mosque and the heavenly and magnificent Church of the Holy Sepulcher--along with many other graceful old churches and mosques and the overwhelming and ageless Damascus Gate, push away the bad memories and ugly sights and sounds of the brutal and endless Israeli occupation of Jerusalem and all of Palestine.

Nevertheless, I shall describe briefly the cities and villages and some of the inspiring people we visited as members of a Palestine Aid Society factfinding delegation in the Holy Land from July 28 to Aug. 18. And, as I record my own humble experiences, which were alternately inspiring, bitter-sweet and painful, I am reminded of what Jesus said in Jerusalem in the last days before He was crucified: "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful even unto death."

On our first day in Jerusalem, our delegation of eight people toured the Old City--stone by stone! We took pictures, bought souvenirs and ate typical Palestinian food. The following day the delegation, with our newly married young driver, traveled to Hebron to visit the impressive men and women who are the pillars of the Hebron Red Crescent Society. We all noticed that the whole city was waterless. We were informed that the illegal settlers, who live on the hilltops overlooking Hebron and other Palestinian towns, get most of the water for their lush gardens and clear swimming pools!

We also saw and smelled the garbage which collected on the nylon and net coverings which the Palestinian merchants have extended over their shops to protect themselves and their customers from the trash purposely thrown down on them by the 400 arrogant and fanatical Jewish "settlers" who have occupied the houses over the old souq, or marketplace. When I asked some shopkeepers why they don't do something to end this constant harassment and humiliation, they told me that they are very fearful. The settlers are heavily armed, shoot Arabs for fun and are protected by the Israeli army, which sometimes shoots the Palestinians too!

The next day, Tuesday, Aug. 1, we attended the Jerusalem Information Center conference and took their six-hour fact-finding tour. We saw, at first hand, the building of new Jewish settlements on land confiscated from Palestinian villages, the separation of Palestinian neighborhoods into small isolated pockets or ghettos by Israeli planning policy, the utter lack of housing for Palestinians in Jerusalem because building permits are denied, the limitations imposed on the economic, cultural, social and religious life of the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, and the closure of the Holy City to all the Palestinian residents of the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

We also visited the Jewish neighborhood of East Talpiot, which is built on lands confiscated from the Palestinian Suahra neighborhood, and noted sadly the contrast in human services. East Talpiot has everything Suahra is missing: paved roads and sidewalks, street signs and lighting, playgrounds and parks, health clinics, garbage collection, a covered sewage system and public transportation. We also went to the Palestinian town of Beit Sahour (known to foreign Christians as Shepherds Fields) and saw the green forested mountain where a Jewish settlement of Har Homa soon will be built, despite all of the legal suits and protestations which claim that the Jewish settlement will suffocate the historic Christian town and its heroic people.

I say heroic because theirs was the only town in the West Bank to practice complete civil disobedience in the intifada through their historic tax revolt. …

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