What most struck you about daily life under occupation?
Anderbrant: I thought I knew what it would be like, because I had been introduced and I had actually been to Israel and Palestine before. But still I was quite shocked. For example, at the checkpoints, at which we were standing twice a week, people had to go through every day if they were supposed to work or had something else to do in Jerusalem. But the permits you need to pass through a checkpoint are completely not understandable. You have different permits for different things. You are going to the doctor, for example. But suddenly, you can’t—because it’s closed for you. It was hardest to see when children and elderly people were rejected. It is so hard to understand why the occupation is still allowed to continue to tear people down!
We, as ecumenical accompaniers, came there in the very early morning, we put on the vests, we stood there, we made notes—then we got on the bus and left. It was so easy for us! Then, when the conflict started, we could leave. We had a passport so we could leave the country. People under occupation can’t leave. The difference between what you can do and what you can’t do—it’s incredible.
What do you carry in your heart for the people you accompanied?
Anderbrant: I carry a lot of sorrow.How can we ever, after this, continue? What is possible? I remember one man I talked to, and in a European way asked about peace; he said: “First justice, then peace.” That struck me. It’s so unfair, the way you can live on one side of the wall, and on the other side of the wall people can’t go anywhere. How will it continue? What is going to happen next week and next month?
How are you continuing your work as an ecumenical accompanier back home in Sweden?
Anderbrant: Everything changed for us so quickly. We couldn’t finish, we had so much undone, unseen, unheard, we couldn’t say goodbye. Yesterday, I met another ecumenical accompanier who was in Jerusalem this last winter, and we had a chat, and that was very good. We explored the question: How can we talk about this in Sweden now, with other things coming up in our society? Next week, we will also meet all the Swedes who came back last week, to talk together, and to make plans for how can we continue our advocacy.
The occupation can’t last forever, and as someone said, it can’t change by law—it has to change by values!