Thursday, December 23, 2010

Breaking the Silence in the South Hebron Hills (Part 1 of 3)

There's No Way To Talk About This Without Getting Shot

There is no easy way to write about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Even calling the Arabs who live in disputed territories "Palestinians" invites criticism from supporters of Israel, as there is no currently, universally recognized entity called Palestine (though there is the Palestinian Authority, and there was the British Mandate for Palestine, but I digress), so therefore there can't be Palestinians.

Commence cross-fire from keffiyeh-wearing activists.

If I'm going to write about the disputed territories, to use the most neutral language I can find, I need to state my own biases at the start.  So here we go.  I support Israel's right to exist.  I also support the right of all human beings to exist in dignity.  I am not Jewish (or Christian, or Muslim, though I should state in full disclosure that my boyfriend is Jewish and has family living in Israel).  I am primarily concerned with the issue of suffering--the suffering of all people who live in fear, of all people who struggle with the oppression of both outside and inside forces, and the suffering of all mothers and sons, regardless of which version of the same God to which they pray.

I wanted to visit the disputed territories to see with my own eyes and feel with my own heart what is happening there.

herding sheep
I heard about the organization "Breaking the Silence" from another traveler who wrote about his experiences in Israel.  "Breaking the Silence" (BTS) was founded in 2004 by "veteran combatants who served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the routine situations of everyday life in the Occupied Territories."  Disturbed by events during their military service, they originally targeted their message at the Israeli public, which they assert does not, and does not want to, understand the reality of everyday life for both Israeli soldiers and the people they must control.  They collect and publish testimonies from veterans "to make heard the voices of these soldiers, pushing Israeli society to face the reality whose creation it has enabled."  BTS also runs organized, educational tours in English for international tourists (and Hebrew for Israelis) to allow an "unmediated encounter with the reality of the military occupation."

Dave and I signed up for the December 23, 2010 educational tour to the South Hebron Hills.

olive trees behind razor wire
In the next two posts, I hope to explain the little political and legal background for anyone who isn't familiar with Hebron or the issue of Jewish settlements in disputed territories.  I'd also like to share some of the stories I heard about everyday life in the South Hebron Hills for both Israeli soldiers and the people they must control.

As best I can, I will keep my opinions to myself.  Draw your own conclusions.  If you can't, visit the West Bank and hear the stories for yourself.  You need to know the price that is being paid for security, religion, politics, strategy, history.  Is the price worth it?

No comments:

Post a Comment