Returning to My Homeland
The following is the final reflection from the interfaith delegation to Palestine, sponsored by AMP, JVP and PPF. This is an excerpt from an essay written by AMP delegate, Osama Ahmed of Santa Clara, Calif. Read the full reflection from Osama and other delegates.
These past two weeks have been the most eye opening experience in my life. I've had the privileged opportunity to travel back to my homeland - Palestine.
Walking through the streets of Hebron was the most traumatizing experience in my life; not being able to walk on specific streets due to the fact that I am a Palestinian. Other experiences I will never forget include being stripped searched multiple times on my way to prayer; experiencing a Palestinian child - who has his innocence taken away from him at an early age - crying because a settler wanted to steal his bike which is the only thing that brings him joy; and spending the night at Iyad Burnat's house who showed us how the apartheid wall cuts through his olive farm, how his oldest son is now disabled after being shot by an Israeli soldier while protesting the apartheid wall, and his other son was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier and lost the ability to move his left hand.
Walking through the streets of Jerusalem and experiencing the history within the old city is a double-edged sword. Israeli soldiers who are armed and trained to racially profile Palestinians at any given moment wouldn't hesitate to shoot, arrest and harass any Palestinian. I've never felt so vulnerable in my life and I remember telling one of my friends on the trip, "now I know how it feels to be black in America."
Visiting a former Israeli prison where they housed young Palestinian children whose only crimes were throwing rocks at soldiers as a way to resist the occupation - young children being tortured in horrific ways. There I met a former detainee who couldn't explain what they did to him and has to deal with the psychological effects of the torture. He told me that the worst thing in his life is waking up everyday and needing to pass by the former prison everyday on his way to work. Any Palestinian arrested by Israeli forces has a 99.7 percent chance of being convicted. Many children face at minimum a 10 year sentence for throwing rocks and as a result they spend their youth sitting behind bars and are only allowed one visit a month for 12 minutes. ...
... We slept at a refugee camp near Bethlehem where Israeli soldiers raided the area during the night, arrested some Palestinian youth, and left while their parents had no clue where they went. We visited an old village that witnessed Zionist forces raids in 1948; forcibly displacing the Palestinian villagers to refugee camps where many remain to this day.
It's not just about land, it's more than that. It's our dignity, basic humans rights, and freedom to live normal lives as anyone else would want to. Our understanding that we will never give up in conveying our narrative to the world is our right. And one day it will pay off; it’s God's promise.