About this Blog

"Ordinary People" is something of an intentional misnomer. I live and work with Palestinians practicing nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation. They are doing things that are hardly "ordinary": committing themselves to active nonviolence and to loving their enemies -- following the commands of One who was anything but ordinary. And yet, the Palestinians with whom I work are also very ordinary -- they are not some kind of spiritual superheroes/superheroines who do things most folks can't do. They are simply ordinary people daily committing themselves to living a higher calling -- a calling of love and active nonviolence.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Blogging: A Team Effort!

One of my teammates, who works at CPT's project in At-Tuwani (a small agricultural village located in the South Hebron Hills), also has a blog. She's pretty fantastic, and a good writer. Read all about the situation in Tuwani in I Saw it in Palestine.

One of my favorite posts is "A day in the life of a CPTer living in At-Tuwani." I like her pictures, and the little cartoon bubbles adding the CPTers' conversations. I laughed when I saw them, because they are funny, in a dry, tongue-in-cheek sort of way.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"We talk about compromise and they speak of justice"

The subject of this blog entry comes from an article in Haaretz, about the Negotiations Support Unit (NSU), a Palestinian organization that has been working on negotiations for the past 10 years. It was a senior Israeli official that stated, "We talk about compromise and they speak of justice." The article goes on to state that the organization is very focused on Palestinian rights. This is a concern to Israeli authorities, that it might "increasingly [become] an obstacle with regard to progress after the Annapolis conference."

Asking for justice and recognized rights hinder peace talks?

In addition, the article states that the NSU does not deal in reality, because it ignores the Hamas takeover in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority's (PA) lack of power in the occupied Palestinian territories. The latter statement is of particular interest to me. It doesn't make much sense until one has lived in the occupied Palestinian territories for a while. Technically, there are sections of the occupied Palestinian territories that are under "full Palestinian control." But Palestinian government and authority are only as powerful as Israel allows. These territories are non-continuous clumps of land in the occupied territories. (This map gives an idea of what I'm talking about. "Area A" is under full Palestinian control. "Area B" is under joint Israeli/Palestinian control, and "Area C" is under full Israeli control. Settlements are sometimes also called "colonies" -- areas in which Israelis live in the occupied Palestinian territories.)

Needless to say, I would imagine such a political landscape would make governing difficult.

In other news, soldiers denied Ahmad Qurai',a head of the Palestinian negotiating team for the Annapolis conference, entry into Jerusalem on Sunday. He was on his way to a scheduled meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams. The soldiers that turned him away did not give him a reason for his denied entry. Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni is said to have called Qurai' and apologized.

What strikes me about this incident is the power imbalance it reveals. Something must be wrong when one of the negotiators cannot get to the table because of the systems and structures set in place by those with whom they are trying to negotiate. How can negotiations occur with such an uneven playing field?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

We're all in this together: CPT Colombia calls for Urgent Action to ask Colombian government to investigate threats against CPT partners

Most of the time, when I blog, it is about Palestine. However, recently a good friend and an amazing woman with whom I did CPT training sent out the following e-mail. She works with in Colombia with CPT's project there. Peacemaking is connected across the globe, so I thought it appropriate to post her e-mail and urgent action (with her permission, of course.) Her e-mail is below.

Dear Friends,
Sunday was a really rough day. I was thinking of how to share it with you all, when a coworker posted these photos. Please check them
out. While I have heard many difficult stories here, and seen the results of violence and fear, Sunday was the first time I felt so
intimately connected with the reality of violence here in Colombia. I spent the whole day with this woman, and her coworkers.
We (CPT Colombia) have an urgent action release ready, asking you to call and contact local officials to make sure that this woman who was threated Sunday will be taken care of, and the incident truly investigated. Colombia is different than the US, in that often when i
call elected officials in the US i feel like nothing will be done. In the case of Yolanda, the paramilitaries who are strongly believed to
be the men that broke into Yolanda's house, pushing her, holding a gun to her head and telling her "the story is over," are directly tied to
the government. Showing the government and elected officials that she would be missed and there would be international recognition is
essential to her safety. The organization she works for has done incredible work for 35 years, Organizacion Feminina Popular (The
Popular Women's Organization- check it out www.ofp.org.co). Please call, send an email or fax. All the information is included below in
the release CPT has sent. Feel free to email with any questions.

Thanks for your support! Sitting in the meeting of human rights workers in the city Sunday night after the threat and break-in I was
amazed how many times it was repeated that international presence and solidarity has been essential to protecting them and there work in a region where human rights workers are targets of violence.


7 November 2007
COLOMBIA URGENT ACTION: Ask Colombian government to investigate threats
against CPT partners in Barrancabermeja

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) asks for your help in demanding a full investigation into the threats made against Yolanda Becerra Vega and Jackeline Rojas, members of the leadership team of the Popular Women's Organization (OFP Organización Femenina Popular). The Popular Women's Organization is one of CPT's most important partners in Barrancabermeja.

On 4 November 2007, at approximately 7:30 a.m., two armed, masked men entered Yolanda Becerra Vega's apartment in the city of Barrancabermeja. Several minutes earlier, two women from the OFP had left Yolanda's home, so when the armed men knocked on the door she thought that the women had returned and opened the door. The men pushed open the door, pinning Yolanda against a wall. One of the men pointed his gun at her, called her an obscene name, and told her "Time is up. You have 48 hours to leave or else we will
finish off your family and you will not escape us."

During the next fifteen minutes, the two men ransacked Becerra's residence, destroying many items. As they left, they were going to take her computer but in the end left it in the entrance of the house. The guards at the front gate of the residential complex declared that they had not seen the two armed men enter the area. [see pictures: < http://www.cpt.org/gallery/album225>]

That same morning, Jackeline Rojas Castañeda found that someone had jammed a foreign object in the lock of her third-floor apartment, preventing those inside from opening the door, and that the security gate on the second floor had been opened by unauthorized persons.

Before these incidents, OFP had sent a document to the national government--with a copy to the different government authorities and to the international community--detailing incidents that put Yolanda Becerra others of the OFP at risk. The OFP demanded immediate action from the Colombian government. These new events illustrate the gravity of the danger that Yolanda Becerra, her family, and the entire team of the OFP are facing.

Please write (Sample letter bellow) or call the different offices listed below, demanding:

1. Protection for Yolanda Becerra Vega, the members of her family and all the members of the Organización Femenina Popular including Jackeline Rojas.

2. An investigation into the above mentioned events leading to the prosecution of those involved. (One of these events includes the kidnapping of Katherine Gonzalez Torres, sister of an OFP member. See 15 March 2007 CPTnet release, "COLOMBIA URGENT ACTION: Call for full investigation into kidnapping of Katherine Gonzalez Torres.")

Addresses: Álvaro Uribe Velez, President of the Republic, Cra. 8 # 7-26,
Palacio de Narino, Santa Fe de Bogotá, Fax: 011-57-1-566-2071, E-mail:

* Sr. Francisco Santos, Vice President of the Republic, Tels:
011-57-1-334-4507, 011-57-1- 772-0130, E-mail: fsantos@presidencia.gov.co;

* Human Rights Program of the Vice Presidency:

* Dr. Volmar Antonio Perez Ortiz, Office of the National Human
Rights Ombudsman, Calle 55 # 10-32, Bogotá, Fax: 011-57.1.640.04.91,
E-mail: secretaria_privada@hotmail.com; agenda@agenda.gov.co

* Doctor Mario Hernán Iguaran Arana, Attorney General,
22-B # 52-01, Bogotá, Fax: 011-57-1-570-2000; 011-57-1-414-9000,
Extensión:1113, E-mail: contacto@fiscalia.gov.co;enuncie@fiscalia.gov.co

* Dr. Edgardo Jose Maya Villazon, Prosecutor General, Cra. 5#,
15-80, Bogotá, Tel: 011-57-1-284-7949, Fax:011-57-1-342-9723, E-mail:
cap@procuraduria.gov.co; quejas@procuraduria.gov.co;
webmaster@procuraduria.gov.co ;reygon@procuraduria.gov.co;

* Dr. Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, Minister of Defense, Avenida
El Dorado con Cra. 52 CAN, Bogotá, Fax: 011-57-1-222-1874, E-mail :
siden@mindefensa.gov.co; infprotocol@mindefensa.gov.co ; mdn@cable.net.co

* Dr. Carlos Franco, Director of the Presidential Programe for
Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, Calle 7 N° 5-54 Bogotá,
D.C., Fax: 011-57-1-337-4667, E-mail: cefranco@presidencia.gov.co

* Dr. Carlos Holguin Sardi, Minister of Internal affairs and
Justice, Avenida El dorado con carrera 52 CAN Bogotá D.C., Fax:
011-57-1-222-1874, E-mail ministro@minjusticia.gov.co

Please send copies of your messages to: Popular Women's Organization
(Organización Femenina Popular) E-Mail: femenina@colnodo.apc.org

Sample letter in Spanish: Respetado Dr. ______________: Reciba un saludo cordial de ____(your name)____ de ___(your state or province and country)___ Escribo a usted con una gran preocupación por la situación de YOLANDA BECERRA VEGA, quien recibió amenazas en Barrancabermeja el 4 de noviembre de 2007. A través de mi apoyo a los Equipos Cristianos de Acción por la Paz, conozco algo del trabajo de la Organización Femenina Popular, y me preocupa la situación de seguridad de las mujeres de la OFP y de sus familias.

Muchas gracias por la atención prestada,

___(your name)____

Send the letter in Spanish. But the letter's translation is as follows:

Respected D:
Cordial greetings from your name and state. I write to you with great concern for Yoland Becerra Vega´s situation, who recieved threats in Barrancabermeja the 4th of November at 2007. Through my support for Christian Peacemaker Teams I have become familiar with the work of the Popular Women´s Organization and I worry about the security of the
women who work at the Popular Women´s organizations and their families.

Thank you for your attention,

___(your name)____

ADDENDUM: (Correction to urgent action)

Some of the e-mails provided by a Barrancabermeja human rights organization for the Urgent Action that posted on 7 November 2007 (Ask "Colombian government to investigate threats against CPT partners in Barrancabermeja) were outdated. The following contact information does work, and if you have been unsuccessful getting your letter to other addresses, CPT urges you to send it immediately to

Doctor Mario Hernán Iguarán Arana, (Attorney General)
Fiscal General de la Nación, Diagonal 22-B # 52-01, Bogotá. Fax: +
57.1.570.20.00 ; +57.1.414.90.00 Extensión 1113, E-mail:
denuncias@fiscalia.gov.co denuncie@fiscalia.gov.co>

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Regarding our Israeli settler neighbors

One of my teammates printed off "An open letter to Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice," signed by representatives of the Israeli settler community here in Hebron. The settlers here live right in the midst of -- in some places, literally on top of -- Palestinian neighborhoods. They tend to be the most ideologically radical of settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory. Which means . . . well, lots of things. They openly state they want to clear Hebron of its Palestinian inhabitants and make it an exclusively Jewish city. Currently, there are somewhere between 400-800 settlers (depending on what source one consults) living in a city of approximately 120,000.

Anyway, back to this letter. It is very interesting. I'm thinking I might post it later (right now I only have a hard copy), but one sentence in the letter jumped out at me. I have read the sentence read several times, mostly out of incredulity:

"Even if Arabs have personal human rights, they have never had any collective national rights in this country."

"Even if Arabs have personal human rights"? I'm hoping desperately that this is simply a poorly chosen word, that the authors really meant, "Even though". (Though, frankly, I would still disagree with the statement, even if this is what the authors really meant.)

But, from this letter and the interactions my teammates and I have had with the settlers, I'm skeptical that this was a slip of the tongue. Earlier in this letter, the authors write that "[t]he Arabs . . . never contributed a thing to [Israel's] development. Under Arab rule, most of the country was unpopulated and desolate . . ."

Near one of the schools in Hebron, there is settler graffiti that says, "Gas the Arabs," and "Arabs are sand nigg**s."

"Even if the Arabs have personal human rights." That phrase knocks the mental "wind" out of me, like someone hit me too hard in the chest.

Participate in some holy mischief this Advent and Christmas!

Life here in Hebron has been busy these past few days. A number of folks have cycled off team (traveling to go to meetings, going home, etc.), so our team is smaller, which has kept us busy. And I've picked up a number of responsibilities on the team, which have been taking up additional time, as well. But it is the good kind of busy: productive, but not overwhelming. And one of the projects I'm spending some time organizing is our Advent/Christmas campaign: "No Way to the Inn: Bethlehem behind the Wall."

Israeli authorities are building a separation barrier within the occupied Palestinian territories, in effect annexing approximately 12 percent of the land in the Palestinian territories. This separation barrier affects Palestinians in a number of ways, including dividing villages, restricting travel, and threatening Palestinian homes with demolition, to name a few. This separation barrier currently surrounds Bethlehem on three sides -- if Mary and Joseph were traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem today, they would encounter the separation barrier. Therefore, this Advent and Christmas, we are asking folks to set up a wall around their nativity sets to raise awareness about the situation in Bethlehem and the occupied Palestinian territories in general. It probably seems far too early to start talking about Advent and Christmas already, but we're sending this out now so that churches (and individuals, too!) have some time to plan how they will participate in this action. I invite you (or your churches, small groups, etc.) to consider participating in this action to raise awareness of the separation barrier going up in Palestine. The official "action alert" we sent out on CPT's mailing list is as follows:


31 October 2007

HEBRON ACTION ALERT: CPT Palestine announces “No Way to the Inn: Bethlehem behind the Wall” Campaign

If the Christmas story were to happen today, Mary and Joseph would have a hard time getting to Bethlehem.

Since 2002, Israeli authorities have been building a separation barrier snaking through the occupied Palestinian territories, in effect annexing valuable Palestinian land and water resources. To clear the way, Palestinians living near the security barrier often face the threat of home demolitions. According to Israeli human rights monitoring organization B’Tselem, the separation barrier affects nearly half a million Palestinian residents, and currently the barrier separates almost 12 percent of the land within the 1967 Green Line from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories. When completed, the barrier will be 780 km long (for more statistics, visit: http://www.btselem.org/english/Separation_Barrier/Statistics.asp .)

The separation barrier surrounds Bethlehem, located in Palestine, on three sides and cuts off the city from Jerusalem only six miles away.


During the seasons of Advent and Christmas, erect a wall around nativity sets in your homes and churches to raise awareness of the separation barrier the Israeli authorities are erecting in the occupied Palestinian territories. Inform local media and use this action as an opportunity to spread the word about the separation barrier. After erecting your wall, take pictures of the nativity, and send them as attachments to cptheb@palnet.com. The team will compile the pictures for broader distribution (more details to come.)

CPT Palestine will also be producing related worship materials for reflection during Advent.

For questions and concerns, contact the CPT Palestine team at cptheb@palnet.com

For photos of the separation barrier, visit http://www.cpt.org/gallery/album224


The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem writes about the separation barrier: “In June 2002, the government of Israel decided to erect a physical barrier to separate Israel and the West Bank in order to prevent the uncontrolled entry of Palestinians into Israel . In most areas, the barrier is comprised of an electronic fence with dirt paths, barbed-wire fences, and trenches on both sides, at an average width of 60 meters. In some areas, a wall six to eight meters high has been erected in place of the barrier system. . . The construction of the barrier has brought new restrictions on movement for Palestinians living near the Barrier's route, in addition to the widespread restrictions that have been in place since the outbreak of the current intifada. Thousands of Palestinians have difficulty going to their fields and marketing their produce in other areas of the West Bank . Farming is a primary source of income in the Palestinian communities situated along the Barrier's route, an area that constitutes one of the most fertile areas in the West Bank . The harm to the farming sector is liable to have drastic economic effects on the residents - whose economic situation is already very difficult - and drive many families into poverty.” (To read this article in full, visit http://www.btselem.org/english/Separation_Barrier/Index.asp)

For a range of information about the separation barrier, visit:



http://www.arij.org/index.php?option=com_cases&Itemid=27&lang=en (contains articles regarding separation barrier – also known as the segregation wall – in addition to general information about the Israeli occupation of Palestine)


I am so excited about this campaign, because it carries about it an air of holy mischief. I think many times the work of the prophets was (and is!) to "tell it like it is," sometimes in surprising and unexpected ways. I hope you'll consider joining us in this campaign.

All right, dear ones. That's all for now -- as always, there is so much to write, and not nearly enough time! To be continued.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Israeli Higher Education: sans Palestinians

Came across this article today in Haaretz (an Israeli newspaper.) The Israeli High Court of Justice is reviewing the current policy that "even if a Palestinian's entry is not deemed a security risk, the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] will determine whether he gets to study in Israel, and in which program, while the universities will have to provide a rationale for accepting him." Currently according to this criteria, Palestinians seeking their undergraduate degree are not allowed to study in Israel. Graduate students may be permitted to study in Israel, only if their subject is not available for study in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In the United States, wouldn't this be called segregation?

How freely were people of color allowed to study in "white" universities in the United States during its practice of overt segregation?

When I was here in Palestine on my CPT delegation, a speaker commented, "Israel is the only country without borders." When I see maps of Israel from Israeli sources, oftentimes includes the occupied Palestinian territories as part of its territory. Yet in cases like these, Israel behaves as though the occupied Palestinian territories are a different country.

Israel, what are your borders? When will you realize this isn't in your best interests? When will you realize these games are not sustainable?

Does Israel hope to make peace, endear itself to the Palestinians, by limiting their educational opportunities?

Furthermore, I desperately wish Israelis and Palestinians could study side by side -- part of the problem with the current situation is that Israelis and Palestinians have so few opportunities to interact. If Israelis and Palestinians never get to know each other beyond stories and stereotypes, how will there be peace?

Friday, November 2, 2007

A "holy day" in Hebron

Today is a big day for Hebron.

I mean "today" in the Jewish sense of the word, meaning sunset today until sunset tomorrow. Today is the day Jews will be reading Genesis 23, in which Abraham purchases the Cave of Machpelah, in which he buried Sarah. Later, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their wives were supposedly buried there (and some folks throw in Adam and Eve for good measure.)

This cave is located in Hebron; we live about ten minutes' walk away. Now the Cave of Machpelah is half synagogue and half mosque (called the Ibrahimi Mosque), sacred to both Jews and Muslims (and Christians.)

I can imagine how exhilarating it would be to be Jewish and spend this Shabbat -- Hebrew for "Sabbath" -- here in Hebron. To celebrate in the very place where the "action" takes place in this week's Hebrew Scripture reading. I wish, with all my heart, we were living in a world where I could be genuinely happy for those Jews celebrating their holy day here.

But I can't, because I know what the celebration means for my Palestinian friends.

It means the checkpoint near the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of Machpelah -- one of the commonly used gateways into and out of the Old City -- is closed to Palestinians. It means Tel Rumeida, not far from the Old City, where we have Palestinian and international friends and colleagues, has been declared a "closed military zone."

Translation: Because of this Shabbat, Palestinian travel is restricted.

It means that Israeli military are everywhere in and around the Old City. It means Palestinians more likely encounter harassment, either verbal or physical, from Israeli settlers or Israeli soldiers. It means that already, Israeli settlers are throwing stones at the home of one of our Palestinian friends -- who is committed to nonviolence, and for the past three weeks we have been helping him with his olive harvest.

All this, because of this Jewish festival. I wish with all my heart I could rejoice that Jews were able to celebrate in this place. Instead, I know the price my Palestinian friends are going to pay.
Instead, it makes me want to cry.

Please, remember Hebron in your prayers today and tomorrow, as tensions will likely be high. Pray for the safety of the Palestinians. And pray for the day to come soon when Jewish festivals can be celebrated in peace, without restrictions and threats to the Palestinians.

I dream of a day when Jews, Muslims, and Christians can observe their faiths together in this land: being happy at one another's holy days, weddings, and births; and mourning at one another's funerals and solemn holy days. Enshallah ("God willing" in Arabic), it will happen
in my lifetime.