It’s a new year, and in preparation I’ve made many changes in my life in order to further witness how we (Israelis) treat our Palestinian neighbors — a population that we have occupied for the past 43 years. One of these changes included giving up my apartment and moving to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
In the beginning, over two months ago, I lived somewhat like a refugee — as my Palestinian friends joked — going from house to house, village to village accepting endless invitations to witness Palestinians’ daily lives and enjoy the warmth and hospitality of many homes and families. Most of my time was spent in Nabi Saleh, with the Tamimi family, and in Beit Ummar, a village outside of Hebron, with the Abu Awwad family, a refugee family from a village that no longer exists in Israel.
While bearing witness is certainly one of my main objectives, I also have become a participant in Palestinian society and taken a position as grantwriter and organizer for the growing non-violent movement to end the Occupation. While the Popular Struggle has been gaining momentum for some time (see the most recent film “Budrus“), my Palestinian partners and I are seeking to expand the definition of non-violent resistance beyond direct action at Friday demonstrations (like the one’s in Bilin, Ni’lin and Nabi Saleh amongst others) to include social action and community development that Palestinians and Israelis can engage in daily.
Since there are thousands of peace organizations, our role is to act as the connectors between local leaders and existing organizations with resources that can be used for non-violent resistance. Using these resources, our goal is to build a Palestinian village free of occupation in Nabi Saleh.
An impossible goal? We think not. We know that the occupation is much more than walls and checkpoints, soldiers and settlements — the occupation seeks to breed hatred and violence into Palestinian society by making daily life so unbearable that it is impossible to build a vision for the future. But by strengthening Palestinian communities and lives we can struggle against the occupation in the best way possible, and with humanity and dignity bring an end the occupation.
In honor of World Peace Day (September 21st) we will be holding a “Day of Social Action & Non-Violent Resistance” in Nabi Saleh that both Palestinians and their Israeli and international supporters will join in together. Together we will clean the streets of litter, paint walls in preparation for a mural project, plant trees and erect a sign after the checkpoint at the entrance to the village which reads “Welcome to Nabi Saleh — All Human Beings Are Welcome” in Arabic, Hebrew and English among other activities.
Over the next two years, we will be working to connect the village to the international community in order raise the funds and obtain the resources we need to take several of the sustainable, community development projects that the villagers have dreamt of taking from the sky to the ground. In light of this, in October, one of my Palestinian partners, Ali Abu Awwad (see video below), and I will be coming to the United States to do a speaking tour to raise funds for the non-violent movement and Nabi Saleh. If you are willing to organize an event in Washington D.C., New York, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco or Los Angeles please contact us. We would be happy to come and share our peacebuilding work and the growing strength of the non-violent movement.
I am continuing to write, but with the intention of compiling a book about the struggle for non-violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. For the past two months, I have been carefully documenting my experience as I transition from being submerged in the culture of the occupiers to the culture of the occupied by writing down my experiences and conversations nightly.
As I have made this transition, I have received tremendous support from my new Palestinian partners, Israeli friends and international supporters. I can’t tell you how many messages I get offering connections well wishes–it truly makes all the difference and I sincerely thank everyone. And always, there is more that you can do — we need funds for the World Peace Day event and for building the movement. If you are willing to donate, please contact us. For every hundred dollars that you donate, we will be planting a tree in your name at the event. If someone is willing to donate $500 we can turn the street lights back on in the village — this is how big of an impact a small amount of money can make in Palestine.
It may not be this year, or next year that we see the end of the Occupation, but we know that there is no other way for the Jewish or Palestinian people to continue living. In the end, “we’re going to make it — yes we can!” as we say daily. Thank you for your support until now and I hope that this year, we can work together to make a greater change.