Picture: Palestinian West Bank Border Guard Tower
Yes, the picture was taken by me, and No, it wasn't dangerous (well as far as I know). The tour guide did say at several points to be very discreet in pointing our cameras at the guard tower or they would yell at us over the loudspeakers, but the snipers probably wouldn't shoot! We did have one soldier stop us and ask what we were doing, but Fred, our tour guide, told us that this happens all the time to him.
Yesterday, at worship, I met an American college professor from Nashville, Tennessee who teaches ethics, and is here in Israel to study the Israel/Palestinian problems. He had been to several Arab Palestinian villages and described his visceral response as “anger.” Most of my trip has been, and will be, in Jewish Israel, from a Jewish perspective. So, after visiting with him, I decided that I should at least take an "Alternative Israel Tour" to have some further understanding of this large contemporary social problem in Israel. So, I booked a tour with “Fred”, who holds passports in Israel, Scotland, and the United States. I didn't even know that was possible, but apparently it is. Fred is a very colorful gentleman whose family roots are in Israel, but who grew up in Scotland, and spent some time in the United States during the 70s. He is one of the few Jews who is very active in promoting and protecting Palestinian human rights.
Of course, the United States is promoting a “two state solution” and Israel is obfuscating and biding its time, while continuing merrily on its own agenda and pathway. Here is what I saw, and I'm just telling you like it is. Israel is slowly and surely overwhelming the state of Israel with religious Jews who already outnumber the Arab/native population. At the same time they are squeezing the Arabs by progressively taking their land and confining them into extremely restricted zones.
Here are a few examples of what we saw. The picture is the border of the area between an Israeli governed zone, and a Palestinian governed zone. There are actually two completely different roadways, one for the Israeli Jews, and one for the Arab Palestinians, and these roadways are blocked from each other with high walls, barb wire, and guard towers. Essentially the Israelis are putting the Arabs on reservations, much like we did in the United States with our native American population. Only, Israel is a much smaller country than the United States, so the Arab populations are packed into confined ghettos and have little opportunity for integrated economic or social integration. Plus, these reservations are surrounded by the concrete walls and fencing. Furthermore, the Israeli government progressively bulldozes homes of Palestinians whenever the Israelis want to settle Jews into certain areas of the countries. These homes represent the entire life savings of these Palestinian families, and Israel offers them no financial remuneration. Fred described several documented home destructions that he has watched. His organization tries to protest and document these home destructions, but Israel has a master plan that creeps forward with strong force. He also showed us several very nice middle class Jewish neighborhoods that are funded by the Jewish government. So, our United States government funds the Jewish government, and since Israel is a fairly wealthy country, by world standards, they pass on their savings to the Jewish people of Israel by funding nice middle class housing.
I'm sure that Israel would say that the Palestinian fences are required to protect Israel from Palestinian suicide bombers and radicals, but the problem is not the fence itself. One fence from north to south along the west bank border could be built and that would suffice. The problem is the manner in which the fences are built, and the way in which the Arab population is treated. As I said, think of the Palestinian areas as island reservations of people crammed into a small geographical area, and then denied opportunity to enjoy the same standard of living as the majority Jewish population. Think of these islands of people as undesirables (from a Jewish perspective) who are imprisoned within their own country. This is my current understanding of the situation, and if anything changes I will adjust my viewpoint. As my family knows, I like to look at all sides of a situation (as much as possible from a Christian world view) and particularly on political issues I don't like just accepting the standard line.
Tomorrow I start the class. I received the syllabus today. We are digging into the geographical, archaeological, and historical background of Jerusalem (some of which I've already done myself, so hopefully not too much of a repeat). Then it's off to places further afield.