March 8 to March 18, 2017 | Extension to Bosnia, March 18 to March 22
This interfaith journey was be led by Dr. Reza Mansoor, President of the Islamic Association of Greater Hartford, The Rev. David W. Good, Minister Emeritus for The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme and Mary Tomassetti, Coordinator, First Congregational Church of Old Lyme.
Reflections from our March Journey
by The Rev. David W. Good
On March 8, 37 travelers set out for our Tree of Life Journey through Israel and Palestine, visiting many old friends and a few new voices of conscience. It was great to reconnect with our friends Mazin and Jessie Qumsiyeh and see their work and generosity that created the Palestine Natural History Museum in Bethlehem. We met for the first time with Fayrous Sharqaki of Grassroots “Jerusalem Tour,” a great way for our travelers to receive an “occupation/colonization 101.” Also, in Nazareth, we met with journalist Jonathan Cook who with astonishing clarity laid out the insidious Kafkaesque nature of the situation. We had a most remarkable meeting with Omar of Zochrot in a tour of a destroyed/erased Palestinian village, Malul, near Nazareth and also a tour of Nablus and presentation by the Human Supporters Association.
Excellent presentations were given by our friends, Taiseer Maray in the Golan Heights, Sahar Vardi of American Friends Service Comm., Ivan Karakashian of Defense for Children International – Palestine, Oren Yiftachel of Ben Gurion University (formerly chair of B’TSalem), Hagar School, Rami Elhanan and George Saadeh of the Parents Circle, Khalil Alamour in AlSira (Unrecognized Bedouin Village), Amal Abu Alkhom of Bedouin Women for Themselves, students at Bethlehem University, the Aida Refugee Camp, Amal at Tent of Nations, Avner of Breaking the Silence, Ramzi of Al Kamandjati Music School in Ramallah, and Jeff Halper for our very last presentation.
We also visited Yad Vachem (the Holocaust Museum), and for many, one of the most poignant of our experiences was a visit to Nabi Saleh to meet with the parents of Ahed Tamimi, the young 15 year old girl who was to speak at our Yale program on Feb. 1st but was denied a visa (held in the black hole of administrative processing) by our own government. We stopped by their home to offer an apology on behalf of our country but also to thank them for raising such a compassionate and courageous young woman with the hope she’ll be able to join us for a future program.
One message we heard repeatedly, and have been asked to bring back to the US – the Palestinian people do not want or need our pity. They are strong, resilient, people rich in culture and tradition, and like our Native American family here, they will not be erased. They do need our action – they need us to stop funding the occupation, and to stop supporting this apartheid.
We were a group including Muslim, Christian and Jewish travelers, a dozen young college students and teens, and 37 interested and engaged listeners. At our last dinner, our guide Said said that he always gets a headache from group dynamics and challenges when he guides Protestant/Catholic delegations, and so he was rather apprehensive when he learned that there would be Jews, Christians and Muslims in ours, but he expressed his joyful surprise to see the deep friendships and cooperation within our group. A family has been created, and 37 people are ready to share their stories of witness on this journey to the holy land.