Wednesday, March 22, 2006

 

Melbourne Invades Hebron???

After missing Australia for so long I was surprised just how much worlds would be colliding when I arrived in Hebron. One of the Human Rights Volunteers I was working with in Hebron was a 75 year old (deaf) women from the conservative Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne. Mary Baxter has traveled to Palestine a few times in recent years and was working with me to escort Palestinian kids to school, so for any person under the age of 75 reading this blog with all their senses in tact you have no excuses to not get involved.

Mary is an absolute inspiration, she is out at 7am on most mornings escorting Palestinian kids to school. Continuing to keep an eye out for the young boys in H2 despite having been physically attacked by settlers on two separate occasions. Mary was a delight to work with. She was great with the kids and very practical when a frequent emergency occurred. The former lecturer in statistics who in retirement actually went back to uni and studied Psychology under the tuition of my mum a few years ago (who gave her High Distinctions).

But the local connection didn't end there. One of the soldiers I talked to was from Israel but has Australian parents. He spent his final two years of High School at Bialik College in Melbourne. He was actually arguing with me against one of his fellow soldiers. I raised with the two soldiers the fact that many of the people I met in Israel learnt about the contradictions between maintaining a Jewish State and maintaining a democratic state. Whilst the other soldier said that ultimately he would choose a Jewish state over a democratic one, the Australian disagreed saying that Israel needs to strive for a democracy inclusive of the whole population.

But the Melbourne connection did not end there. Sadly whilst exploring around the settlements in Hebron I came across a building called "The Gutnick Center" which was renovated by Rabbi Joseph Gutnick former President of the Melbourne Football Club and a Melbourne local capitalist. There are plaques right around the settlements indicating that the settlers are supported by Zionists abroad.

I remember when I was a kid and we were told that some of the money we were donating to the local synagogue was to go to help Israel. Sadly looking at things now I suspect that most of the money donated by Jews from Australia was being used to expand into the West Bank and Gaza rather then helping poor Israelis.

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