Days Thirteen and Fourteen: July 5 and 6, 2004

Doreen’s Diairy: July 5 and July 6, 2004

Still no word of Ann’s hearing. We were all so distraught. We knew she’d have to have her hearing and possibly stand trial without our being there. There was disappointment all around. But today was our last day. So, after breakfast, everyone went strolling through the Old City to shop. We gave ourselves two hours, because later in the day we had two meetings on our agenda, first, with the women of Sabeel, and later, at our hotel, with two women from Machsom Watch and Women in Black.

Stacey, Carol, Gail, Eileen and I went shopping together. Carol bought a shawl, and the others bought silver bracelets. Later in the day, after the meetings, Stacey and I returned to the markets where we bought shawls and bags as gifts for family and friends,

A colorful shop in the Old City in Jerusalem.

After everyone returned from shopping, we headed for the Sabeel Center in East Jerusalem to meet with a group of brilliant and articulate Christian Palestinian women. They work with women, with clergy and with youth. Through international conferences, they try to promote the importance of justice. They talked to us of the situation, of their hopes for justice and peace. Peace without justice would not be acceptable. One point they tried to make us understand is that “peace” has become a bad word to the Palestinians because it has been hijacked politically. Israelis, they explained are trapped in their narrow-minded education, while Palestinians are trapped in their identity. As well, the issue of Palestinian identity is a threat to the Zionist view. Right now it is very difficult for Palestinian and Israeli professors to meet and discuss.

The discussion then turned to the Wall. Samia Khoury stated that the Wall is taking the human rights of the Palestinians to a state of agony. In her opinion, only a criminal mind could do such a thing. One of the women explained that in the early 1970’s there were secret dialogues between Palestinians and Israelis, and that dialog remained open during the first Intifada. When the Declaration of Principles was published in 1993, women on both sides decided that this would be the time to join together to prepare for a just peace. But it was for naught. Another of the women explained that most Israelis speak of needs, whereas Palestinians speak of human rights. They question why international law has not been the terms of reference for peace talks. The women expressed how important it is to reach American public opinion.

We met with the Palestinian women of Sabeel for an eye-opening and emotional dialogue.

The women were so interesting and their words so mesmerizing that Anni sat with her video camera on her lap, completely forgetting to tape them. The women turned to a more personal discussion as the afternoon progressed. I particularly remember one beautiful woman, in her late 30’s or early 40’s, explaining what the occupation does to a person. She travels often from her town, through many checkpoints and roadblocks, to her work with Sabeel in East Jerusalem. She explained that as she returns to her town, at the checkpoint, she begins to prepare herself for the crossing. She finds herself trying to smile at the soldiers, to appear friendly, even as she watches them mistreating another woman from her town. She hides her outrage because she wants to get home without incident. And she hates herself for doing this. She is ashamed of herself for not standing up for her neighbor, for not displaying her fury with the soldiers. We were sorry to have to leave these women. We felt as if we could have stayed on to hear more of their wisdom. But another meeting awaited us.

In our hotel courtyard we met Gila and Jane. Gila, was there representing Women in Black and Jane was representing Machsom Watch. We were familiar with the work of Women in Black, their Sunday silent vigils, but Machsom Watch was new to many of us. This is a group of women who go, on a regular basis, to stand watch at the checkpoints and to shame young soldiers on duty there into good and humane behavior. They keep a record of inhumane treatment of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers at the checkpoints.

What we learned from these two women was that the Israeli Women’s Peace Movement is varied and active. Peace Now is well–known and moderate and in the opinion of these women, not doing enough. On the left are The Coalition of Women for Peace (composed of nine individual women’s peace organizations), Gush-Shalom, Rabbis for Human Rights, and The Committee Against Home Demolitions. The women went into detail about a few of the organizations. Women in Black does vigils once a week; they wear black and hold up signs stating “End the Occupation.” They have been doing this since the first Intifada. New Profile members help Israelis perceive the militarization of their society, such as recruiters in high schools, guns on the streets. They suggest that Israel is Sparta instead of the Athens idealized in the ‘50’s. They also support refuseniks. Bat Shalom (Daughters of Peace) is linked with Palestinian women’s groups; they work together at the Jerusalem Center for Peace. They document women’s stories; they join in demonstrations and open protests with Palestinian women. And Machsom Watch is only 3 ½ years old, as it began with the current intifada.

Later in the day, we met with representatives from Machsom Watch and Women in Black in the garden of the Knights’ Palace

After a full and informative afternoon, we each decided to take care of last minute things: packing, shopping, resting. Jan and Stacey took things to be shipped home to the DHL office. Some of us hit the internet for the last time. Hedy, Joya and Judy had gotten up early to attend an action against the Wall at Abu Dis and we waited for them to return.

We ate dinner as a group and then we all tried to sleep a bit before the vans were to pick us up for the airport. We decided to leave ourselves a lot of time at the airport, concerned about security. We had a 6am flight, so we planned to get to the airport by 2am.

We entered the airport as if we didn’t know each other, in the same groups we had arrived. So Carol, Stacey and I walked in together. Carol walked a bit slower and lagged behind and had to argue a bit to be allowed to catch up to us. We walked up toward the ticket counter and were met by someone from security. He took our passports and asked about our trip…did we enjoy ourselves, what did we like best, etc. He then returned Carol’s and Stacey’s passports, but holding mine he asked, “Do you have a son?” I said that I did. He said he’d be right back. He did this two more times. I should have been afraid, but I wasn’t. When he came back again and asked for my son’s name, I answered, “What does this have to do with my leaving? I have a son and I don’t have to tell you his name, but I will” and I said, ‘Noah.” And that was that. He gave me my passport and we were let through.

We got our boarding passes and went into the waiting lounge, looking for the rest of the women. We saw Annie and Jenny next, then Judy and Joya. We, of course, didn’t acknowledge each other. Then Jan and Ayesha walked in and sat down. A few minutes later their names were announced and they had to see security. Our hearts dropped. We waited nervously and in a while they returned. But there was till no sight of Gail or Eileen or Susan, who were traveling as a group.

Just as we were getting ready to board the bus that would take us to the plane, Eileen came rushing furiously across the waiting room to the stairs. Behind her were Susan, and then Gail. They had been questioned and searched. Eileen was irate. And as if this weren’t enough, Jan and Ayesha were stopped at the top of the stairs for a bit before they were allowed to join us on the bus.

We all continued to hold our breath until we felt the plane ascending. Then it was okay for us to talk to each other. The transfer in Amsterdam gave everyone the opportunity to meet Carol’s daughter. For the first time since leaving Tel Aviv, we all felt at ease and relaxed.

When we arrived at JFK, Mickey and Stu and Matt were waiting together with flowers and smiles. It was good to be home and yet, I was filled with a great sadness. I was sorry the trip was over. I couldn’t imagine not seeing the women everyday. I couldn’t get images of Biddu and Ramallah out of my head. I knew then, that adjusting to life in New York was going to be difficult. And I felt with certainty that my life had changed, that somehow I was different than the woman who had left for Palestine two weeks before. And it felt good.

Gail’s Diary: July 6, 2004

Twelve of us arrived at JFK today. At Ben Gurion, I was separated and brought again to the locked with a code security area at Ben Gurion Airport, but this time I refused to offer any information. I announced that since I had been called a liar again and again during my interrogation on arrival, I wouldn’t make myself available for that kind of attack today. My captors noticed that I was angry this time which kind of pleased me. Last time it took days to recover from the nasty treatment. This time I allowed the anger to blast out and was sure I would be fine when they finally let me go. They searched me and my bags meticulously but didn’t take me off for questioning.

Ann is still in jail near the airport. Her court appearance today occurred while we were in the air on our way home. A decision on her appeal of the deportation order will be delivered on Thursday.

So I’m home, thinking of how to put it all together. I’m interested in what Israelis know about what happened in 1948 – I think they don’t know much. And I’d like to understand more about Palestinian culture which seems to remain intact despite the attempts to destroy it. And how it happened that what I understand as Jewish culture has become distorted and diminished, almost unrecognizable as Jewish, in the context of the militarized society that is Israel. So how is it that the culture of the oppressed in this case seems to be strengthened in the face of occupation at the same time as the culture of the oppressor develops as mean-spirited and ugly, arrogant and entirely self-interested?

Hedy’s Addendum

Luckily for me, I stayed on a bit longer after the other women left.  That was always the plan – my return ticket was for several days later. But that enabled me to attend two of Ann’s court hearings where I was able to actually have physical contact with her, viz. hugging her, chatting with her ever so briefly, and actually bringing her a flower, which she was then allowed to keep, even in her cell. While I was sad to see the other women leave, I felt so fortunate to have been there for Ann.