Palestine through her eyes

Sharon Fritsch is a Chico resident who spent two weeks in Palestine and Israel with a delegation of the Christian Peacemaker Team.

Some people believe that the Muslim nation built by Muhammad still exists today. Certainly the Muslim fundamentalists believe it. They see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one part of a much wider conflict, and America is their adversary.

In an effort to promote peace in the region, the Christian Peacemaker Team maintains a mission in the ancient city of Al Khalil (known to Israelis as Hebron) in the Muslim West Bank. Their main mission is not to convert people to Christianity but to inform Americans about the root causes of the conflict.

During the 12 days in January that our CPT delegation was in Israel and the West Bank, we met every morning and afternoon with someone who was trying to foster peace or with someone who had suffered as a result of the violence.

I had no idea of the extent to which the occupation interferes with the daily lives of Palestinians.

The first day there, we went on a three-hour tour of the Jerusalem suburbs by a longtime Israeli citizen, Angela Godfrey Goldstein, from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. She showed us huge Israeli housing developments, army posts and police stations on what is supposed to be Palestinian land. She also showed us dozens of destroyed Palestinian homes and showed us hillsides covered with ancient terraces, planted with olive trees, most of which are now dead or dying, since the water has been sucked out of the ground by Israeli developments.

We toured through Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem that were strewn with trash. Angela told us the city of Jerusalem almost never provides trash service to Palestinian neighborhoods, though the residents pay the same taxes.

We spent six days in Al Khalil, in the West Bank, living in the CPT’s apartment. The West Bank is supposed to be the Palestinians’ country, but Israeli soldiers, settlers and police are present throughout most of the region. Palestinians are not allowed to use many of the main roads in the West Bank, and the Palestinian taxi drivers often explained to us that we were traveling extra time to get around Israeli roads—sometimes more than an hour.

Al Khalil is a city of 120,000, mostly Muslim Palestinians, and approximately 1,000 Jewish Israelis. While walking through the Palestinian streets, past the little shops, many people would call out to us “welcome” and “a salaam aleikum” (peace be with you). Obviously they do not hate non-Muslims. The good news is that many people are actively working to resolve the conflict by getting people to start talking with each other.