Here, existence is resistance.
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In early February, IPMN Advocacy Chair Addie Domske, led a group of young people to Israel/Palestine to participate in the Keep Hope Alive olive planting program with the Joint Advocacy Initiative in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and to tour the land, meeting up with activists and visiting holy sites. Over the last few months, IPMN has been sharing reflections from that trip. Many of the participants received travel scholarships from IPMN to help subsidize their travel costs.
A Trip To Nabi Saleh
by Daniel Giles

During the Olive planting portion of our trip, we stayed in Beit Sahour in the West Bank just outside of Jerusalem. On the Wednesday in the middle of the planting week, we were given a free day to make our own arrangements for the day. Some opted to visit Nablus (but redirected to Jericho because of IDF activity), others met up with scholars in Jerusalem, and our group arranged to visit Bassem Tamimi at his home in Nabi Saleh, with a stop in Ramallah for lunch.

Our trip north was uneventful, but lengthy as, due to Israel’s apartheid road system, we had to drive around Jerusalem because our Palestinian friend and driver for the day was not allowed to enter the city without a permit. We drove along the two-lane road that acted as the primary connection between the southern and northern parts of the West Bank that Palestinians could use. We passed through barriers and towns, all of which, we were told, could be shut down without notice and oftentimes were. At a later point in our trip we passed one such Palestinian town that had been shut down for days by the IDF as they searched for a single man suspected of a stabbing. 

When we arrived at Nabi Saleh, we came to a standstill in the road as cars were unable to pass through town. We heard shots and saw IDF soldiers firing at a hill, both with their guns and with tear gas. On the hill were children slinging rocks that didn’t even halve the distance between them and the soldiers. Eventually some Palestinian drivers stuck in the road block moved their vehicles to block the entrance to a nearby settlement as a sign of resistance. This inconvenience to settlers prompted the soldiers to reopen the road through the town immediately. 

We made it to the Tamimi household and learned that this is fairly common. The soldiers weren’t shooting to hit anyone just as the children couldn’t hit the soldiers. Everyone was merely going about their daily motions, the kids acting out of frustration and resisting in the only way they could and the soldiers shooting at children, keeping them in their place, making sure everyone knew they could kill anyone, at any time.

The whole time on our trip to Nabi Saleh and in our travels beyond, we were plagued by the imposing presence of the Israeli occupation. 

The wall, 
the watchtowers, 
the unmanned barricades, 
the military vehicles, 
the ever present armed soldier. 
The red roofs of permanent settlements dotting the hills, trailers of new settlers staking out and stealing new lands until the Israeli government could make it official, construction crews building in the face of international condemnation. 
The black water tanks atop every Palestinian home for the residents inside who know that their access to water was always fleeting, decrepit buildings falling in on themselves as expensive construction permits go to less than 3% of Palestinian applicants.

There is no escaping it, there is no avoiding it, there is no hiding it. Living in this place is to endure occupation and oppression and to live in opposition to expulsion and erasure. Here, existence is resistance.

Daniel Giles is a Physics PhD candidate at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois. He does his research at the Adler Planetarium and is using machine learning to find the weirdest stuff in large datasets to try and find new types of astrophysical phenomena. He feels called to action to address systemic injustice and endeavors to be an active resource to disenfranchised groups, either by going to plant trees, listening to and sharing experiences of others, or by volunteering the knowledge and skills he’s had the privilege to learn
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