Editor's note: Arri Eisen, PhD., is professor of pedagogy at Emory University’s Center for Ethics, Department of Biology and Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts. Carlton D. Mackey, who took the accompanying photographs, is the director of the Ethics & the Arts Initiative at the Emory University Center for Ethics.
By Arri Eisen, Special to CNN
Monday was Martin Luther King Day. Monday, Barack Obama was inaugurated president for the second time.
This was one of the few glimmers of hope held up by many of the Palestinians I met with at the turn of the year in the West Bank: “Who would have thought in Martin Luther King’s day that you would now have a black president? If that can happen in the U.S., then maybe one day there can be peace here.”
I spent 10 days in Jordan, Israel and the occupied territories on a “journey of reconciliation” my university sponsored, with a dozen other Americans — I the only Jew among them — meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
We met with Vera Baboun, the newly elected and first-ever female mayor of Bethlehem, a small city in the West Bank. The mayor told us she earned her degree in African-American literature at the Hebrew University; she was inspired by Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. Like many of the Palestinian political leaders in the West Bank, she is Christian. She is a mother of five; her husband was detained by the Israelis for three years and died soon after his release. Just outside her office, across the square, Jesus was born.
As we stand in the lobby saying goodbye to the mayor, a full-sized picture of Yasser Arafat, waving and smiling at me. In the world I grew up in, the late Palestinian leader was considered nothing but a Jew-killer, a terrorist.
Take everything that is good in humans and everything that is bad, mix it together, pour it in a vat of irony and then boil it down and stick it in one small area. This is the Middle East.
As we leave Bethlehem, the “separation barrier” — tall, thick concrete walls topped with gnarly wires cutting through the land like a knife — is on our left. On our right, says our guide, is the valley where the shepherds were told by the angels of Jesus’ birth. As we cross through the checkpoint, one of 500 in the West Bank, I turn and look back to see a huge red sign warning that it’s illegal for Israelis to enter Bethlehem – as well as dangerous to their lives.
I think of another sign we saw earlier that day. We had driven our bus up a good road that led to a settlement — full of Jews, surrounded by their own fence and guarded gate — and then took a ragged road as far as we could, up to the boulders strewn across it. We got out and walked the wind-whipped path to the Tent of Nations, 100 acres owned by Daoud, a Palestinian with a deed for this land that dates to 1916. The sign on entering Daoud’s property: “We refuse to be enemies.” He fights as MLK would; his right to the land has been tied up in the Israeli courts for more than two decades. When Daoud puts up tents for a summer camps he runs for kids from Bethlehem, he is issued demolition orders for them. He sees swimming pools in the settlements, but his water and electricity are cut off; he collects his own rain water and produces his own solar power.
These were not the stories I was told. I was raised in the classical Jewish American Zionist narrative of black and white, good and evil. Seeing the endless stream of evangelical Christians and Jews on birthright trips from all over the world touring through Jerusalem, I want to stop and shake them and tell them what they’re missing, what I wasn’t told.
It’s not that the Palestinians are angels. When the Israelis built the separation barriers, the suicide bombings terrorizing Israeli citizens stopped. I had dinner with an old friend, an American who had moved to Israel decades before. She spoke of gas masks and bomb shelters and of fear for her daughter, who is in the army guarding a West Bank settlement.
In Jerusalem, I walk out of the Church of the Nativity with our Palestinian guide Nabeel, one of 42 allowed to enter the city (on a six-month renewable permit). He walks with a limp. I tell him, “I now know three men with your name, one from Pakistan, one from Lebanon and now you.” He smiles. “What is your name again?” he asks. “I’m glad you’re on the trip. You know, in America, outside, I have Jewish friends, but here ...”
At the place where Jesus was buried, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, bells compete in aural space with Muslim prayers over loudspeakers. Our guide shows us a side entrance for black Christians who at one time weren’t allowed to use the main entrance. We take it and wind upward. On the roof of the church, here in the middle of the Old City of Jerusalem, a group of African monks has set up their own village!
At the Wailing Wall, small birds have taken up residence in a very resilient plant that grows from its ancient bricks. The birds look out at me, at the man holding his iPhone to the wall so a distant friend can pray into its mortar, at the Israeli soldiers completing their training and swearing to die for their country before this last remnant of the second Temple, at the masses of praying men and women — the women in a smaller area, separated from the men and further from the holiest part of the Wall. I am humbled. I turn and am struck by a huge sign advertising “bar mitzvahs at the Wall.” I wonder what the birds are thinking.
Many, Palestinians and Israelis, talk of how “things have gotten worse the last two years,” how peace is not even an issue in this week’s Israeli elections.
We meet with a group of young men and women calling themselves Kids for Peace: Palestinians, Christians, Jews, Israelis, Muslims. They get together regularly and share stories; they bring their parents together across the enmity formed by walls and fences. I see my son in them. The oldest one clears his throat. “We have peace in our veins,” he says, “We are changing people. We must listen to each other.”
Israelis now allowed in Bethlehem? LOL What is this? That's like Christians not allowed in ROME.
Thanks for this thoughtful article. I'm an American woman who lived in Palestine (based in Ramallah but traveled widely) for two and a half years. They were some of the best and most inspiring times of my life.
For those of you disparaging the author and making sweeping claims about Palestinians (about whom you seem to know little other than bits and piece of propaganda and cherry-picked factoids), please don't be so quick to judge before learning more for yourself. And listen to your own holy book, which reminds you that you were once strangers in Egypt - and the Palestinians are not strangers to Palestine, but they are treated as aliens nonetheless. Imagine that, a stranger in your own land.
Thanks, professor, for visiting the beautiful West Bank for yourself, and for writing about it, even though I'm sure you knew the calumny that would come your way. The more people speak out, the easier it will be for the next to do so. Have a little courage and the house of cards (of carefully-constructed illusions) will fall, for the benefit of all.
Shalom, salaam, peace. Inshallah.
Thanks for your words of courage and truth.
I definitely acknowledge that some Palestinians have roots in the area, but please remember that the terrorist murderer was born in Egypt, and was responsible for the invention of a "Palestinian people" in 1964. Compare that to the 4000-year plus history of the Jewish people in Israel, proven by archeological discoveries in addition to the many references to the land in the Torah, our bible.
"Sweeping claims about Palestenians???" "We know little about"??? Where have you been? How many thousands of rockets have your peace loving Palestinians shot into civilian areas in Israel? How many Palestinian, mostly youngsters, homicide-suicide bombed innocent civilians,killing and maiming innocent people? And practically all of the victims Jews. The answers are in the thousands. You are calling this, "cherry picking factoids?" You see some kind of noble conduct, some civility in this behaviour? These are peace overtures? These are people you identify with? You congratulate Professor Arri for similarly siding with such uncivilized barbarism. It really doesn't take much to see how peverse the world is. You express it clearly!
PS – I've got a worse perversion for you, about your docile peace loving Palestinians: How many mothers would strap explosives around their children and encourage them to blow themselves up? And Yet hundreds of Palestinian mothers have done this? This is the motherhood you subscribe to? This is the peace approach you glorify? Are you an American? Where are your values? Where is your civility?
We have a wall between us and Mexico.... Mexico produces its own water and electricity.... you cant just cross between mexico when you please, you go through customs...... aparteid,no .....border yes....
Arri, King David was born in Bethlehem. A great Jew was born in Bethlehem, before Mrs Baboun even dreamed of getting there – 3000 years before!
King David was someone important?
The Palestinians who are natives did not kick out any jews from the land and replaced them, they have lived here for hundreds of year. most of the jews in Israel came to Palestine during the British mandate when Britain had no right to invite others to a land that was not theirs. most Jews came from Europe to settle on lands that belonged to Palestinians who were forced out of their homes........
The majority of the native Arabs who lived in the area pre- Mandate were nomadic. No clear numbers are known. What is understood, Britain encouraged Arabs in equal numbers with Jews to immigrate into the holy land. Classic to their technique of area control, incite conflict between locals while governing from afar.
Arri – You claim to be smart, even Jewish. You claim in your article you know where Jesus was born (in Bethlehem, across the street from Mrs Baboun). Do you happen to know where King (not MLK) but David was born, and when? Let me help you: Try the Jewish Bible: First Samuel Chapter 16:1 and Chapt 20:27 – 28. King David reigned ca 1010- 970 BCE: that's three thousand years ago – for 40 years. Seven and half years of them over Judah in Hebron, and thirty three years over all of Israel and Judah in Jerusalem ( Second Samuel Chapt 5:4-5). King David was Jewish; so were the 40 other kings that reigned in the subsequent 400+ years afterward. And more Jewish Kings reigned over Israel some 400 years afterwards during the second commonwealth. Are you getting the drift that the Jews are kinda native, or have some kind of claim to the land of Israel (I won't bore you with God's promises stuff). Arri with the PhD – Can you name me one Arab King of Israel? Can you name me one year that there was some kind of Arab sovereignty over Israel? You can't because there never was any! But I'll give you something you can easily answer: get a world globe : Measure out how much land the Arabs and Muslims present day rule. Figure out square miles and compare it to tiny Israel. Get the picture. The Arabs in Israel are not the natural sovereigns, and if you study travellogues of the 1800's (try Mark Twain's) you will see how barren "Palestine" was. Present day Arabs in Israel are recent , within the past 150 years, interlopers, with no sovereign history to the land. "Palestinian people" is a 1960's invention; an invention to drive the Jews out of Israel. And you have become their propaganda mouthpiece. So I suggest you do more to prove you're really PhD material and get the facts, and get them right. Remember, Israel, if nothing else (and it is lots more), is a safe haven for Jews. As a supposed Jew, you sure would hate to have to need it and it wouldn't be there – the Arab ultimate goal.
if Israel were actually a safe haven for Jews, and the only safe haven for Jews. It exists only to give Jews a sense of national identity. Safety is in America.
Israel has had more than 60 years of conflict since its foundation. But as of now i believe that the cease fires are the closest thing in terms of peace that Israel and Palestinians will have for a very long time. I support Israel right to exist, and that both Israelis and Palestinians live peacefully in the region without having to kill each other. I condemn past crimes done in the wars, and i hope the end of the blood shed will come fully one day. The best thing Israel can do is to continue to defend itself and the homeland for the Jewish people and promote Israel as it is a liberal democracy in the middle east. Israel is holy and has a very rich history in terms of religious foundation and history, and it is in some way a very small but special piece of land sacred to many people. Radical Islamic extremists who push muslims to be radicalized for Jihad undermine any chances of real peace in the region. I feel proud of Israel what it has accomplished despite the hostility and hatred from the Muslim world and the Arab community which has not had good relationships with the Jews. But overall i think the future will change and the best things for real peace will come if people come to a understanding. Israel will always exist, but overall Palestinians if they want to live alone and peacefully they have to accept their own irresponsibility and take care of themselves and not bother Israel so much. Leave Israel alone then, and let Israel be a light for all nations. May God bless those who support the holy land, the Torah and those who follow the ten commandments.
and you're not it. Israel is an example of how the spirit of apartheid: oppression, ghettos, extrajudicial punishments, imprisonment without trial and on and on will always be with us. A shining reminder.
@ We know the messiah,
Yeah and Hamas and Fatah are shining beacons of hope, pillars of democracy, justice, and prosperity *end sarcasm*
What everyone needs to know about cease-fires, specifically, who breaks them? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-kanwisher/reigniting-violence-how-d_b_155611.html?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=2fca2661b2-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email
Arri, You're a nice Jewish boy with a PhD who either states or implies not nice things about Israel. So you know that Jesus was born just across the street from Vera Baboun's office in Bethlehem. You state that Mrs. Baboun's husband was detained by the Israelis for 3 years and died soon after his release. But you fail to metion why he was detained. Israel just doesn't detain people for no reason. Thousands of Jews have been killed and maimed by Arabs. Jews who were sitting in restaurants , or driving autos, or dancing in discos, or were just at home sleeping. Mrs. Baboun's husband wasn't detained because he farted in public. You, the PhD have failed to discover why he was detained, and tell it to your readers. You only smear by inuendo. You don't even tell how he died soon after his release: how soon? What was the cause. Did a fellow Arab kill him, as has been the true factual case in many other instances where attempts to smear Israel failed when the true fact came out of a death? When you write with this inuendo, you ain't looking like the nice Jewish boy with a PhD that you claim to be. You appear to be just another Arab shill for their propaganda.
like a shill for Israeli counter-propagandists would, stuartblau1.
Its a real nice feel goody story. I'm sure many liberals will feel warm all over. Now thats it been written we should see peace break out in the middle east. How wonderful. lol Its good to know that the "Palestinian" mentioned in the article has a deed to a peice of land dating all the way back to 1916, wow. Well lets see, God Himself gave the land to Abraham and His descendents about 4,000 years ago. So much for the deed from 1916. True peace will only come when Messiah returns to enforce it Himself. For now, we can find true peace inside when we receive Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.
do you truly believe that?
in USA scientific thought ...
and even backed by many of your leaders (if your a believer in what you state)
God himself did give anything to anybody.
^^^ Did not ^^^
"Hey, this magic, invisible guy that lives up in the sky? Yeah, well he gave me your land a long time ago, so I am here to get it. No? Guess you're gonna have to die."
Joel. Who's land are you living on RIGHT NOW? Who owned it 400 years ago??? I am sure that when a Native guy comes knocking you will pack your Nike bag and leave. No questions. Right? When does 4000 years become irrelevant and 90 years and a written deed become relevant in your warped puny mind?
Arri, You're a PhD, time to try and get smart: Look up case of Yitschak Herskowitz vs. Salach (an Arab family) in Jedrusalem – recently adjudicated. The Arabs had a deed for property; but it was Herkowitz' property. It adjudicated in the Jerusalem courts for years. Ultimately it was proven : the deed was a fraud. The Arabs stole the property and forged a deed. Don't be so gullible! Besides, at more than one time the Jews owned all of "Israel": The first and second commonwealths. Where do you think the present Arabs got any property from? Read From Time Immemorial, Joan Peters – open your brain. Have you studied the massacre in Hevron in 1929? – where did the Jews' property disappear to? By the way, it ain't the "wailing wall", it's the Western Wall. Wisen up; show that you really have the smarts for a PhD and that you ain't just another shill for the Arabs.
stuartblau1. How does it feel to be ignored? Israel isn't exactly popular these days.
I've been posting REACTIONS to comments. I must now do a 180.
Israel has existed for nearly 5800 years. America has existed for 237 years...did you get that? 5800. 237. Winner is Israel.
Just because a Nation is ANCIENT, and because we see ourselves as superior, does NOT give ANYONE the right to declare it NON-EXISTENT.
I have to say that the Jewish population that I know wants peace...peace in their family lives, peace in their business lives, and peace in their world-wide lives. We ALL want that, I believe...except those who are sick mentally, or just evil to the core.
I believe that other "peoples" of the World want the same....but, when you think about it, we are all ONE "peoples",,,,,,I'm made of the same DNA sh** at anyone else in the World.
The Israelis have given land for peace time and time....what do they get? SCUDS
....or bombings of civilian busses...
If the Palestinians want peace, it's THEIR turn to SHOW it....without the SCUDS and the BOMBS
"You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the World will live as one...
We plead with God on your behalf. May Israel see Peace!
Arri – You're a PhD show some smarts: Yasser Arafat was a Terrorist and a Jew killer. Study his conduct. It's the conduct of a terrorist. He could have had peace, instead he chose an intifada. This is fact! Be honest and study the facts.
Arri Eisen, so wonderful to see that there are still Americans that see that what MLK taught can apply to all humans in all parts of the world. I hope that peace has a chance. I wish more people in America saw the truth you speak of. Keep the faith.
All so called atheists are liars and useless to this world and the next. Put this Truth into your mind before reading anything a bottom feeding atheist says.
This is relevant how?
Check this out
Bethlehem governor bars contact with Israel
Perhaps first impressions can be wrong?
And ? I never said anything regarding our founding father. I am not interested in religious discussion.
Just humanism for now.
Jesus was and is buried? Thought he rose from the dead. Do you mean where he once was interred? IMO we need to all get along. We only have one planet and once that is gone we are done.
How can there be peace when the "Balastinians" themselves rant about loving death, not life ( and by extension, not peace) every freaking day.
Nauseating, out-of-touch Leftist propaganda never gets old. If you really want peace so much, you'd cry beg pray for it everyday. Instead after every friday prayers or even durign it...you cry loud for Jihad Al Jihad Al Jihad. Do you know what thet means? Death destruction, and definitely NO peace.
Are Palestinians stupid opr do they think that we're stupid? Well thay can always find stupid Doctors of Pedagogy everywhere.
I also agree.
Did you visit any suicide bombers' families, Arri? Cause I bet they'd cook you up something very nice to eat and woo you with stories that make you feel all warm and fuzzy and anti-Israel.
You clearly know little to nothing about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Islamic religion. I suggest you do some reading and research before making pathetic and depthless claims as you have made. You ought to feel ashamed. I am ashamed that your ignorance plagues human society.
When the Palistinians want peace, they shall have it. Nothing stands in the way of it.
So true. If the Palestinians will just give up their land, accept that they have no right to vote in their country, allow themselves to being treated less that human, they would be allowed to live in their slums peacefully. Those whining, murderous animals!
I don't understand why the picture at the top of this article displays oppression of the Palestinians.
True there are check points at which weapons are found every day. And walls that have virtually stopped suicide attacks.
Jews also have to go through the check points every day. It’s just like when you go to Canada and you have to go through customs. Your car is inspected. It’s annoying.
But you understand because it is reasonable for a country to monitor what is coming into it. It does not mean Canada is oppressing innocent Americans.
But Jews are not welcome in PA territories. I would love to see where Jesus was born for historical significance. I want to see what is going on in Gaza. I hear they have great beaches.
But there are signs that say No Jews Allowed. (that has a Nazi-esque ring to it, no?)
I personally know at least a few people have found themselves in the wrong neighborhood and been threatened or physically harmed.
My husband was invited to a wedding in East Jerusalem and went to show his affection toward the family. He was pushed around and threatened in the distance between the cab and the entrance to the hall. They called a cab for him to be escorted out safely after the wedding.
That would not happen to anyone in a Jewish neighborhood.
There are Arabs in all the stores all over Jerusalem.
And I am happy with that. Live in peace.
But don't tell me I am oppressing you when Israelis have created the best most human infrastructure in the region.
An Israeli built the store you are shopping in.
I can't even afford a car.
You can afford a car.
And your gas is subsidized by my tax dollars.
But if I wanted to come to your neighborhood to get cheap gas like you come to my neighborhood to get cheap groceries my life would be in danger.
This article is stunning. It shows that just like always, the mere existence of a Jew is enough to merit contempt.
You tell us to get out of Europe. And Israel. And Expect us to assimilate in America.
Of course we hate ourselves (Here's looking at you Mr. Eisen) . No matter what we do we are wrong. Why don't we just stop existing already...
Then there would be peace in the middle east.
Except for in Egypt. And Syria. And Iran. And Iraq. and Yemen. And….
Sometimes people die trying to get to the hospital.
Since you claim there is no Abraham you ain't no jew.
sometimes people die trying to get to any hospital. If they weren't in an emergency situation they wouldn't need to go to the hospital. Transport to any hospital is difficult for a patient. There are Arabs who live close to hospitals and Arabs who live far from them. Also Jews.
And there are Arab hospitals that Jews are not allowed to go to. Arabs will skip their hospitals to come to a Jewish hospital. And that is ok. but Jews in the settlements closer to Arab hospitals aren't allowed int Arab hospitals.
I had cancer in Israel and most of the patient who I sat next to in chemo were Arab.
They were wonderful people. We did a lot of trauma bonding.
And health care in Israel is free. Even for the Arabs.
Which is more than I can say about America. Where people die because they can't afford help. Not only because they can't reach it.
(I really don't want to enter the discussion of Arabs using ambulances to smuggle weapons. )
but when I went to the hospital every week I had to go through a search and metal detector just like everyone else.
Its the reality. People die in ambulances. That is not the Israeli's fault.
You realize that Palestinians are not allowed inside Israel either correct? There is more to the conflict then that which is expressed in this article. Please do some more research before pretending to be an expert on the matter.
I can't afford a 4k resolution TV. Should the government pay for that for me?
Yeah,, going through a check point in Israel for non Jews is nothing like going into Canada.Been there, done both.
And America doesn't have a rightful claim to Canada, unlike the Palestinians to 'Israel'.
you are absolutely right. more people need to understand the true reality of the situation!
I pray for peace in the Middle East. However, I am aware that Israel is the only democracy in that area of the world. Freedom House, a non-partisan organization, has designated Israel as totally free, and that designation is the only one in the Middle East. Israel recently had an election, and there were 12 Arabs elected to the 120 member Israeli Parliament. Israel is the only country in that area of the world that provides for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom from fear. Medical treatment in Israel is totally sensitive to the needs of all the inhabitants. Medical personnel must complete sensitivity training. I have lived in Israel for a semester, and I have visited Israel five times. I have spoken at length with Israeli Arabs (in English), and the ones I spoke with prefer to live under democratic rule.
Indeed. Domestically, they are arguably the most advanced country in the Middle East. Their occupation over Palestine however is not to be shadowed by this. Their foreign policy is demeaning and has gone against numerous UN charters. All in all, Israel has broken 65 UN charters, and nothing has come of it. Iraq broke two and the US bombed Baghdad in retaliation. This hypocrisy must stop if peace is our true aim.
Israel is a democracy as much as North Korea is a democracy.
Please post your definition of a democracy. When 20% of the population is denied the right to vote by law, this fits my definition of "other" rather can democracy.
Ask they black people here in America if they thought it was a democracy up until about the 60's.
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