Friday, December 1

MCC Palestine Update #130

MCC Palestine Update #130

1 December 2006

“The Forgotten Faithful: The Challenge and the Witness of Palestinian Christians”

In early November, MCC partner the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center ( held its 6th International Conference. This year’s theme was “The Forgotten Faithful: The Challenge and the Witness of Palestinian Christians.” Most of the speakers were local Palestinian Christians including Archbishops and Bishops from the Orthodox, Armenian, Coptic, Syrian, Latin, Maronite, Anglican, and Lutheran churches.

This was a unique conference as it took us to several different locations in Palestine / Israel, where participants worshiped in and visited 32 churches in 13 villages, experiencing fellowship with local sisters and brothers and a taste of Palestinian hospitality in the meals they shared. The conference began in East Jerusalem and then moved to Bethlehem, Jericho, and Ramallah, all of which are in the Occupied West Bank. Several local Christian communities in villages around Ramallah and Jericho were visited including Taybeh, Birzeit, and ‘Aboud. From there we traveled to the Galilee in northern Israel, to Nazareth. In the Galilee we again visited several Christian communities in villages like Jish, Ailaboun, and Maghar. The conference ended with a communion service on the shores of the Sea of Galilee at the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter—where it is believed that Jesus commissioned Peter to “feed my sheep” following the resurrection (John 21).

This was also a commissioning service for the conference participants to commit themselves to strive for peace with justice: to establish bonds of fellowship with Palestinian Christians and to stand in solidarity with all Palestinians in their struggle for liberation; to commit ourselves to active prayer, education, and advocacy on behalf of the Palestinian people; to campaign for truth and justice with the energy and consistency of an ever-flowing stream; to work without ceasing to bring healing and reconciliation to all people with God’s joy and peace in our hearts, especially to the people of the land where the first message of peace was proclaimed.

To read more of the conference statement, please visit:
To learn more about the conference itself, please visit:

Remembering the Nakba in Hebrew

MCC Israeli partner the Zochrot Association ( recently organized tours to the sites of two destroyed Palestinian villages. About two hundred visitors took part in a visit to the village of Tarshiha (photos and story: in the Galilee near the Lebanon border. Last week, another one hundred people visited the village of a-Shajara (photos and story:, also in the Galilee, where they posted signs in Hebrew and in Arabic marking where the mosque, the schoolhouse, and the cemetery of the village lay. Such acts of memory not only resurrect the landscape of these villages—two of the over 500 Palestinian villages destroyed and whose residents were among the 750,000 to 900,000 Palestinian refugees expelled from their homes between 1947 and 1949 in what Palestinians remember as the Nakba or “catastrophe”—but also serve as shared acts where Israelis and Palestinians come together to embody an alternative reality of coexistence. To learn more about Tarshiha and a-Shajara, please visit and

“Emergency assistance for farmers affected by the Wall”

Over the past year, MCC along with Catholic Relief Services ( partnered with the Palestinian Hydrology Group ( in a hydrology project for “Emergency assistance to farmers affected by the separation wall.” This project has included the building of cement pools, which will collect rainwater in the winter season and store water in the summer, as well as installing and maintaining irrigation pipes and well pumps in the Palestinian villages of Bardalah and ‘Ein el-Beida, in the northern Jordan Valley, and in the West Bank village of Jayyus where the separation wall has cut off over three hundred families from their farm lands, having a serious economic impact on this village that relies heavily on agriculture.

Palestinian livelihoods continue to be devastated as more land is being expropriated for the construction of this 430-mile / 700-km separation barrier—a network of concrete walls up to nine meters (about thirty feet) in height, electronically-monitored, barbed-wire fences, patrol roads, and trenches—that has little to do with security and terrorism, built not on the internationally recognized boundary referred to as the “Green Line” but instead on Palestinian land, cutting deeply into the West Bank.

In this context, the seemingly mundane tasks of farming become a form of resistance.

To learn more about this project, see the article by Saed Essawi and Emily Ardell attached below or read it online at To learn more about the ongoing experience of dispossession of Palestinians due to the wall and other discriminatory Israeli policies, check out the current issue of Forced Migration Review at

“Don’t say we did not know”

MCC partner the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD; occasionally sends out brief stories they title “Don’t say we did not know”, describing the ongoing experience of Palestinian dispossession in the Occupied Territories. Here is an example of one of their recent accounts:

“The village Marda is situated near the settlement Ariel. IDF patrols arrive in the village often, at night or in the evening, while throwing shock grenades and ordering shopkeepers to close their shops, and then leave. Sometimes a building is evacuated and searched; sometimes someone's arrested.

“On the 7 November 2006 at 3 AM the soldiers arrived into one of the village's houses. They threw shock grenades and damaged the front door, broke a window, and then demanded the residents to leave. There was a woman with a one-year-old baby and a child aged three years. Her husband spent the night in a nearby village due to the olive harvest. The soldiers made the mother and children sit on the ground and pointed their guns at the children's heads, and did not let their grandmother to take them away. Then they led them to another house, 50 meters away (the residents of that house aren't related to the mother and children). There they were made to sit on the ground again, while the house was surrounded by soldiers making an arrest. At the same time relatives told the husband what has been happening. He arrived immediately but the soldiers did not let him enter the village.

“At around 5 AM the soldiers left.”

Unfortunately, this is just one of many such stories in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Only last week here in Bethlehem, an Israeli military incursion into our neighborhood left us stranded in our home, listening for hours to the sounds of machine-gun fire and shock grenades. The young man the military was seeking to abduct eventually gave himself up only after a giant bulldozer rolled down our street, threatening to demolish his family’s home.

To subscribe to ICAHD’s list you can send an email to and type “subscribe international” in the body.

Advent Advocacy: Bethlehem “Then and Now”

Experiencing the Advent season in a place such as this is truly unique. It carries with it incredible feelings of closeness, a concreteness even as one visits those sites—the Church of the Nativity, the Shepherd’s Fields—that hold so much meaning and that themselves seem to play a role of their own in the Christmas story. Yet at the same time, those feelings of closeness are easily swallowed up by a sense of distance, of separation, of forsakeness as one surveys the situation here.

As we enter this season of Advent, Mennonite Church USA is urging us to remember the “little town” of Bethlehem. But the challenge is not only to remember this story as we imagine it “then” but to also remember the situation here “now.” Please visit for more information on this campaign. To find out more about specific suggestions for how you can get involved, please visit

May the voices of these Palestinian sisters and brothers that are so often dismissed, silenced, and dehumanized speak loudly to you this Advent season, providing both a meaning and a challenge for your own celebration of the incarnational presence of “God with us” this Christmas.

Peace to you all,

Timothy Seidel

Timothy and Christi Seidel
Peace Development Workers
Mennonite Central Committee – Palestine

Attachments and Links:

· Saed Essawi and Emily Ardell, “Emergency assistance for farmers affected by the Wall,” Forced Migration Review, September 2006
· Steven Erlanger, “Israeli Map Says West Bank Posts Sit on Arab Land,” New York Times, 21 November 2006
· Jeff Halper, “The Problem with Israel,” ICAHD, 23 November 2006
· Dr. Bernard Sabella, “Peace through Equality for All,” AMIN, November 17, 2006
· Ahdaf Soueif, “A project of dispossession can never be a noble cause,” The Guardian, 17 November 2006
· Dan Murphy, “No clash of civilizations, says UN report: A UN-sponsored group says the Israel-Palestinian conflict is the main cause of global tensions,” Christian Science Monitor, 14 November 2006
· Amira Hass, “How a Beit Hanun family was destroyed,” Haaretz, 13 Novemner 2006
· Ali Abunimah, “South Africa seen as model for Palestine,” Chicago Tribune, 12 November 2006
· Gideon Levy, “No one is guilty in Israel,” Haaretz, 12 November 2006
· Christopher Brown, “Interview: Yehuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence,” The Electronic Intifada, 1 November 2006
· Amir Tibon, “Refusenik Omri Evron: ‘Why I can't become a soldier in the IDF,’” The Electronic Intifada, 28 October 2006


Forced Migration Review
Emergency assistance for farmers affected by the Wall
Saed Essawi and Emily Ardell
September 2006

The Wall follows a zig-zag path, in some places deviating up to 14km from the internationally recognised Green Line which separates Israel from the OPT. The Wall comes very close to several Palestinian towns and villages. In many cases this means farmland next to or near these towns has been ‘moved’ to the Israeli side of the Wall. Many Palestinian farmers are now physically separated from both their land and water sources – and risk losing their only source of income in an already struggling economy. In the northern districts of Tulkarem and Qalqilya at least 6,000 farms have been directly affected. These districts represent some 20-25% of total Palestinian agricultural production. Many irrigation networks have been destroyed by military and Wall construction vehicles. Catholic Relief Services (CRS), in partnership with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and the Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG), has initiated a project for ‘Emergency assistance to farmers affected by the separation wall’…

The Wall is a source of extreme economic, social and political tension for communities in the West Bank. While CRS is pleased with the positive impact of an initiative to provide farmers with income and incentives to remain on their land, we also recognise that the existence of the Wall has broader consequences that cannot be resolved by the programme alone. There are many complex issues that require international attention if there is to be economic and social justice in the West Bank. By reducing the negative impact of the Wall on local populations, we have only addressed one small component of the problem: the Wall itself. In the words of the late Pope John Paul II, “the Holy Land does not need walls, but bridges!”

Please


The New York Times
Israeli Map Says West Bank Posts Sit on Arab Land
Steven Erlanger
21 November 2006

An Israeli advocacy group, using maps and figures leaked from inside the government, says that 39 percent of the land held by Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is privately owned by Palestinians.

Israel has long asserted that it fully respects Palestinian private property in the West Bank and only takes land there legally or, for security reasons, temporarily.

If big sections of those settlements are indeed privately held Palestinian land, that is bound to create embarrassment for Israel and further complicate the already distant prospect of a negotiated peace. The data indicate that 40 percent of the land that Israel plans to keep in any future deal with the Palestinians is private.

The new claims regarding Palestinian property are said to come from the 2004 database of the Civil Administration, which controls the civilian aspects of Israel’s presence in the West Bank. Peace Now, an Israeli group that advocates Palestinian self-determination in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, plans to publish the information on Tuesday. An advance copy was made available to The New York Times.

Please read more at:


Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
The Problem with Israel
Jeff Halper
23 November 2006

The problem is Israel in both its pre- and post-state forms, which for the past 100 years has steadfastly refused to recognize the national existence and rights of self-determination of the Palestinian people. Time and again it has said “no” to any possibility of genuine peace making, and in the clearest of terms. The latest example is the Convergence Plan (or Realignment) of Ehud Olmert, which seeks to end the conflict forever by imposing Israeli control over a “sovereign” Palestinian pseudo-state. “Israel will maintain control over the security zones, the Jewish settlement blocs, and those places which have supreme national importance to the Jewish people, first and foremost a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty,” Olmert declared at the January 2006 Herzliya Conference. “We will not allow the entry of Palestinian refugees into the State of Israel.” Olmert’s plan, which he had promised to implement just as soon as Hamas and Hezbollah were dispensed with, would have perpetuated Israeli control over the Occupied Territories. It could not possibly have given rise to a viable Palestinian state. While the “Separation Barrier,” Israel’s demographic border to the east, takes only 10-15% of the West Bank, it incorporates into Israel the major settlement blocs, carves the West Bank into small, disconnected, impoverished “cantons” (Sharon’s word), removes from the Palestinians their richest agricultural land and one of the major sources of water. It also creates a “greater” Israeli Jerusalem over the entire central portion of the West Bank, thereby cutting the economic, cultural, religious and historic heart out of any Palestinian state. It then sandwiches the Palestinians between the Wall/border and yet another “security” border, the Jordan Valley, giving Israel two eastern borders. Israel would retain control of all the resources necessary for a viable Palestinian state, and for good measure Israel would appropriate the Palestinians’ airspace, their communications sphere and even the right of a Palestinian state to conduct its own foreign policy. This plan is obviously unacceptable to the Palestinians – a fact Olmert knows full well – so it must be imposed unilaterally, with American assistance. But who cares?

The question then is, will the international community, the only force capable of putting an end to the superfluous destabilization of the global system caused by Israel’s Occupation, step in and finally impose a settlement agreeable to all the parties? So far, the answer appears to be “no,” constrained in large part by America’s view that Israel is still a valuable ally in its faltering “war on terror.” Only when the international community – led probably by Europe rather than the US, which appears to be hopeless in this regard – decides that the price is too high and adopts a more assertive policy towards the Occupation will Israel’s ability to manipulate end. Civil society’s active intervention is crucial. We – Israelis, Palestinians and internationals – can formulate precisely what the large majority of Israelis and Palestinians crave: a win-win alternative to Israel’s self-serving and failed “security” framing based on irreducible human rights. Such a campaign would contribute measurably to yet another critical project: A meta-campaign in which progressive forces throughout the world articulate a truly new world order founded on inclusiveness, justice, peace and reconciliation. If, in the end, Israel sparks such a reframing, if it generates a movement of global inclusiveness and dialogue, then it might, in spite of itself, yet be the “light unto the nations” it has always aspired to be.

Please read more at:


Arabic Media Internet Network
Peace through Equality for All
Dr. Bernard Sabella
17 November 2006

Our experience as Palestinian Christians is closely linked to that of the Palestinian people as a whole. Historically, Christian-Muslim relations in Palestine have been based on what we call "the dialogue of life" as we work together, our children go to school together and we share the same bitter and sweet conditions of life. We are proud, as Palestinian Christians, to have contributed such leaders as the late intellectual Edward Said, spokesperson Hanan Ashrawi, and current PLO envoy to the U.S. Afif Safieh. We work with our Muslim compatriots to end Israel 's military occupation and establish a viable, geographically-contiguous, democratic and secular Palestinian state at peace with itself and with its neighbors. In fact, according to a recent poll conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, only three percent of Palestinians support Islamic rule. The vast majority supports secular nationalism.

Our relations are periodically tested by outside developments such as His Holiness the Pope's recent comments on Islam. Acts of Church vandalism in the West Bank and Gaza followed, and troubled us all, Christians and Muslims, particularly in light of centuries of Muslim respect for Christian and Jewish communities, both here and elsewhere in the Middle East . We were supported by our Muslim neighbors, religious leaders and the Palestinian National Authority in condemning these acts and promising to pursue the perpetrators. Muslims sat side by side with Christians in churches that were vandalized.

Christians and others in America who have our true interests at heart would help us most by urging even-handed U.S. policies. The blockade of the Palestinian government that began in March must end. A cease-fire must be observed by both sides, not only by Palestinians. Negotiations must be based on international law and human rights, and if conditions are imposed for talks, they must be reciprocal on both parties.

This land belongs to no single people. Peace will come when no group dominates and excludes others. Christ's message of love and tolerance will be heard in the Holy Land when the equality of all God's children is again respected. The vital bridge that Palestinian Christians constitute between the West and the Arab world would then be preserved for the benefit of future generations.

Please read more at:


The Guardian
A project of dispossession can never be a noble cause
Ahdaf Soueif
17 November 2006

The secret rotting at the core of the state of Israel is its refusal to admit that the Zionist project in Palestine - to create a state based on the dispossession of the non-Jewish inhabitants of the land - was never noble: the land it coveted was the home of another people, and the fathers of the Israeli nation killed, terrorised and displaced them to turn the project into actuality. But the Palestinian nation lives on - visibly and noisily and everywhere. To make its own denial stick, Israel has to deny and suppress Palestinian history. To impose its design on Palestine, it has to somehow make the Palestinians disappear. "Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill"; and so the ethnicide continues. The new deputy prime minister, Avigdor Lieberman, plots against the Palestinians within Israel. The Israeli army kills and terrorises the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Zionists and their friends are desperate to silence the voices of and for Palestine. Meanwhile, Israel insists it is civilised, decent, peaceable - a light unto nations. How can a society caught in such delusion thrive? And how can people living within the Zionist project as privileged Jewish citizens bewail their embattled lot or be puzzled by it? Liberal Israelis of the left should heed another couple of lines from the bard: "Glamis hath murder'd sleep, and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more; Macbeth shall sleep no more."

Since 1988, initiatives, peace talks and road maps have aimed to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in Jerusalem, and to do justly by the Palestinian refugees. For 12 years none of this happened, and first-hand accounts of the Camp David talks in 2000 show that Israel did not have the political will then to make the necessary minimum offer. Presumably it still doesn't; hence the "sealed envelopes". But, perhaps because the stakes are now so high, people are once again speaking of the visionary solution: the secular democratic state, a homeland for both Israelis and Palestinians.
The Palestinian social scientist Ali Abunimah and the Israeli historian Ilan Pappé's recent books are the latest to make the case for this. They find hope, as Pappé puts it, in "those sections of Jewish society in Israel that have chosen to let themselves be shaped by human considerations rather than Zionist social engineering" and in "the majority of the Palestinians who have refused to let themselves be dehumanised by decades of brutal Israeli occupation and who, despite years of expulsion and oppression, still hope for reconciliation".

Please read more at:,,1950034,00.html


Christian Science Monitor
No clash of civilizations, says UN report: A UN-sponsored group says the Israel-Palestinian conflict is the main cause of global tensions
Dan Murphy
14 November 2006

A UN-sponsored group called the Alliance of Civilizations, created last year to find ways to bridge the growing divide between Muslim and Western societies, released a first report Monday that says the conflict over Israel and the Palestinian territories is the central driver in global tensions.

"Our emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not meant to imply that it is the overt cause of all tensions between Muslim and Western societies," write the report's authors, a group of academics and present and former government officials from 19 different countries. "Nevertheless, it is our view that the Israeli-Palestinian issue has taken on a symbolic value that colors cross cultural and political relations ... well beyond its limited geographic scope."

But while the authors hope their report will invigorate and create cross-cultural dialogue, its tone implies that it is unlikely to be well received by the United States and Israel, focusing as it does on allegations of double standards by those two nations while giving less time to the faults of the Palestinians or specific Muslim governments.

Please read more at:


How a Beit Hanun family was destroyed
Amira Hass
13 November 2006

The first shell that struck the house sent up a big cloud of dust and smoke. The parents and older children felt around in the sudden darkness of the morning, looking for the small children - to see if anyone had been hurt, to find and hold them, to run with them into the street.

Zahar, 33, is now lying wounded in the hospital in Beit Hanun; she has undergone one operation to remove shrapnel from her abdomen and is waiting for another on her leg. She was unhurt by the first shell. So was her 9-year-old son Sa'ed. They lived on the first floor of the house, in the east wing. After the first shell, she ran to where he was sleeping under the window. The light filtered in through the cloud of dust, and she saw his blanket was covered by fragments of broken glass. She pulled it off and found him shaking. "You weren't hit," she said, urging him to run and join her other children, May, Rami and Fadi, who fled with her downstairs.

Her 14-year-old daughter May helped her find her headscarf, skirt and pants, but she had no time to cover her head. Holding 5-month-old Maha, Zahar ran to the lane below the house. She gave the baby to a sister-in-law so she could put on her scarf, and then the second shell fell on the east wing of the house.

Was Sa'ed killed by this shell or by the third one, which also struck the house dead on? She does not remember. She was hit by the fourth shell, which struck the veranda.

But at this point, Zahar was still unharmed. She bent over Sa'ed, who was lying with all the other dead and wounded in the lane. A few seconds earlier, the other family members had run panicked into the street to get out of the house after the first shell. Zahar wiped the blood from Sa'ed's mouth and ran to the main street, calling for help. She ran back to her son to try to revive him, to wake him, and then the fourth shell hit.

At first she did not notice she had been wounded, that she was bleeding and her leg was torn down to the bone. She sat down among the bodies and tried to bring Sa'ed back to life. Her second son, Fadi, was injured. She doesn't know which shell did it. Her third son, Rami, fled into the garden of his uncle and neighbor, Dr. Hussein Athamneh, but the sixth shell found him there. Rami then ran into the street, toward the house of his uncle and aunt. The seventh shell found him outside their house, where it exploded.

The seven shells killed 18 members of the Athamneh family that day.

Please read more at:


Chicago Tribune
South Africa seen as model for Palestine
Ali Abunimah
12 November 2006

The two-state solution remains attractive and comforting in its apparent simplicity and finality. But in reality, it has proved unattainable because neither Palestinians nor Israelis are willing to give up enough of the country that they love. Faced with this impasse, a small but growing group of Israelis and Palestinians are tentatively exploring an old idea long dormant: Why not have a single state in which both peoples enjoy equal rights and protections and religious freedom? Many people dismiss this as utopian dreaming.

Allister Sparks, the legendary editor of the anti-apartheid Rand Daily Mail newspaper, observed that the conflict in South Africa most resembled those in Northern Ireland and Palestine-Israel, because each involved "two ethno-nationalisms" in a seemingly irreconcilable rivalry for the "same piece of territory." If the prospect of "one secular country shared by all" seems "unthinkable" in Palestine-Israel today, then it is possible to appreciate how unlikely such a solution once seemed in South Africa. But "that is what we did," Sparks says, "without any foreign negotiator [and] no handshakes on the White House lawn."

To be sure, Palestinians and Israelis would not simply be able to take the new South Africa as a blueprint. They would have to work out their own distinct constitution, including mechanisms for ethnic communities to have autonomy in matters that concern them, and to guarantee that no one group can dominate another. There would be hard work to heal the terrible wounds of the past. Such a solution offers the chance that Palestine-Israel could become for the first time ever the truly safe home where Israelis and Palestinians can accept each other. It may be an arduous path, but in the current impasse we cannot afford to ignore any ray of light.

Please read more at:


No one is guilty in Israel
Gideon Levy
12 November 2006

Nineteen inhabitants of Beit Hanun were killed with malice aforethought. There is no other way of describing the circumstances of their killing. Someone who throws burning matches into a forest can't claim he didn't mean to set it on fire, and anyone who bombards residential neighborhoods with artillery can't claim he didn't mean to kill innocent inhabitants.

Therefore it takes considerable gall and cynicism to dare to claim that the Israel Defense Forces did not intend to kill inhabitants of Beit Hanun. Even if there was a glitch in the balancing of the aiming mechanism or in a component of the radar, a mistake in the input of the data or a human error, the overwhelming, crucial, shocking fact is that the IDF bombards helpless civilians. Even shells that are supposedly aimed 200 meters from houses, into "open areas," are intended to kill, and they do kill. In this respect, nothing new happened on Wednesday morning in Gaza: The IDF has been behaving like this for months now…

The heedless and arrogant reaction to such deeds contains a dangerous moral message. If it is possible to dismiss mass killing with a wealth of technical excuses, and not take any drastic measure against those who are truly guilty of it, then Israel is saying that, as far as it is concerned, nothing happened apart from the faulty component in the radar system or the glitch in balancing the sights. But what happened at Beit Hanun, what happened in Israel on the day after and what is continuing to happen in Gaza day after day is a far more frightening distortion than the calibrating of a gun sight.

Please read more at:


The Electronic Intifada
Interview: Yehuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence
Christopher Brown
1 November 2006

Breaking the Silence (BTS) is a group of discharged soldiers who are veterans of the second Intifada, which began in September 2000. The group has tasked itself to reveal to the Israeli public the daily routine of life in the territories, a routine that gets no coverage in the media.

For Shaul and his comrades it was obvious that they were going to do something, and it was obvious that it was going to be about Hebron. Hebron is a Palestinian city in the West Bank located to the south of Jerusalem. It is considered a holy city to Jews, Muslims and Christians. This is where Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, and Jacob are buried in what is referred to by the Jews as The Tomb of The Patriarchs, and by the Muslims as al-Haram Ibrahimiyah. Furthermore, Abraham is an important figure in all three religions.

Out of the three years that he served in the occupied territories, 14 months were spent in Hebron. In March of 2004 Shaul was discharged. In June 2004 he and some comrades started BTS with a photo exhibition about Hebron.

The name Breaking the Silence was apt because what is going in the occupied territories is one of the biggest taboos in Israel. "It's like the thing you never talk about," says Shaul. "It's the dirt from the backyard that you do everything to keep in the backyard. The last thing you want is that this dirt will come to the front."

Please read more at:


The Electronic Intifada
Refusenik Omri Evron: "Why I can't become a soldier in the IDF"
Amir Tibon
28 October 2006

Omri Evron, a 19-year-old from Tel-Aviv, is weeks away from earning his B.A. in ethical philosophy from the Tel-Aviv University (TAU). He started studying for this degree when he was still a high-school student.

Omri is known around the campus of TAU as a leading social activist. Last month, for example, he started a petition of university and high-school students from around the country, protesting the exploitation of maintenance and cleaning workers in educational institutions.

At least once a week, Omri visits the Palestinian village of Bili'in, showing his support for the local Palestinian farmers who are campaigning against the Israeli separation wall that separates them from about 50 percent of their lands. In Bili'in, just like in Tel-Aviv, Omri has earned the reputation of a respected human rights activist.

However, Omri is considered a criminal by Israeli authorities because he refuses to enlist to the Israeli military, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). National military service is compulsory for all Jewish citizens of Israel, which means every Jewish Israeli must enlist in the IDF at the age of 18.

Please read more at:


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