*NEW* Search Our Team Reports! Type a word/phrase in the box below (hint: try "settlers').


Qasra Under Joint Attack

On Wednesday, February 19th, 2013, Michigan Peace Team joined Rabbi for Human Rights on a visit to speak with Mayor Abdel Adim of Qasra.  Qasra is a Palestinian village which suffers greatly from Israeli military and settler violence and oppression.  MPT and RHR visited Mayor Adim to inquire about some recently planted olive trees in the village. 

During the visit, Mayor Adim received an alarming call from a fellow villager who reported that Israeli Defense Forces had entered the village with a bulldozer.  MPT and RHR accompanied the mayor to the southeastern side of the village where the soldiers guarded a bulldozer as it demolished Qasra’s power lines.   

Israeli border guards began pushing at MPT, RHR, and a crowd of local villagers that had gathered.  When questioned, the soldiers were unwilling to give any explanations or provide any written orders for the demolition at hand.
As the crowd grew larger, and as aggravation and sorrow escalated, soldiers began firing tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd.  Several Palestinians were injured and taken away in ambulance vehicles. It is reported that one man who was injured was denied by occupation forces access to be removed from the scene to receive medical attention.  The vehicle attempting to remove the injured man had tear gas canisters fired at it.

Despite Palestinian objection, and the Israel military's failure to provide demolition orders, Israeli forces destroyed part of the electricity network and demolished 36 electricity towers in total on Wednesday.

In the days following this demolition, Qasra villagers have continued to suffer greatly from both nearby Israeli settlers and the Israeli soldiers.  Settler attacks and Israeli army invasions have continued to escalate dramatically. 

On Thursday, February 20th, settlers invaded the village in the middle of the night, burning six cars belonging to Qasra residents. 

On Saturday, February 23, 2013, Qasra residents suffered the joint attacks launched by Israeli forces and settlers.  In these attacks, 8 Palestinian civilians were injured, including 3 children.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reports that:

“PCHR condemns the escalation of attacks by Israeli forces and settlers against Qasra village, southeast of Nublus.  In this context, PCHR:

1.      Reminds the international community that the building of settlements constitutes a war crime under international law;  the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, individually or jointly, must assume their legal and moral responsibilities and fulfill their obligation to ensure Israel’s respect for the Convention in the occupied Palestinian territory in accordance with Article (1) of the Convention;
2.     Calls upon the international community to pressurize Israel to fulfill its obligations under the international law by putting an end to settlement expansion and dismantling all illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.

-MPT Winter Team 2013 


Hebron: Shuhada Street Demonstration

Shuhada Street closure.

On Friday February 22nd, the MPT team joined in solidarity with local Palestinians to peacefully march in demonstration against the closure of Shuhada Street in the Old City of Hebron.

Shuhada Street, which leads through the Old City center has been closed by the Israeli military to Palestinian vehicles since 1994 following the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre and completely closed to walking Palestinian citizens in 2000. The reason  for the street closure given by the Israeli military, common to the many other actions of segregation, "security purposes" while Israeli settlers enjoy unrestrained access to the street beyond the barricade. Shuhada Street runs through the Old City past the recent development and expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.

The development of these settlements within the city is a violation of the Forth Geneva Convention, Article 49, "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of it's own civilian population into the territory it occupies." Furthermore the Israeli military has been systematically coercing Palestinians who live and work in the City Center to leave the area. For housing, 42% of housing units have been abandoned and 77% of businesses have been closed,  nearly 500 businesses closed by military order.(B'TSELEM)  Again a violation of the Forth Geneva Convention, Article 49, "Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive." Only a few Palestinian families remain housed in the Old City with a few businesses still open. The streets are empty with shop doors welded closed with racist hate slogans written on the walls and doors by settlers.

There are many illegal settlements near and within the area of Hebron four of which lie in the heart of the City Center, some along Shuhada Street; Beit Hadassah, the first settlement in the center of Hebron, Avraham Avinu, Beit Romano, and Tel Rumeida. Many of the settlers in the city either squat and refuse to move from Palestinian shops and homes ordered closed by the military or frequently build additions on top of existing Palestinian homes. The military also conducts random searches of Palestinian homes, staying in the families living quarters or taking to the roof of their homes installing camera apparatus' and guard post boxes, which restrict the families from using their own homes or roofs.

Palestinian youth detained by Israeli soldier.
Rising early in the morning, February 22nd 2013, taking to the roof to see the situation in the streets below. An Israeli military officer standing outside of his post on the corner was detaining a Palestinian youth in his mid-teen years. I watched as the soldier held his identification and continued the detainment for over an hour without asking questions or checking any information. This is common practice among Israeli Military to harass and detain people whether they are going to work or school for an undetermined amount of time for no reason. We began the morning in preparation of the days demonstration against the Occupation of the city and the closing of Shuhada Street which was organised by Youth Against Settlements.
Youth Against Settlements Leading the Demonstration

Street Checkpoint
We walked down the hill and through one of the military checkpoints scattered throughout the City Center which separates the streets and neighborhoods of Palestinians and Settlements from the market place. Emerging through the shack with metal detectors and soldiers inside, now standing among a crowd of local Palestinians and Internationals preparing for the march to join another group of demonstrators at the nearby mosque. Two Palestinian youth raised a banner accompanied by the thunderous roar of drums echoing off the surrounding buildings, the march has begun.

 The crowd began to chant, "one, two, three, four, occupation no more" making our way through the streets as others joined in the march. The crowd funneled into a narrow corridor just outside of the mosque as silence overtook the scene when mid-day prayers began. Upon the conclusion of prayers, the march continued on as drums and chanting continued through the narrow streets to the closed Shuhada Street. Large stone barricades stretched the width of the street behind a very tall fence covered in barbed wire.

Flags raised as voices cried out against the street closure as a few youth climbed the tall fence placing Palestinian flags at the top. There were a few Israeli military behind the barricades taking pictures of the demonstration and making calls. The march continued on through the narrow streets of the Old city where all but two shops were closed for business. Looking above as we marched there were soldiers stationed on rooftops in small box outposts armed with automatic rifles. Above the narrow corridors where the economic livelihood of many locals once took place were tarps and nets stretching the width of the street to protect those below from rocks and trash thrown by settlers above.

The march broke off into two segments as we followed a small crowd lead by the Youth Against Settlements to a temporary barricade the Israeli Military had recently set up in the street. There were about two blocks between this crowd and the larger group who began to clash with Israeli Military in the small side alleys connecting the larger paths. This front line of demonstrators continued their chants holding their hands in the air, then proceeded to sit directly in front of the military barricade. The chanting continued as MPT and other internationals sat in solidarity with the Palestinians while the military fired tear gas canisters and sound bombs just over the group's heads toward the larger crowd approximately two blocks away. The peaceful protest continued until a large police truck emerged from behind the military and began to spray skunk water at the crowd of demonstrators and press.
Just before the skunk water truck emerged.
Just after the skunk water

People began to scatter into the side corridors seeking refuge from the continuous spray of skunk water covering the walls and parked cars while the military fired more sound grenades and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. The Israeli military began flooding the paths moving into more tactical positions throughout the City Center. The demonstrators began to make their way avoiding the skunk water and tear gas which clouded the streets.

 The Israeli military continued their 'riot dispersal' tactics moving to using rubber rounds to fire into the crowds of demonstrators.

Eventually everyone was forced back into the larger section of the cities streets away from the original point of the the demonstration. The youth began to hurl many stones at the Israeli military covered in riot gear and shields. The crowd and chanting intensified and people covered the city's streets with fires burning to avert the toxic gas fired from the Israeli military. Palestinian Crescent Ambulances were on scene carrying away many youth and press to a nearby hospital. Once member of Press who was taking photos in a narrow alley was shot in the leg by Israeli military.

Emerging from a street and marching to stand between the Palestinian youth and Israeli military were the Palestinian Police. They attempted to still the demonstration and push back the youth, to no avail as the youth began chanting louder and threw a few stones to fend them away.

Just outside a small path where Palestinian youth set up small barricades to block the military, a cluster of sound bombs and tear gas were launched at the crowd as we retreated to safety up a small side street. Looking around the corner after a moment of quiet, an Israeli soldier was waiting with his gun drawn and immediately fired multiple rounds just missing the larger crowd yet hitting one youth as he was running for safety. An ambulance was quickly flagged down and the military continued their assault as the boy was rushed into and away in the Ambulance.

The Israeli Military started pushing the crowd of chanting demonstrators farther back as they took tactical positions farther into the crowded Palestinian Streets. After a few hours of many stones thrown and countless  
ammunition and tear gas canisters fired, the Israeli Military began to pull back as the Palestinian Police reemerged in full riot gear. This pushed the crowd of demonstrators farther back away from the clash with Israeli Military.

Palestinian Police containing demonstrators.

Winter Team 2013


Existence is Resistance

Farmers in their fields in The Jordan Valley

On Wednesday the MPT team joined Rabbis For Human Rights for a trip to the Jordan Valley to visit a Bedouin village.  The Jordan Valley is an area that lies to the East along the boarder between Palestine and Jordan.  The Jordan Valley covers 1.6 million dunams or about 30% of the West Bank.  MPT visited an area in the North where the the climate, fertile soil, and access to water lend itself to being a key year-round agricultural area. Since 1967 Israel has been systematically closing off this area to it's inhabitants through limiting water supplies, destroying Bedouin communities, building illegal settlements, and  claiming it as a closed military firing zone or training ground. Farming in the Jordan Valley can be dated back over 10,000 years, however, through the recent Israeli exploitation and annexation of it's land and resources, this bountiful area's inhabitants are currently under the threat to their way of life coming to and end.

Outside of the few towns and cities in the Jordan Valley, the inhabitants of a vast majority of this region are the Bedouins.  Living in small nomadic communities, these farmers and herders have been living off the land for centuries.  Prior to 1950 there were upwards of 90,000 Bedouins in the region. Now the number has shrunk to an estimated 11,000 living under constant violence and extreme oppression.  The words in the Bedouin motto, "To exist is to resist" encompasses their struggle.

The community MPT visited is comprised of about ten large tent structures, a few cattle sheds and a few pens for livestock. This was all built beside an old building said to be a small stone hotel left over from when Palestine was under Turkish rule. The Bedouins here live in what Israel now considers a closed training ground for the Israeli Army.  The farmers take their herds to graze on hillsides dotted with newly constructed military towers and valleys filled with gated barbed wire enclosures holding armored vehicles and tanks. The roadsides are filled with cement barriers reading "DANGER" and "firing zone" and the movement of the people is now very restricted.

Along with movement restrictions are water restrictions.  In an effort to force the Bedouins from their lands, the Israeli Government has built large pipelines diverting the water supplies to the guard stations and new illegal Israeli settlements.  The Palestinians in this region many times can hear their water flowing through these lines, however they are not allowed to access it.

The Israeli Information Center For Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, B'Tselem reported: "Israel's control of most of the land in the area prevents Palestinian from moving water from areas rich in water to distant Palestinian communities, and to Palestinian communities outside the Jordan Valley. As a result, water consumption in some Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley is less than 40 percent of the WHO’s minimal recommended consumption of 100 liters a day. Consumption in small Bedouin communities, which are not connected to a water system, is just 20 liters, a quantity that the WHO classifies as the amount necessary for “short-term survival” in humanitarian disaster areas such as refugee camps in Darfur, or in Haiti following the earthquake there."  

Meanwhile, the Water diverted to the illegal Israeli settlements in this area is enough for ample household use and even irrigation of huge expanses of land.

What the MPT witnessed was best described as a close-knit community of families, welcoming to strangers from all over the world. Proud, friendly, hard working, and loving. Living under the constant threat of having their homes demolished and their lands ripped from them. "Existence is resistance." Long live the Bedouins of Palestine.
Woman making bread over an open fire inside of a Bedouin tent.
Sheep grazing in small Bedouin community

-MPT Winter Team 2013


MPT Team Arrested in West Bank on February 12th, 2013

On the morning of Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, MPT’s three person team joined seven additional internationals to provide protective accompaniment for an estimated twenty Palestinian farmers in the Palestinian village of Urif.  The ten international peace activists in total were invited to meet with the Urif city council, and to subsequently accompany the farmers in planting 50 olive trees.

Immediately upon the group’s arrival to the planting field, Israeli Defense Forces, already stationed on the hillside above, began to descend upon the Palestinian land.  Despite the military presence, the farmers began planting their olive trees.   MPT initially took on the role of observation, filming and photographing the events.

Soldiers quickly arrived on the scene, and one immediately demanded to see MPT team members’ passports.  After MPT inquisitions as to the soldier’s identification badge, he produced his Border Police card.  Two MPT teamers relinquished their passports, not to be returned to them until hours later.

MPT continued to observe, video, and photograph the scene.  The armed soldiers began to use force, pulling the villagers’ tools out of their hands, filling in the holes as they were digging, and kicking over newly planted olive trees.  Many soldiers had surrounded one older farmer as he was attempting to plant his tree.  MPT observed as the farmer knelt to the ground, and soldiers began grabbing his arms and body while shouting at him.  MPT then interpositioned themselves between the soldiers and the farmer, creating for him a circle of safety.

Soldiers pulled MPT teamers away from the farmer and proceeded in an attempt to restrain him.  MPT and one additional international peace activist again clung to the farmer.  Although Israeli soldiers pepper-sprayed the entire group, the farmer was successfully de-arrested.

The entire MPT team and the additional international were then detained by Israeli forces, ordered to their knees, with their wrists zip-tied.   Shortly thereafter, two internationals and one Palestinian farmer from Urif joined them in the detainment.  The Palestinian farmer was soon released.  In total, six internationals were arrested and transferred by the Israeli military into the custody of local police authorities in Ari’el, a nearby illegal Israeli settlement. 

Ari’el police photocopied all of the passports of those arrested and contacted their respective American, Finland, and Denmark Embassies.  After four hours of detainment, all were released on the condition that each sign a paper stating that he or she would not reenter the area near Urif because Israel considers it a “closed military zone.”  


Words of a Palestinian farmer

Cradled between the surrounding hills where illegal settlements have been expanding withing the past half-century rests a valley of rich agricultural land where a farmer and his family live under the daily oppression of occupation.

The MPT team was invited by the family to accompany them in performing their daily routine where constant settler violence threatens their livelihood. Rising early in the morning, the father makes preparation for the family and the days' work.
Fields of rich clay earth, sprouting vegetables, and citrus trees while a cow grazes in pasture. The mother joins the father in milking the cow, providing an array of dairy products for family's consummation. Olive trees scatter the hillside while other trees blossom in the radiant light.
A cool breeze flows down into the valley as we eat fresh picked oranges, resting from our hands' labor.

Warm lemon tea soothes thirsty tongues, the day has just begun. Work continues through the morning as the father steps away for mid-day prayer. New trees, not yet planted sit in rows upon the field covered with stones large and small. The planting of new trees is only necessary due to settlers burning and uprooting the family's crops which is their only source of food.

Air raid sirens cry out from one of the illegal settlements as Israeli's vacate the roads and paths. Each settlement is surrounded by tall, thick walls, barbed wire and soldiers, striking unnecessary fear into the minds of settlers. Meanwhile there is no warning or protection for the farmer and his family who live in love of their home and fields. The farmer is not a thief, living in peace offering the land to God. While those who invade this place of serenity and beauty, steal and destroy all he and his ancestry have worked to establish.

Upon our arrival the father sat us down and in broken English told us his story and described the world as he saw it..  He said that the nearby village of Lubban has existed as a small village for over 1850 years. Over the last 20 years huge settlements have been built on the hillsides expanding all around the town and his farm.  His family has been on this land for 654 years and just in the last four years the Israeli government has said he is living on Israeli property.  He has been told to move into town but he will never give his home to Israel. Saying, he is tied to his land, he loves his house and his field, and it is for his family from God.

Here are a few of his words:

"Where Israel loves, I love. Where they no love (he points to the village) I no love!" "Settlers, police, Israel, no problem for me. I will not go. Over big years many have come, police, settlers, I no go!"

When asked about the settlers, this is what he had to say:

"Child throws a rock at a car, you (motions a slap on the face and kick in the rear)... not shooting! Babies, Babies! Settler, he shoots!"

"The boys can be in the street, no problem. But to sleep in the house, they shoot at house." "If they take our house, where should we sleep?  In the street? Where you go? Where you sleep?"

This family has been terrorized by people living in the illegal Israeli settlement on the hills above them.  The door and side of their home is riddled with bullet holes from settlers firing at his house while his family sleeps inside.  The settlers also recently shot and killed their dog right after she had a litter of puppies along with tearing up half of their crops. When his ten year old son was asked if he was afraid of the settlers when they shoot at the house he replied, "No. If they want to kill me, they will kill me, I'm not afraid."

The farmer also had a lot to say about the government.  "Nablus, 1/2 million people and one man can shut off water? One man can close road for two cities? No road!"

"Why no man love Arab? Why whole atlas love Israel? Israel does not steal money from bank, he steal your house!" "America strong in power. Why does America still stand with Israel when they steal your land and house?" "Palestine is for whole atlas, all religions."

"Governments love Israel, money, and chair.  Israel loves governments. I love house and field, I love my dog and family. No more for me."

"Americans always come and say, 'We love Palestine, we love Palestine. Then they go. Americans always saying they love Palestine.  If that's true, why does America still support Israel?"

"I speak my love for you. Nobody speaks for Arabs in atlas, no on television, no with big money. No speak!  But you will speak."

A man who welcomes all people to join him on this land, which he considers for all people, except those who come and try to steal it for their selfish endeavors. One house destroyed by the Israeli Military during the First Intifada and the daily harassment and violence evident by destroyed crops and the remaining six hundred and fifty year old house covered in bullet marks from settlers. This family is living everyday and will not surrender to fear or oppression. They live, love, and give with generosity and sincerity.

Winter Team 2013


Ofra: Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Demonstration

On Friday, February 15th, 2013, an estimated 1,000 Palestinians attended a demonstration held at the entrance of Ofra prison.  Palestinians, along with a handful of international peace activists, including MPT, protested to show solidarity with four Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike detained in the illegal Israeli settlement prison camp of Ofra, located near the West Bank village of Ramallah.  

Prisoners Tareq Qaadan and Jaafer Azzidine have been hunger striking for an approximated 80 days, while Samer al-Issawi has refused any nourishment for an approximated 208 days.   The fourth prisoner is Ayman Sharawneh, who has been on hunger strike for an approximated 136 days.

The demonstration began around noon as hundreds of Palestinians streamed toward the entrance of Ofra prison.  Palestinian MP Mustafa Barghouthi, Palestinian Knesset member Ahmad Tibi and Islamic Movement in Israel leader Shiekh Raed Salah were of those in attendance.  

Facing a line of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Palestinians joined together in peaceful prayer.  An atmosphere of tranquility enveloped the scene as the group knelt, bowed, and prayed in unison. 

When the prayer ended, excitement and anticipation escalated.  Palestinian youth began jumping and chanting, their fingers forming peace signs above their heads.  It is reported that from a distance, young  children threw stones at the IDF soldiers who had been standing with their military tanks behind the prison’s barbed wire outer perimeter.  

Immediately the IDF began firing sound bombs at the ground, some exploding no more than 1 foot from young Palestinian boys standing on the front lines of the demonstration.  Israeli soldiers then quickly  proceeded to fire tear gas bombs as the tanks moved toward the demonstrators.  

The tank then began launching tear gas bombs, perhaps 6 bombs at a time.  The entire crowd was enveloped in gas.  MPT joined the wave of hundreds of demonstrators scrambling to safety.  Loss of sight and oxygen due to tear gas left all wheezing and feeling our way out of the billowing clouds.

The front line of the demonstration had moved perhaps 300 yards back from its original position, and here Palestinian youth began burning rubber tires in an attempt to alleviate the effect of the tear gas bombs.  The soldiers and their tanks drove forward, pursuing the demonstrators as they fled the gaseous clouds.  As the IDF drew closer to the crowd, young Palestinian boys threw rocks to fend them off.  

Soldiers continued to fire round upon round of tear gas bombs, pushing large segments of the crowd further away.  The young boys bravely picked up the bombs emitting toxic gases and flung them into the nearby pond.  

Israeli soldiers then began entering the village, firing tear gas in the streets and onto rooftops.  At this time, soldiers also began firing rubber bullets and then live ammunition at the crowd.  MPT witnessed numerous young boys pulled from clouds of gas on stretchers to nearby ambulances, as well as several others who were holding ice packs over rubber bullet wounds.  156 Palestinians were reported by Medics to have been treated for gas inhalation. Israeli forces fired tear gas at various press and media outposts, as well, and assaulted journalists Samer Hamad, Ahmad Mizher and Ma’an cameraman Luai Sababa.

Ofra prison is located in the illegal Israeli West Bank settlement of Ofra.  This settlement is illegal under both local and international law.  Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states:

“Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”

Additional UN resolutions 446, 452, and 465 condemn Israel’s settlement building by declaring they have “no legal validity” to exist.  Yet they do and continue expanding in reckless disregard for the law.

Ofra settlement is also illegal under local law.  No jurisdiction area was set for it.  It doesn’t have a valid outline plan, and at least 58% of its land is lawfully registered under Palestinian names in the Land Registry.

This makes Ofra prison illegal as well, because the Palestinian prisoners are being detained in an illegal Israeli settlement.  

Reports from Ofra prison prove conditions horrible.  Many reported that they had no charges held against them, and yet were still imprisoned; they were forced to stand and be counted several times throughout the night, making sleep nearly impossible; prisoners are held for long periods with their hands tied behind their backs with limited access to bathrooms and food.

40% of Palestinian men are reported to have spent time in illegal Isreali prisons such as Ofra.  99.74% of Palestinian defendants are convicted in military courts. 

According to the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, as of January 2013 there were “4,743 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention centers, including 178 administrative detainees, 10 women, and 193 children.  http://addameer.org/etemplate.php?id=563

Winter Team 2013

Fairly soon I’ll be sending these blogs from inside the West Bank which will make this space I’m in now the “outside world”.  I can’t really say, from this somewhat comfortable position (keeping in mind I’m at MPT HQ for 4 days and although it’s not the Four Seasons, I have the basic amenities.  Except a shower, more on that later), how and what that experience will be like.  I can say, from a combination of intense training, a video presentation and having been to the West Bank and Jerusalem as well as a refugee camp in Jordan, it will be a life changing, eye opening experience that I truly hope will affect some sort of positive change, no matter how small.

 Why the West Bank you ask?  I understand there are lots of places here in the States that could use a healthy dose of activism but my heart is, and always has been, in the Middle East as my mother was born and raised in Jerusalem, Palestine.  My siblings and I grew up with a mother deeply affected, in every way, by the loss of her country, her family, her life and identity as she knew it. I have been to the region, studied it and was married into a family very ensconced in the culture.  This will all pale in comparison to living among the occupied people as well as seeing  and experiencing first hand through their eyes and lives, their loss, their pain, their hopes and fears.  

The training is far more in depth than I expected.  The reality of where I am going and, not only what I will be doing, but all that might, could, will happen on this journey is settling in and it is, quite honestly, a tad unsettling.  However, that is one of the hallmarks of taking on any new endeavor and one that puts us outside our comfort zone. Change is always difficult, but ultimately good.  For those that know me, this decision has come as no surprise (except for the fact that I have to seriously adjust my wardrobe for three months) as I have always wanted to participate in a volunteer mission.  When I left Jerusalem 17 years ago during the first Intifada, I promised myself I would come back when my own children were launched to do what I could to help the children of the occupation envision a future that would allow them to live in peace and justice and no longer under conflict, oppression and fear. I believe very strongly that children, everywhere, deserve this.

 I joke with friends that the real reason I’m going on this volunteer mission is because, well, it’s a lot easier than dating and I need a relaxing break from that.  All kidding aside (well, some, you have to have a sense of humor), I’m going because my heart and soul are telling me this is the time to do something and in a big way.  I've never been away from my children, family, friends and life for three weeks, let alone three months yet I feel deeply it is the right thing for me to do, right now in my life.  I’m following that instinct with my usual positive, glass is half full, every problem has a solution, attitude as well as great hope that individually and as a team, a difference can be made to bring some positive change to the lives of the Palestinian people that have been living under occupation for over 60 years. 

  Everything happens for a reason.  I believe those reasons, eventually, turn out to be positive.  Stay tuned and I’ll let you know what this one might be.

Happy Trails.....Denise


Sure, I can spell 'consensus'

From J
     I'm here in Michigan, almost a day into Step 2 training. We have been learning about consensus, and have committed to using it as our principal mode of decision making while deployed in the field. To ensure a thorough grounding for us, training also asks us to commit to using consensus from here on out for team decisions – so we'll be gaining experience rapidly!
     Consensus is “a process of decision making where everyone is heard and therefore everyone can live with the decision”.
     Consensus ensures that all those involved have an opportunity to voice their opinions, and know they've been heard. This provides more comprehensive input for the group to incorporate into their decision making compared to when only the loudest or most powerful individuals are heard. And in groups with long experience and/or high levels of trust, often an individual who disagrees on a particular issue can go along and support the resulting decision anyway, confident that his concerns were heard and considered.
     My prior experience of consensus is academic: I have a basic understanding of how it works, but haven't used it with people and on issues that really matter.
     I wonder about bowing to what I will perceive as pressure to be a good sport and not rock the boat. What about when I have a dissenting opinion but tell myself, 'this issue is small and doesn't merit dissension, leave it alone', so I choose to keep those thoughts and feelings private? How will I know when that choice is practical and efficient, and when it's cowardice? Maybe all I will really have managed to do is rob the team of the richness that consensus provides, and the strength and trust it helps build.
     Surely there will also be times when I am quite clear that voicing my perspective is important, and consensus is necessary for the good of the team. At those times, will I actually participate as I hope to, with strength and sensitivity? Will I be able to integrate this training, and add any value with this process?
     Right now it appears a frightening balancing act, with significant risks.
     I will regularly remind myself (probably many times a day, at first) that the important thing isn't how many times I fall down, just that I keep getting up again.
     Wish me luck!