Everyone I know who has traveled in the Occupied West Bank and has seen the realities of the Occupation and met with people who are working against it and for justice, has had a life-changing experience. This account is typical, with the exception that the author is an American Jew, grandson of a 5th-generation Palestinian Jew, which lends a different kind of weight to his witness:
has greatly sinned Jerusalem
Israel and the occupied territories in the summer of 2006, my defenses against the reality of ’s crimes crumbled. I witnessed the Separation Wall grabbing huge swaths of Palestinian land, the checkpoints controlling the movement of Palestinians within their own territory and strangling farming, commerce, access to health care, education, and social intercourse. I saw the network of new roads restricted to Israelis; I learned about the assassinations, midnight raids, and collective punishment; I saw the massive, continuing construction of illegal Jewish settlements and towns; I heard firsthand about the vicious acts of ideological Jewish settlers, and words like apartheid and ethnic cleansing sprang to my mind, unbidden and undeniable. That summer, forty years after my first encounter with the land, I saw all this, and my relationship with Israel changed forever. Israel
“My last night in Palestine that summer fell on the ninth of Av, a Jewish day of fasting and mourning, the traditional date of the destruction of the Temple of Solomon and the beginning of the exile of the Jews two thousand years ago. The book of Lamentations, a source text for our liturgy of mourning, attributed by tradition to the prophet Jeremiah, is chanted that night. It is a harrowing description of a people fallen and traumatized.
Therefore has she been made a mockery
All who admired her despise her
For they have seen her disgraced.
Panic and pitfall are our lot,
Death and destruction.
My eyes shed streams of water
Over the brokenness of my poor people
(Lam. 1:8, 4:46-48; author’s translation)
“On that night, I sat on a hill overlooking the Old City, in the company of congregations of praying Jews, mostly American émigrés worshiping, I felt, at the shrine of their Jerusalem – a Jerusalem ‘reclaimed’ at the expense of the Palestinian people; a Jerusalem that for Palestinians is also a spiritual and political center; a Jerusalem that is being taken from them street by street, farm by farm, village by village. I stood on that hill and chanted the words as I had every year on this day, descriptions of starvation, rape, slaughter, destruction of homes, and banishment from the land, and, for the life of me, I could apply the words only to the Palestinians. In these words, I now felt their suffering. And my eyes shed streams of water for them, my Palestinian brothers and sisters, and yes, for the brokenness of my own people.”
Mark Braverman, Fatal Embrace
If peace is ever going to come to Palestine, to the Israelis and Palestinians, Jewish, Muslim and Christian, it will be through people like Mark Braverman – through people who can step out of their place, their reality, their perspective, their view of the world (comfortable as it is), enter into the experience of those who are not only “other” but even the enemies of their people, feel their pain, and in fact, change to the degree that all that speaks of their own personal pain, can come somehow to connect to the reality of the pain of their enemy, who they can begin to think of as their “brothers and sisters.”
Would that we all would be able to make a journey like Mark Braverman’s, and experience the transformation which radically changed his life.