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WAWA/WeAreWideAwake is my Public Service to America as a muckracker who has journeyed seven times to Israel Palestine since June 2005. WAWA is dedicated to confronting media and governments that shield the whole truth.

We who Are Wide Awake are compelled by the "fierce urgency of Now" [Rev MLK, Jr.] to raise awareness and promote the human dialogue about many of the crucial issues of our day: the state of our Union and in protection of democracy, what life is like under military occupation in Palestine, the Christian EXODUS from the Holy Land, and spirituality-from a Theologically Liberated Christian Anarchist POV.

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We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that, among these, are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; and, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it. -July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence


Home arrow Blog arrow November 2007 arrow November 10, 2007

November 10, 2007
WAWA Blog  November 10, 2007: Justice and Peace Seeking Christian Denied Entry into the Holy Land.

I met Krista for the first time in 2006 and crossed paths with her again this July during my fifth trip to Israel Palestine.

Krista is a beautiful twenty-something soft spoken young woman and a selfless dedicated committed long term volunteer with Sabeel [Arabic for THE WAY] Liberation Theology Center founded in Jerusalem and united with a global community of friends of SABEEL; ecumenical Christians seeking justice and peace in the Holy Land .

Krista's justice and peace seeking mission has been sponsored by the UCC.

What follows is her account [BOLD EMPHASIS MINE!] of being deported from Ben Gurion Airport as she attempted to return to Jerusalem after attending last months Sabeel Conference in Boston.  


The Right of Entry Denied to Krista: A Justice and Peace Seeking Christian of the Holy Land

Krista Wrote:

Every time I re-enter Israel/Palestine I am nervous about re-entry and hope for a new three month visa.  I have had problems twice before- a one week visa once and a denial of entry this past summer on the way back from a World Council of Churches (WCC) meeting in 'Amman.

Last Saturday morning I flew into Ben Gurion airport after attending a Sabeel conference in Boston and visiting my family in Indianapolis.

As I walked up to the passport control counter the woman in the booth sneered at me and asked "what are you doing back here?" after seeing that I had been in Israel recently.  She asked why I didn't have a different visa- why was I trying to sneak past them? 

She did an additional computer check and exclaimed, "you sneaky girl!   You were denied entry in Jordan- you sneaky little girl!" 

I felt my stomach drop like I was on a rollercoaster, I knew what was coming, but I stayed calm as I was led from one interrogation to another, as my passport was taken from me, and as I was informed that I would not be allowed to enter the country.  

I explained that I was here representing my church in the US on business, but they told me that I
would need a visa from the Ministry of the Interior.   I questioned why I would not be allowed into Israel to be able to go to the Ministry of the Interior to look into this further, but was not answered.

 I remained calm, asked the reasons for my denial and asked how they would suggest attaining a different kind of visa, as I am not employed by an organization inside Israel.   I was given no further
reasons for my denial of entry other than continuing to be referred to as "sneaky." 

I was then taken to another room where I was photographed and fingerprinted.  

Then I was taken to identify my luggage and then taken to a back room where five security personnel
searched through my luggage and I was given a body search by two female security officers.

Finally I was taken to a detention facility and held for 13 hours before I was put on a plane back to the US.

I was treated decently but locked in a room with no door handle on the inside, bare bunk beds, and a bathroom. 

I stayed in the room for 13 hours, but they brought me something to eat twice.   I was forced to leave my luggage outside, but was allowed to bring my backpack.  I was not allowed to keep my camera with me, and I can only assume this was to prevent me from being able to record the conditions in the cell. 

I informed them that I was in touch with a lawyer, and would not fly that day, but they told me that a court injunction was required to stay.  I requested to meet with the Ministry of the Interior representative at the airport, but was refused and taken directly to the tarmac and put on the plane.

On the airplane my passport was given to a flight attendant with instructions to only return it to me when I got off the airplane.   I had seen that my bags were checked through to Indianapolis but I had
no idea if I had a connecting flight or what time that it left.  When I got my passport back at the end of the flight it had "denied entry" stamped in it and I did not have a connecting flight. 

Luckily I was able to call and book a flight for a few hours later, but after travelling for over fifty hours, I was completely exhausted.

While in the detention facility, I was working with the American Embassy, lawyers, colleagues, and the MYRTOE (My Right to Enter) Campaign.   I felt exhausted and sad- I had plans- I was in the middle of projects- I have friends that I love- and wanted to be able to say goodbye to at the least.

One minute I had plans, and an apartment, and appointments- and the next my world was turned upside down.

I got a phone call from Sam Bahour of the MYROTE Campaign.  He told me that I am "a real Palestinian now."  

Sam and I have a few things in common.  We both grew up near Youngstown, Ohio.  We were both
denied entry to Israel in the past- but one key difference is that Sam is Palestinian-American.  

Sam is a passionate, creative leader in the Palestinian business community.  I am in Palestine to learn- to work at Sabeel- but also to soak up as much as I can to tell the story when I get back.

For me, this was a scary experience.  This was a challenge- an interruption- an inconvenience…   But for Sam- and the thousands like him who are foreign nationals- Palestinians holding foreign passports who are often the highly educated, committed, creative contributors to the fabric of Palestinian society- this is a much larger issue.  

This policy of visa renewal takes away the ability to plan, and the stakes are much higher when denial of entry could mean separation from your family, your business, and your home.

My heart is breaking when I think of the special friendships that I have built, the projects that I have poured myself into, and all that I still hope to experience in Israel/Palestine.  

I'm not finished yet.  I'm not done…  

But no matter what happens, this is a bump in the road, a blip on the radar screen for me- not a life and death issue as it is for many.  

As I sat in that cell, I was so tired.  I had been travelling for over thirty hours and I was about to board another twelve hour flight.   I reminded myself that I could leave, I could choose to quit, and I won't because this is NOTHING compared to what my Palestinian friends and colleagues deal with daily.

I may have been denied entry, but I was not a Palestinian being denied access to my homeland, as many are.  I may have been detained for half a day, but Palestinians can be put in administrative detention for up to six months without a reason being given.  

I may have had to wait while my things were searched through, but that is something that happens every day at the terminal checkpoints to enter Jerusalem or the checkpoints that separate Palestinian villages from one another throughout the West Bank. 

I know that I need to keep some perspective.  However, I am also giving myself some space to grieve, catch my balance, and remember all the little things that I will miss if I am, in fact, not able to return.

I will miss the chaos of the market and the fresh delicious Palestinian food, the sweet thick cups of coffee, an office that is like a family, playing volleyball on the Mt. of Olives, my church community, picking olives, using my Arabic, hiking to remote villages, the piles of fresh spices and heaps of bright vegetables in the market: an assault on the senses, engaging in nonviolent resistance to
the Occupation, and the support of good friends who laugh often but are seriously committed to peace with justice in this place.   I wish I could have said goodbye.

I am in Indianapolis now, continuing to work by correspondence with Sabeel, with every intention of returning if possible.   So much is up in the air right now, but one thing I do know.  I may be in Jerusalem-I may be in Indianapolis- but I will continue to work and to advocate for peace with justice in Palestine and Israel.  

Denied entry or not, I will not let them win, I will not quit.  I am not finished yet.

Please contact your legislators regarding the issue of reciprocity re:visas for religious students and volunteers.  

Here is the Sabeel statement on that issue:

In our understanding of the US State Department policy, Krista as an American  should be privileged to a "reciprocity" policy -- the U.S. grants certain visas dependent on what the other country does. The current US policy towards Israelis seeking religious visas -- yeshiva students, rabbis, synagogue volunteers, is that they get an unquestioned multiple entry 5 year visa.

 Obviously, Krista did not receive this reciprocity.

This is what happened to me for: Telling the Truth at Ben Gurion


[Tel Aviv, Israel , July 28, 2007 ] I left the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem: Occupied Territory at 8 AM and arrived at Ben Gurion Airport fifty minutes later.

I only hire Palestinian drivers whenever I travel in Israel Palestine, and for the first time in all my five journeys, my Palestinian driver did not have to leave his car and go into the interrogation building. Security asked me politely for my passport and to get out of the car and identify my luggage in the trunk. I did as I was told and then security returned my passport with a round blue sticker and the number 78 on the back cover. The sticker marks one as being with a Palestinian and triggers a more in-depth interrogation inside the terminal.

I told Samir, my driver, "I am not removing the sticker this time. I am livid to the point of over boil at all I have seen and heard these past two weeks and I will not shut up until I get it all out. I will be writing for the next week about what I have learned and I am going to tell airport security exactly where I have been and that I have been reporting it all on the web. I am flaming mad at my government and pathetic mainstream media who do not tell the truth about what is really going down in the Holy Land, which is all in pieces; Bantustans! Bush and Olmerts concept of a contiguous Palestinian state means connecting the unconnected enclaves with underground tunnels while the illegal settlers; colonists; squatters get to use the well paved apartheid roads and my tax dollars support this occupation and injustice! I am totally pissed off and whipped and worn out with misery and grief at all I have seen, heard and it has gone to my gut; my heart in other words, and I will not be silent; I cannot shut up."

Samir just shrugged.

The very first Ben Gurion employee, who questioned me, was the very same young trainee I had encountered in November 2006, but I didn't tell her that I remembered her. Eight months ago she was hesitant and apologetic in her questioning, but she had now mastered the routine, and there was no joking around. She was very concerned if anyone had given me anything that could be a bomb.

I told her nobody gave me anything except coffee, tea, water, soda, cookies, fruit, hummus and bobaganouh during my visits in Palestinian homes in Ramallah, Bethlehem, and in the Dasheish, Aida and Jenin refugee camps.

"How many times have you been to Israel?"

"This is my fifth trip."

"Do you have family here?"

"Not blood family, but friends who have become like family."

"What was the purpose for your trip?"

"I am an Internet reporter and I came to investigate what my government and the USA media doesn't talk about."

"So, have all your trips here been for business?"

"You could say that."

She then led me to the first x-ray machine, and after my bags passed through, she returned to me accompanied by another young woman and a young man in a suit.

He asked me; "How many times have you been to Israel?"

"This was my fifth trip and I spent all my time in occupied territory."

"Where have you been?"

" East Jerusalem, Bethlehem , Ramallah and Jenin. I am an Internet reporter and you can read all about my journey on my website," I replied as I handed him my card.

He looked at it carefully, smiled and replied, "Very nice, very interesting."

"Thanks. I hope you will read what I have to share."

"Oh, I will. May I keep your card?"

"Of course, it is yours and tell your friends to read me too."

"Thank you for your cooperation. There was a problem with your bags, they must go back through the x-ray machine."

"OK," I said and returned once again to where I had just been.

After the bags came back out, the young man in the suit informed me, "Your bags need to be further examined."

He led me to the next phase, a large rectangular space of tables with x-ray equipment in the middle and delivered me to station number 9, where three females were waiting for me. They asked me to open up all my bags and with plastic gloves on their hands; they swabbed and examined every surface and every article. My sunscreen lotion and Pink IPOD shuffle caused them some concern, but what really got them nervous was a stain on an old suitcase and they wanted to know, "How long had it been there?"

I had no clue as I borrowed the bag from my daughter and hadn't even noticed it until they brought it up. It took 35 minutes for them to go through all my stuff, and all my careful packing was for naught. They were pleasant enough, but nobody responded to me when I said, "All of this happens just because I have been to occupied Palestine? Oh well, every experience is writing material."

After they were satisfied I had no explosives in my luggage, one of them offered to help me repack, but I declined. As soon as I was zipped back up, one of them told me without making any eye contact, "Now I have to check you for metal."

"OK, sure, but I think you mean a strip search?"

She didn't respond and led me to the examining room where my shoes, belt, and jewelry came off and she told me to sit down and she would be right back. After my shoes and belt passed the x-ray inspection, she returned to me and told me to extend my legs so she could pat them down. Then she instructed me to stand up and hold my arms out so she could wand me all over. The wand kept alarming in the vicinity of the metal buttons and rivets on my jeans. She said, "Have a seat; I must get my supervisor."

She returned with a young woman, who also never made eye contact with me and commanded, "You need to drop your pants around your knees."

I complied and after she wanded me all over she turned and left, and I called to her back, "Did I pass the inspection? Can I get dressed?"

She never responded but my first 'companion' said "Yes."

I was then led back to my luggage and another female; one who did make eye contact and smiled a lot. "Come with me," she said and I did.

She led me to the front of a line of about twenty travelers' at the Continental check in desk. Two American women had been first in line and behind them was an angry looking man who yelled at my 'companion' in Hebrew. She responded without a smile in Hebrew back to him, and then smiled when I said to the Americans, "I got to cut in front of you, because I am a security risk. I have been to occupied territory and have been writing what I witnessed and learned on the World Wide Web." I handed them my card and added, "I hope you will read all about it and tell your friends."

After receiving my boarding pass, my 'companion' led me on, and as soon as we were out of ear shot from the line of travelers she remarked, "Israelis can be so very rude."

I responded, "So, all this personal attention is just because I told the truth?"

She smiled again but made no comment until we passed through the employees security check and arrived at Passport control. "Sorry to have put you through all this, but it's just our job."

"I know how that is for I have been doing mine in occupied territory and this morning's experience has provided me with my next article."





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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

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The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright

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