My trip to Palestine / パレスチナに行きました

2023.12.14 [Language Center Blog] 教職員  担当: Sinead O’Connor

 It’s been seven months since I returned from my first, and hopefully not my last, trip to Palestine. Since returning, the question I get asked the most is “How was Israel? What did you do there?” I’ve struggled with how to respond and when thinking about how to answer I’ve grappled with emotions that range from disbelief — I was there to learn about the atrocities of life under occupation what kind of question is “how was it?” — to anger — I went to Palestine, not Israel. They’re not the same thing! — to resignation. The trouble is what do I say? Do I repeat what the Israelis I met proudly pointed out — that the sprawling city and the fields rich in vegetation was a credit to their ingenuity and hard work, that “there was nothing there when their families came to this area” but they made something of it. Or how they “managed to get the desert to bloom — their superior intellect allowing them to succeed at this, something the Palestinians had failed to do for centuries”. The difficulty for me is that I feel these successes are built on a shaky foundation of mistruths, and indoctrination. Before Tel Aviv became the metropolitan, seaside haven it now is, it was the old city of Yaffa. Old Yaffa is a 4000 year old, historically Arab-majority port town and Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 as a Jewish-majority suburb that grew exponentially during the British Mandate of Palestine which encouraged the large waves of Jewish immigration from Europe. As for making the desert bloom — we’ll get back to that later.

 Today, however, I can share with you an answer that comes from a place of peace, honesty, and vulnerability: my time in Israel felt like a fever dream. During my entire trip I was only actually in Israel for about 72 hours. The last 36 of which were on account of having been denied boarding for my flight the previous evening, and while I started the last 36 of those 72 hours crying, feeling frustrated, lost, and afraid I soon became frightfully aware of my own privilege. Here I was, a 38 year old woman crying over a missed flight — a flight that within 2 hours had been rebooked. Here I was, feeling angry and indignant that I was denied boarding, all my own fault, by the way — I didn’t have copies of my COVID vaccine certificates. And then it happened. Right at the end of a long, tumultuous day as I sat in my room at the Air BnB I had managed to book within minutes of missing my flight. It had only been a couple of hours since my flight left without me and yet I was in a beautiful house 40 minutes from central Tel Aviv, I had a flight home booked for the next night, I had a driver arranged not only to take me to the airport the next day but also drive me anywhere I wanted before that. I had food in my stomach, was in the company of friends. Then it hit me, like an electric shock,— the first painful pang of privilege. In the 14 days prior to that moment I had spent countless hours learning about Israel’s 175 permanent, manned military checkpoints along the West Bank. I had heard stories of men who wake up at 3am, queue to get through the checkpoints in order to go to work, not to mention their need to show special work permits, work permits that are granted at the discretion of the Israeli government, and accepted or denied on the whim of the Israeli soldier on duty, all in order to move from one Palestinian city to another Palestinian city.

 As I sat on my bed wallowing in self-pity, I started to think back a few days earlier to when I visited Hebron a Palestinian city just 28.3 kilometers south of Jerusalem in the West Bank. In 2017, The Guardian newspaper described Heron as “one of the starkest symbols of the Occupation”, and that same year UNESCO recognized the city as one of three World Heritage sites in Palestine, much to the chagrin of the Israeli government who has the city pegged for huge settler expansion. Since we were driving from Bethlehem that morning it was only 21km yet we needed to pass through 4 checkpoints. Checkpoints manned with armed soldiers — all just to drive the 21 km from one Palestinian city to another. What passing through each checkpoint would entail was not easy to predict. For us, at the easy end of the spectrum, our driver Abed needed to show his ID, answer basic questions about the group and the purpose of the journey as soldiers eyeballed us through the bus windows. We all sat still and made sure no phones or cameras were pointing at the soldiers or the checkpoint. At the more frightening end of the spectrum, Abed show needed to show his ID, both Abed and our American tour leader were questioned about our purpose, all of us needed to show our passports to the 2 armed soldiers who got on the bus, we waited, bated breath, while they searched every inch of the bus, and the one Asian-American of the group was taken off the bus and questioned separately. At the same time our Palestinian guides Osama and Zoughbi who we had driven with from Bethlehem were going through something similar at the pedestrian checkpoint specifically for Palestinians. We had dropped them off about a kilometer before the checkpoint since they are not allowed cross the checkpoint on the bus with us. They also needed to show their work permits in order to make the journey from Bethlehem to Hebron. We finally passed through after what felt like an eternity and were relieved to meet Osama and Zoughbi a kilometer on the other side. Meeting them there, unfortunately, had not been a guarantee going into all of this.

 Once we reached Hebron we visited the contested Al-Ibrahimi Mosque after which we had the opportunity to walk Al-Shuhada Street. Shuhada Street is about 2km long and is sandwiched between two manned checkpoints. The street, once a thriving market, was closed to Palestinians in 2010. The more than 60 businesses closed and most families moved out. The street is now only accessible to Israelis who can traverse it either on foot or by car, tourists, and, with special permits, the families who still own homes there, though they are not allowed to use cars. Since our guides could not walk the 2km with us without risking detention by the military, Osama took an alternative route to meet us at the top of the street. That alternative route easily added a couple of kilometers to his journey. We walked the street, being stopped and questioned by the military once. At the top, just before the second checkpoint we saw the entrance to Qortoba School, a Palestinian elementary school. As we passed, the children were on their way to the checkpoint to go home. We waved, smiled and tried to talk to them. They stared, kept their distance, and seemed to look at us with uncertainty and caution in their eyes. It only occurred to me after that to them we look just like the Occupiers who fill their lives with uncertainty and danger. No wonder they were wary of us. As we approached the checkpoint to exit the soldiers called to us. One of our group members greeted them in Hebrew and respond in English that we were tourists. They scanned us with unsmiling eyes as we passed through. On the other side we were reunited Osama. He pointed out that on the street at the feet of the kids who were filing through to go home were rubber bullets and casings from live bullets that the soldiers tend to shoot indiscriminately at the Palestinians in the area. We were horrified, Osama and the kids seemed unfazed.

 After gathering ourselves we walked through the old market to the CPT offices. CPT stands for Community Peacemaker Teams. It is an organization that supports Palestinian-led, non-violent resistance against the Israeli Occupation. One of their many projects in Hebron is checkpoint monitoring. For this project they often rely on international volunteers since it’s easier for internationals to avoid long-term detention by the military. The speaker, Baha, told us that recently the team had observed the detention of a six-year old boy who the military had accused of being a security threat. The team rushed to identify the boy, notify his guardians, and work to get him released all the while being denied access to information by the soldiers. She said they could hear him crying and calling out for his mother as they tried to learn the details of the detention and gather proof to get him released. The soldiers first said the boy had thrown stones, but then changed their story once they were confronted with proof he has been in class at the time they quoted. Next they said they were having him help with their investigation of who might have been throwing stones. The team then called the next level of authority over the soldiers to secure the release of the boy. They were told the boy had been released 30 minutes earlier. This was not true as the team could still hear him crying for his mother. Finally the boy was released after a few hours of detention. Imagine how scarring that must have been for the child. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. But this is only one way the Occupation disrupts the lives of Palestinians making it almost impossible to perform daily tasks and have any semblance of stability in their lives.

 While my personal experiences this time have been limited to the West Bank it’s important to note that Gaza, as part of the Occupied Territories comes under similar, if not worse, arbitrary restrictions. On my trip in March, it was not possible to go to Gaza since it’s a closed military zone, however we did have video conferences with staff of human rights organizations to learn about life under occupation there. Unfortunately, life has been much worse for Gazans than those in the West Bank. Gaza has been under complete blockade since 2007. This blockade means that Gazans are not permitted to leave except for rare exceptions such as life-threatening medical care. However, the reality is even in these cases permits are routinely denied. A 2022 WHO report states that between 2008 and 2021, 893 Gazan dies while waiting for their medical travel permits to be granted.

 Israel also controls all trade and limits imports while prohibiting exports. As a result the Gazan economy has collapsed and unemployment is more than 40%. Remember earlier I said we’d talk about the Israeli miracle success of making the desert bloom? Well, in 1967 Israel seized control of all water in the Occupied Territories and issued Military Order 158 which prohibits Palestinians from constructing any water installation without obtaining a permit first. These permits are notoriously impossible to get. In the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians need to buy water from Israel, which an Amnesty International report quotes as costing 4 - 10 US dollars per cubic meter. All homes have these black tanks on their roofs which they use to store the water. Once they run out they need to wait for the next delivery. The same report quotes Palestinians on average consuming 73 liters of water daily when the WHO recommends 100 liters minimum per capita. Note that not only does the average Israeli consume 300 liters of water daily and intricate irrigation systems in settlements allow for the rich growth of vegetation that would prove, technically, they have indeed made the desert bloom.

 In recent days we have seen the situation in Gaza deteriorate severely. We have seen news of HAMAS attacks and murders in Israeli communities. We have seen news of bombings in Gaza. Last week Israeli government ordered the evacuation of 1 million Gazan from the north of the strip — but thinking about the blockade and restriction of movement where are they meant to go?

 The Israeli Occupation over Gaza and the West Bank for the last 75 years has caused uncertainty, pain, and death daily for the people of Palestine. I urge you to think about this when you see the news that labels Palestinians as barbarians and animals. Please ask yourself whether they truly are animals, or, if for the past 75 years, they have been completely dehumanized and treated as such and now innocent citizens are paying the ultimate price for a group of extremists taking the violent route to try to gain freedom. When you see unverified news that the Palestinians kept Israeli children in cages ask yourself did they? Or has Israeli kept the Gazan in a 141 square mile cage for the last 75 years. The deaths of the Israeli citizens is unforgivable, and the deaths of the Palestinian citizens is also unforgivable. Let’s be aware of the fact this situation didn’t just begin when we learned about it.

初めてのパレスチナへの旅から戻って、七ヶ月が経ちました。帰ってきてから、「イスラエルはどうだった?何してきたの?」と聞かれることが多々あります。こう聞かれた時、私は返答に困ってしまいます。何と答えようか考えながら、占領下での生活の残酷さを知るためにパレスチナへ行った私に対して、「どうだった?」と聞いてくる感覚を信じられなく思う気持ち、パレスチナをイスラエルと一緒くたにしていることに対する怒り、そして諦めに至るまで様々な感情と葛藤してきました。しかし、何といったら良いのでしょう。この旅で出会ったイスラエル人たちが得意げに指摘したこと ー 広がる街並みや豊かな田畑は彼らの巧妙さや労働の功績であること、彼らは何もない土地へやってきて一から自分たちの居場所をつくったことを、私もまた言ったら良いでしょうか。それとも、彼らが砂漠に花を咲かせたこと ー 長年パレスチナ人たちが成し遂げられなかったことを、より優れた知性により成功させたことを言ったら良いでしょうか。どうも私には、この成功が嘘と洗脳の脆い土台の上に存在しているように思えてならないのです。テルアビブが現在の大都市となる前、ヤッファという名の古い市街地でした。ヤッファは、4000年の歴史をもち、代々アラブ人が多く暮らしている港町です。テルアビブは、1909年にユダヤ人の多い郊外として創立され、イギリスのパレスチナ委任統治領の下で急速に発展したことにより、ヨーロッパから大量のユダヤ人移民の波を呼び込みました。それから、砂漠に花を咲かせた、というのは… 後に回しましょう。








 過去75年のイスラエルによるガザ地区やヨルダン川西岸地区の占領は、不安や痛み、そして死をパレスチナの人々の日常としてしまいました。パレスチナ人を、野蛮人や動物呼ばわりするニュースを見た時、その事実を思い返してほしいと願います。彼らは本当に人間に値しない存在なのか、それとも75年間、非人間的な扱いを受け、そして今罪のない一般人が暴力により自由を掴み取ろうとする過激派の道連れとなって死んでいっているのか、一度考えてほしいのです。パレスチナ人が、イスラエルの子供を檻に入れていたなどという根拠のないニュースを目にした時、立ち止まって考えてほしいのです。本当にそうなのか、それともイスラエル人たちが75年間、ガザ地区のパレスチナ人を141平方メートルの檻にずっと閉じ込めてきたのか、と。イスラエル人の死は、決して許されるべきではありません。そしてまた、パレスチナ人の死も許されるべきではないのです。この状況が、私たちの耳に入る以前から続いていることを意識することが必要だと感じます。    Translated by A.Y 高1