As I’ve written previously I recently returned from my first trip to Palestine and nowI’m reporting back about what Iwitnessed and documented on my two-week tour of the West Bank and historic Palestine.
The presentations are geared for both Muslim and non-Muslim audiences. Both programs include a Power Point presentation, videos and a handout, “Grim Statistics: The Impact of Living under Occupation.” This fact finder booklet is invaluable for those needing a quick reference guide to contemprorary issues in Palestine, such as settlements, checkpoints and the Apartheid Wall.
I flew an American airline to Tel Aviv. My first clue of what I was in for came at Philadelphia’s airport when I found my gate concealed behind a long frosted glass wall. We went through three checks and searches before we could even enter the gate area. I was stupidly amazed and at that point I had no clue what I was in for about 10 hours later.
Turns out, my hijab and Polish last name of Szremski threw Israeli airport security into a tizzy. I was detained for seven hours, and questioned repeatedly about my name, my father’s name, his father’s name. Once, a police officer said, “This looks like a nice Jewish name.” Well, go figure. It actually is Polish Catholic and belongs to my ex-husband’s family. But that’s beside the point.
Pretty soon, the name issue didn’t seem all that important to them. Journalism – my vocation – is what really slowed down the process of granting me a visa. The Israeli secret police basically accused me of ‘committing journalism,’ If I may borrow the title from a from a book by Dannie Martin and former San Francisco Chronicle Editor Peter Sussman.
“I’ve read your articles,” the humorless officer said to me. “You know what the issues are.”
Nonetheless, after hours of questioning and searches, I got my visa and entered at long last the Holy Land. I still am having trouble coming to terms with everything I saw and experienced. These two incongruous realities play out against each other in an intricate nightmarish dance. The overwhelming hospitality, generosity and brotherhood of the Palestinian people is juxtaposed with the brutal and incomprehensible, all-encompassing Israeli security apparatus.
Now upholding the mission of the American Muslims for Palestine, it is my duty to bring the Palestinians’ stories home in attempts to raise awareness of what Americans are unwittingly supporting with their tax dollars.
Both programs, “Upholding Faith and Filasteen,” and “Where Jesus Tread: The Holy Land under Occupation,” can be adapted to last from 30 to 90 minutes, including an answer and question session. The program is free. For more information, or to schedule an event at your mosque, church or civic group, please call the AMP office at 888.404.4AMP or 708.598.4267, ext. 22.