Thursday, October 6, 2011


"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." -Albert Einstein

Friday, September 23, 2011

The UN, Palestinian statehood, and chocolate chip cookies

This week has been far from dull here in Jerusalem and Ramallah. If you have not been paying attention to the news about the Palestinian bid for statehood in the UN, I recommend that you crawl out from under your rock and turn on the news, log onto ANY news website, or watch The Daily Show. Jon Stewart is spot-on here, or BBC summarizes the situation fairly well,
It seems that the world is focused on what is happening here, it is strange to be here in the center of it. Wednesday was Demonstration Day in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, and Jerusalem. The Palestinains were showing their support for their nation. Over the past week there have been Palestinians flags everywhere; on cars, in store fronts, on churches, at houses. It very much reminded me of the patriotism seen in the US shortly after 9/11. The Palestinian solidarity was an incredible thing to see. The demonstrations remained largely peaceful with most Palestinians understanding the importance of non-violence in holding credibility internationally.
I am strictly prohibited from attending demonstrations or being in the city centers at this time just in case things become violent. In this journey of accompaniment, it feels strange to isolate myself from the Palestinian people at this time, though it is good to know we have people looking out for our safety. I am currently sitting in the cozy home of friends on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. I have been reading “The Lemon Tree” by Sandy Tolan, reading the news, and best of all – eating chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon rolls all day. The comfort of my current situation stands in stark contrast to the uncertainty of the upcoming weeks. From here we can hear Israeli police helicopters flying over, spying on us, trying to keep an eye on everything happening in East Jerusalem and ready to take action if demonstrations begin. From here I can also see a large Israeli flag flying in a nearby settlement, hear the call to prayer every few hours from a nearby Mosque, and see the Old City bellow. These symbols are a constant reminder of the reality of this city; how close yet how far Palestinian and Israeli life comes to overlapping. It is a much different reality for those in Ramallah, where I live, where Palestinians may only cross the Qalandia checkpoint and enter into Jerusalem if they have a special permit. (Even then, the checkpoint is controlled by the Israeli Defense Force and could take up to three hours to get through at rush hour or even be closed). Similarly, Israelis are technically not allowed to enter the West Bank therefore making interaction between Israelis and Palestinians near impossible. With these realities, it is understandable that the conflict between these two groups continues to perpetuate. There are few opportunities for Palestinians and Israelis to see the humanity of one another’s lives. In many cases, the two populations are invisible to one another until they are approached by conflict.
Having lived here for almost three weeks, I have seen a lot, heard many stories, and definitely formed some opinions. What do I think about what will go down in the UN today? Palestine deserves a state. The US continues to say that the recognition of a Palestinian state would be disastrous for peace talks with Israel. I strongly disagree. The recognition of a Palestinian state will challenge the power structure of the US/Israeli bully alliance. The US will no doubt lose much credibility throughout the world, especially in the Middle East. If the US uses its veto, it will definitely be a low point for US foreign policy. Here is an interesting article about Bill Clinton’s support of Palestine.  It is quite insightful considering the former president’s experience in these politics. I image Hilary will not be saying the same thing when she speaks to the UN today…It will be interesting to see what happens in the UN over the next few weeks.
But what will happen on the ground? The thing that worries me the most is the disappointment of Palestinians if the US vetos, or if Abbas does not submit a bid to the Security Council. Also, Israeli settler violence and aggression toward Palestinians because they feel they must defend their settlements. I also fear that Palestinains will not see the relief and freedom that they have waited for. That the Israeli occupation of the West Bank with not end. That the building of settlements will continue in the West Bank. That Israel will continue to demolish houses of Palestinians. I fear that IDF soldiers will be increasingly aggressive and restrictive toward Palestinians in the West Bank. I that the failure of Palestine to receive full membership in the UN will result in a weaker state and weakening solidarity. I fear that extremists from both sides will see this as an opportunity to insight terror in the lives of others.
I have hope that peace is ultimately the goal of the leaders of these nations and the world. I pray that the politics and diplomatic process do not overshadow the need for the recognition of basic human rights for people on all sides of this conflict. And so, we wait to see what happens…

Sunday, September 11, 2011

First week in the West Bank

As of tonight, I have officially survived my first week in Jerusalem/West Bank.  We've done many amazing things during this week of orientation, met amazing people, and had incredible food. We have been taking daily Arabic lessons from a sweet woman named Aida. So far I am getting by with being able to say "marhaba" - hello and "shukran" - thank you. I'm sure it'll all start to click soon....hopefully. We have had the    opportunity to spend time in East Jerusalem and in the Old City as well as a lot of time in Bethlehem, Bet Jala, and Bet Sahour. We went to the Israeli Holocaust museum - Yad Vashem, and also spent time with Palestinians in a refugee camp. We spent time at the Wall and at the Palestinian conflict resolution center. I  am not yet able to put into words what I am feeling about the situation here- political or otherwise, and I do not exactly know how to describe what I have seen and experienced thus far. Hopefully I will get better at that. I do know that this is sure to be a year of listening and learning and most of all building relationships. The Palestinian people are incredibly welcoming, hospitable, and genuine. To demonstrate  some of the irony/hypocrisy I have witnessed: At Yad Vashem there was a
quote that said, "A nation is not only what it does, it is also what it tolerates" "
There was a mural with this same quote on the Palestinian side of the wall. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

(9-2-11) Patience

Patience is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one's character can take before negativity. 

Upon embarking on my YAGM journey, I was anticipated to learn and grow as I worked in accompaniment with people in the West Bank. The six YAGM that are spending the year in Jerusalem/West Bank were originally scheduled to depart Chicago on August 24th – the same day as the 44 other YAGM were leaving for their countries of service. A few weeks ago we learned that the six of us had not yet been granted visas and that we would be living in Chicago until our visas arrived. In the spirit of being flexible, I began to look at this extra time in Chicago as a special opportunity to explore a city I had never seen. I soon found out that this process of waiting would be far more challenging than anticipated.
What have we been up to in these past few weeks? From August 17th-24th,we had YAGM orientation with all 50 of us, YAGM alumni, recruiters, many inspiring speakers, led by the amazing Heidi, Tanya, and Steph and alum. It was an incredible week of fun, community, and preparing to leave the country for a year. The catch for those of us going to the West Bank is that we were not yet ready to leave the country after this week. It was now time for us to wait. Wait for our visias to arrive, wait to hear from the Israeli consulate, wait for Hurricane Irene to pass (air travel complications), wait to get places on public transit, wait for our to-go order of Thai food to be ready…we have done a lot of waiting. At many times over the last week I feel as if there was not a light at the end of the tunnel or an end in sight. This has been one gigantic lesson in patience, “persevering in the face of delay.” So persevere is what we did.
I had the amazing opportunity to explore the beautiful city of Chicago, visit the ELCA church-wide offices and meet some wonderful people, grow closer to my five country mates, meet people in Hyde Park and in the Lutheran School of Theology Chicago community. Most of all we had the opportunity over the last week to just BE. Someone wisely said at orientation that we’re called Human Beings, not Human Doings. I have a feeling that over the next year we will often need to just be, be present in the moment and be intentionally invested in each experience.
The Palestinian people that we are spending the next year with have also had experience with waiting and being patient. Many Palestinians have been expelled from their homes, towns, communities, and have been waiting to return home for centuries. They have been waiting for the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank to end. They have been waiting for peace talks to be successful. They have been waiting to be recognized as a legitimate state. The beginning of the end is perhaps in sight with the Palestinian statehood being up for a vote in the UN on September 20th. Such an exciting time to be in the West Bank!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Preparing for a Year in West Bank/Jerusalem

I am currently living in Beaverton, OR for the summer and working for Environment Oregon as a campaign canvasser. I am raising funds for my year in WB/Jerusalem - if you are interested in supporting me send me an email and I can give you more information on how to do so! I will be leaving for Chicago on August 17th and leaving for the Middle East on August 24th. Check back for more updates on my preparations throughout the summer.  :)