Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Letters from Palestine/Israel (II)

Here is the second part of Kiriko’s communications from Israel/Palestine.

February 12, 2008
(email communication)

…Sometimes people misunderstand when I say, "there are many peace organizations in Israel.” People are too sensitive. They react and want to know which side we are on. It is a fact that there are many peace organizations in Israel, but it doesn't mean more than that or what they think. But people think I am standing on the side of the Jews and not Palestinians.

Daria wants to get some information about your friend’s visit. People here are pretty sensitive. It makes me nuts. Daria said it happened after 2nd Intifada. Usually, the people here are more sensitive than those outside, but after the 2nd Intifada, the atmosphere of the village has slightly changed. It is difficult to explain in English, but people are a bit skeptical of each other and more of others. I hope you get what I want to say.

Did you talk to mom? Please say hello to mom. I hope she is well.



February 12, 2008
(email communication)




ns-was and peace site on israel and palestine.

February 13, 2008
(blog diary)

Abu Gosh is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. It is a village for Israeli Arabs, and is 20min. away from my village.

Some of the Israeli villages are standing on the middle (or top) of the hill, so you can enjoy the extremely nice view from there. I spent overnight at Danielle's apartment; enjoyed healthy, zahki('tasty' in Arabic) food and conversation with her at a beautiful restaurant.

Today, I worked in the kindergarten with S. and D. In this community, the Jews and Arabs are living together as you know, and kids have dogs and cats as well. Residents of this community speak Hebrew and Arabic as early as age three. They start learning English from the 3rd grade, amazingly enough! Usually, Arabs speak Hebrew better than the Jews can speak Arabic, you know why.

I will go to Ramallah on Saturday to visit Arafat's tomb, Inshallah. We will see..


February 14, 2008
(email communication)

…“Arabs speak Hebrew better than the Jews speak Arabic.” It is because Arabs need to know Hebrew to get by/survive (or to have good relationship with the Jews) as Hebrew is the dominant language and the official language of Israel and Arabs are minority.

Hebrew is also the official language in NS-WAS. Not many Jews can understand Arabic, especially people who are immigrants from different countries. Palestinians were born here and raised here. Even though they live in Arab Villages, like Abu Gosh, they have to learn to speak Hebrew to communicate with the Jews. Otherwise, they can not find any job in Israel except for some not so good jobs.

Jewish people in NS-WAS study Arabic once a week, but it is not enough to communicate with Arabs. Actually, they don't need to speak Arabic because Arabs speak Hebrew perfectly. There is no need, but people in NS-WAS knew that it was not fair. That is why they try to learn Arabic.

Israel is a mixed community. There is also a problem of discrimination between the Jews from Western countries and from Eastern countries. Sooner or later, some of the Jewish people from Eastern and Arab countries found out that this was not a very nice place to live. I am not standing on the side of the Jews. I am standing on the side of the people in suffering.

That is why we all are responsible for this Palestine/Israel conflict.

Thank you for giving me the chance to speak up.

I am sorry that I am not there when mom needs me most. I hope she will manage all the problems.

love and hugs,


February 15, 2008

…the people here, I mean the Jewish people, experienced terrible discrimination before coming here. They experienced what it means to be a minority thousands of times and met their kindred in this land. This is the first time they experienced being a majority. That is why they want to keep it. They want to protect their privilege as a majority.

Jewish people know what they are doing to Palestinians more or less. But some people are afraid of leaving Israel. Once they express or accept the things they are doing, they think they have to leave. However, people that I met here became angry at seeing what the settlers and soldiers were doing to the people in Palestine. Every Friday, women gather and demonstrate against the settlers in front of the old city…

February 15, 2008
(email communication)

No. Very much no. I’m not condoning the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Listening to the survivors of Hiroshima about their experiences of “Holocaust in Japan’ doesn’t mean condoning ‘Nanking massacre’ or the actions of ‘#731 troop’ Palestinians are suffering, and who make them suffer? Directly, Israelis. That is why we have to listen to what they have to say.

During the 9/11, nobody listened to Islamic fundamentalists about their motivations or why they had to do that. Even now, people don't want to know the story of suicide bombers and why they have to do that. The reason is obvious to us, but not to them. If we want Israelis to hear our side, probably some volunteers have to listen to their side of the story.

We can't stop the horrible occupation or terrorism if we don't want to listen to the 'actors' (even it sounds like excuse.) If we want to stop the occupation, blockade, killing civilians in Gaza, we have to start hearing the story of the ENEMIES. This is what Johan Galtung said for over 60years to people who are trying to end conflict. Economical situation has to change, Israeli laws have to change, soldiers have to stop killing people, blockade has to be lifted right now, Bedwins have to be given rights to move around in this country, and Palestinians have to be given rights to live peacefully. What we have to do is obvious, but how is not obvious in here. That is why the conflict still going on.

In my opinion, only compassion and understanding by deep listening can stop the conflict. not anger. Politically, UN delegation came to Palestine and managed to stop the blockade. We can’t expect a quick resolution to this conflict from a 'dialogue' or 'listening', but it will put a seed of peace into their hearts. I hope it will become a big tree.

I will go to Ramallah tomorrow. We changed the schedule for Ramallah visit and I went to visit a small village in West Bank with my friends instead. I met a boy who just came out of the jail a few days ago. He spent a few months in prison with no food, no water, no window, and was beaten by soldiers horribly. Usually, there are no reasons to arrest or to put them in jail.

Anyway, I’m still in the dark place, although people are so nice here. I talked to Dania, Henry and Denise. They are the nicest people I've ever met. It is only my problem which has been with me for ages. I don't think it is easy to overcome this feeling of inferiority.

Anyway, thanks for supporting me by email. It encourages me a lot. I will start recording the interviews next week.

It is very cold today. Jerusalem will have snow tonight.

love and lotus,


February 18, 2008

Howard sent this to me. We had a very nice talk last week.
It went until after mid-night, but I felt like I was finally 'back to myself.'

Hi, Kiriko,

a conversation we had helped to inspire a blog post:


You may also be interested in the network :http://www.mepeace.org/ where the blog appears.

For one thing, the other woman I mentioned in the blog, Donna Qawasmi, is a peace activist in Jordan, and it might be interesting to visit her when you are there.

February 19, 2008

http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=pRCN7RtavR4 (in Japanese)

Ryuichi Hirokawa is my favorite. I like his way. I started the study of P/I conflict from him. His way of thinking is similar to Katsuichi Honda.

Note: The link will take you to a news program in Japanese, a summary of the content is as follow: A new Japanese documentary called “Nakba” will be released in March in Japan . The director, Ryuichi Hirokawa, is a photo journalist who has been collecting witness accounts of Nakba for 20 years. This film is a record of Hirokawa’s journey in search of the Nakba witnesses which happened 60 years ago. He visited Israel and surrounding countries numerous times in search of the survivors and collected their witness accounts.

Hirokawa recorded interviews of more than 200 witnesses and says, “All problems must be re-examined by facing history, seeing things from the victims point of view, ‘rebuilding’ history from their voices, reviewing the beginning (of the problem), asking what the problem is and by confirming what happened step by step. He is undertaking a project to make the original record of interviews in its entirety (which amounts to over 50 hours) available world wide for free as a historical resource.

February 20, 2008
(blog diary)


I am still in Israel, as you know.

The weather here is as terrible as it in Japan. Before I came here, I thought it would be nice to be away from Japan for a few months during the coldest time of the year.

The weather forecast predicted that we will have big snow tonight in Jerusalem.

How is it possible having 'big snow' in MIDDLE EAST?

Anyway, it is nice that the UN delegations are visiting Palestine and Israel right now. Even if they can't force the Israeli government to open the block, they will announce the situation in Gaza/West Bank to the whole world.

Look, this is what happening in Gaza.


I don't think it is enough to blame to the Israelis behavior when I look back to our own (Japanese) history

What do you think?

K in the coldest night in Israel

Monday, February 11, 2008

Letters from Palestine/Israel: a Japanese perspective

Letters from Palestine/Israel: a Japanese perspective

My sister Kiriko is currently visiting Israel, staying in Nave Shalom/Wahat al Salam (Oasis of Peace). Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam is a cooperative village of Jews and Palestinian Arabs of Israeli citizenship and is located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Jaffa, about 30 km from either city. http://nswas.org/rubrique22.html

Kiriko became interested in Israeli/Palestinian issue after meeting her friend Daria at a meditation retreat in Plum Village in France. Since then, Kiriko became enrolled in a graduate program at Osaka University in Japan with a major in International Public Relations. Her focus and interest is Israeli/Palestinian issue and she has received a scholarship from her department to visit Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam for research and field work. Here I would like to share a part of her communications from Israel/Palestine with her permission. The names of her friends have been changed to protect their privacy.


January 28, 2008
(email communication)

Hi. I safely arrived here on the 25th, in the morning. I am now with Daria and her family. She invited me to have dinner with them again.

This place is absolutely nice and beautiful. I went for a walk with Daria and Henry (Daria’s husband) this evening. It reminds me of the forest in Spokane.

I took some pictures but have not loaded them onto the computer. I will send them to you soon. Would you please send mom an email and say hello from me.



January 30, 2008
(taken from Kiriko’s blog diary)

It has been a week since I left.

The flight was quite nice. Because of the season probably, I got 4 seats to sleep in.
The foods of Turkish Air were pretty good. I got five meals in 15 hours which included the flight from Istanbul to Tel-Aviv. That made my stomach huge, so I still have a stomach problem.

The security at the Ataturk airport was extremely tight. I had to go to the specific counter to have an interview and was asked questions like “What is the purpose of your travel?”, “Why do you go to Israel alone? (none of his business!)” and “How long will you stay there?”...like that.

The person who checked my passport stared at me skeptically, then made a phone call to somewhere else. He even checked my ability to read Japanese, and asked if I could read the Chinese character which meant “viza”. He scared me with his big eyes during the whole conversation!

Anyway, I am peacefully writing this right now sitting next to my dear friend.

I will report my activities here in my next entry. The very next day of my arrival, some of the people here went to GAZA!..



January 29, 2008
(email communication)

I am in Daria’s office and was allowed to use her boss's computer.

Daria has been taking care of me very well, and people here are so nice.
If I could speak or understand Arabic and Hebrew, I would have good communication with everybody. Fortunately, almost all the people speak English here, even the 6th grade kids in primary school. They speak Arabic, Hebrew and English! Incredible!

I was in a 6th grade English class yesterday, and was given a chance to introduce Japan and its culture. Kids asked me many questions and I really enjoyed answering them.

I also sat in the observer seat in School for Peace, and watched the Youth Encounter Program between Palestinian students who have citizenship in Israel and Jewish students. Palestinian students came from the north, and the Jewish students came from this area.

The most interesting conversation was about Gaza strip. an Arab girl said 'Gaza is a part of this land.' But a Jewish boy said 'Gaza is far away from here, so I can do nothing for them', even though he lives closer to Gaza than the girl who came from the north.

The distance is not a geological matter, but a psychological matter.

Anyway, I can not access the internet frequently and can not use the Japanese font. So please say hello to mom from you.

Everything is all right here. The food is excellent! Daria cooks very well and as much as you do.



February 4, 2008
(a blog diary)

…Since last Friday, we are enjoying a beautiful, lovely weather. I am having a pretty nice time with my friend, taking some workshops, going south and walking around the desert. People are so nice and generous, especially here.

BUT! Did I write about the Hebron thing? My friend went to Hebron last Friday. The place is in the West Bank, the occupied territory. She saw a house of settlers expanded to a Palestinian shop, just a few inches away from their window. The wall of the settlers’ house had closed the window (of the Palestinian shop) completely. .No wonder, my friend was shocked and very disturbed.

These kinds of things are happening all around the land.
You know, it is more difficult here than in Japan to get the information of what's going on in Gaza. I am sorry not to be able to write about it. My friend showed me a video through a private internet site; it was taken by a person who attended the demonstration in front of the check point in Gaza.


Well, I've got go.

Hope you all be happy.


February 10, 2008
(email communication)

I went to Jerusalem yesterday. I will put some photos on the Mixi page. I know you will like them.

It was a horrible experience for me to accept the fact that I didn't understand this village and the situation of these people at all. It took me a whole week and now I feel better but not perfect. I'm still dragging some depressed feelings and this became clear to me now.

Settlement here is totally unacceptable. People are trying over and over again to rebuild their houses, but they are crashed by the soldiers.
I feel hopeless, useless, and worthless here.

Aside from my feelings, people treat me very nice and are kind, especially Daria and her husband, Henry. They are always taking care of me.

Well, I think I am OK. Probably after I finish writing my rubbish papers, it will be better.



February 11, 2008
(email communication)

Thank you for the reply. Now, I can access the internet more easily.

Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam has a guest house to stay. It is not very expensive, but if your friend wants to just look at what it is, half a day is fine. The village is very small, and you will find there are not many things to do. But if she wants to observe the encounter group workshop in School for Peace, or kindergarten, they are very interesting. http://nswas.org/

Denise is a secretary of the mayor(?) who invited me to stay overnight in her apartment. She lives alone now after her kids went to California and the university. She lives in an Arab village about 20min. drive from here. She wants to live with Arabs because she wants to improve her Arabic. She is a really progressive person, as progressive as Daria. She is also considerate of the sensitivity of the people here in Israel.

Israeli Arabs are facing double discrimination. One from Jews, and the other from the Arabs outside of Israel. They are treated like traitors, even though it was not their choice to be Israeli Arabs. It sounds like Koreans in Japan.

I will go to Ramallah this weekend. I did not have much experience here. But it is enough to make me depressed to know that the houses are crushed everyday just 30km away from here.

Also, NS-WAS has its own difficulties. I saw this village as a kind of utopia when I came. But it is a community that has problems as much as a usual one or even more. Anyway, I want to write for the web site. I don't know if it is interesting or not because I don't want to spread emotions like anger, hatred etc...

But this is the reality. I don't want to make you sad, but it is heart breaking.


I think I will write after I get back from Ramallah.

Anyway, it was good hearing from you. I feel better than I did this morning.