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.
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.