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Behind the Democracy

Sharon Casper, an activist working with the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions. She explained the view from the bus of Jewish neighborhoods and settlements and pointed out the contrast with Palestinian neighborhoods. The former had trees and playgrounds and effective trash collection. The latter were generally in poor repair and filled with litter. She said that city services were widely neglected in Palestinian neighborhoods.

Following this, we gathered in a tent that had been erected for summer programs as well as demonstrations. Saana, a Palestinian woman living in Silwan, spoke of the difficulties of people who become criminals by building additions on their homes and risk having them demolished. Evidently, only something like 3% of Palestinian requests for building permits are ever granted, and these applications can take decades and a lot of money to push through. If people go ahead and renovate their property, they are subject to eviction and possible demolition of the property. Of course, if the property needs improvement and does not get it, it is subject to demolition as well.

After this, we walked through the beautiful Jewish Quarter of the Old City, rebuilt after being destroyed in the 1948 war. We ate a box lunch in a shady courtyard before returning to the hotel.

At the hotel later in the afternoon, we met with Salwa Douaibis and Gerald Horton, a married couple of lawyers who work against the traumatizing arrests of children through the organizations Military Court Watch and the Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counseling . According to Gerald, the essential role of the military in the occupied territories is the protection of settlements. The night time raids are specifically geared to keep people unsettled. There is actually no way for soldiers to know exactly which children have been throwing stones at them, so they detain children at random, often releasing them in a couple of days. Of course, for a child of middle school age, this is a terrifying experience. Near as I can tell, there are four categories of people in this country. It is important to note that all this is extremely complicated, and I may have made mistakes.

1. Jewish Israelis: citizens, full rights, vote, travel anywhere. 2. Palestinian Israelis, whose families remained in Israel in 1948: citizens, full rights, vote, travel anywhere. However, they can face discrimination and extra scrutiny, and when they are arrested for anything, whether they are adults or children, they can be "administratively" detained indefinitely, something that does not happen to Jewish Israelis. 3. Palestinian Jerusalem residents, who were living in the city when Israel reclaimed it in the 1967 war: not citizens; can vote only in municipal elections; can lose their status if they stay away to travel, visit family, go to school without properly renewing their status. These people are highly vulnerable to eviction and home demolition as detailed by Saana. 4. West Bank residents: not citizens of any place; subject to military justice; need frequently renewed permits to work in Israel; can't just come to Israel to visit holy sites or the sea.

So it was a strenuous day, taxing to the mind and heart. In the evening we all went to the residence of Bishop Suhail Dawani. He welcomed us and explained the work and challenges in a diocese that includes Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, and Jordan. Janet Vail, a former vestry member, and Pete Eveleth, a former senior warden, presented the bishop with a check from St. Mark's.

Then we reported to the guesthouse for a cocktail hour, interrupted for some of us by evening prayer at the cathedral, after which we returned to the garden for a delightful dinner. We had delicious mezze, followed by maqlouba, the traditional Palestinian festival dish. For dessert, we had slices of semolina cake. It was a beautiful, cool night, a lovely setting, great food, and convivial company.

Sharon Casper

Sharon Casper

Faraj and Saana

Faraj and Saana

Posted by mlld3536 17:00 Archived in Israel

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