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U.S. Rabbis Just Got a Close-up Look at Occupation in the West Bank - and It’s Not a Pretty Sight

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image Palestinians walking on a Hebron street. Rabbi Michael Adam Latz of Minneapolis called the tour there Sunday “eye-opening and heart-wrenching.” Olivier Fitoussi read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.799419

Rabbis' visit comes after 50th anniversary of Israel's occupation of West Bank.

What hadn’t been planned, though, up was that their trip would coincide with one of the worst crises ever in relations between Israel and the U.S. Jewish community

Rabbi Stanley Kessler first visited Hebron in 1967, just after the Six-Day War. He returned for a second visit in 1973. This week, at age 94, he came back for his third trip and hardly recognized the city.

“I have difficulty seeing what I’m seeing,” he says, pausing for a moment of reflection after a stroll, on a sweltering day, through what used to be the bustling center of this West Bank city. “On my previous trips, the streets were swarming with people. And now, I didn’t even see one single person.”

“Where has everyone gone?” wonders Kessler, who served for 40 years as rabbi of a large Conservative congregation in Hartford, Connecticut, and had studied under Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of America’s most revered rabbis.

Kessler has been around, as they say. During World War II, he served as an aerial gunner and radio operator in the U.S. Air Force, flying 18 missions over Europe. In 1963, he was one of 18 rabbis who marched for black civil rights with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Birmingham, Alabama. In the late 1960s, he was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement.

But something about this most recent trip to Hebron – a city where the entire story of the Israeli occupation plays out in a nutshell – has shaken him deeply.

Rabbi Stanley Kessler, one of the participants on a trip to the West Bank city of Hebron that was organized by T’ruah, a U.S.-based human rights group, and the anti-occupation Israeli organization Breaking the Silence, July 2, 2017.
Rabbi Stanley Kessler, during the tour to Hebron. “I am terribly sad,” he says. “And now, after hearing the stories of soldiers who served here, I am also infuriated.”Judy Maltz

Perhaps because the last time he visited here, before Israeli settlers had set up a base in the city, he saw Palestinians moving around freely and businesses that were thriving. Perhaps because the last time he visited here, checkpoints manned by the Israel Defense Forces were not stationed at every corner. Perhaps because the last time he visited here, no streets or neighborhoods were declared off-limits to Palestinians. Or perhaps because during those visits, he was not greeted by rows upon rows of empty shops sealed shut by military order.


read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.799419

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