Thank You for Supporting Tree of Life’s Rachel’s Children Fall Lecture Series!
Since January of this year, more than 900 Palestinian children under 18 have been arrested or detained by the Israeli military. The primary charge is throwing rocks. Many of these children are arrested from their homes in the middle of the night – a terrifying experience that can forever destroy their sense of home as the place of safety and sanctuary that most of us take for granted.
This past October our annual Tree of Life Fall Lecture series, Rachel’s Children, explored this issue and more. Attendees learned that Israel prosecutes between 700 – 900 Palestinian children annually (under military law), and that most of these children are subject to verbal and physical abuse, deprived of legal aid, and not allowed visitations from family members.
Guest speaker, Ruba Awadallah, a researcher for Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP), shared important data and heartbreaking stories highlighting the tragic costs of living life under military occupation. Since 1991, DCIP has worked to protect and advocate for Palestinian children by focusing on monitoring and documenting abuse, raising awareness and providing legal services.
Former IDF soldier, Eran Efrati, now Executive Director of Researching the American-Israeli Alliance (RAIA), shared his deeply personal account of the moment he realized that as an IDF soldier he was not making the world a better place, but rather subjugating an innocent population. While on duty during one of the middle of the night house raids, he realized that the vulnerable child standing before him was one he had tried to befriend just the day before. Suddenly it became clear to him that he was terrorizing this family. Since then he has dedicated his life to speaking out against the occupation. At RAIA he supplies vital research for the movement for justice for Palestine by highlighting the connection between American and Israeli state violence.
And speaker Lara Kiswani, Executive Director for the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), inspired all with her direct action success stories. During the 2014 assault on Gaza, in which more than 2000 Palestinians were killed and many thousands injured, AROC helped to mobilize more than 6000 activists and, in cooperation with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) who actively refused to cross the picket line, managed to prevent the Israeli Zim cargo ship Piraeus from docking in Oakland and Long Beach Ca – permanently. In addition, AROC was instrumental in convincing the City of Oakland to stop hosting Urban Shield, the largest militarized police training and weapons expo in the world.
At two of the venues, we also heard important testimony from Bob Gelbach of Jewish Voice for Peace and Jeff Klein of Massachusetts Peace Action.
All in all, approximately 250 individuals attended our Rachel’s Children conferences. We at Tree of Life are immensely grateful to our sponsors, volunteers and supporters who helped us to make this series a great success!