Sunday, July 15, 2007

Do you SEE What I See?

July 11, 2007

Our son and daughter-in-law are here for a visit. They are seeing the sites, some of which are not so pretty. Yesterday we took them into Bethlehem, a city well on the way to being the next Gaza. Bethlehem will soon be walled in on all sides -- a prison, 100% controlled by her Israeli jailers. Already, Israel will only allow Bethlehemites to purchase food from them. The prices for groceries in Bethlehem are higher than in the United States. Israel controls the tourist trade, the primary industry of Bethlehem. Israel determines who is to go in and who is not. 90% of tour guides are Jewish, ex-military, trained in the war of words and images. These tour guides rush the buses in and hurry the tourist through the Church of the Nativity. We watched it happening. The folks on the bus are told not to talk to anyone outside the Church, and not to shop in the shops near the Church as well. "This is a dangerous place," they are told. "Don't talk to anyone."

What the tour guides do not want is for tourists to see Bethlehem for what it is. And what is that? A dying town, filled with people who already feel dead. A people mortally wounded by the Israeli occupation, and now being dealt a death blow by the Islamic extremism that is growing within the prison walls.

Sad, yes, but hopeless, no!

We also saw and met some amazing people -- Christians, Muslims, and Jewish. People who believe that the occupation, and the extremism that is finding fertile ground in the soil of oppression, must be resisted. MUST BE RESISTED! But that the resistance must be non-violent. MUST BE NON-VIOLENT! And they mean it. These courageous, hope-filled people of faith -- and Christians lead the way here -- live non-violent resistance. They teach non-violent resistance to hundreds of people living in the West Bank.

And the good news is that there is a hunger for something other than the way of violent resistance, a way that has not led to anywhere except down the path to destruction and death. The folks we met are convinced that they are making a difference. Seeing is believing though, and I hope that many of you will come and see for yourselves. You must see the people! The people! You must see the people!

We entered Bethlehem through the humiliating Bethlehem checkpoint. The Israelis like to call it a terminal, as in bus terminal, airplane terminal. They want to give it a feel of legitimacy. It is not a terminal like any you have ever seen, nor is this place any kind of place that you want between you and the world outside. It is a checkpoint, and it gets no points for being anything other than that. It is an evil place that is used by one people to separate, control, and humiliate another people. The four of us were waiting with passports in hand, watching Palestinians from Bethlehem come through the line -- there was only one line. Inside the thick glass of the booth was a young Israeli girl-soldier. With her baby face expressionless, she was deciding who got in and who was kept out. A mother was standing in front of the glass. Two children clung to her long, brown coat -- a Muslim, covered, except for her face. She was holding her papers up against the glass. The girl-soldier, with the hooded eyes of the bored and frightened, didn't even look into her face. The children did. The children watched every move their mother made. The girl soldier nodded for the mother to go back and put her hand on the state-of-the-art identification device. She obediently did so. The children watched. Then the girl soldier nodded her head in the other direction, and the mother moved through, her children straining to see who was on the other side of the glass. They were too little to see the young woman who controlled their mother's movements.

We were next to go through the checkpoint. It took us a minute, no more. We simply held up our United States passports, and like magic, we were nodded through. The young woman barely looked at us, just noted our passports and nodded for us to go in. I wonder how the Palestinians felt, seeing us given preferential treatment in the land of their fathers and mothers. I don't want to know.

As soon as we were on the other side, we regrouped. Our daughter-in-law had this strange look on her face. "What's the matter?" I asked.

"Didn't you see those children?" she asked."Well, yes," I said. "What about them?""What about them?" she said, her voice rising. "What about them? This is normal for them. This," and she waved her arm around the place ... "This," she said with emotion straining her voice, "This is normal for them." She shook her head, and walked on ahead of us.

She's a first-grade teacher. Remember your first-grade teacher? Thought so.I watched her go, and thought, "Yeah, I used to see that kind of thing. And seeing that kind of thing used to make me feel the way you feel right now.

But now, after being here awhile, well ...

"See how quickly that can happen?
Posted at 09:09 PM Permalink

No comments: