Tag Archives: peacemaking

A perspective on the separation wall, from the man who built it

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Branden Harvey is a photographer and story-teller, currently traveling in Israel and the West Bank. He is posting photos and stories on instagram, as he journeys, and I have found much value in his posts. Tonight he posted a photo of Danny Tirza, the architect who planned and built the separation wall (also referred to as the Occupation Wall) separating the West Bank from Israel.

I was taken by what he wrote, and received Branden’s permission to share the post on my blog.   Take a read.   Here is the actual instagram post.  I have copied the text below, so it is a bit more readable.

Note: there is a second follow-up post below.

 

Danny Tirza is the architect that planned and built the hugely controversial separation barrier between Israel and West Bank. It wasn’t his idea, but he was the person called upon to implement everything. In his own words he says, “I was the bad guy that had to be on the ground, figure out where to draw the line and build the fence very quickly.”

I got to spend a morning with Danny visiting key parts of the barrier (made up of 95% fence & 5% wall), listening to him talk about what went into each decision he had to make. Honestly, I was really surprised to learn about the amount of care that went into the construction of the barrier. From the beginning, Danny says his final goal was peace. He built a barrier across 451 miles and didn’t destroy or evacuate even one Palestinian home. He routed the wall to be sensitive to its effect on communities, even building special gates for farmers or people visiting certain religious sites and special roads for Palestinians and Jews who need to reach certain communities. He met with local Palestinian officials, Israeli officials and foreign officials, seeking as much wisdom as possible. Danny was so intent on drawing the lines in the right spots (or least worst spots) that once when he struggled to figure out exactly where to draw the line around a number of Palestinian Christian communities, he flew out to the Vatican to work toward a solution with top officials and bishops. Again and again, Danny would reiterate that he didn’t build these walls to stay up forever. He built them to create and encourage peace. And when peace is here, he want to be the first one to start breaking down the walls. In fact, in every segment of the wall, there is a hole in the top. This is so that “it will be easy to remove the wall when the time comes for peace.” Peace is Danny’s final goal. #DannyTirzaStory 1/2 ////////// Yes, I know this is SUPER controversial. I’m not sharing this because I think this wall is right or wrong. I’m sharing this because I see a glimpse of humanity in the way Danny carried out a very difficult job. //////////// I’ll be responding to comments all day. I’d love to dialogue with you.

A photo posted by Branden Harvey (@brandenharvey) on

  Here is the full text of what Branden posted: “Danny Tirza is the architect that planned and built the hugely controversial separation barrier between Israel and West Bank. It wasn’t his idea, but he was the person called upon to implement everything. In his own words he says, “I was the bad guy that had to be on the ground, figure out where to draw the line and build the fence very quickly.”

I got to spend a morning with Danny visiting key parts of the barrier (made up of 95% fence & 5% wall), listening to him talk about what went into each decision he had to make. Honestly, I was really surprised to learn about the amount of care that went into the construction of the barrier.

 

From the beginning, Danny says his final goal was peace. He built a barrier across 451 miles and didn’t destroy or evacuate even one Palestinian home. He routed the wall to be sensitive to its effect on communities, even building special gates for farmers or people visiting certain religious sites and special roads for Palestinians and Jews who need to reach certain communities.

 

He met with local Palestinian officials, Israeli officials and foreign officials, seeking as much wisdom as possible. Danny was so intent on drawing the lines in the right spots (or least worst spots) that once when he struggled to figure out exactly where to draw the line around a number of Palestinian Christian communities, he flew out to the Vatican to work toward a solution with top officials and bishops.

 

Again and again, Danny would reiterate that he didn’t build these walls to stay up forever. He built them to create and encourage peace. And when peace is here, he want to be the first one to start breaking down the walls. In fact, in every segment of the wall, there is a hole in the top. This is so that “it will be easy to remove the wall when the time comes for peace.” Peace is Danny’s final goal.

 

#DannyTirzaStory 1/2 ////////// Yes, I know this is SUPER controversial. I’m not sharing this because I think this wall is right or wrong. I’m sharing this because I see a glimpse of humanity in the way Danny carried out a very difficult job. //////////// I’ll be responding to comments all day. I’d love to dialogue with you.”

 

Here is part 2 of this series:

“We had all this bad graffiti on the wall. Mostly just bad art. It’s funny. I don’t know why all the graffiti is in English. We don’t have much graffiti in Arabic or Hebrew. At first, we tried everything to get rid of the graffiti. But when we painted over it, people would just put up something worse the next day. We began trying everything to keep these walls clean. I even had some friends in New York who told me they have this special paint for the subways that graffiti doesn’t work with. So I went to New York, brought back this paint and painted the wall with it. I bought Palestinian spray paint and tested it out on the wall. It turns out Palestinian spray paint is especially good and still works on the walls. The more things we tried, the more I realized what living in a democratic country means. In a democratic country we let people share their opinions. Even with spray paint and graffiti. In Israel there is no law against it. And I’m glad there isn’t. I think it is better that people let out their anger against Israel through graffiti.”i —Danny Tirza, architect responsible for planning and building the wall between Israel and West Bank #DannyTirzaStory 2/2 

Wahat al-Salam Neve Shalom (Oasis of Peace) – an example of coexistence

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I never was able to visit this remarkable community which takes the idea of the Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arabic Education to a different level.  Wahat Al Salam – Neve Shalon or “Oasis of Peace”, is a village in central Israel (half-way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv), where Jews and Arabs live together in a shared community, an intentional oasis of peace.  The community has been in existence since the late 1970s.
wahat

The video illustrates that they do not live in a utopia, and there are real challenges, but like what I learned at Hand in Hand, they work together to create a new narrative, respective of both the the Jewish and Palestinian perspectives. The video describes it better than I could, and illustrates one of the challenges that are faced at Hand in Hand, and in Friends Forever.  For the kids, when they graduate from high school, the Jewish students have mandatory military service, while the Arabs do not.   This creates tensions that they have to work through.   Yet the community persists, and there is a five year waiting list to move in to it (some of that is tied to restrictive land use laws).

The video is 16 minutes long, but it is very worthwhile, and provides a glimpse into some of the good things happening, in a world where all we hear is the opposite.

Not sure why the video says “minutes from the Gaza Strip” – well, I know why the producers claimed that, but it is 45 minutes from Tel Aviv, an hour from Jerusalem, and about an hour to Gaza.

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For more information:

Wahat al Salam Neve Shalom

North American Friends of Wahat al Salaam Neve Shalom

The Peres Center for Peace

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Spent almost three hours at the Shimon Peres Center for peace in Jaffa. A very valuable visit learning about the multiple peace programs being done to promise conflict resolution, coexistence, and reconciliation among Israelis and Palestinians, in the areas of medicine, business, environment, and peace education for kids and young adults. The Peace House provides a wonderful conference setting and we were welcomed with open arms. We spent time with President Peres’ senior policy adviser Nadav Tamir, and a Adima, their coordinator for external relations.

This will be a must see for students and would help people see how efforts at peace are more than just programs for kids. Their B2B programs for business between Israeli and West Bank. The medical programs train Palestinian doctors as health care on the West Bank is entirely independent of Israel.

Will edit and expand on this later. In the car headed back to Haifa to meet Leo Baeck School, a new Friends Forever site for this summer

Shevet Achim – Brothers Dwelling Together

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This is what is so cool about this trip, and about the diverse and powerful efforts of peacemaking and reconciliation going on in Israel. Just yesterday I learned about Shevet Achim, an organization the works with Save A Child’s Heart, a world renown hospital in Tel Aviv that provides medical help for children from around the world, who have congenital heart problems, regardless of national boundary or ethnicity. But Shevet Achim also provides community living for volunteers, staff and their guests. Take a read.

Not only did I find out about this yesterday, but I was invited to share a dinner with the community, and one of my Presbyterian for Middle East Peace friends has offered to sponsor the meal. If time permits I will also have lunch with their Syrian and Kurdish guests.

Shevet Achim – Brothers Dwelling Together

 

One thing led to another… a journey begins

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One thing led to another...  and tomorrow I begin a trip that is the culmination of more than a year’s experiences.  Last January after having my friend Rabbi Lynn teach an adult christian education class on “A Taste of Judaism,” I learned of a study guide being issued by an interest group within the Presbyterian Church (USA).  I researched the study guide and was unimpressed by how it simplified a complex political, religious, and cultural conflict in Israel.   That caused me to engage in the Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking issues at the General Assembly of the PC(USA) last summer in Detroit and to meet some amazing people committed to peacemaking through Presbyterians for Middle East Peace and get to build stronger relationships with others in the Presbytery of Great Rivers here in Central Illinois.

One thing led to another… and shortly after returning home, I joined with a few others in launching an interfaith initiative within the regional presbytery.  As is often the case with stuff like this, one thing led to another, and I was soon introduced to a remarkable program called Friends Forever  that brought teenagers from Israel to the US for a 2 week program.  The group consists of 5 Jewish and 5 Arab students, and I had the ability to interact with them, and watch them develop over a two week period.  By the time it ended, I was on the local board of Friends Forever Bloomington Normal.

One thing led to another… and shortly after the students returned to their homes in Nazareth and Haifa, it struck me that there was a great opportunity for Illinois State University.   Why not develop a peace studies study abroad class on the peace movement in Israel?   Develop a trip where students would see the complexities and layers of one of the world’s great geo-political conflicts, but do so through the lens of investigating the diverse efforts aimed at peacemaking and reconciliation.    I quickly found support for this from the university president, provost, my college dean, department chair, and the director of the peace studies program.

One thing led to another… and tomorrow I board a plane to Tel Aviv, and will spend two weeks exploring Israel, meeting with a diverse set of people and organizations, all focused on peace-making and reconciliation.   I’ll spend time with the Friends Forever teens and witness first hand how the program operates in Israel; I’ll visit the Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arabic Education’s Max Rayne School in Jerusalem.  I’ll meet with organizations such as the Shalom Hartman Institute, the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace at Givat Haviva, the Shimon Peres Center for Peace, and the University of Haifa’s Center for Peace Study Research.  I’ll meet with people in a Druze village. I’ll visit the Hadassah  Ein Kerem Medical Center, which provides medical care for people from across the world, without concern of ethnic background or religion.  I’ll visit a similar clinic in Central Jerusalem, the Shevet Achim Prophet’s Street Project, focused on congenital heart defects in children. And I’ll meet with the mayors of Nazareth and Nazareth Iliit to discuss building a sister-city program with Bloomington-Normal.

I’ll spend three nights as a guest in an Arab village, and 3 nights in the home of a Jewish teacher.   I’ll spend time in Nazareth, Haifa, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, Ramallah, and Hebron.  I’ll meet with Jewish settlers on the West Bank and meet with Palestinians in occupied Palestine.  Along the way I’ll tour the religious and historic sites, including Herod’s port at Caesaria, Nazareth, Galilee, The Golan Heights, Jerusalem’s Old City, the Western Wall, (including the Second Temple Tunnel Excavations), the Dome on the Rock, and the major sites of Christendom.  I’ll visit Masada, the Dead Sea, the Baptismal site where it is believed John baptized Jesus in the Jordan river, the Caves of the Patriarchs, where it is believed that Abraham and Sarah are buried, and I will visit and pay my respects at Yad Vashem, the Israel Holocaust Museum and Memorial.

One thing led to another… and this planning trip, fact-finding mission, and journey to the center of the world’s three Abrahamic faiths begins tomorrow.  Stay tuned, I’ll be blogging and posting photos here every day so you can join along on this journey.

 

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