Posted by: timfrakes | March 3, 2009

Challenge of Israeli settlements


Settlements are built on Arab land occupied by Israel during the 1967 war

Settlements are built on Arab land occupied by Israel during the 1967 war

By Katya Adler
BBC News, Jerusalem

Israel’s Prime Minister designate, Benjamin Netanyahu, will not openly commit to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the US insists it’s the only way forward, and Hillary Clinton is visiting the region for the first time as secretary of state.

“I feel like a stranger in my own land. I can’t go for a long walk. I have to sneak around. Otherwise I’m stopped by Israeli soldiers or threatened by Israeli settlers.”

Raja Shehadeh is an award-winning author. A Palestinian mourning the erosion and theft, as he sees it, of his birthplace, the West Bank.

He took me to a stunning viewpoint over the rough, rolling hills outside the Palestinian town of Ramallah. A nature-lover, Mr Shehadeh pointed out the beautiful spring flowers all around us, as well as the Jewish settlements.

“Every Palestinian town here is surrounded by these settlements,” he tells me. “The hills here have been chopped and flattened by them. They are an assault on one’s sense of beauty and of belonging in the land.”

More and more Israelis have moved to the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967 when Israel captured and occupied the territory. This is illegal under international law. Palestinians say it makes peace here impossible.

“The only consistent policy Israeli governments have had over the last 40 years is not seeking peace and building settlements in the Palestinian territories,” says Mr Shehadeh.

“This is no longer occupation, this is colonisation. Israel has no right to this land. God is not in the business of real estate. If Israel wants peace, it cannot be on this land.”

Hilltop fortresses
So what is a Jewish settlement? The name can be rather misleading. It might suggest something temporary, ad hoc maybe. But when you’re in them, or look at them from neighbouring Palestinian villages, you get the impression they are being built to remain, at least for the foreseeable future.

Take Efrat, close to the Palestinian town of Bethlehem. Typically for a settlement it’s made up of rows of modern-looking white houses with red roofs.

Also typically it’s built on a hilltop. Settlers say that’s important for security reasons. Settlements tend to be surrounded by a buffer zone – land Palestinians therefore can’t farm.

Settlements are also usually serviced by roads Palestinians aren’t allowed to use.

Many Jewish settlements are getting bigger. Nine thousand people live in Efrat now. The community plans, if it can, to expand to 30,000.

Already, the number of Jewish settlers living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – land Palestinians say is theirs and must be part of their future state – is close to half a million .

The Israeli human rights group Peace Now says Israel’s government has construction plans to double settler numbers in the West Bank, an allegation the Israeli housing ministry denies.

‘Not about land’

I was invited to visit a school in Efrat settlement. Pupils Ari Ehrlich, Matan Dansker and Yadin Gellman were born there.

They are a couple of years away from serving in Israel’s army where they may well end up manning one of the many Israeli checkpoints controlling Palestinian movement within the West Bank.

Do they accept the international community’s land-for-peace proposal? Would they give up their homes for peace with the Palestinians?

“Clearly I don’t want to leave my house,” says Ari. “But if there was a guarantee of peace, I’d go.” The other two agree.

“But it’s not about land anymore,” insists Matan. “Palestinians can have land for peace. We’ve tried it before, like when Israel left Gaza. It doesn’t work. When you see what a Hamas leader wants, he’s not interested in Efrat, in my school or my house. His problem is me being an Israeli. A Jew. It’s not about land, it’s about destroying us.”

“Anyway,” says Yadin, “even if we move out of the settlements. That won’t be it. They’ll ask for more. That won’t be the end of the story.”

The boys show me their school map, used in schools across Israel. The West Bank is not marked as a separate territory.

Ari, Matan and Yadin say Israel still views the land as its own. Except for the Palestinian towns there.

They tell me they all hope for peace in their lifetime. In the meantime, they’ll stay put in their houses and school. Buildings they know international law deems illegal.

Fragmented territory

The proposed two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict envisages a country called Palestine existing alongside Israel – but many think the existence of Jewish settlements and their infrastructure make a viable Palestinian state impossible.

“The three areas – Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem are separated,” says Allegra Pacheco of the United Nations’ Humanitarian Office in the Palestinian Territories.

“Israel controls East Jerusalem and large parts of the West Bank. There’s a wall dividing East Jerusalem from the West Bank, preventing most Palestinians from accessing the best schools, the best hospitals or going to pray in mosques or churches there.

“More and more East Jerusalem land is being set aside for Jewish settlers. Then, within the West Bank there are more than 600 physical obstacles placed by Israel blocking Palestinian movement.

“Israeli settlers occupy 60% of the land there and they are scattered all over the places. This further fragments the territory and very much undermines the economy and prospects for improvement in the Palestinian situation.”

Israel says this can change with peace. Regarding settlements, checkpoints, the West Bank barrier, it insists what goes up, can come down. But Palestinians focus on what they call facts on the ground. They’re not optimistic.

Clearly, settlements are not the only stumbling block to peace between Israelis and Palestinians but even the United States, Israel’s greatest ally, has been critical of settlements for a long time.

In the absence of a peace deal, international agreements require Israel to freeze settlement construction.

Yet, during the Bush administration the settler population grew considerably.

Barak Obama says he wants to pursue peace here “aggressively”. But his secretary of state will have to tackle the settler issue with actions, not just words, to really make a difference.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/03/03 07:38:49 GMT


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Posted by: timfrakes | January 28, 2009

Photos from Cindy

Click on this photo to download a PDF photo montage of our trip.

Posted by: timfrakes | January 15, 2009

back home

It’s culture shock coming back home. Then again maybe it’s just weird that I have to go back to school again. Everything seems so odd. There is a sort of hopelessness in anyone’s life, even back here, but we as Americans are surrounded by our own problems then those ’round the world. It makes me sad, but I can emphasize with my friends as well. Our world is much smaller. Even now, I don’t feel connected with anyone’s life besides those I’ll see tomorrow. Maybe I’m asocial but I feel it.
As I look around me, everyone’s life is speeding up. I’ve got tests and due dates to look forward to, my great-uncle Fricke is in hospice and my brother is having a hard time catching up in school. Staying after school today helped my slow down. I didn’t need to worry about a bell ringing or someone asking me if “I got blowed up!”. This one kid is scared of me because of how I reacted to some of his questions. I was jet-lagged, not hearing well, and had a lot of pent of emotion. And all I did was hit a locker.
Maybe I did overreact but when I talk about the Palestinians to some people they look at me if I had gone up to a bank robber and asked them if they wanted to be my friend.
Now after seeing what I have I just want to explain what I feel without people shooting me down or outright asking me what THEIR opinion should be.
There’s no place like home.

Posted by: timfrakes | January 13, 2009

3 Faiths, 2 Countries, 1 Peace Video

Tim Frakes here,
Kathy Adam invited me to come along on the first week of the trip and record footage and interviews. After returning home, I kind of got carried away and cobbled together this 20 minute overview. Enjoy!

Posted by: timfrakes | January 13, 2009

Quick note from January 4th

We’ve left Bethlehem and are now in Ramalla. We will visit Jerusalem again tomorrow if things are quiet, but it sounds like there are to be demonstrations. Our guide is tuned in to what is happening where and I trust he is doing his best to read situations. I’m currently at a home stay with a family where the father is working on a bid for the university and their daughter is performing belly dancing for us as I type and now another is playing the oud with strangest pick I’ve ever seen. The mother is a teacher. She talked about the last infatada when they were in their homes for months wile bullets were whipping by and I’ve been exposed to the hubbly bubbly for the first time in my life We’ve met with some real heavy hitters here…oops, gotta go…will try again later..
cea yah

By Rev. Peg Chemberlin
Minneapolis Star Tribune
January 10, 2009

The National Council of Churches reports that on Jan. 9, “leaders of three faiths that trace their origins back to a common ancestor — the Patriarch Abraham — joined their hearts and pens today to form a common prayer for peace between Israel, Gaza and among all nations.

Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA, and Dr. Sayeed Sayid of the Islamic Society of North America, acknowledged having “different views” as to how to end the confrontation between Israel and Gaza, said they looked “to the power that is greater than any of us can even contemplate” to ask for peace in the Middle East.”

I know each of these men. I work wit Dr. Kinnamon on a weekly basis. I have met, spoken with and conversed by email with Rabbi Gutow, and last fall I was at a meeting with Dr. Sayeed Sayid and served with him on a committee for the Independent Sector. These are each thoughtful and respectful men; each deeply and thoroughly committee to his faith yet out for their faiths they see the need to be engaged with each other.

They went on to say, “the three of us come from different religions and have different views regarding how to best solve the problems faced in the confrontation between Israel and Hamas. In many arenas we have found ways to work together but not yet in this situation. We look to the power that is greater than any of us can even contemplate and ask that power to help us find peace among the nations. “The full text can be found on the NCC website.

Church World Service, an organization related to the NCC, is supporting humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza as a member of the Action by Churches Together International alliance. I am proud to e a member of the CWS board of directors. ACT efforts include those of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC)’s Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR), International Orthodox Christian Charities, the Lutheran World Federation and Norwegian Church Aid, all long-time CWS partners. CWS-supported efforts now include the provision of food – including high-energy biscuits for children – medicine and blankets, as well as the deployment of trauma counselors. However, ACT said today that the movement of aid into Gaza is at a standstill, because of a strike of truck drivers concerned about the lack of security. It is unlikely the CWS-supported transport or any other aid “will be able to move into Gaza today,” said ACT representative for Israel and Palestine, Liv Steimoeggen. The UN is responsible for organizing the transport of aid shipments into Gaza, including aid supplied by ACT.

HOW TO HELP: Contributions to support this emergency appeal may be sent to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN, 46515. Please designate #6824, 2009 Gaza Humanitarian Response. For further information about disasters to which Church World Service is responding please visit or call the CWS Hotline, (800) 297-1516.

Meanwhile the ELCA bishops continue their trip spending today in the town of Hebron on the West Bank. A blog of that trip can be found on the ELCA home page, which records that, “The trip by bishops of the ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is to stress accompaniment with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, raise awareness of regional issues and boost advocacy for peace….The visit to Hebron was arranged by the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel,” a unit of the World Council of Churches which tracks of “how Israel deals with Palestinians in territories it controls.” At the ELCA webpage you will also find connections to the ELCA program, Peace not Walls – Stand for Justice in the Holy Land.

© 2009 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

Posted by: timfrakes | January 11, 2009

Thoughts from Debbie

As our pilgrimage comes to an end, I am struggling to articulate the experience. There is so much to contemplate and so many facets of this complex land and people. The history itself is multi-layered evidenced by the ruins from the time of the Old Testament, Romans, Constantine and his mother Elena, Byzantines, and the crusaders. Today we stood at the remains of the Phoenician sea port in the city of Akko (Acre). What a thing to get my mind to grasp – the evidence of a thrving economy from 4000 years ago! The political situation is even more layered and complex interwoven with the religious traditions. One of the main objectives of the trip was to hear and learn of the situation of the Palestinians whether they are Christians or Muslims. All are living in the land of their ancestors and all are very aware of the fact that they are second-class citizens at best. Israeli Palestinians may not have to deal with border crossings like the West Bank Palestinians do, but the section of the city they live in may not have the same up-to-date infrastructure as the Israeli Jewish section of the city even though they are paying the same taxes as the Israeli Jews. All Palestinians share the anguish and pain of fellow human beings (children as well as adults) loosing their lives due to bombs and military attacks.

Americans are very good about putting labels on things and people. All Palestinians are not terrorists. The ones I have met on this trip, both Christian and Muslim, are kind, genorous, and welcoming people. I have not feared for my life in their presence, in their homes. All have expressed that they do not hate the Jewish Israelis; they want to live in peace with them. They wonder why the peoples of this land cannot be like a large American city that has multiple ethic groups living in it, with the same rights and freedoms for all.

Living in the country of their ancestors that is occupied by another group of people, with restrictions on movement from place to place, economic endeavors, and opportunities for education (to name a few things) leads me to wonder how there can be hope within them for a life in which all can share and contribute and live without fear. Yet many of them do. As the teacher of the high school seniors we visited today stated, we Americans should not be against the occupiers/the Zionists, nor should we be for the Palestinians; but rather we should advocate for justice and a true-unbiased representation of what life is like here and do what we can to influence a change, therefore being for all people living in the holy land. This was the first day of classes after Christmas break at this Catholic school that has students from all three of the religious faiths and we spent time with them on their first opportunity to discuss the current events taking place within a hundred miles from where they live and study. Their first reaction to the bombs was fear – fear of World War III. The same fear I have when some thing erupts in this part of the world. If that should happen, it will be in their back yard; not mine. If that should happen, I will have to live with the fact that my government and country has played a part in bringing that to pass with specific actions or the lack thereof based on the United States’ foreign policy for the region.

After my experience and the knowledge gained on this two week pilgrimage, I have only scratched the surface of the situation and I certainly do not have the resolution to it. I am not optimistic that the world leaders or the people of the land have a solution. However, I want to claim hope that peace will come to this land. That the Lord who created the two major groups of people will work within the hearts of the leaders to strive for peace and that other powers and entities will remove the obstacles to such peace. As Jesus walked this land, he healed the hurts of people and spoke of loving your neighbor as yourself. May his healing and that love be present here soon.

Posted by: timfrakes | January 10, 2009


I’m sad to see Israel/Palestine/the Holy Land wave good bye to me. I’m met so many great friends, Madonna (not the mother Mary or the singer) ,Jamal and the rest of the family, Hamam (the best hair dresser in this Hemisphere), Noor, Nadia and family, Dua’s family, Yossef’s family, Sala’s family (these friends seem to come in package deals!) and those I still have not met.
Though these two weeks have been hard, I feel like a calmer person. Seeing what some people have to go through just to get to a Wal-mart-like store make my problems insignificant. So I’ll stop worrying so much about mine.
But then again I might just become passive and ambivalent. I DO NOT want that to happen. I love the fire rising up in my chest, screaming at me to do something, to change the world. If I lost that… I wouldn’t be calm, I’d lose myself.
I’ve also noticed my mood change, I’m generally happier now. Feeling the love and even being called a sister by Nadia struck something in me. Whenever we had exchange students at our house, or a long stay visitor, sure we bonded, but I wouldn’t call them my brothers or uncles. Maybe that’s the culture; they are Arabs after all. And the way they keep loading up your plate. At more than a couple homes we were covering up our plates to prevent our host from giving us anymore food. They snuck it in anyways. Those sneaking Arabs…

But seriously I love them all. They have accepted me as part of their own families and because of that, I have carved a room in my own heart for them.
I know why mom loves this place so much. It’s not the land, or the holy cites, it’s the people. They are the reason this place is holy. Not because of how tall your candle are or how much gold you plate Madonna with, or even how many incense holders you have, it’s the people and how wonderful they are.
I hope that our journey has touched your hearts anywhere near how much it has touched mine and everyone else on this trip.
In truth I am ready to return home. I’m homesick. And I’ve probably got a lot of make-up work to do. Hopefully all my gifts can bribe my teachers a little bit. If you are my teacher, ya didn’t hear anything!

Posted by: timfrakes | January 10, 2009

Looking forward to sub-zero temps, by Cindy D

We have had an overwhelming experience here. Our stay in the Gallilea has been less stressful and the weather warmed up a bit. We have enjoyed sites around the Sea of Gallilea, Tiberius, Capernaum and Migdala; a trip over to the east where we could see Syria and visit a Druze village; toured Nazareth to see the Basilica of the Annunciation, other churches and visit Nazareth Village where the daily life of 2000 years ago is portrayed as authentically as possible; and today visiting a high school at Ibillin, then touring the ruins and markets of Akko on the Mediterranean.

We have had many delicious meals of authentic Middle Eastern foods, including so many salads we didn’t have room on our plates for one taste of each, roasted chicken and lamb, fish from the Sea of Gallilea and also from the Mediterranean, and of course lots of pita bread with hummus and olives and dates. The turkish coffee is divine and you only need a tiny cup for that special jolt. We also like the tea with a sprig of fresh mint leaves.

We have been quite isolated from TV and catch glimpses of newspapers now and then. So all of our friends back home have been watching news of the awful things happening in Gaza. Before we came north, we had a little more access to TV, mostly Al Jazeera, which was all in Arabic but the footage translates to all languages, and a tiny bit of CNN for English news. But we could read the faces of the many people we have met, particularly the lovely Palestinian families of both Christian and Muslim faiths. There have been so many kind people here, very friendly and welcoming. Only a few complain about the US. Most say they love the US and very many have been to the US, either traveling or visiting or sometimes attending college there and working in the US for awhile. It is very easy to meet the local people and strike up a conversation.

We are struck by how the Palestinian people are treated like second class citizens by the Israeli’s. In an integrated community like Haifa, there are separate public schools for the Jewish children and separate for the Arab/Palestinian children. And what a surprise — the Arab children have smaller budgets and lower quality in their schools. When they graduate, the Jewish children must join the military for their obligatory service. The Arab/Palestinian children are not “invited” to join the military. But furthermore, they have to wait 3 years after high school to try to attend college. The universities do not want to give them an advantage over the Jewish grads who have to do their military service first. The same unfair rules apply to both the Christians and Muslims. So they are not oppressing based on religion but based on race. You might even say that they are anti-semitic, since the Arabs are descended from a Semitic race, just like the Jewish people.

As we prepare to leave this Holy Land, we are struggling with how to take back all the memories and impressions we have acquired here. Then there are the picky details, like trying to mail back some literature that may raise eyebrows at the airport, and whether or not we can take bulk spices through customs. As I pack my bags, I want to transfer my good luck and God’s loving protection to Carla as she continues her travels in Italy.

Posted by: timfrakes | January 7, 2009

Refreshment for the Soul

Yesterday we visited Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea. Standing at the water’s edge refreshed my soul. I was joined there by our team’s guide who shared this same feeling. It was a point of deep contact between two human beings from different countries, cultures and religions. The trouble in Gaza is ever present in our minds in these days but for a moment we both felt a bit lighter.

We need to find more intersections between human beings to help us out of this terrible situation in Gaza and in other parts of the world. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Gaza. Pray a swift resolution to the conflict.

May your soul be refreshed as you reach out to others. May God bless you and keep you.

Kathy A

Kathy A

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