May 25 - Jerusalem

The craziness with the computer remains so Mark is helping me out again.  Today I felt as if I was hiking in the dry, craggy Rocky Mountains, minus the altitude.  We left early to meet our German/Israeli guide and Tamara took us to Lifta.  This is the largest remaining Palestinian ruins that remain from the 1948 war.  It is literally situated in a deep valley below the middle of Jerusalem.  The four lane highway and Jewish settlements border the village remains.  It was a long, steep hike with dry, rocky switchbacks until we came to this beautiful spot with stone remnants, an underground spring, fruit and date trees, with a spring-fed pool that served as the village water site and bathing spot.  The sun baked us as we traversed up and down to and from the site.  We also passed some tourists and Orthodox Jewish men who go to pray and bathe.  The guide told us that Jewish scholars believe that in the book of Joshua this water-blessed place is mentioned although with a Hebrew name.  Although it has been empty for over 60 years you can still see and feel the place - it remains peaceful and spirit-filled amid the large stone remnants of the mosque (one for men and one for women) and the homes - some as large as five or six rooms built into the hillside.  Moving from her German Jewish family in Cologne, Tamara was an excellent guide as she shared her story and read to us from survivor stories about life in the village before "the Nakba" (the term that Palestinians use for the Jewish take over - it literally means  "the Catastrophe").  The stone buildings had a certain architectural design, simple yet graceful, surrounded by what had been a very beautiful and peaceful valley. 

In the early afternoon we participated with "Women in Black."  This is a group of Israelis (women and men) who have met on the same traffic circle since January 1988.  They stand with signs, "Stop the Occupation" (in English & Hebrew) and usually a counter demonstration forms across the street.  Today was no different.  There were approximately 50 demonstrators with Women in Black - young to very elderly Israelis and assorted international visitors who come, like us, to support their cause.  Each Friday for 24 years they have met on this corner to simply stand for an hour and hold placards.  It is a very busy intersection and protesters must brave cursing, honking, and one-finger salutes from 1pm to 2pm every Friday.  My CPT group assigned me as the main "photographer" (not sure why!) and I tried to capture the action with still shots until a yelling match broke out between protesters and individuals not happy with their presence.  I switched to video on my camera and tried to catch the interactions, which became quite heated, mostly in Hebrew but with some English thrown in.  Steve walked over to the counter protest and took an opportunity to talk with some of the men.  Once I had finished my camera work an older women came to me and asked me to hold the end of her large, black banner and she shared her story with me.  She was born in Michigan and came to Israel as a young bride with her husband in 1950.  She has been on this street corner every Friday since January 1988.  She feels very strongly about the Palestinian cause and all the protesters seemed very grateful for our presence and support.
Late this afternoon, we got a rare opportunity.  Don't know how many of you know the name, Dr. Mordechai Vanunu, (you can Google or You-tube him) but he was a young nuclear physicist who became a whistle-blower concerning the nuclear program he worked on from 1976-1985.  He was disturbed about his work on this project so he took documentation of the Israeli nuclear program (which was not known to the world at the time) to the London Times.  His story sounds like a Hollywood movie.  He met an American women in London after taking his documentation to the newspaper (he later learned she was a spy) and they traveled together and while in a hotel in Rome he was drugged and kidnapped, and taken by boat to Israel for trial.  He spent 18 years in prison, 12 in isolation.  He sat with us today in the Jerusalem hotel and told us why he did what he did in good conscience, and what his life has been like since.  He has since converted to the Anglican faith and resides at St. Georges here in Jerusalem.  He cannot leave the country and has corresponded with both Daniel Ellsberg and Hillary Clinton for help in obtaining permission for him to leave the country.  A fascinating, thoughtful man who simply told us his story, his ideas on peaceful resistance, and let us ask any questions we wished.  It was an incredible opportunity for all of us.
All for now.  I'm headed back from Mike's Center for dinner and relaxation at the hostel.