I’m old enough to remember the relief and joy and pride we felt on June 10, 1967, when Israel brought a victorious end to the Six Day War. The euphoria was palpable. IDF soldiers streamed through the Old City of Jerusalem, off-limits to Israelis since the end of the War of Independence in 1948. Ordinary citizens took to their cars for the short drive to Bethlehem, a city that only the day before had seemed so very far away. Suddenly the beautiful Golan Heights were part of Israel, and the Syrians routed in humiliation.
Was it all a miracle? Certainly it appeared so to religious Israelis – evidence of God’s hand in the world. To the rest of the Jewish world, it meant that Israelis could now breathe freely.
But even then, there were those who warned that occupying the land of another people would bring endless strife. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion reportedly said: “Now we have to figure out . . . the minimal amount of land we need for security and give back the rest immediately.” Writers, artists, and other intellectuals tried to sound a warning note – but they too went unheeded.
To learn about what fifty years of occupation have done to both Palestinians and Israelis, and to consider prospects for ending the occupation, we have decided to hold our Israel study tour this year in June, to coincide with events marking 50 years to the 1967 war.
During the tour we will meet with groups and individuals on both sides of the conflict, some who agree with us and others who don’t. On the evening of June 3rd, we will participate in a demonstration that Shalom Achshav is organizing in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to protest the occupation and the Israeli government’s failure to end it. Rather than only taking a snapshot of the current situation in Israel-Palestine as we usually do, this time we will focus on a reflective examination of the impact of time, under occupation, on both societies.
I’ve been a participant in four of these study tours now. I tend to think I know a lot about Israel, but APN always gives me access to people and places I would never have seen otherwise. On last year’s trip, we met Palestinian grassroots leaders in Nazareth. We visited a kibbutz at Israel’s southernmost point abutting Gaza. We met with a representative of Netanyahu’s government as well the Deputy U.S. Consul General.
On our next Study Tour – scheduled from June 3rd - through June 8th – we’ll have some similar experiences, and many more. But we’ll also have some free time to explore Jerusalem, and lots of time to meet new people, savor wonderful Israeli cuisine, and more.
For details about APN’s 2017 Israel Study Tour, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate your interest. Come with us. Be a witness.