"A Piece of You is Just There with Them", 2007 Delegates Tireless in Pursuit for Justice
For years, they actively worked for peace and justice. They were aware of the misinformation put out by AIPAC and some Israel lobby groups. They knew about Rachel Corrie. They thought they understood the Palestine/Israel conflict. And, to a great extent, they did.
Then Dave and Ginny Packer traveled to Palestine/Israel in 2007 with Eyewitness Palestine (then called Interfaith Peace-Builders). The trip “totally” changed their understanding of Palestine-Israel, Dave said. “It had quite an impact.” And the Packers’ activism has been informed by that expanded awareness ever since.
On the delegation, they spoke to many Palestinians and Israelis and learned about specific challenges, Dave said. For example, he said, they enjoyed visiting the beautiful Birzeit University campus and meeting with students but were saddened upon discovering that students cannot stay overnight on campus because Israeli soldiers harass them. “Going back and forth often took three or four hours a day because they had to go through at least one checkpoint to get there,” Dave said.
Although Ginny knew of the devastating impact of the separation Wall on Palestinian economic and community life, “it’s still horrible when you see it, going on for miles and miles and miles.” She was shocked by the two-road system and all the inequities in every aspect of daily life. “When we went to the Bedouin camp, there was a spigot outside the dirt road. Across the street was a settlement with sprinklers,” she said.
Ginny and Dave heard about Eyewitness Palestine from a friend at church, Brown Pulliam, who was planning to go, so the three traveled together, Dave explained. (Pictured above, left to right, are Dave, Ginny, and Brown). Much of the Packers’ activism since their return has centered around their church, the First Parish in Bedford Unitarian Universalist, including numerous presentations by and about Palestinians, film screenings, networking with other peace activist groups, and Congressional lobbying. Dave serves as chair of the Peace and Justice Group at church.
One key initiative by the Packers is obtaining financial support from the church’s Social Responsibility Council for congregants to visit Palestine/Israel, Ginny explained. “Dave and I are old enough so that the rigor of that trip is probably not in our future,” Ginny said. “We try and figure out things we can to do support the cause.”
“You have to get a critical mass in order to get any social action effort,” Dave said. “Any social action is hard to do by yourself. If you get a group who has experienced the same thing, you’ve got comrades.” Ginny and Dave’s efforts have netted results: First Church in Bedford UU now has six members who have visited Palestine/Israel.
Seeing Palestine/Israel for yourself makes all the difference, Ginny said. “Once you see and meet so many people on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, you can’t forget it. A piece of you is just there with them.”