Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Russ Siler: add another source of information, remember the pain of the people

Not From Jerusalem # 115
August 2007

We have now been back in the United States a little over two months. We have experienced emotional ups and downs with two weddings and a funeral. We have been involved with several large church events and some smaller ones. Our attempt has been to ease back into the normal flow of things without too much discomfort, and it has been strange…not because it has proven to be difficult, but because it all comes so easily. It begins very subtly as one day goes by…then two, when ordinary life tasks take so much of one’s available time, attention, and energy that it suddenly hits you that you haven’t seen a newspaper article or a TV news item about what the people in Israel-Palestine refer to as “the situation.” In addition your fellow shoppers, travelers, and walkers in the market, the gas stations, and the town center haven’t so much as mentioned the words Jerusalem or Occupation. I haven’t seen even one armed “settler” or passed through a single checkpoint, and my passport is nestled away in a secure place, awaiting our next jaunt out of the country. And I realize with a great sadness the immeasurable distance that separates my comfortable existence on this side of the Atlantic from the fragile life, tainted by fear and suffering, that our sisters and brothers plod through on the other side of the ocean. The allure of gliding through comfortable days here untouched by the brutality of life there is powerful. We can grasp the relief of the priest and the Levite in Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan as they were able to “…pass by on the other side.” They had important duties to perform and the battered body of the stranger would have been in the way.

Fortunately, this past week brought our first opportunity to make presentations at a church. It was truly gratifying to have so many people working with us to grasp the character of the human tragedy relentlessly unfolding in the Holy Land. We were able to share with them our perception that the Israeli government, with the full support of our administration and Congress, had achieved precisely what it intended, now that Palestine is divided against itself, and Gaza is even more a prison world, a lifetime away from its sibling territories in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. We were able to let them know, as best we could, of the enormity of human suffering and loss when land, life, and livelihood confiscation masquerade as “security measures.” When discussing the Wall or, as others refer to it, the “Security Barrier,” we were able to let people know that as many as 50,000 Palestinians will be cut off from their neighbors and families by the wall. That is to say, they will be on the Israeli side of that which is ostensibly being erected for the protection of Israeli people. Just that single fact makes it apparent that the wall is more about dividing the West Bank and taking much of its land than it is about security.

It was a welcome weekend, but then it was past, and we, like all of us, went back to those ordinary tasks…but with a difference. We are once again enlivened and energized by people who are keenly aware that what they read in the papers and hear on the TV carry, at best, a partial story. What is not contained in most of America’s popular media prevents us from grasping differing perspectives on the circumstances of fear and fighting. I hope that what I write in coming months will provide a little help in that direction. My first suggestion is that you add another source to your daily information intake. Try www.guardian.co.uk [The Manchester Guardian] or www.haaretz.com [the English language Israeli newspaper Haaretz] or www.icahd.org or www.icahdusa.org [sites of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions].

My second suggestion is that you resolve to find some way each day to bring to mind the pain and suffering of the people in Israel-Palestine. In any conflict it is not when one side or another is stronger that injustice occurs. It is when people who can make a positive difference don’t take the time to care.

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Note: In response to my question last month, many of you who have read these letters over the past years replied to encourage me to continue writing—this time from the perspective of how I perceive Middle East news received in the United States after having lived in Jerusalem. I am going to continue my letters as long as I believe I have something to contribute. As always, you may pass the letters on. I only ask that, where it is possible, you forward them in their entirety, and include the contact information found at the end. If you wish to be removed from my mailing list, simply email your request. If you received this one from another source and wish to be added to my list, just let me know that also. ROS

Russell O. Siler, retired

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