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February 6, 2012

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Dear friends,

Day 2 of the run went great. Although the team had to begin 5k from the initial start location in Beit Ummar because of nearby settlers that could have confronted them & Israeli military that may have arrested them, the team remains energized and positive about their progress.

"if a visitor comes, they should see how the wall has taken half our land. How the trees are uprooted and destroyed. The land is a human being's honor. We cannot give it up." - Beit Ummar woman farmer

Today’s video from The People and the Olive shows their experience in more detail, and the emotions from crossing "The Wall."

Dividing Bethlehem from Jerusalem is a formidable cement wall, being built by the State of Israel along & through the West Bank. When it’s completed, the 26-foot-high wall will be over 400 miles long, twice as long as the 1949 Armistice Line (Green Line). 12% of the West Bank area is on Israel’s side of the barrier—which Israelis commonly refer to as the “separation fence,” “security fence,” or “anti-terrorist fence.” Most Palestinians call it the “racial segregation wall” and some opponents of the barrier refer to it as the “Apartheid Wall.”

Perhaps the most powerful part of Day 2 is that the team traveled through the Wall, entering historic Jerusalem, where they stayed the night. This transition from one side of this towering behemoth to the other is symbolic of RAP’s mission to connect with & support people regardless of political affiliation. They’re not running as a demonstration or protest. They’re running FOR farmers, for trees, for peace & truth. They’re planting olive trees to feed future generations.

"When you run 25 miles a day, your also carrying the burden of the farmers with you. Your sweating the way olive farmers sweat"- Vivien Sansor

As Jacob Wheeler explains in his story for the Glen Arbor Sun, the runners were forced to "confront the specter, and metaphor, of a wall erected to divide people; they marveled at the graffiti and protest art that covers the east side of the wall--reminiscent of the Berlin Wall, and they lamented having to say goodbye to their Palestinian support staff, who were not allowed to enter Jerusalem because they don’t hold Israeli citizenship." Read the rest of Jacob's story here.

From Vivien, our Palestinian based RAP coordinator:
"I feel really sad i cannot come with you into Jerusalem, because I was born in Jerusalem, I love Jerusalem, and I would love to go with you. When I arrive at the gate, they will stamp my American passport with a Palestinian ID that says "once a Palestinian, always a Palestinian"  

What would you do if you woke up tomorrow, and the wall was gone and you could go into Jerusalem. Whats the first thing you would do?

"I think i would run to Jerusalem"

"See you tomorrow" they all said. But not just 24 hours from now, its sometime in the future that they cannot comprehend.

Joshua Davis, RAP’s musical ambassador, is interacting with musicians along the route & taking in the culture. After the trip, he’ll record an album inspired by his experience, & the proceeds will support the work of On the Ground. For his perspective on the trip so far, check out his blog here. And for more stories straight from team members, check out blog posts from Randi Lyn & Claire (runners). And stay tuned for more guest posts from other members of the RAP team.

Here's an opportunity for you Traverse City supporters to connect with RAP's mission here at home: this coming Wednesday at 6:30 PM, the Traverse Area District Library is showing Little Town of Bethlehem, a documentary that links to the issues being directly experienced by the RAP team. The film, shot on location in the West Bank, follows the story of three men—a Palestinian Muslim, a Palestinian Christian, & an Israeli Jew—willing to risk everything to bring an end to violence in their lifetime. The event is open to the public.

Until tomorrow's story of struggle, joy, journey and truth...

Jennifer, Chelsea and the whole On the Ground crew

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