Friday, August 15, 2008

Observers Write About Delegation to Sderot

The delegates traveled to Sderot and Kibbutz Zikim, both just a few miles from the Gaza Border. This is a picture of Gaza from the Kibbutz. (IFPB/US Campaign)

U.S. Campaign and Interfaith Peacebuilders have sponsored a two week delegation to Israel-Palestine. Two delegates wrote about their experiences in the Israeli town of Sderot:

Denise Yarbrough wrote:
Today we travelled south to Sderot, an Israeli town right on the border of the Gaza Strip. Sderot is well known as a town which regularly is bombarded with Kassam rockets shot from the Gaza. We met with representatives from two different kibbutzim, and one representative of a community organization that tries to work with marginalized groups in Sderot...

We ended our travels today by visiting the Erez Checkpoint, the only border crossing that is “open” between Israel and the Gaza strip. Almost no one gets through at this point – usually only people who can prove some humanitarian reason for needing to go across. The checkpoint is a fortress, heavily guarded and the guards shouted at us to stop photographing the checkpoint when we got out of the bus. A few Palestinians were going through the checkpoint, but they had been driven there by a United Nations vehicle, so we assumed that they had somehow enlisted UN assistance in getting across into Gaza for some family reason. The checkpoint was yet another vivid symbol of all that is wrong in this terrible conflict – as if cement and barbed wire and armed guards could possibly bring peace or security to either side.

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David Lamarre-Vincent wrote:

“Swords to ploughshares” is a concept in which military weapons or technologies are converted for peaceful civilian applications. The plowshare is often used to symbolize creative tools that benefit mankind, as opposed to destructive tools of war, symbolized by the sword, a similar sharp metal tool with an arguably opposite use. The common expression "beat swords into plowshares" has been used by disparate social and political groups.

The most famous sculpture of this phrase can be found at the United Nations, A less famous, folk art version was seen upon our visit to a kibbutz at Sderot on the border with Gaza. Here they have made a menorah from kassam rockets fired from Gaza that landed upon the kibbutz. This kibbutz is the target of numerous rocket attacks. The juxtaposition of the images of the kassam and the menorah captures the two realities of Israel and Palestine. Is security based upon military might, walls and fences, checkpoints and prisons, ethnic cleansing and apartheid, terrorist attacks and suicide bombers? Or is stability and security achieved through dialogue, conflict resolution, economic development?
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