Seeing the Invisible: Reflections on Visiting Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, and Jaffa

Although I have known the Palestinian story of massacre, dislocation and invisibilization for many years, there is nothing like travel to a place and seeing the place with my own eyes and meeting the people there who have survived.

In the 60s I attended high school with Zionists who taught me about “the land without a people for the people without a land” and other lies.

It was not until after I graduated high school and then met college students in the 70s from other countries like South Africa, Iran and Algeria, that I learned the truth about Palestine.

There is value in reading and listening to people tell their stories, but there is nothing like seeing with my own eyes.   Traveling to the country and seeing for myself made certain things stand out in my mind.

What stood out on my visit was the rootedness of this people.  Their long-standing connection to the land, connection to family, connection to neighbors.  This is something that has been destroyed in the United States.  In the territory which became the United States, the people who understood the connection to the land and the connections to each other were condemned as savages and massacred.  To those Indigenous People the idea of buying and selling land was inconceivable.  But so-called Christians from Europe changed all of that.  The land was transformed from earth mother to commodity, and money was valued more than people.  In the society which they have created on the land that they seized, elders are abandoned until they die and then their descendants are pitted against each other as they grasp pieces of a crumbling ancestral inheritance. Neighbors are pitted against each other in a contest for prestige.   The lies that justify the capitalist system have been told so often that we believe them.  We live our lives in obedience to the lies, paying rents and mortgages to the system which stole the land.

In Palestine the connections are still recognized and felt by the Palestinians.  Those connections are more real than the lies and abuses of the Israeli government.

In high school I hung out with students whose father raised money to plant invasive species trees in Palestine.  I was told that those trees were planted to make the desert bloom.

When I visited Palestine I learned that those trees were used to cover the land where more than 400 Palestinian villages once stood.  Those villagers had been massacred, the survivors driven into exile and their homes destroyed.

The olive trees which the Palestinians had planted centuries ago, were uprooted.  Trees familiar to the invaders were planted.

The Zionists say that they came to a desert and made it bloom.

But olives do not grow in the desert.  The scientific evidence that olives have been cultivated in Palestine for millennia, counters the lie of a “land without people” and the lie about it being a desert.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

If we continue to allow our U.S. tax dollars to support the criminal activity of the Israeli government, the effects of those crimes will visit us.  Some of us who are Black are already suffering from the same abuses: dislocation, and invisibilization.

The author would like to thank Eyewitness Palestine, which made this trip possible.

Luci Murphy is a longtime DC-based civil rights and anti-war activist — and jazz and blues musician. She has performed in Cuba, China, Costa Rica, Brazil, Iraq and Palestinian camps in Lebanon.