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FALL, 2002: Volume 7, Issue 3

Quaker/CPT Delegation to Palestine

The Durlands traveled to Israel and Palestine on July 11 as part of their duties as “Reservists” in the Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organization initiated by the Quakers, Mennonites and Church of the Brethren to intervene nonviolently in situations of lethal conflict worldwide.

As delegation leaders, the first week of the Durlands’ time there was spent making preparations for the delegation of twelve volunteers from all over the United States and Canada, who would arrive on the 26th. Their second week was spent in the city of Hebron, about twenty miles south of Bethlehem, where Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has a permanent presence. While there, Bill and Genie worked with the permanent team members monitoring checkpoints, accompanying Palestinians in danger of harassment or attack by Israeli settlers, patrolling vulnerable neighborhoods and visiting in Palestinian homes to learn, first hand, of significant human rights violations. An example of such violations which the Durlands personally witnessed is the firing of live M-16 ammunition at defenseless children who allegedly threw marbles or small stones at the occupiers, Israeli soldiers.

On July 26th the Durlands returned to Tel Aviv to meet their delegation members and accompany them to Jerusalem for orientation. From there, they took the delegation to Ramallah for a three-day stay where they visited in Palestinian homes and schools, toured the city. There they viewed the ruins of the destroyed Palestinian Authority Headquarters, and visited the offices of the Palestine Monitor where they heard a presentation by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, president of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees and director of the Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute in Ramallah.

From Ramallah, the Durlands and their delegation members returned to the Jerusalem area for additional meetings with various organizations such as Rabbis for Human Rights, the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions and The Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between Peoples (Beit Sahour). While in the area, the group toured the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Jewish Quarter, and visited Bethlehem to see the extensive damage suffered by that holy city over the past month. They also visited Israeli citizens in Tsur Hadassah.

Finally, the group traveled to Hebron to live and work with the CPT permanent team for the last four days of their stay in the country. While there they visited the village of Beit Ummar north of Hebron.

Beit Ummar is a farming community, which lies between two Israeli settlements and is intersected by an Israeli by-pass road. Consequently, the farmers of Beit Ummar suffer extensive intrusions upon their fields and orchards by settlers, are under constant threat of violence when they attempt to harvest their crops and are being subjected to systematic confiscation of their ancestral lands. The CPT delegation headed by the Durlands spent two days in Beit Ummar, being hosted by the farm families there, touring their land and hearing their stories. On the second day, the group accompanied farmers to their fields to help them pick plums under threat of violence by the settlers.

Delegation members left the country on August 6 after a two-week experience. The Durlands remained for another week to debrief with the CPT team in Hebron and make a visit to Bir Zeit University near Ramallah in response to a request by the University’s administration for CPT members to confer with them on how to improve student and faculty access in the face of permanent Israeli blockades. (The Israeli army invaded the campus with tanks in early August without provocation.) Finally, Bill and Genie took some personal time in northern Israel visiting the crusader ruins in Acre and ancient Philistine and Canaanite sites at Dor, just south of Haifa.

A principal purpose of the Durlands’ work in Palestine is to gather and document information about the realities of the Palestine-Israeli conflict through first-hand observation, interviews with individual Palestinians and Israelis and input from both Palestinian and Israeli NGO’s. They are available to share their information and experiences. Contact the Durlands at (719) 846-7480, e-mail: bgdryland@activematrix.net

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