Letter from a friend

This email was received from Gaye Paterson (USA) who kindly gave permission to share her thoughts with you.

Dear Fred,

You are a very special person taking on this adventure. Sadly I see the politics of Israel getting more and more right wing and now this dangerous proposal of the "Loyalty Oath". I loved your "alternative" tour, one that didn't include religious paraphernalia of kissing relics and talking to walls - no elderly herds in brightly coloured caps with Holyland Tours taped across their heads piling in and out of buses or lining up for the toilet.

I meet up with Annie at Notre Dame. Annie is Jewish from NY and despite her uncle's reservations, she was brave enough to make up her own mind and for this I praised her and encouraged her - I also gave her a list of excellent Israeli films to watch and suggested with books she start with Joe Sacco. I was about her age when I first came here crossing the river Jordan from Amman in 1979. Off course then you didn't need a tour - just get on any of the local buses and go to Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jenin. Perhaps it was this first visit that set me on a mission to try and promote understanding and dispel some of the racious myths.

So here I am in 2010 taking the Palestinian route to Bethlehem, through the cattle like carral, along the colourful -MASSIVE wall, past acres of choped down olive trees, past huge settlements arriving in Bethlehem amidst bus load after bus load of "good Christians" who will never see a skinny Palestinian child or the bullet holes on their school or smell the fruit from the market and see that really these people and good human beings.

The English photographer whom we met at the refugee camp is doing wonderful photography projects with children as a volunteer. That really takes guts as it's so sad and so frustrating being in a helpless situation trying to make a difference.

The photographer told us a story - one Friday around noon when the camp was quite as most were at the mosque and children were inside, a soldier from the watch tower shot a 12 year old boy right through the bedroom window, right through his stomach. He did live and his father a lawyer filed a complaint. Some weeks later when the boy was home from hospital, 40 soldiers entered their house early in the morning, waking everyone and smashing and slashing everything to bits. Then they went upstairs to his grandfathers house and smashed all that to bits - the contents of every cubpoard, the fridge, every peice of furniture and bedding. Then they went downstairs and did the same to his uncles house.

I know this is not an isolated incident. A voiceless democracy. Here in Tel Aviv our friend Noham is saying - we just want security!! Do they not realise that security and humiliation don't go together?

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