On May 29, returning from a regional staff retreat in Spain, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) service worker Rachelle Friesen of Winnipeg, Man., Canada, was detained by Israeli authorities at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.
After more than 30 hours of detention, including three sessions of interrogation, Friesen was deported back to the origin of her flight in Barcelona, and is now banned from entering Israel for 10 years.
Friesen was met in Barcelona by MCC colleagues, and travelled on to Belgrade, Serbia, to rest and consult before returning to Canada. She had served with MCC in Palestine as peace coordinator for four years and was ending her term of service this summer.
Friesen’s deportation is similar to what some foreign visitors have experienced, simply for acknowledging contact with Palestinians, and to what MCC’s Palestinian and Israeli partners face on a regular basis in their non-violent work for justice. It also is a window into the reality of life for Palestinians under the illegal Israeli occupation, who experience ongoing discrimination or permanently emigrate from their ancestral homes.
MCC has worked in Palestine for more than 60 years and in Israel for more than 40 years. We are committed to continuing this work in the name of Christ with Palestinian and Israeli partners who long for peace for all in the region. Friesen’s deportation signals yet again the importance of working toward a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict.