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.



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