Board of Deputies treasurer Laurence Brass has said he was horrified at what he witnessed during a visit to a West Bank village, describing it as an “eye-opener”.
Mr Brass, who was spending Pesach in Israel, took part in a private capacity in a one-day trip organised by Yachad UK and led by a guide from the anti-occupation Israeli army veterans’ group, Breaking the Silence.
His experience, as one of around a dozen Anglo-Jewish participants taken to the Palestinian village of Susiya, was shocking, he said.
“The village spokesman told us that he was very worried at the prospect of local Palestinian children being attacked by settlers on their way to school.
"Just 48 hours after we left, a six-year-old girl from the neighbouring village of Atuwani was admitted to hospital with head wounds after being stoned on her way to school, just as we had been warned might occur.
“I was shocked that this type of behaviour goes unchecked by the IDF.”
Mr Brass added that the abiding memory of his visit would be “the sight of an old rusty car being dumped down the village well, thus preventing the locals from having fresh water.
“I had also not known previously that, on the majority of the road signs in the area, the Arabic words have been deliberately obliterated. I had also not previously appreciated the ever increasing number of settler outposts which have sprung up all over Area C, which, although illegal, no one appears willing to prevent.”
“Area C” represents West Bank zones under the control of Israel.
Mr Brass said: “The miserable existence of the Palestinian villagers we met will stay with me for a long time. It was difficult to reconcile that we were celebrating the festival of freedom, while these villagers were surviving in such squalid surroundings. I returned very depressed.”
Yachad, which campaigns for a two-state solution, ran 17 trips to East Jerusalem or the West Bank in 2013, for over 400 members of Zionist youth movements.