Day trip to Zababdeh

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.

“The majority of people don’t care if it’s a one-state or two-state solution. They just want to end this crazy situation” – Usama Nicola

Abuna Firas, priest of the church in Zababdeh, makes and sells olive oil soap to help support his aid programs.

His brother makes incense, which they sell locally and export mostly to places in Europe like Italy, where it is used in church ceremonies.

The father shows us even more of his soap, which he dries in the yard of the church, shown here.

I didn’t know any cars by Opel actually still existed!

We had coffee with Abuna Firas’ parents, and then lunch with his wife and kids (in the Melkite church, priests who are allowed to marry before ordination and remain married during priesthood).

On the way back, we passed much Palestinian farmland. Crops get the water they need during the winter, which is the rainy season.

From a distance it’s sometimes hard to distinguish (for foreigners) which villages are Palestinian from the ones that are Israeli settlements. However, you can always tell because Palestinian homes have these black water tanks on the roofs, while Israeli homes are linked to the main Israeli water grid.

We got lost on the way back, but got to see cool Palestinian villages. This hill is covered with terraces, constructed during the days when Romans ruled this land, and crowned with a mosque.

Another hill with terraces left over from the Romans. This land has been occupied by one power or another for nearly its entire history, but conditions have rarely been as bad as now.

This is Ma’ale Adumim, the biggest Israeli settlement in the West Bank with around 250,000 residents. It was built as a “security shield” for Jerusalem in case of invasion. Settlements like this are illegal under international law, and all the established laws of war.

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.

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About thichnhattim

Radically Moderate - neither right nor left brained, I try to use both. Student, activist, UU. Live life by the peaceful teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Redesign the flow, redefine the know, we're hanging on the ledge.
This entry was posted in Palestine/Israel Trip, Summer 2012 Bethlehem, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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