Father Cotton Blogs From Israel/Palestine

My dear friend and colleague Father Cotton Fite of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston has been traveling in Israel/Palestine these past few weeks and has been blogging about his experiences. Anyone who knows Cotton knows his gentle, compassionate spirit and his rock solid commitment to fairness and justice. I’m sure you will agree that all of these qualities come through in abundance on his recent posts.

Before Cotton left, I hooked him up with Rabbi Brian Walt, my other dear friend and colleague who happens to be sojourning in I/P. Here’s Cotton’s report of their experiences in Jenin a few days ago:

On Sunday I traveled to Jenin with Rabbi Brian Walt, the co-founder Ta’anit Tzedek – Jewish Fast for Gaza, to visit the Palestinian Fair Trade Association and Canaan Fair Trade facility that produces the wonderful olive oils, Za’atar, olives and couscous now available in the US through Whole Foods. After a tour of the facility we visited one of the farmers who is a member of the cooperative. As we introduced ourselves our host said (through a translator) “I do not understand how a people who have suffered so much can turn around and inflict that same suffering on others.” Later, after coffee and apricot nectar had been served, Brian responded to our host. I’m sure I don’t have his exact words, but he told our host that he shares his sadness at the suffering of the Palestinian people and wants him to know there are other Jews who are deeply sorry for the suffering they experience. It was a privilege to be present at a moment of such honesty and compassion…

(Later) we were driven…to the Khalandia check point through which we would reenter Israel and catch a bus to Jerusalem. I had walked through this check point before so was accustomed to the routine. Brian, however, had not, and was stunned. At one point there is what can only be described as a cattle chute through which everyone must pass waiting to be admitted to the x ray machine and the soldier to whom permits and visas are presented. We passed without incident, but with a painful reminder of the humiliation Palestinians experience daily.

Brian and I talked the following day. We acknowledged the emotional impact the experience had on both of us and and our decision to give ourselves a day “off” to recover. Our Palestinian brothers and sisters never get a day off from an occupation that is now at 42 years and counting.

3 thoughts on “Father Cotton Blogs From Israel/Palestine

  1. YBD

    Cotton’s question “how can a people who have suffered so much cause suffering to other people?” is a very good question. I assume he directed it at the Palestinians who, in their education system point out that no one, NO ONE, has suffered persecution in history as much as the Arabs/Muslims (see Matt Beynon Rees’ current events novel about the Palestinians “The Collaborator of Bethlehem” where he points this out regarding the Palestinian education system). Thus, having been “purified” by the suffering, which is what Cotton is alluding to, it is very puzzling how the Palestinians can then send out suicide bombers to blow up pizzerias and shopping centers, or fire rockets indiscriminately into residential areas, and then publicly celebrate the slaugther, for example by naming a square last week in Ramallah after the terrorist who killed 33 (IIRC) Israelis (including many children) in the Coast Road Massacre in the 1970’s. We all look to the Palestinians to be the moral guides of our time, just as Gandhi and his Indian followers were decades ago.

    1. Matt Planchak

      Okay, putting aside the fact that your understanding of the Palestinian education system comes from a book shelved in the Fiction section of my local library, the examples you give are not the suffering to which he refers. It’s not about the occasional massacre of civilians by zealous settlers. It’s not the egregious acts of violence that came to represent the second intifada. It’s not the rockets fired into Sderot or even the offensive Cast Lead. It’s the ongoing systemic and institutionalized disenfranchisement and persecution of a people within an asymmetrical power structure.
      There are historical precedents for this which Jews know all too well.

      But at least you and I can agree who, in the analogy, represents Britain, and who represents India. Not much, but it’s a starting point.



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