Human RightsIsrael

Random roadblocks

Do these three guys look dangerous?

Apparently, the IDF seems to think they are some kind of subversives or something.  In actuality they are Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Director of Special Projects for Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR), Garry Walsh of RHR’s partner Trocaire, and yours truly, chairman of the board for RHR.

On Tu B’shevat, the Jewish “New Year for Trees,” we tried to make our way out to the Palestinian village of Al Jenia (near Ramallah), to “plant a tree for peace,” to present a different Jewish face than the one of the extremists who made a “price tag” attack in the village last week.

Unfortunately, our path was blocked by an IDF checkpoint.  Now normally checkpoints are there to block the movement of Palestinians.  In this case Palestinians were coming and going freely; I thought I saw some other cars with yellow Israeli license plates getting by as well, yet somehow we were pulled aside.  We don’t have any proof, but we suspect that some extremists from a nearby settlement were responsible for the roadblock.

Unfortunately, this is not an unusual occurrence in the West Bank.  The Israeli military very often puts up these impromptu road blocks, although normally it’s to look for suspected Palestinian terrorists, not to keep out peaceful tree planters.  We got lawyers on the phone, tried calling some members of the Knesset, but without success.  I gave up on the day’s outing and drove back to Jerusalem, but the others (and a bus full of supporters who were coming from a different direction) did finally manage to get through and plant a few trees.

I didn’t get to plant any trees, but I was given a clear reminder of the kind of frustrations that Palestinians living in the West Bank have to put up with every day.  Unfortunately, the current political constellation in both Israel and Palestine does not give me much hope that the situation is going to change any time soon.

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

3 thoughts on “Random roadblocks

  • Many moons ago when I was on guard duty on a settlement not far from where you were stopped, I was called by some Palestinians to protect them from the settlers. The IDF and its soldiers is sometimes acting to separate conflicting entities as a peacemaker. Stopping a bunch of Jews from going to a Palestinian area is consistent with the Israeli government’s attitude of keeping these populations separate to avoid conflict. Of course it is also pretty hard to build peace or communicate together if you are kept separate.

  • Why not start with issues you can actually do something about such as comply with Human Rights at the work place, and care about Equal Opportunity for disabled people such as your former employee Ariella Barker?

    “For two-and-a-half years, [she]worked in a Jerusalem office which did not have an accessible bathroom. For each visit to the bathroom, [she] was required to go down 14 floors to a public bathroom, which was often too dirty to use or lacked toilet paper, soap and hand towels. On multiple occasions, [she] was forced to go across the street to the mall to use the restroom, a trip which at times took 45 minutes.” See “Social justice for people with disabilities” by Ariella Barker, JPOST 09/25/2011.

    • Barry Leff

      Unfortunately when we built the office space I was not aware that it was not standard practice to design restrooms so that they are accessible, which is required in the USA by the Americans with Disabilities Act. We actually did look into modifying the bathroom, but it wasn’t practical. When at one point in time we were considering renting additional office space it was definitely stipulated as a requirement that the space had to have an accessible bathroom.


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