On Wednesday I took a day trip with an American (actually she was from Madison, WI!) visitor named Joan and a member of Wi’am’s staff named Usama Nicola. The two of them were planning the details of a trip that Joan would lead from a Mennonite church in Madison. Joan was planning that after the group stayed in Bethlehem, they would visit a small village called Zababdeh, which is in the northern West Bank. On the way up and back, Usama gave us a brief history/culture lesson, answering whatever questions we asked as best he could. Since I’m pretty tired of writing lately, I’m going to detail as much as I can in the pictures I took.
Once we passed Ma’le Adumim, we were almost back in Bethlehem. Usama gave us some other interesting details, which I’ll get into briefly… Most settlers are economic settlers, to whom the Israeli government grants large subsidies to move into settlements. These settlers would leave if they had the economic incentive, as opposed to ideological settlers, who are the ones who you sometimes hear about perpetrating violence against Palestinians.
These and other things help show how the Israeli government is using settlers to do its “dirty work” of pushing Palestinians out of this land. And it goes deeper.. Usama told us a story of how before the First Intifada, one of his friends was a very successful Palestinian businessman, who had extensive connections among the Israeli power elite. In 1985, several of his Israeli friends met with him and warned him to leave the country and start business in America, because there would soon be an uprising and much violence. Four years later, the First Intifada started with an incident where an Israeli military truck crashed into a Palestinian car carrying four Palestinian laborers who had been working at an Israeli factory, killing them all. Before the Second Intifada, there was an influx of machine guns from Israel into the West Bank, which Usama reflects there was no way that the extensive Israeli intelligence network did not know about. Usama believes the violence in both intifadas was incited by Israelis. Both of these uprisings, in the end, benefited Israel, not Palestine, by allowing the Israelis to turn international opinion against the Palestinians, and expand their land grabbing efforts.
This is just one of the many competing narratives that battle in this land, and one interpretation of the events here. However, there is no way to dispute some of the facts in it.
Next time I’ll make a more personal blog post about my experiences and spirituality here, but I had to make sure I shared these pictures and lessons from the day trip on Wednesday. Any comments or reactions are welcomed.