Embarking on a CPT delegation was a decision made following two previous trips to Palestine. This visit was about trying to get an even closer look, together with getting a feel for the work of CPT and asking myself if I could imagine being part of a CPT team full-time.
A well-organised and thoughtful itinerary was led by Amy Yoder McLoughlin from Pennsylvania. We were a group of 13: mostly American, with one Canadian, and my partner Owen and I from the UK. The age range was 20-76.
The first half of the delegation was based at a hostel in the Arab quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem. The delegation began gently as we attempted to acclimatise to the heat, and got busier- we had a very full itinerary visiting many organisations and communities including Sabeel, Aida refugee camp and several Bedouin villages.
Every person and community was different, but certain traits linked them all: hospitality, openness and sumud (steadfast perseverance).. Everywhere we went, security and oppression continually curbed freedom and dissent. Being particularly apparent in Hebron, the location for the second week, where citizens are constantly monitored by soldiers from the rooftops as well as by many street patrols and at check points. We visited homes and heard difficult stories about the reality of life under occupation.
The walls, barriers and check points seem to be there, not for security, but to control and make the lives of the Palestinian people as difficult as possible so that they no longer want to live there. The apartheid state is visible, providing settlers with privilege and protection by the Israeli military, whereas the Palestinians are subjected to conscious cruelty, control and victimisation.
We accompanied the CPT team on check point monitoring, as children pass through them to make their way to school each morning. We assisted with mosque watch, counting people as they go to the mosque for Friday prayers, observing as Palestinians are subjected to dehumanising, aggressive bag and body searches. The team aims to witness and document as much as possible in CPT’s role as international observer.
There is nothing normal about the level of control inflicted upon the Palestinians, nor is there anything normal in the international indifference towards that suffering. We need more support for CPT and other peacemaking groups who want to make a difference there.
The days were long, very hot and exhausting, but we always had an end of day body, mind and soul check-in, and we took turns with a closing reflection. We volunteered for daily tasks, note-taking, photography, cooking, group care. Sometimes, I felt angry and confused as I tried to make sense of the dehumanising, oppressive regime that people are subjected to. There is no sense to be made of this degradation.