For the last three years, friends have celebrated the birthday of long-term campaigner for peace and justice, Moseley’s Elizabeth Way, by gathering to hear an overview of the situation in Palestine, given by a Moseley resident who visits the territory each year, giving practical and moral support to those in need. The first part may be read here.
Our Moseley ‘reporter’ visited Palestine and Israel to stand in solidarity with Christian people during the week for Christian unity and peace in Palestine. It was heartening to see that different denominations were able to cooperate for this.
The difference our visitor noticed during her visit after eighteen months was that there was a marked increase in the presence of Orthodox Jews in East Jerusalem, especially around the Damascus Gate. On Friday evenings Orthodox Jews go into the compound of the al-Aqsa mosque.
The Palestinian economy is suffering as Hebron Souk market takings are down because Israeli settlers above spit and throw objects at tourists and few mainstream tour groups visit, having been told that the area is too dangerous. Only two good ‘alternative’ companies take tourists there.
In an earlier version of this post, the writer incorrectly stated that the Damascus Gate had been closed. Though the situation is very tense and many horrifying incidents have taken place in the vicinity, closure is merely under discussion. One of many reported incidents, earlier this month: an Israeli settler ran over a Palestinian female who currently remains unidentified, while she was standing at the light railway stop located near the mosque’s Bab al-‘Amoud gate, also known as Damascus Gate, in East Jerusalem …
All Palestinians, Christian and Muslim depend on being granted permits to areas which Israel controls, even within the West Bank. Therefore Christians from the West Bank are not able to worship in churches in Jerusalem unless granted a permit.
It was not possible to give a definite statement about the number of checkpoints in the West Bank – this changes as the Israeli army can move them at will and create flying ones as when it wants on the grounds of security. According to Israeli NGO B’Tselem, there were 99 fixed checkpoints in the West Bank in September 2013, in addition to the 174 surprise flying checkpoints. In August 2013, 288 flying checkpoints were counted. However, according to the Israel Defence Force’s blog, there were 12 checkpoints in the central region of the West Bank.This figure does not include the numerous road blocks that prevent Palestinians from crossing the wall and in many cases deny access to areas within the West Bank. As our reporter comments: “the whole system is complicated and fluid so that Israel can manoeuvre as it chooses”.
In Haaretz, Rabbi Yehoshua Looks writes, “When I, as an Israeli Jew, approach a checkpoint in a vehicle . . . the feeling I have is of minor inconvenience balanced by acceptance of a reasonable price to pay for security . . . Imagine what it might feel like not to be in one’s car but on foot, to wait, be interrogated, perhaps wait some more, all the time wondering when or even if you will come out the other side. And then, contemplate whether this is really what we need to live securely”.
As may be seen in the latest statistics on the latest report on the website of the United Nations Office for the co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs Palestinians are suffering far more violence and insult than they inflict, but our reporter concluded:
“Despite all their daily difficulties, including restrictions imposed on their movement by the Israeli soldiers and harassment from Israeli settlers who live there, the Palestinian people remain firm in their nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation and their hospitality remains as great as ever”.