The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

From the Holy Land: Day 6 - 'I refuse to make you my enemy'

In her sixth blog 'From the Holy Land', Caritas staff member Anna Robertson reflects on a divided land, illegal settlements and one man's refusal to surrender to hatred. Please pray for peace during the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. 

– Martin Luther King

In the area known as the Occupied Palestinian Territories the land is divided up into three areas: Area A is solely under Palestinian Authority; Area B is no man’s land (Palestinian Authority and Israeli Security); and Area C is solely under Israeli control. 

The cities, towns and villages almost seem to blend into each other to an outside eye but each place is clearly delineated and named – there are Jewish neighbourhoods and Palestinian neighbourhoods. We drive to the West Bank across the border as if there isn’t a border. We drive from the West Bank to Israel but this time there are soldiers watching, inspecting. If you are Palestinian without an East Jerusalem ID, entry is difficult and long. If you are Palestinian with an East Jerusalem ID, perhaps you will glide right through or perhaps you will be stopped and your papers examined. If you are a foreigner, perhaps your passport will be inspected or perhaps not.

We drive along large, well-built highways and turn off onto small, rough, winding roads where signs inform us that we have entered Area A and the Israeli government advises its citizens that it is too dangerous for them to enter.

So it is confusing to me, an outsider: it is neither a single-state nor two different states. But it is clear that where you live is important. If you live in Gaza you cannot leave; if you live in East Jerusalem you have access to Jerusalem; if you live in Ramallah or Bethlehem perhaps you can access Jerusalem or be granted a permit for religious holidays but you cannot live there.

It is no secret that there are illegal Jewish settlements in the Palestinian Territories. There are even roads built especially for these settlers to travel between their homes and Israeli Area C. The lands taken for the settlements are often range lands for animals or olive plantations, both of which are essential livelihoods for the local communities. There are also regular dispossessions, evictions, demolitions and displacements from land.

Everywhere we go the beautiful landscapes stretch out in front of us dotted with these settlements built on the highest hills.  A recent report by a United Nations fact finding mission described these settlements built purely for the benefit of Israeli Jews and the government policies behind them as ‘systemic discrimination against the Palestinian people’ occurring on a daily basis. There are clear injustices in this and the international community’s double-standards and selective application of international law in no way contribute towards any sort of peace.

But I want to share with you a story I heard. There is a graduate from Bethlehem University who lives on a hill near Bethlehem – it is his family’s land. As the Israeli settlements are expanding they have been eyeing up his hill. To avoid his family land being taken this man has moved to live there. Repeatedly, he has been unsuccessful in gaining permits to access the water and electricity mains. As these inconveniences arise he has come up with new and innovative ways to get water and electricity. At the entrance to his place he has a gate on which is written, 'I refuse to make you my enemy.' One day some settlers destroyed his gates and that afternoon he went over and took them afternoon tea.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

– Micah 6:8

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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust