Maarten van der Werf introduced us to the Israel-Palestine conclict during the third Expert Meeting. Van der Werf has been working with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) for many years. CPT is partnering with nonviolent movements around the world to transform war and occupation in places of conflict and oppression to regimes of peace. First, Maarten introduced himself and his personal pilgrimage of nonviolence and peace and how that brought him to the work of CPT. Then he explained the current situation in Hebron, where he has been part of the team.
Hebron is a city where people live closely together in this multi-religious city. Palestinians, Jewish settlers, and the Israeli military make up most of the population. Tensions, demonstrations, and violent interactions are visible in the streets. Van der Werf briefly introduced five challenging daily life situations, about which we debated in groups. For example, it was debated how bans on products from Jewish settlements could aid in solving this conflict. Furthermore, we were asked to discuss how the checkpoints in Hebron change the lives of the children in this city. Sometimes they have to go through three checkpoints just to go to school. Another issue was the heatedly debated topic of the holy places.
This close look into daily life in Hebron challenged our group to think outside of our academic mindset and take our problem solving skills to a practical level. There were probably more questions raised than that there were answers, but probably these questions were better than the ones we had before this meeting. It has been an enriching experience for all of us to share the viewpoints from different academic angles, combining it with the ‘on the ground’ peacemaking perspectives. It made us more aware of the fact that we all need the work with knowledge of each other. Furthermore, it made us even more excited about our trip to Israel-Palestine that will take place in March. We hope that our stay there will, even though in a very moderate way, contribute to this never-ending pathway to peace, justice and reconciliation.