Dear President Obama,
Sorry I haven’t written lately. I really should have tried to get this note off to you much earlier.
My time in Palestine and Israel as an Ecumenical Accompanier is over. I am really glad, I don’t have to get up at 3 AM anymore to go to Check Point 300! That was a real drag.
I need to tell people about the situation in Palestine. My biggest worry is they won’t believe me. I am afraid they might think I am exaggerating.
Mr. President, I know you are a great speaker! Do you have any advice on how I can sound believable??? – Then again, there are a lot of people who don’t always believe you. Actually, there are a fair number who never believe you. I guess I’m better off trying to figure it out for myself.
I do have a favour or two to ask you. I am wondering if you might have a few minutes to call your friend Bebe? There are some things I wish you would talk over with him in his budget. He might actually listen to you. After all, you are giving him over $3 billion again this year. He can buy a ton of ice cream with that! (Do you think he might join the boycott of Ben and Jerry’s? If he did that would be really cool.)
First of all, could you ask him to fix the Humanitarian Gate at Check Point 300 in Bethlehem? I know I keep complaining about it – but – it never worked from the time I arrived until I left. Maybe you could suggest he could contract out the maintenance on all of the gates! That whole system never worked very well. You probably know some people at Disney, they seem to be able to make gates and lines work really well. If Bebe gave them the contract that might help create some jobs at home for your people. Also, Disney might be able to come up with some ways of entertaining the 4,000-5,000 who stand in line for about an hour every day from 4:00-7:00 AM. Believe me, they could use something to brighten their day!
Then, would you ask him to look into how they issue permits for Palestinians to attend Holy Week services in Jerusalem. There seems to be some kind of a problem with their computer system. Often, everyone in a family who applies for a permit to go to Jerusalem for Good Friday and Easter Sunday is approved except for one of the parents. Then, because that one parent can’t go the rest of the family stays home. I am pretty sure this problem is just some minor glitch in the computer system. Hewlett Packard has done a lot of work for him. Maybe, they might do this as a favour. The permits must be issued by a computer. After all, nobody with a heart would ever do anything like this deliberately would they?
Speaking about system problems, another thing I wish you would speak to Bebe about is the sewage treatment plants in the settlements. The settlers who run them don’t seem to be very well trained. In some settlements, almost every month the sewage comes gushing out and spills down into a Palestinian village. I could understand this happening once or even twice but it seems like it happens monthly. It destroys the Palestinian’s crop land. Sometimes it even contaminates the drinking water for the village. I am sure you agree this is just gross! Maybe some extra training for those folks would help solve the problem.
I know you are working on gun control at home. Would you ask him to get his army to switch back to rubber bullets instead of plastic ones. I’m sure there isn’t much of a cost difference. The plastic ones seem to cause some really nasty wounds. Also, if you would ask him get the army to go back to targeting the torso or upper legs like they are suppose to that would be nice. There seem to have been a lot of people who have been wounded in the head lately. There are a couple of young guys I know who were shot in Bethlehem and their lives are pretty much ruined because of plastic bullets and where they have been wounded.
By the way, Bebe might tell you he doesn’t have enough money to fix these things. If he does, you could suggest he take some money out of the tear gas budget. They seem to use a lot of it. One night when I was walking to a restaurant next to a section of the wall that is at least 30 feet high I got gassed even though tear gas usually stays close to the ground. They had to have been using an awful lot to get it to come over the wall.
Speaking of tear gas, did you know it can really clear out your sinuses? I thought about trying to get a prescription for it in Canada but I guess I’ll just stick with what I already use.
In all seriousness, tear gas probably shouldn’t be used as much as it is. Before I left I saw the army using it to push back some kids who were throwing rocks. One of the medics at the scene told me a canister ended up inside a house and the gas nearly killed a three month old. A few days later, I read about a similar incident that happened near Ramallah. Tragically, the baby in that situation died.
I am sorry if I sound a little cynical about these things. The reality in Palestine is hard to face. Innocent bystanders being shot. Children being arrested and not treated as international law stipulates. Settlers terrorizing Palestinians. A military judicial system that has a 99% conviction rate for Palestinians. All these things become overwhelming. The occupation of Palestine is a serious situation – sometimes with deadly consequences for the people of the land. I guess that is why I had a hard time finishing this post to you.
There will always be a few things that will come up from time to time so I hope you won’t mind if I send you the occasional note.
I am looking forward to hearing back from you soon.
Peace, Shalom, Salaam,