Part 3 of a Trip To Israel, still in the West Bank...
We've left off our travel-recap mid-way through our Saturday in Bethlehem and Dheisha Refugee camp. We've gotten there, it should be noted, via rent-a-car, an arrangement we were cautioned against by the Hertz Corporation itself, telling all renters that there was no liability coverage once leaving Israel proper so that if we had a rock thrown at our windshield, or if we needed road-side assistance, we'd be on our own. But they didn't precisely prohibit our driving through Jerusalem checkpoint and, in fact, we get through every checkpoint with no hassle (white American privilege accounting for everything at every checkpoint, including arrival and departure from Ben Gurion airport).
So our time with Mustafa and family and friends comes to a close, and we leave Bethlehem following our friend, community organizer and peace activist, Ali Abu Awad, and his associate Riyad Halees, who lead us by car down Route 60 to the extraordinary center for non-violent peace building; what Ali calls the Karama Center. Here's our FB reflection (it's big on the word "huge"):
As indicated, we've been impressed by earlier presentations from Ali, both in person and via youtube, courtesy of his extraordinary TEDxJerusalem talk.
Inspirations taken from the talk include:
• Ali reflecting on his time in prison, together with his mother, during the first intifada; talking about the 5 committees set up by political prisoners to educate and organize inmates. Ali learns the power of non-violent protest while in prison. Ali and his mother carry out separate 17-day hunger strikes, after months of seclusion, so they can see each other. It works.
• Ali loses brother to violence outside Hebron during the 2nd intifada. He himself is badly injured and bloodied. The heart demands revenge, but the brain has already taught him the efficacy of non-violent action. And so, inspired by The Bereaved Parents Circle of Israelis and Palestinians who've both lost children to violence, Ali pursues non-violent Direct Action.
• "No more peace dialogues in 5 star hotels needed! Enough with eating hummus together! We need a real strategy and vision for change!"
• "Stop the competition of suffering!"
• "Don't be pro-palestine or pro-israel. Be pro-solution! ..Because what are you expecting? That one of us is going to leave this land?"
• There are 3 missions in Ali's life;
1) his book, "Painful Hope"
2) His Karama Center for Non-Violent Peace Movement, situated precisely at the junction of Bayt Umar and of 6 Jewish settlements.
Ali is committed to talking to settlers -- "Real Dialogue is the secure place for argument... I don't want to convince the convinced -- I want to activate the dream of peace!"
"Whatever the price of peace, it is cheaper than the price of war."
3) Building his new organization: Change - Taghyeer
Non-violence for me is the art of being a human being
The celebration of existence
Peace is a place where two truths can fit together in one place
"First they ignore you
then they tease you
then they attack you
they you win"
We're going to win...
Ali's reach has been far and wide and he's made major inroads building both a movement of Palestinians committed to non-violence, along with influencing Jews of right-wing and more liberal persuasion that there is an emerging Palestinian partner for peace. Ali's a central galvanizer of "Roots/Shorashim," the group sponsoring Palestinian / Jewish settler dialogue, with a presentation that goes on the road. Here's a brief appreciation from California-based Pico Union Project's Craig Tubman on the Ali / Hanan Schlesinger show that made its way this past month to DC and Yom Kippur day services.
Ali's invocation to the Jewish community: "Let us show you the real face of the Palestinian community." He beseeches the Jewish world to let go of their fear. Find a partner in the pursuit of peace.
But his primary target audience are the many Palestinians already living out lives of non-violent resistance and peace building by virtue of their daily persistence. The key now is to organize a movement that unites smaller non-violent organizations in different Palestinian cities. The September 24, 2016 summit in Jericho that Ali helped organize brought over 3,000 Palestinians together to celebrate their culture, their identity, their citizenship and all the rights and responsibilities that come with it.
Our time at the outdoor Karama Center ends some 90 minutes after we arrive, with the sun beginning to set and Serge and I needing to return to Ramat Hasharon and our dinner party gathering with some great authors hosted by Motti Lerner and his wife, Tami. Guests include MIKVEH author Hadar Galron, APPLES FROM THE DESERT playwright Savyon Liebrecht, and Gilad Evron and his wife Nurit.
We leave Ali and Riyad with lighter hearts, inspired, moved and tempered, reminding ourselves not to succumb to depression when thinking about all the problems besetting this land and the "Situation."
We drive home; the inspiration's duration undermined by the road we accidentally wind up taking home.
We make it home by 7 pm. A half hour later, a joyous dinner commences. It's our last time seeing Gilad Evron. None of us know of the loss that's in store.
(Parts 4 and 5 soon to be published - But MILK LIKE SUGAR moved from tech to invited dress to 5 previews and then Opening Night!
And two days later, the election. And then the morning after.
We will return to the latter parts of our trip soon.)