Do these three guys look dangerous?
Apparently, the IDF seems to think they are some kind of subversives or something. In actuality they are Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Director of Special Projects for Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR), Garry Walsh of RHR’s partner Trocaire, and yours truly, chairman of the board for RHR.
On Tu B’shevat, the Jewish “New Year for Trees,” we tried to make our way out to the Palestinian village of Al Jenia (near Ramallah), to “plant a tree for peace,” to present a different Jewish face than the one of the extremists who made a “price tag” attack in the village last week.
Unfortunately, our path was blocked by an IDF checkpoint. Now normally checkpoints are there to block the movement of Palestinians. In this case Palestinians were coming and going freely; I thought I saw some other cars with yellow Israeli license plates getting by as well, yet somehow we were pulled aside. We don’t have any proof, but we suspect that some extremists from a nearby settlement were responsible for the roadblock.
Unfortunately, this is not an unusual occurrence in the West Bank. The Israeli military very often puts up these impromptu road blocks, although normally it’s to look for suspected Palestinian terrorists, not to keep out peaceful tree planters. We got lawyers on the phone, tried calling some members of the Knesset, but without success. I gave up on the day’s outing and drove back to Jerusalem, but the others (and a bus full of supporters who were coming from a different direction) did finally manage to get through and plant a few trees.
I didn’t get to plant any trees, but I was given a clear reminder of the kind of frustrations that Palestinians living in the West Bank have to put up with every day. Unfortunately, the current political constellation in both Israel and Palestine does not give me much hope that the situation is going to change any time soon.