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.
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.