“Structural violence is silent.”

Jean Zaru, a Palestinian Quaker woman*, offers this insight as she writes about the impact of the Israeli Government’s occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. She offers a lens for analyzing structures of injustice such as political, cultural, economic, and social structures. In this posting, I focus on the Jerusalem Light Rail Train (JLRT) and how it is part of the silent, economic structural violence occurring in East Jerusalem. Through such violence, Palestinian society and Israeli society in Jerusalem are being torn apart. Ending this occupation and finding a just peace is critical for future co-existence.

JLRT on the Green Line - Westbound, Jerusalem - 13 Feb. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

The JLRT appears at first glance to be evidence of improved infrastructure in East Jerusalem. It has a sleek design and a street-level entry system for passengers. (See videos #1 and #2  [At the 4 min. point of #2, the JLRT drives past the site of the Palestinian home demolition in French Hill; I described it on 5 Jan. 2011]). However, this new transportation feature is a bizarre sight amid the crumbling environment that is East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem municipality is responsible for maintaining the infrastructure of East Jerusalem; and yet, despite paying into the same tax system as people from West Jerusalem, those in East Jerusalem are watching their area fall apart.

JLRT tracks on the Green Line – West Jerusalem is on the left. East Jerusalem is on the right. – 13 Feb. 2011 – Photo: Sherry Ann

“…the Jerusalem municipality has not provided adequate planning, construction or infrastructure to their [East Jerusalemite] neighborhoods for decades, a legacy of discriminatory neglect that starkly contrasts with the general situation in West Jerusalem and in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. 115 … The municipality itself is responsible for the poor condition of the road and sewage networks in East Jerusalem, and for the dense and unplanned nature of its residential areas, in sharp distinction to Western Jerusalem.” (Separate & Unequal, 2010, p. 50; the superscript note “115” refers to the following document: ACRI, “Human Rights in East Jerusalem – Facts and Figures, May 2010,”).

JLRT Westbound by the Old City, Jerusalem - 13 Feb. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

Upon closer examination, the JLRT is an ominous development. East Jerusalem is occupied, yet through illegal settlements, the Israeli Government is transporting Israeli citizens into this occupied territory.  Through the JLRT, settlers are being given ease of access to central Jerusalem  for work, school, and other daily activities. (See the locations of settlements in the deep purple on this map). This population transfer is a war crime according to Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention (see here and here).

By creating this people-mover system, the Israeli Government is proceeding with its annexation of East Jerusalem toward its goal of a united capital for the state of Israel. Such annexation is illegal according to international humanitarian law (See here and here).

Public notice banner - Shu'afat, East Jerusalem - 10 Dec. 2010 - Photo: Sherry Ann

Planning for the JLRT began in 2000. By 2020, the network is to have eight lines. The first line is nearing completion. Since December 2010, we have watched trains out for test drives and we have sat in public buses in the traffic caused by the construction, particularly in Shu’afat. This is a neighbourhood through which the JLRT will travel as it heads north and then east. To build the JLRT tracks, the Israeli Government has expropriated Palestinian private property; in addition, public roadways and parking spaces have been taken over to reconfigure space for the JLRT tracks. With little space in which to drive and/or park, local shoppers have been less able to support local businesses. The destruction of property in occupied territory is illegal according to Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the confiscation of property in occupied territory is illegal according to Article 46 of the Hague Regulations. Worth noting is that only 3 of 23 stops on this first JLRT line are in Palestinian areas. The other 20 stops are located in West Jerusalem, along the Green Line, and in the illegal settlements of East Jerusalem.  (Note: The Green Line is termed Route No.1 on this map.)

JLRT track construction - Shu'afat, Jerusalem - 10 Dec. 2010 - Photo: Sherry Ann

I perceive that the JLRT is an example of economic structural violence. Jean Zaru observes that, “Violence, after all, is not only about war and weaponry. Political, cultural, economic, and social structures have been at work in a destructive way throughout our community” (Zaru, 2008, p. 61). The examples that she gives for economic structural violence include restricted freedom of movement by Israeli  road blocks and control of roads; economic marginalization and exclusion; and destruction of civil society and infrastructure.

After three months of riding the Green bus to and from Shu’afat refugee camp, Qalandiya Checkpoint, and the Old City (all in East Jerusalem), this violence seems mind-bendingly subtle. Looking out the window, I see a diversity of people in terms of ethnicity, race, religion, age, gender, profession, civilian/military status. Yet, East Jerusalem is not a place in which all of these people mix and mingle easily. The Israeli citizens who live in East-Jerusalem settlements have an illegal presence. I’ve heard local people speculating about the anticipated ridership of this JLRT; it would seem that West Jerusalemites and the illegal settlers may benefit most. An unnamed separation exists amid the apparently benign streetscape.

JLRT Safety banner – Shu’afat, Jerusalem – 10 Dec. 2010 – Photo: Sherry Ann

I regard Jean Zaru’s analytic lens helpful. She writes:

“Structural violence is silent. It does not show. Television captures the direct violence and most often the violence of the powerless and the hopeless, and it is headlined as terror. One basic weakness in most conceptualizations of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the basic assumption of symmetry, which views contending parties in conflict as being equal. After all, the conflict is there because we are unequal. We are unequal in access to power, media, and influence. But we insist that we are not unequal in our rights.” (Zaru, 2008, p. 62)

The corporate complicity in the construction of the JLRT is a dimension of economic support for the Israeli Government’s occupation of East Jerusalem. See this article and its references for more info.

Peace from the Old City Ramparts - JLRT tracks, Green Line - Jerusalem - 13 Feb. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

With this posting, I am beginning my transition from an on-the-ground witness as an Ecumenical Accompanier. Over the next week or two, I will return to the vantage point of Canada. I will become an Ecumenical Advocate holding dear the relationships that I’ve developed here with those who have shared their experiences with me.

Please pass along the address for this blog to friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances. Check out the links for various publications. We need to start talking about these silent forms of violence as much as we talk about the news headlines. In this way, we as global citizens can contribute to ending the silence and the occupation.

* Jean Zaru is the Presiding Clerk of the Friends Meeting House in Ramallah and a founding member of Sabeel, an ecumenical Palestine Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.

For additional information, see:

Barghouti, O. (2009). Derailing Injustice: Palestinian Civil Resistance to the “Jerusalem Light Rail”. Jerusalem Quarterly, 38, 46-58. Available here.

The Civic Coalition for Defending Palestinians’ Rights in Jerusalem. (2009). The Jerusalem Light Rail Train: Consequences and Effect. Jerusalem: Authors. Available here.  

Diakonia’s webpage regarding the JLRT and its violation of international humanitarian law. Available here.  

Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. See: http://www.eappi.org/

Human Rights Watch. (2010, Dec.). Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. New York: Authors. Available here

Zaru, Jean. (2008). Occupied with Nonviolence: A Palestinian Woman Speaks. Foreword by Rosemary Radford Ruether. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

Choosing to participate is an amazing act of courage to know ‘the other’.

In May 2009, 22 of us from Canada shared a very special visit in Jerusalem with Dalia Landau. She co-founded Open House Ramle with Bashir Al-Khayri in 1991. She continues to serve as Co-Director of Open House as it celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2011. On that day in May 2009, she described the story that she shares with Bashir, as recounted in the book, The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tolen. In describing how her life is intertwined with Bashir’s life, I came to appreciate how Dalia has, time and again, chosen to live in the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many times, she has been presented with a choice to leave the tension, confusion, and pain of the conflict. Each time, she has chosen to continue to lean into it to try to make a difference.

Dalia Landau - Jerusalem - 14 Feb. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann


Through Open House, she and others, who are also trying to make a difference, have been creating spaces for children and youth who are Israeli and Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian to play, talk, and listen to each other. 
On 14 Feb. 2011, three of us, Ecumenical Accompaniers, shared a meal with Dalia. The evening was very meaningful for us who have spent almost three months walking with Palestinians and Israelis who are working to end the Israeli Government’s occupation of Palestine. We have seen and heard conflict and pain. We have felt so many emotions. We have asked to hear people’s stories. We have discussed details of international humanitarian law. We have asked for clarification. We have listened, and we have listened some more. Even amid the challenging moments, we have also shared the joys of daily life here. We have shared a sense of solidarity with those who have opened their hearts and homes to us.

Dalia and we, 3, Ecumenical Accompaniers - Jerusalem - 14 Feb. 2011 - Photo: Guest

On that evening with Dalia, I came to appreciate how we, EAs, have been able to develop relationships with both Palestinians and Israelis. Yet, due to the Israeli Government’s ‘security’ efforts, Israeli and Palestinian societies are separated more and more each day. You might recall how I quoted Angela Godfrey-Goldstein’s comments in December about this apartheid state: “It will change only when ordinary people understand what is going on.”

Here’s a glimpse of what Dalia and the Open House staff and volunteers are doing to help children and youth in Israel and Palestine to make informed choices with each other in mind. With the support of Open House, these young ones are growing into extraordinary people, working for social justice and peace. Click here and here

Dalia shared the following reflections:

“There’s a whole generation that is growing that doesn’t know each other. Before the First Intifada [started in 1987], Israelis used to go massively to Bethlehem – it was good to know each other – going for the restaurants and the souk. Now, there’s a whole generation [of Palestinians] who doesn’t know Israelis. For them, we’re a mythology. And, the same is true for the other side.”

“Just knowing each other makes a difference. We work long term with people at Open House. We start very early [for example, at two and three years of age]. Mainly, we work with Arab Israelis; it’s more difficult to arrange for West Bank youth to participate. One individual serves as a window to a whole other world. This has been very strong in my life. How through one person with an authentic relationship, you realize: They’re like me.” [Click here.]

“It was also when I met Bashir when they knocked on the door in 1967 to see the house, their house, they were three people, from the same family. Then I went to Ramallah to visit Bashir’s family; it was just after the [1967] war… . His family was probably asking, “Who is this person?” I could see their thoughts…. But it’s through the ‘joy in the encounter’ – then, one creates trust. Depending on the age group, you can bring up issues. Like teens, during the [Second] Intifada, they would discuss incredibly deep issues – it moves the heart – how they stuck it out. They came back every week – it was unbelievable – the courage of it. One group of Jewish Israelis, they were 18 years old, pre-army, found us on the Internet. They were doing social service (e.g., volunteering at schools to speak about ethical issues). They wrote describing, “We’re going to the army in one year yet we haven’t ever met any Arabs”. They had grown up in Jewish neighbourhoods in Tel Aviv and had had no dialogue with Arabs. They wondered, “How were they going to justify going into the army. They asked Open House if we would arrange a dialogue for them [with Arab Israeli teens.] We met with them for one year. They were very evolved human beings. It was during the [Second] Intifada. The richness of the issues they raised! Of course, the Arabs [teens] confronted them: “Why don’t you do conscientious objection?” Most of the Arab and Jewish teens agreed to disagree. Some friendships broke down. Of course, the encounter is very, very deep. If it’s compulsory service, a person has no choice. But they wanted to explain why going into the army was important [for them]. For example, “We protect all citizens including you [as Arab Israelis].” “I want to be in the IDF – the Israeli Defence Force. Without the army, Israel wouldn’t exist for a moment. So, we’re paying the price.” Click here.

Dalia & the Open House Ramle website - 14 Feb. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

“If you visit the website and then, scrolling down on the left-hand side, you will see “Highlights”, including a discussion by young adults after the “War in Gaza” – it was so deep – that type of discussion needs careful facilitation to avoid acrimonious dynamics. A discussion can make tensions worse than they were prior to the discussion. Through my life, I have learned methods for creating sacred space in the middle and appreciate how each person brings their reflection where they are in the moment – allowing silence – calling the other person by name – “What do you feel after this war” – It’s extremely important when people start to become defensive – that’s the opposite of inner listening. Developing these techniques of discussion has been part of my own journey.”

“In the Open House summer camps, the children are choosing to participate in an amazing act of courage to know ‘the other’. While parents support the activity, each child is making the choice to participate. Some grow up to become counselors in the summer camps. The first summer camp was held in 1992 with children who were 8 to 10 years old. Then we included children up to 13 years and children as young as 6 years.”

“The summer camp and teen programming have two objectives: (i) affirmative action for the Arab population (e.g., developing respect for culture and promotion of the Arabic language); and (ii) co-existence – two communities living together. Both types of programming require funds not only for staff but for materials and resources; the children are not just spending time together but also working together (e.g., creating a sculpture of sheep in a public garden in Ramle). They have created an Open House mosaic in the centre of Ramle – they used discarded materials which required breaking them down and designing a concept for the piece.”

“For older children, high-school students, “The Journey” program, they travel throughout the country and hear the narratives of all parties. It is an intense week-long experience.”  Click here and here

“We also have big events in cooperation with Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam in which we bring together young people for two or three days, twice each year, for music, dance, tents, and discussion. That programming has been supported by a Japanese Buddhist organization for over ten years. Developing and continuing funding relationships is critical. Some organizations offer three-year, seed funding; however, regular and dependable support is needed. For example, one woman in Holland has created a tax deductible venue in which four churches participate. Another example is one professor who turned to his friends at a university. They now do an annual collection at Christmas time, in support of Open House. A group at a synagogue in the US, working with local Palestinian Muslims, created a postcard project in 2010. They asked for drawings from children in the Open House nursery school and the summer camps. Those drawings were scanned and printed on postcards and cards which are sold in packages of ten cards for $20 (US). The postcard idea would be easy to adopt elsewhere because the drawings are already scanned.”

Dalia & Sherry Ann – Jerusalem – 14 Feb. 2011 – Photo: Guest

As Open House Ramle celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2011, they will be renewing the year-round co-existence programming. The summer camps  have continued every year but the year-round programming stopped for a few years due to lack of funding. The hope is to undertake a joint sculpture project. Through the course of one year, children in an Arab school and children in a Jewish school will each develop a sculpture or a complex of sculptures with a professional artist who is an Orthodox-Christian Arab. At the end of the year, the children will exchange the pieces as gifts. For that year, they will be thinking of ‘the other’.

As I begin to wrap up my time as an Ecumenical Accompanier in Palestine and Israel, reflecting on these co-existence efforts of Open House is helpful for seeing the hope that persists in this place. I invite you to watch this two-minute video [Click here. A new window will open. Scroll sideways to the right – drag the bar sideways at the bottow of the browser window. Wait for the video to download – will take about 2 min.] 

To visit additional resources, look for the underlined words (they’re hyperlinked) throughout this posting including three links below.

Radio documentary about The Lemon Tree by Homelands Productions 

A clip about Dalia Laudau and Bashir Al-Khayri’s story in this documentary film, “Holy Land: Common Ground” 

Sandy Tolen on writing the book, The Lemon Tree

“Go in Peace”

On visiting Eilat…a thin wedge of desert between the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and Jordan…on the Gulf of Aqaba…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s Elemental

In awe

Hearts pounding


Braced in the wind

In awe of this element of water



We stand, with cameras poised

Trying to capture, though never completely,

The sight of this surf.

But it isn’t just a sight or sound or taste.

It is bigger, a feeling that moves through, and past, each and all of us.

Where are you from?
What language do you speak?

Does it matter…

It’s a feeling that moves through, and past, each and all of us.

“Go in Peace”

in awe…

-Sherry Ann (15 Feb. 2011)

Checkpoint Control

“The army plays with us like sheep. It’s humiliating. I can’t stand it.”  -In conversation with a medical doctor describing the Qalandiya Checkpoint, 14 Feb. 2011.

For an article about the recent closure of Hawara Checkpoint north of Jerusalem and of Ramallah and south of Nablus, click here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Army makes 50 homeless: Jordan Valley Demolitions

Usra Ahmed Hanani with Ann Farr, EA - Khirbet Tana - 9 Feb. 2011 - Photo: P. Hanseid

The EAPPI Team in Yanoun stood with the people of Khirbet Tana this past week after their homes and animal shelters were demolished by the Israeli Army for the fourth time in recent years.

Rafi Mahmoud Hanani's makeshift sheep shelter before demolition - Khirbet Tana - Jan. 2011 - Photo: Ann Farr

For the full story, click here.

For additional photos, click here.

After the demolition. Rafi Mahmoud Hanani with the wreckage of his animal shelter – Khirbet Tana – 9 Feb. 2011 – Photo: P. Hanseid

For a descriptive Fact Sheet from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), click here.

Placement visit: Hebron

On 5-6 Feb. 2011, I visited the EAPPI team that is placed in Hebron. I don’t expect that I will forget these 24 hours very quickly. I arrived in time for the settler tour. This is a 3-pm event on Saturdays in the Old City of Hebron. On 5 Feb. 2011, about 35 Jews visited under the eye of about 20, fully armed, Israeli soldiers.

Some background info:

From Wikipedia – “Hebron (Arabic: الخليل or al-Ḫalīl) (Hebrew: חֶבְרוֹן or Ḥevron or Ḥeḇrôn) is located in the southern West Bank, 30 km (19 mi) south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters (3,050 ft) above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians,[1] and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter.[2][3][4][5][6] The city is most notable for containing the traditional burial site of the biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs and is therefore considered the second-holiest city in Judaism after Jerusalem.[7] The city is also venerated by Muslims for its association with Abraham[8] and was traditionally viewed as one of the “four holy cities of Islam.”[9][10][11][12]

From a 2009 travel book that I bought (see this webpage and scroll to the end of the page for a sample of this English-language document) – “In the old city there are 5 settlements, with a total of around 500 Jewish settlers coming mainly from the United States and France. They are located along the Street of the Martyrs, from which Palestinians are banned, which links Kyriat Arba to Tell Er-Rumeida. The settlers are well armed and protected by between 1,500 and 2,000 Israeli soldiers. What used to be the centre of commercial and social activity in Hebron is today both bleak and depressing. Although it retains its authentic character the old city is being strangled by the restrictions, which are enforced by metal barriers, turnstiles, omnipresent barbed wire, and blocks of concrete.

Old City, Hebron – 5 Feb. 2011 – Photo: Sherry Ann

Wire grills have had to be installed to protect Palestinian passersby from rubbish and rubble thrown down by Jewish settlers from the upper storeys [sic] of illegally occupied houses, which used to be inhabited by Palestinian families. Moreover, a number of modern Israeli buildings and other structures have been built that clash with the architecture of the old city and spoil its traditional character.” (p. 33)

I walked with Laura, an EAPPI Hebron Team member, behind the 12 soldiers who walked behind the tour group. (Eight soldiers walked ahead of the group.) At the end of the tour, we found ourselves exiting a laneway and inadvertently between the main group and three tour members who had stopped to take a few final photos. Two soldiers accompanied the three people as they walked by us and joined the rest of the group before entering this gate.

Israeli Army gate & watch tower - Old City, Hebron - 5 Feb. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

One woman called out to Laura and me:

“Shame on you!!”


Who do you see within this vest?

Within this skin?

What do you see?

What label?


Who are you that you see me in this way?

What has brought us together in this place?

I am guessing that you have more layers than this surface.

I can feel them. And the fear. And your shock.

Can you feel my shock?

Are you feeling a kind of oppressive pressure-like nausea, too?

Your accent sounds North-American, like mine perhaps…

What is your name…

My name is Sherry Ann…

I am a visitor here, too…who cares…

Perhaps, we will meet again…

Perhaps, we might find ourselves in a discussion about this place…

I hope that you might see me, then…I hope that I will be allowed to see and hear more of your layers…

Until then…


Assalaamu alaykum

Peace be with you.

-Sherry Ann (6-8 Feb. 2011)