Middle East Tour

Dear Friends,
I spent October in the Middle East with an organization called Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Our team of five traveled to many places in Israel and the Occupied Territories of Palestine to meet both distinguished and unsung heroes, relentless fighters for freedom and truth who have placed themselves at risk. In Jerusalem’s Old City at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer we spoke with Mordechai Vanunu, who outed Israel’s nuclear program thirty years ago and paid a terrible price of nearly two decades in prison, now under a lifetime order of silence and house arrest. We met with Israeli activists; former IDF soldier Yonatan Boemfeld who started an organization called Breaking the Silence. We viewed the Wall and the vast economic settlements with the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions. We spent a day in the Negev with Amos Gvertz from Kibbutz Shefayim, who led us through the complex problems affecting displaced Bedouin communities. We joined Palestinian villagers picking olives during the season of the harvest. Action filled days put us at Tal Rumeda where a local Reuters photographer and one of the long term CPT staff Janet Benvie were assaulted by four settler thugs! This made international news….We were pelted with eggs and rocks by children from Beit Shalom (ironically “Peace House”) on Jabara street as their parents looked on and we were chased away from Ma’on settlement by the army and settlers as we escorted local Palestinian kids round the hill to a soccer practice. The last night of our tour, we met two remarkable men from the Circle of Bereaved Families, a group with hundreds of members who have lost loved ones to the violence. Rami (Israeli) and Ivraham (Muslim) proclaiming their bond as brothers, shared how they hold faith and “water the tree of hope with their tears.”

My (not very) secret plan during the tour was to share peace songs and if possible learn some new music. So I schlepped my Martin Backpacker, some flutes and harmonicas along the whole route. Learning songs was challenging, but my bag of original and traditional peace songs found loving listeners. Worldly translators provided an often humorous bridge to unforgettable sing-alongs. Imagine translating Zulu into Italian into Arabic… Singing in the early education classroom just 50 feet beneath a heavily fortified Israeli army guard post in Hebron… In the home of a large family of shepherd folk living in remote caves south of At Tuwani where kids and elders sang “One More Step” drumming on plastic buckets and pans while a dust storm raged outside… From Mike’s Place in Tel Aviv (site of a tragic 2003 terror bombing) onstage with Jeff Green of One Drum during the Sukkot holiday…To an impromptu guest appearance at a street wedding reception at Deheshia Refugee Camp in Bethlehem singing Annan’s song “Peace and Solidarity” amid the joyful cheers of the young Palestinian men gathered to honor their friend.

  • I sang to the walls we carry within us, which are movable with love.
  • I sang to the 28″ high concrete separation Wall, which did not move.

But you know, all walls eventually crumble especially those built on fear and hatred.

I have pictures and remembrances; please ask me to come sing to you and to tell this story.

One Comment

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