407-645-5933 ext. 236 marisa.west@shalomorlando.org

Day 2 of Encounter began early as we met at 7 am for breakfast and to continue debriefing. I couldn’t imagine the connection with this group 2 days ago and how much I need their support through this experience. It’s an unexpected benefit.

As we talked this morning a few themes emerged for me. First, the unintended consequences of the Oslo accords. I heard repeatedly how much better it was for the Palestinians before Oslo and how that was a seminal moment for them that changed their status and their lives. I never would have thought that much significance would have been a result of what I considered a failed attempt. It reminded me of recent conversations I have had with some of our local Muslim community leaders about 9/11 and what it means to them and their community.

Secondly, the overwhelming desire for a 1-state solution. The desire to have one country and to feel a part of this country. To have freedom of movement. To not feel like a 2nd or 3rd or 4th class citizen. It made me wonder if the 2-state solution really is dead.

Our day began by going through checkpoint 300. This is the main checkpoint to get from Bethlehem into Jerusalem. While we could have driven through, having the experience of walking through was important, even though as a group of Americans going through at 9 am would make it not a true experience. As we walked in and got it line, we left everything other than passports on the bus. This is because historically things have been ‘lost’. It was a privilege we had that Palestinians don’t. After passing through security uneventfully we got in line. It was slow – like when I don’t have TSA Pre at the airport. It became easy to imagine a packed hall and what the delays can be like. As we got near the front, a security officer seeing us as a group of Americans waved us over and waved us through. Some Palestinian women came over with us and were summarily dismissed and sent back to the longer line. We didn’t even need to show my passport. Talk about privilege. It was very disappointing to get that special treatment.

I think I was struck by two things at the checkpoint. The first is the difficulty in navigating it for Palestinians and how it would be awful to have to do this every day to go to work. The second was looking at the families and the children in lines. The children were smiling and happy. They again reminded me of the children in our JCC school. They waved and engaged. The universal beauty of children was clear and gave me hope that perhaps we can find common ground, perhaps we can find a solution to the conflict and perhaps these children can live a different life.

This isn’t a comment on the necessity or non-necessity of checkpoints. This is merely my observation and thoughts a few hours later.