Deheisha and Bethlehem Spring 2011

I travelled with my son Eitan to visit Deheishe and to teach karate to Awlad al Muhayyam, children of the camp.  We met my dear brother Mazen Faraj and he took us through Bethlehem to the camp.  The sights of the camp and the city were harsh and uplifting at the same time.  The bustling of this small besieged city and the faces of the children at Deheishe were uplifting.  The ugly wall and the restricted life the children of the camp suffer and the living conditions within the camp, with army incursions and shortage of water and electricity were sad and depressing.

Still, Eitan and I came out feeling that more needs to be done to get the word out and to let the world know that Israel is getting away with crimes that cannot be forgiven. Deheishe is but one example of the injustice perpetrated by the Zionist state. Here are a few images:

Sheikh Jerrah April 2011

A large demo and march to protest the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem.  With Palestinian flags held high and a mixed Israeli-Palestinian crowd this was an impressive sight. The Israeli riot police, having been humiliated in court chose not to show their ugly faces.  The settlers too were no where to be seen.

Not far from Sheikh Jerrah, in the old city’s muslim quarter one can see more and more Israeli flags raised on houses as Zionist zealots take over more and more houses there.   This is a clear attempt to rid the Old City of its Palestinian population. One can hope that soon the marches will go from Sheikh Jerrah through the Old City to Silwan in protest of this trend.

fighting for peace

Karate class in Ramallah
Karate class in Ramallah

I am a professional martial artist, I teach karate for a living.  So what does that have to do with peace?  A lot!  I was able to visit two karate schools in the PA, one in Anata and one in Ramallah.  They were both excellent schools with a very high level of instruction.   Now martial arts is something I do know a lot about and I know a good school when I see one.  It means a good, dedicated and demanding teacher and it means loyal and serious students.

While I was visiting these schools I had spoken to the students. I told them that karate is all about self defense, it is all about overcoming our fears and it is all about reaching for the highest goals possible.  For Palestinians living under Israeli military oppression this is crucial. First of all it is a way to instill inner strength in children so that they know they are able to resist  without having to resort to violence.  That by practicing martial arts they are developing an inner strength that is far greater than all the weapons the Israeli army can ever accumulate.

“Think about it”, I said to one child that was practicing” a soldier who carries so many weapons must be full of fear.   Particularly since the Israeli soldiers carry these weapons to fight an unarmed civilian population – can you think of a more cowardly thing to do? You who have no weapons but are fighting the fight that is just and therefore you are by far stronger, even though it does not seem that way.”

Of the thousands of people I know that practice martial arts and are black belts few have ever resorted to violence.  That is the sign that have truly mastered their martial arts.  When you are skilled in fighting but never resort to violence you are showing the greatest skill of all.  Now win the context of resistance this is an important point. It takes a lot of courage to resist a violent and brutal army and practicing martial arts develops courage.  You have to know in your hear of hearts that you are stronger, and karate teaches you to believe in your self. Without a firm belief in yourself it would be impossible to resist in an intelligent way.  Palestinian children need to know that they do have a chance at a god life, that they do deserve to live in freedom that this land we share is their land just as much as it the Israelis; they need to know that no one has the right to keep them from living a full life, from travelling, studying.  They need to be taught that it i snot only right but imperative to defy Israel and the laws that govern Palestinian life.

By the same token Israeli children need to know that they must defy their own government and they must travel and engage in relation building with the people with whom they share the land.  The Israeli army wants to keep us apart and we must fight them and insist on joining hands and creating a better country where Israelis are freed from the restrictions of their oppressive government a government that makes every Israeli an accomplice in its crimes.

On one of my visits to the school in Anata I brought my two boys. These are some pics from my visits to karate schools in Ramallah and Anata.

My boys at Anata TKD school. Check out the flags
My boys at Anata TKD school. Check out the flags
Karate class in Anata
Karate class in Anata