Our Journey to Palestine 2017

Livia (from Caritas Hospital in Bethlehem), Jeff Abood, Josie Setzler, Ashley Jackson, Susan Dicken, (front) sr. Paulette, Eissa (from the Hospital), Pam Braden, Annette Braden, and Tess Laubacher—-all say thank you for this amazing journey.  (Livia and Eissa not in delegation.)



e Pope Francis by the WALL in Bethlehem
>> Hi everyone!
>> Today through the scads and scads of people passing through the street of the Old City of Jerusalem, we just inched along, bunched together so tightly our footing was most precarious!  But we made it!
>> Then off to view the city from the different hills of the city and see how the Wall has strangled so many of the Palestinian villages so they can’t travel any distance without being stopped by the Wall.  It’s horrible how they have so many restrictions on any movement of theirs.  We here just wouldn’t stand for it.  Here the Israelis have all the say what is to be and not to be.  This sense of power disparity in its most extreme form was then explained further by the UN agency who showed us just how desperate the Gazan people are becoming. If things don’t change the land will become uninhabitable by 2020.
>> Then respite! when we visited the Bethlehem University where we met the Brothers and three of the students who were so delightful–one studying to be a doctor, one wanting to be a teacher, one wanting to work with the youth to give hope. They admit the reality of the situation there and all the troubles they go through to get to the University each day but they’re full of energy–like the 15 or so high school students who performed the Dabka dance for us in the refugee camp in Bethlehem.  What young promising young men and women and for them not to be able to go forward with no promise of jobs,etc and few opportunities to really explore life like our young people–I choked up a number of times seeing their promise and goodness and sensing the difficulties of a promising future….
>> Later we visited Caritas Hospital where again this Sister-sponsored hospital excludes no one from service.  They have 80 beds for little children and babies who come. To them.  Some of them go into intensive care, but it is really a Modern hospital that treats all with dignity. I saw one such tiny skinny baby…I don’ know about that baby, but then I saw others who probably needed help with breathing…Here again, the care was so exemplary.  Here the mother stays with the child if possible overnight…such a beautiful aspect to educate the mother, to  overcome her transportation challenges too.
>> Then we went to our overnight hosts and had a delicious supper of hummus and falafel and pita bread, etc. For breakfast we’ll have American pancakes.  Sound yummy?
>> Now it’s bedtime–time to go to bed!  Keep praying that all goes well each day will you? We’re learning a lot.  Thanks for all.
>> My love, Paulette

It is morning and with a good hot cup of Arabic coffee and home baked bread we’ll be off to Hebron from this little village of courageous resistance Bi’lin. We’ve been entertained by a little guy Muljadine. He’s such a cutie full of life. 
Yesterday we met the Quaker community in Ramallah who gather to pray once a week and do not believe in any violence at all. We met just one young woman, but we had time to sing a couple peace songs together and pray a little in silence.
We also got to go to Arafat’s tomb and hear something of his story…It’s amazing to me to see how little we have understood about the struggles in this part of the world; yet their struggles are as real as any of ours to gain their rights and freedom.
Then we spent some time with a representative of Addameer, an agency which works to defend the rights of Palestinians who have become prisoners. Having seen so many young men whisked away in their homes in the middle of the night especially in Hebron and taken off to jail and having heard the stories of many families, I know the prisoners’ rights here get very little international attention. Even the big  hunger strike right before Ramadam didn’t get shared through the media like so many other things.
Today we begin our last stint here in Palestine with our travels to Hebron…hopefully it shall  be very good for all on this journey. 
The first picture is our little. Friend here in Bi’lin ….then behind Arafat’s tomb and then the ovens which still gather the lambs and foods to be served at the end of the Ramadam fast of the day.

DAY 6  

OH my, where do I start on this memorable day?  It was full of so much goodness and adventure.  
First of all I am so humbled–it feels so good to be here, but I know I belong in the U.S. Because  the real cause for so much of this oppression is our country back home. There have been some incredible bonds built up. Yesterday I had little Achmad with me so much of the day, but today we first met with Hamed who works so independently to bring education to the Palestinian girls. We went a long distance, through a checkpoint, past lots of country and finally arrived. Since the Palestinians are not allowed to build, they have moved caravans in and connected them to construct a school. Hamed’s persistence is just so remarkable–he will not stop working  for the sake of the children. Hamed agreed that the big picture is just toooooooo big so he’s decided that through education he will change the small picture. Hamed bunji  jumps, runs marathons, EVEN swims with the Sharks to raise money for his schools.  He says his motto is not to just “bla,bla, bla, but to do,do, do.”
Next we went to a group of young people who take it seriously about working to derail the Israeli settlements which are the root of so many problems. Mahanan the young man was full of energy even though he feels that the Palestinians are zooming downwards.  He is so wise in his youth.  …and so courageous to stand by his convictions…  Mahanan said that when Sharon came to visit back when Clinton was president, Clinton was very happy because he had put Sharon in a big hotel    Later the local people said that it was good he did because otherwise Camp David would have  become another settlement for Sharon!
Finally we visited a family I know very well. Hani and his wife Reema and their children Jamil, Jadawid, Yara, ShuSu, and little Zeid entertained us so thoroughly.
I had so much joy today with some messages of hope. I’m leaving Palestine this time just really resolved to work with all my heart for the sake of the people.
My love for this day…do stay most beautifully human.
Love, Paulette

DAY 7     Here we are into our 8th. day in Hebron now and this is a picture of Jeff–the co-leader and me on the Hill of Tel Rumeida.  This is the famous area of Hebron where Abraham once pointed out where he wanted  his wife Sarah to be buried.  David had his reign here for 7 years also.  Now the settlers have colonized onto this land and the Palestinians are not in peace anymore with the harassment of the settlers.  They’re being squeezed into smaller and smaller areas of Palestine.

Day 8

We are back in Jerusalem, and I just woke from an afternoon nap”……ah it felt so good after our last moments in Hebron. The morning was kind of difficult for me, seeing Atta and going to maybe 10 shopkeepers to say goodbye to them. Yesterday we had spent most of the day outside of Hebron far out in the country south of Hebron to feel a bit the critical need for education which our friend Hamed is working on.  Today when Atta was visiting us, I thought of his children who have to walk across the hills to get to heir school. They are truly children of their determined parents who have had to go through two demolitions of their home and have yet decided to persist in not only staying in Palestine but also in working for human rights for the people.
The group has been so open to information and to all the people lined up for us to meet:  Sami Yousif working with the Catholic Near East Association, 2) Rabbi Arik Ascherman working for justice for the Palestinians and also to inspire his fellow Jews to be true to their faith’s requirements. 3) a UN agency OCHA to help us understand the whole picture 4) Mohammed Barakat our guide who then took us to some high points to see the “facts on the ground” around East Jerusalem to understand the strategy of Israel in cutting off and dividing the Palestinians villages and services therefore without going through checkpoints 5) some students at the University of Bethlehem 6) EECP environmental school near Bethlehem, 6) Caritas Hospital, the hospital for children in the West Bank—how beautiful Livia Leykauf was in all her explanations! 7) the Palestinian Christian family Clare and Johnny Anastas who have gone through hell and back in trying to manage with their house surrounded on 3 sides by the huge wall,8) Bishop Michael Fitzgerald who met us to have evening meal with us.  He works for good relationships between Christians and Muslims.
9) Arij  where we met a seasoned professor digging into deeper layers of the effects of the Occupation upon the Palestinians.  10) Qumsiyeh a magnificent professor, author, activist, who has set up a natural museum in order to show all the priceless wonders of Palestinian hillsides, etc. 11) Aida refugee camp  and the national dance of the Palestinians called the Dabka– quite a few young people put a great show of the dance on for us 12) the Nativity Church and the part it played in the Intifada of 2000. 13) the Nassar family at the Tent of Nations who are Chrisitian and who are trying to hold onto their land. I just love their simple way of life and their “refusal to be enemies.” 14) Ardi Geldman, a settler originally from New York who welcomed us graciously but was definitely assured that he was right in his assessments of the situation and we were all terribly misinformed 15) a Bedouin attorney living far south in the Negev desert who showed us the clever adaptations  they have to live with when very restricted by the Israeli government.  They are citizens after all of Israel. 16) the “Friends” or  known also as Quakers  in Ramallah—we did not get quite the satisfaction I was hoping for there. The leader was not there. 17) Addameer, the organization monitoring and advocating for prisoners who were imprisoned under unjust conditions. 18) Iyad Burnat and family in Bi’lin, a village struggling to take back the land confiscated from them by the wall Israel built. 19) Zleikha Mutaseb, my friend in Hebron who works vigorously to educate children. 20) Hamed Qawasmeh, a genuinely compassionate genius who is creatively working to bring educational opportunities to children in Palestine 21) Muhanan, a member of the Youth against the Settlements, who’s bright, creative, feisty, really believes in the rights of the Palestinians and the need to keep working for them, 22) Hani Abuhakel and family who live in possibly the most contentious area of Hebron and are harassed by settlers very frequently. 23) Atta Jaber, a farmer who persists and persists no matter if they tear down his house and take away his land and tear up his water pipes for irrigation.
Folks, what a lineup of courageous and wonderful people who continue to teach me and who have important messages for our world. With all the oppression upon them, they continue to offer generous hospitality and real friendship.  There are hundreds more People I wish I could have meet you and introduce to you….thanks God for sharing them with us.

Much peace to each of you from this land that yearns for peace.
sr. Paulette

Day 9

The journey has taken us FINALLY to Tel Aviv airport, and to once again head toward our homes in Canton, Toledo, Cleveland, Fremont ,Perrysburg, and Tiffin.
What an incredible journey. The 7 other people in the group have been for me an ideal group–so flexible, patient, thoughtful,observant.  I have been blessed tremendously.
So I include an airport picture in this last blog.  Many thanks to all of you for reading the blogs and for your support along the way.  Every year–if there is still not peace and justice here in Palestine, I will be coming back with another delegation. It shall probably be in mid May again. If you have any interest in going, would you contact me by just replying to this article mail? It puts no responsibility on you at this time if you show an interest in possibly going on the next delegation.
Blessings always.   sr. Paulette……..with great thanks to each of you for all your prayer support for us.  I am humbled and so thankful.