Here & now: Diana Paulding
Diana Paulding visits Hebron
Standing on the corner of a street in Hebron (pictured), the Palestinian activist Issa Amro told us that we had more rights than him in his hometown. Our British passports meant that we could follow the street back towards our coach, but military orders banned Issa and other Palestinians from this area. That road was like a ghost town. We walked in the middle of the road, passed only by three armoured vehicles carrying Israeli soldiers. Our passports were checked thoroughly when we went through a checkpoint in the marketplace, but we were waved through the gates, unlike the Palestinian woman, whose release was negotiated by Issa. The contrast was clear. We had rights. The Palestinians did not.
The visit to Hebron was part of the United Reformed Church’s educational visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (IOPT) in September 2019, in response to General Assembly’s 2016 resolution to explore ‘dialogue and action, peacebuilding, and justice and security for all’ in IOPT. The purpose was to enable the URC ‘to respond with informed prayer, grace and solidarity’. I went on the visit as a URC Youth representative and I was honoured to be able to share time with Palestinians, in particular Palestinian Christians, and to hear their stories.
When I was selected to take part in the visit, my friends made various suggestions for my safety, from wearing a wedding ring to not reading the new Margaret Atwood dystopia on the plane. When we arrived, it was clear everywhere we went that both Israelis and Palestinians welcome international visitors. During the ten-day trip, I only felt afraid twice. Once was walking through the checkpoint in Hebron, but then my passport was my protection. The other was being driven up winding mountain roads in a taxi that took the bends far faster than I would have done!..
Diana Paulding is a writer and Old Testament graduate based in Norfolk
This is an extract from an article that was published in the December 2019/January 2020 edition of Reform