This is so powerful. Thank you, Phil. Just reading your words I am reduced to tears; I can only imagine my reaction if I saw the play.
Fifteen years ago during the early months of the Second Intifada I made my very first journey to Palestine with an emergency delegation of Christian Peacemaker Teams. One morning in April 2002 we joined with Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro and a small group from the International Solidarity Movement to somehow find our way to Bethlehem. We walked down eerily empty silent streets, destruction everywhere, buildings smashed by tanks, past bullet riddled ambulances and demolished cars. We saw no people, no dogs, no sign of life except Israeli tanks that ignored us as we walked toward the Church of the Nativity. We carried bread and other food we hoped to deliver to the people inside the church. A half dozen heavily armed soldiers blocked our way just feet from the church. The late Sister Anne Montgomery began singing, and we all knelt in the rubble and joined her in “We Shall Overcome.”
Finally there was a temporary lifting of the curfew, and people began to emerge from their homes. We handed them the food we carried, and began to walk back the way we came. The narrow streets of Bethlehem were suddenly filled with people, children appeared, everyone let out of their cages for an hour. I picked up a tear gas canister and some empty shells as souvenirs. At the airport when I left they were taken from me as “terrorist propaganda” along with a poster of Marwan Barghouti I was given in Ramallah following his arrest.
I had gone to Palestine to see for myself what was happening there. Having lived through World War in England I figured nothing would surprise me. I was mistaken. My thought had been to go once, return home and continue as before. Never imagined how much my life would be changed by what I witnessed then. Five more trips to the occupied West Bank, and an unforgettable voyage across the Mediterranean from Cyprus to Gaza Port where we were greeted by forty thousand Palestinians who had not seen an international boat arriving for 41 years.
The Israelis won’t let me go back to Palestine. I try to imagine being Palestinian and denied the right to go home, to imagine how I would feel if I wasn’t able to visit England. That’s the thing about Palestine. Once you go there, it grabs you and never lets you go.