Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

In Their Shoes

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

In Their Shoes

Article excerpt

In Their Shoes

Grace Halsell has written a very interesting book which combines a most revealing character study of President Lyndon B. Johnson with insights into other leading figures she came to know as she wrote herself around the world. The book also embraces Halsell's remarkable experiences et disguising herself physically and mentally and living as a Black maid in Mississippi, as a Navajo Indian sleeping on the floor with a family of 14 in a one-bedroom-sized enclosure, and as a Mexican woman swimming the Rio Grande to enter the U.S. illegally to get a job.

At the time she did it, few people would have conceived of taking pills to darken their complexions in order to experience at first hand the problems of racial minorities. If the experiment seems merely quirky today, it is only because Americans have forgotten the chasm that once separated the races in the United States. To be reminded of that chasm, one need only read Grace Halsell's account of how she almost was raped by the husband of her white woman employer while she was working as a Black maid in Mississippi. The utter disregard for the feelings and sensitivity of an African American woman by a domineering white man will send a chill down the back of every reader who recalls the control over Black women held by white men in slavery days.

The way some people in this great wealthy country still have to live is described by the author as she discusses her life with a Navajo family who took her in. They cooked and ate in the same small room. One gags when reading of the sanitation facilities.

She almost drowned as she swam the Rio Grande River with Mexican "wetbacks" seeking jobs in the U.S. One shudders when one thinks of her and other illegals being hunted down in accordance with U.S. laws that require this. Her detailed examination of the plight of illegals is both heartrending and excruciating.

Readers may find even more shocking her calm recitation of some of the facts she learned in multiple visits to the Holy Land, one of the first of which was the subject of her best-selling Journey to Jerusalem. Her book Prophesy and Politics detailed more of what she learned while posing as a naive born-again Christian traveling with a group organized by televangelist Jerry Falwell. Halsell, ever alert to discover the facts that escape other observers, learned that Falwell uses an airplane in his junkets around the United States that was presented to him as a girl by the government of Israel.

Halsell, who in 1979 was beaten to the ground by an Israeli soldier who might have shot her on the spot had not his officer pointed out that she was not a Palestinian, writes of American Christian pilgrims whose Israeli tour guides scrupulously steer their charges away from any contact with Palestinian Christians. She lived with such a Palestinian Christian family, and with a Palestinian Muslim family as well, and learned of the lives of both families as refugees in a land their ancestors have inhabited for more than 2,000 years and which now is being taken from them, town by town, village by village, and field by field, making them refugees in their own homeland.

She also lived with an Israeli family in a Jewish West Bank settlement. There she met U.S.-born Jewish settler Bobby Brown, who had just participated in a seizure by his fellow settlers of 750 acres of Palestinian land, which they had fenced to keep the rightful owners out, and which was being guarded for them by Israeli soldiers. …

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