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Day #5 – Trust – Israel/Palestine

12Mar24

October 7th was a day that changed so much in the life of people who live here. Life already possessed its challenges and the events that day simply intensified those challenges. We spent our day with a few different people, most of whom remained committed to the hard and important work they are doing.

There is a small, but significant population of human beings who do not fit into the most notable demographics in Israel and Palestine. There are workers who are imported to fill some of the working class jobs in the labor force that need to be filled. These individuals are not Jews or Arabs, but people who fit the ‘other’ category. They find themselves without access to many basic rights and privileges. There is also a population of asylum seekers — mostly from Sudan and Eritrea — who find that Israel is the most accessible place to them as they flee persecution and oppression. The people at the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants try and help these people who have made courageous choices for them and their families and struggle to navigate a system unfamiliar and truly not set up to accommodate them. They live and embody the mitzvah/obligation to remember the stranger.

There is another population in both Jewish and Palestinian communities who need support, education and advocacy – women. Ladaat works to promote healthy sexuality and sexual and reproductive health by ensuring that all individuals (Jewish and Palestinian) have full access to information and are supported in making the right choices for themselves. In the midst of the war, here is a group that embodies collaboration between Palestinians and Jews and sees beyond the limitations of national/religious/cultural identity to serve the human beings in need.

In sitting with people from both of these organizations, we heard the challenge that these organizations faced in the way that October 7th impacted their work. We also heard their commitment to staying that course and their faith that their work still had meaning and could make people’s lives better.

I wish I felt and heard that when we also toured Jaffa that day. Our guide and host, Abad, was a multi-generational Jaffa resident, Palestinian citizen of Israel and current city council member. He regaled us with stories of Jaffa’s history that was his own family’s history. It was a history – as he told it – that held both beauty and heartbreak. Unlike our other encounters for the day, Abad did not leave us – directly or by implication – with a sense of a commitment or hope for the future. As I listened to him explain that he would not be running for council again, because for him after October 7th and the ensuing war that ‘politics is dead’. For Abad it was ‘irresponsible to hope’ because ultimately he feels that the lives of Palestinians just do not matter and that in the end ‘they will come to get us.’

I heard echoes of Black Americans writing and talking about how their bodies and lives are not worth as much as white ones. I felt echoes of Jews fearing (throughout my life and in the last few months) the footsteps of antisemites who eventually will again rise up to threaten and decimate the Jews. I don’t mean for these echoes to compare or relativize this poor man’s fear and pain for himself, his family and his people. What I do intend is to not so quietly suggest and shout and scream: we all want and need the same things, why do we human beings continue to do what we do to one another?!

I can only hope and pray, that somehow in some small way, the small group of human beings bearing witness to his desperation may offer some piece of strength, comfort or (dare I say) hope.

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