Dear Family and Friends: Only a few times in my life have I been so grief stricken that I was paralyzed without words …at my father’s death was one of them. By Tom Getman, World Vision, Jerusalem By Tom Getman, World Vision, Jerusalem Dear Family and Friends: Only a few times in my life have I been so grief stricken that I was paralyzed without words …at my father’s death was one of them. The long hiatus of analysis has come because heartbreak over what we are witnessing here has made it nearly impossible to capture the extent of the destruction of life, property, and spirit. “Where does one start?” has been my question each day I have tried to write about the depth of cruelty and sheer volume of oppressive acts being perpetrated by Israel, a supposed democracy, on the a fragile emerging civil society of Palestine. Therefore in lieu of a long note from me this issue I will share one experience that is typical and then attach several pieces by colleagues, which I wish had come from my “pen”! Picture for a moment driving along your most frequently traveled interstate, expressway, or autobahn through your favorite countryside with your spouse and two good friends on your way to an anticipated dinner appointment. Think what it would be like to see at each intersection or cloverleaf a tank, armored personnel carrier or machine gun nest with soldiers aiming at you. Suddenly a young soldier (18-20 years old) with a Uzi machine gun moves out into the road and waves you over clearly ready to shoot if you don’t heed his command. He asks with a mixture of fear and meanness in his voice for your identity card or passport. If instead of a particular nationality or religion you are found to be one out of favor, or instead of a white or yellow license plate on your car you happen to have a plate that indicates you are from the wrong state or race, in this case indicated by green, you are brusquely ordered on to an approximately parallel “road”, a single lane mud track through the nearby cornfields and tree covered hills. To your shock you see that the dirt road is bumper to bumper with cars of all description, heavy trucks carrying building stone and vans packed with people trying to get to work, or school, or church, or a date, or hospital or an appointment, just like you. The interstate has only a few cars speeding along occupied by people who have actually stolen your neighbors’ property or set fire to their houses. These disposed friends have been directed to the “detour”. The people speeding on unobstructed are also carrying machine guns or well-armed soldiers are protecting them. Because you are found to be working with an international humanitarian agency given protection under international law you are finally allowed to travel on the “by pass road” with the thieves and oppressors rather than with your less fortunate friends who have now disappeared into the fields. The good highway is providing a 20-minute trip between the two cities for the chosen few. The dirt track is imposing a 3 hour heart-stopping, axle breaking, time robbing nearly impossible trek for the “strangers in the land”…even if they have lived here longer than the chosen. Labels, perceptions, and definitions are somehow all out of kilter. Jim Wallis, the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine, and Rich Meyer, from the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron, were Karen’s and my traveling companions on this very real journey for us the other day as we traveled from Hebron to Jerusalem. The Palestinian victims of the “siege,” who were misdirected into the humiliation of the Judean Hill wilderness, no doubt are telling the story from their point of view in retrospect as well. You can appreciate our ambivalence as we experience the VIP privilege while Palestinians suffer indignity and constant abuse of respect. Racism is what this is called in other places in the world. This is but one snapshot of what is happening now all over the West Bank and Gaza as the noose of the “absurdistans” (so called by a South African friend), is chokes the life and resilient spirit out of the Palestinian population now suffering over 50% unemployment and 60% malnutrition according to the recent United Nations Report on Closure, not to mention unspeakable grief over the 400 deaths (40% under 18), and 20,000 injuries, on both sides of the “green line”, but the far greater proportion Palestinians and Arab Israelis. Even Secretary Colin Powell demanded that the Israelis lift this killing siege, even while affirming ” American’s solid support for the State of Israel”. In fact from where I sit the two go together. If we really care about the survival of the State of Israel its friends should speak the truth directly for the present efforts at assuring security for illegal settlers and Israel residents alike have been severely jeopardized by this belligerent occupation and continuing disproportional use of force and economic warfare. If the occupation ended so would Palestinian “violence”, I believe. The situation is effecting our World Vision operations too….and I have just signed the last paychecks we have administrative money in hand for in this fiscal year (Oct. 00 to Sept. 01). No doubt at all that we will continue to support our relief and development projects even from “off-shore” if we have to. But the expense of having to operate in this present atmosphere and the costs of a “first world” city has left us short on overhead money to pay our office and staff expenses. Please do pray for especially the local WV staff as you pray for the more deeply effected victims of occupation. We are working to find solutions with our faithful WV headquarters, support offices and major donors around the world, so we can continue to play a useful role in providing at least some degree of hope to those we care for here. It is a great encouragement to be a part of such a committed organization and friends and family like you that stand squarely with us in this mission. Yasser Toshtash our extra-ordinary Gaza projects manager said to me today, “Remember God gives us challenges to see how much we are close to Him”. So we continue to trust in this time of grief that hope is not foolish. I am reminded of the Prophet Jeremiah’s assertion, in the context of Rachel’s weeping children, of the promise that, “I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow…there is hope for your future declares the Lord”. (Jeremiah 31:14-16). May it be true for the suffering and frightened here very soon! Peace, tg