Today we were walking through the Old City. I got to go into the Dome of The Rock and Masjid Al-Aqsa, which were amazing in itself. I love having spiritual moments, and I hope I can continually reach higher and higher levels of spirituality by deeply excavating of my inner thoughts and my soul. But enough of the gushy spirituality stuff. I want to share something that happened to me today. As you may know, I am on an interfaith trip, and there are also Jews, Christians, and a lone Hindu on the trip. I was walking with our Professor, a Jewish man, I heard someone try to grab my attention in the Jerusalem souq. I turned around and I saw a Palestinian vender quickly ask me why I was walking with a Jewish man. I tried to explain to him that I was on an interfaith trip with the goal of trying to understand one another, but he continued, “why are you supporting the Jews when there are Palestinian tour guides? Our blood [mine and his] are the same”. That hit me, and I wanted to say more to him. But because we were on a tight schedule, I could not say more, unfortunately. But he was right – our blood is the same even though I am an American Ugandan and he is a Palestinian. Our blood is the same, but what makes our blood different from a Jew or a Christian? Real Talk…
Since then, I have been thinking about the Palestinian struggle. Today we met with an advocate from Peace Now, and he went over the situation with the settlers and how they fit into different classifications. Let it be known that these settlements are illegal under international law. However, there are many types of settlers: there are the nationalist settlers, the suburbanite settlers, the ultra-orthodox settlers, and the “price-tag” settlers which are basically vigilantes. We also talked about the wall – the concrete wall which separates Palestinians from Palestinians according to Daniel Seidman. I have seen this wall from an aerial view (from the shrine of Prophet Samuel in the West Bank), and I have seen where this wall encloses Palestinian villages completely – 360 degrees. I have seen and traveled on the “Israel – only” highways like 443. I have been in a checkpoint…Though I can say that I have seen these things, the reality is that I do not “live” it. It’s a totally different experience when you know that you are going back to your hotel room at night. Its a different feeling because I know that I can will pull out my camera, and leave the country in two days.
We drove through a settlement today, and it was like a utopia. So peaceful, like a bubble. We asked our guide from Peace Now if he was ever able to go to Ramallah, he said no because Israeli citizens are not able to enter into the occupied territories. But the real question then arose, how are we supposed to find peace and an agreement if the two sides do not know one another. It is easy to vilify someone you don’t know. I sincerely hope that the people on both sides are able to participate in something remotely similar to the program I have been on for the past two weeks. I have learned a lot, and I hope that peace will be right around the corner.