Martin Vegt, a member of Vernon (B.C.) Christian Reformed Church, traveled to Israel with a Christian Peacemakers Team to observe for himself the situation there. As a professional photographer, he especially wanted to bring back photographs to share with fellow church members.
Vegt said he was angry at seeing what he called the human rights abuses and hearing the stories of those living in occupied territories.
“The Israeli military is heavily armed while the Palestines are only armed with stones,” he said. “The intimidation they feel daily causes many older people to feel hopeless and tired, while the younger ones find it hard to contain their frustrations.”
Families affected asked Vegt to “tell our stories to the world!” Imagine, he said, building a house for your son and then having an Israeli family move in without permission before your son’s wedding? “After two court cases the family continues to share their property with the intruding family who moved in without paying for the home or have legal rights to inhabit.” Others, he said, cannot obtain building permits from the Israeli government and then their homes are demolished because they didn’t have a permit.
Vegt participated in a demonstration with Women in Black Against Occupation and had eggs thrown at him. They had to leave another area due to tear gas. He also walked Palestinian children to school to help protect them. “The Israeli settlers are never prosecuted for their mistreatment of Palestinian children,” he lamented, “allowing the abuse to continue.”
However, Vegt said, times are changing. He said some Israeli people are working against the abuse they are witnessing and are working to change hearts and minds of Israelis and the world for peace. He hopes that change can happen as more people see what is really happening in the Middle East.
Martin has been visiting area rotary clubs and churches in British Columbia to share his story through his photos.