Settlement Visit

Trip Start Jan 03, 2011
Trip End Mar 26, 2011

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Flag of Palestinian Territory  ,
Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sorry that I haven’t been writing on this as frequently! Things have been getting pretty busy around here. Plus, it’s one of those things where we’ll do an activity one day, but it’s kinda heavy so I like to take time to really think about it before writing. But then we’ll do something just as heavy the next day so then I start thinking about that and never finish thinking about the previous day’s activity, so I just get overwhelmed with too many things to think about! Then I end up just not writing at all because I don’t have any cohesive thoughts to write because I haven’t been able to figure out how I think about anything…’s a vicious cycle, can you tell? :)

ANYway, I’ll do the best I can with what thoughts I have right now. We started the week with the last of our volunteer work out in the field. We did our last interviews on Wednesday, and now our work will be in consolidating all our notes, and putting together a report and presentation. Joy. But Thursday, we had the great opportunity to go into a Jewish settlement and meet some of the people living there. Now just for a little background, on the political and religious scale settlers usually fall under the category of more conservative, right wing, and Zionist. So, in the morning we met with an American Jew who had moved to Israel about 25 years ago, met his wife, and started a family. He was a fascinating man, and I really appreciated getting the Jewish settler viewpoint after hearing so much from the Palestinian side. Really, he is just trying to live a normal life in an abnormal situation. He said that after the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords were signed, his family had the unfortunate label attached to them of being the first Israelis to be attacked by terrorists. They were driving at night on a back road, I think it was between Jerusalem and their home, and as they were driving, an oncoming car passed them and as they passed they shot at them with a machine gun. He had his 4 daughters in the car with him, and he said the gunfire totally blew away his front, drivers side tire, but he didn’t stop and kept driving until they made it to a gas station. Thankfully, the shooter had aimed low on the car and no one was seriously hurt, but of course his daughters were crying and terrified. What an awful experience, I can’t even imagine what they could have possibly been like. 

He also kept reiterating the fact that Israelis don’t just want the world to recognize the fact that Israel exists as a nation, but they want the world to recognize their right to exist as a nation. I found this very interesting as I had never thought about it that way before. I thought that once Yasser Arafat publicly recognized Israel as a nation during the Oslo Peace Accords, that Israel had achieved what they wanted all along, which was recognition by the Palestinian leadership. But really, what they are still looking for is for the world, and for the Arab world in particular, to recognize their right to exist. That they have a right to live on this land that was given to them by God. I had never thought about that particular wording before. I certainly believe that Israel has the right to exist, so I guess it never occurred to me that there would be some people that would differentiate between the two. It definitely explained a lot about some of the motivation behind different aspects of Israeli governmental policy.

The settlement itself was pretty interesting as well. I was expecting it to be much nicer, the way there are very nice neighborhoods of different towns and suburbs around the country. But it was pretty typical middle class. Although I’m pretty sure we only saw the older section, maybe the newer parts are nicer. But it was interesting when we stopped for lunch because it was just like we were stopping in middle town, USA. There was a pizza shop, burger place, and a market right in a little shopping center towards the middle of town. Of course most of the signs were in Hebrew, which is not exactly just the US. But a good portion of the products being sold were American products, I was so excited to get some Arizona Green Tea with my pizza!

In the afternoon, we were given an environmental tour of the area by a different Jewish settler. She was very nice and knowledgable, and we pretty much went around to different historic sites as she explained their history. It was really cool and we went to some pretty cool historical ruins, ancient baths, and ancient springs. I just can’t get over how beautiful the countryside is here. I was expecting desert like Arizona, with a few olive trees thrown in there. But it’s quite different than that, although I wasn’t totally off base. It very hilly, some people call it mountainous, but it’s hard to call these mountains when you’ve been to the Rockies.So the hills are absolutely beautiful, very green and hardly any trees unless they been planted. But olive trees on the other hand are absolutely everywhere. You can’t go a mile without seeing multiple olive groves, which is pretty cool. Also the ground here is extremely rocky, anything from gravel to huge boulders. I guess this is why the olive trees grow so well. I just hope my pictures can capture the beauty!

I will now keep describing members of our group. I keep forgetting to do this, so maybe by the end of the trip I will have actually covered everyone :) Now I’ll tell about one of my roommates here in Bethlehem, Cyri (pronounced “Seer-y”). She’s a senior at Northland College, which is the other college that has more than one representative on this trip. Her major is Sustainability and Humanity and Nature Studies and all kinds of crazy stuff. It’s a mouth full whenever we have to introduce ourselves to a new person. Anyway, She’s almost as tall as I am, which is SO exciting to have another tall girl in the group! Also she’s blonde, so she gets lots of looks from the locals here because tall AND blonde is not something they see everyday. But she’s super cool. Very laid back and kind of a quiet observer, which is nice because some of our group members can be pretty outspoken at different times. She also laughs at most of my dumb jokes, which makes her even cooler :)

My other roommate is Jess, she just graduated from high school last year, so she’s the young one of the group. (I’m the oldest by a week or so, I can’t decide how I feel about this. When you’re young it’s always exciting to be the oldest. Now I’m not so sure…) Jess lives in Colorado and this is her first semester of college because she the spent the fall being a cowgirl on a ranch in Wyoming I believe. Pretty cool!! She’s very outdoorsy, her family does tons of camping, hiking, and all kinds of cool stuff. She has also traveled a ton! All over, Nepal, Central America, South America, India, some places in Europe. I’m definitely jealous! Although not of all the places she’s been, some don’t sound terribly appealing from some of her stories… But she’s a pretty cool girl and definitely mature for her age. Sometimes I forget that she’s about four years younger than I am. So you can see that we have a pretty cool room. We also have the room with the most incredible view, which everyone else calls “The Princess Room.” We don’t mind, they’re just jealous!
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