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.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Report, "A Dangerous Journey: Settler violence against Palestinian schoolchildren under Israeli military escort"

15 October 2008
AT-TUWANI: Report, "A Dangerous Journey: Settler violence against Palestinian schoolchildren under Israeli military escort" by Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove now available

"The beginning was worse, but after today it seems harder than the beginning. The settlers are still beating our children." Mother of South Hebron Hills student after settlers stoned children on 27 July 2008 and inflicted head wound requiring hospitalization on CPTer accompanying them.

A new report by Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove about the Israeli military escort of Palestinian children to school in At-Tuwani during the 2007-2008 school year records a catalogue of violent settler attacks on the children and the Israeli military's complacent attitude regarding these attacks.

The military escort began in the fall of 2004, following attacks by settlers on the schoolchildren and internationals accompanying them on the public road that passes between Ma'on settlement and Hill 833 (Havat Ma'on) settler outpost. In November 2004, Israeli Knesset Committee for Children's Rights affirmed the initial verbal agreement for military accompaniment of the children between the At-Tuwani mayor and the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO), the section of the army that coordinates civilian affairs in the Occupied Palestinian

The report "A Dangerous Journey: Settler violence against Palestinian schoolchildren under Israeli military escort" describes the daily journey of the children from the villages of Tuba and Maghaer al-Abeed to and from their school in At-Tuwani under Israeli military escort. It highlights how settler threats and violence during the journey undermine the children's safety and documents the Israeli military's violations of its legal obligations to ensure the children's safe passage and right to education.

A comparison of the data collected during the 2007-08 school year and the 2006-07 school year shows a constant level of settler violence against the schoolchildren for these two years. Data also confirm that in the 2007-2008 school year the tardiness of the army caused the children to miss 25.32 hours of classes, compared to 10.47 hours in the previous school year.

During the first two months of the 2008-2009 school year, the children made sixty-eight journeys to and from school. On fourteen of these sixty-eight occasions (21% of journeys) the children had to wait, either before or after school, for over half-an-hour for the Israeli military escort to arrive. On four of these occasions, the children had to wait for over an hour, and one morning had to wait for one hour and forty minutes for the escort to arrive.

The report concludes, "Nearly four years after the Israeli military's agreement to provide an escort, and the affirmation of this agreement by the Knesset Committee for Children's Rights, the situation of the children … has worsened. The children continue to be harassed and attacked by Israeli settlers … The Israeli military, which was given a mandate to ensure the safety of the children, has consistently failed to do so."

The report is available at:
and contains maps of the region and of the routes the children take to school. It is illustrated with photos of the children, settlers, and significant locations the children pass on their journey to school.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

AT-TUWANI URGENT ACTION: Ask Israeli authorities why the Israeli military demolished homes in Um al Kher, South Hebron Hills

Please see the following Urgent Action, and respond: contact the authorities listed below. The demolition of Palestinian homes is inexcusable any time of the year, but at the beginning of the cold, rainy winter season is nothing other than a human rights abuse.

30 October 2008
AT-TUWANI URGENT ACTION: Ask Israeli authorities why the Israeli military demolished homes in Um al Kher, South Hebron Hills

[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]

At 9:10 a.m. on the morning of Wednesday 29 October 2008, the Israeli military demolished ten Palestinian dwellings in the South Hebron Hills village of Um al Kher, leaving around sixty people, including young children, homeless.

The military arrived without warning shortly after 9:00 a.m. Soldiers gave the villagers little time to remove their possessions before demolishing four stone homes and six metal dwellings with a bulldozer. Um al Kher is situated close to the Israeli settlement of Karmel and the demolished homes were those closest to the settlement.

Palestinians and internationals from At-Tuwani attempted to reach Um al Kher in order to prevent or at least witness the demolitions. The Israeli military stopped their vehicle on Route 317, and told them the area was a closed military zone. However, Israeli vehicles were allowed to travel freely in both directions.

By 11:00 a.m., the military finished its destruction of the homes. At 11:40 villagers rushed to move their possessions into the cover of their friends tented homes when a heavy downpour of rain began.

A villager told CPTers, "The children are not here, they were frightened and ran away." Another villager, a twenty-one-year-old woman with a social work degree told how relieved she was that her mother had been out with the goats when the soldiers came so she did not have to witness the demolition of their home. The young woman had complained to an Israeli military officer that a soldier threatened to hit her. The officer's response was, "If he went to hit you that's
nice. If he hit you, it's very nice."

A young mother, holding her baby as she sat outside a neighbour's tent, told CPTers, "My baby in rain. Where my baby sleep?"

Within an hour of the army's departure, assistance arrived in the form of CARE International, International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA). UNRWA will supply blankets and kitchen utensils. At present, the villagers know of no organization able to help them rebuild their homes.


The Israeli military demolished these homes in violation of article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory. We urge you to write to the Israeli Embassy or Consulate in your home country, reminding the diplomatic staff of this fact, and demanding that the authorities answer the following questions:

· Why did the Israeli military demolish these homes?
· Why did the military choose to demolish them at the start of the winter rain season?
· Where will the young woman's baby and the other villagers sleep?

Contact information for embassies and consulates

Photos of the demolished homes can be viewed at

Letter writers are encouraged to share these photos with the embassies/consulates they contact.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Blogging break?

Dear readers:

Just a note that I will be doing some traveling in the next months, and I don't know how much I will be able blog during that time. But do check back here from time to time, because I'll update as soon as I am able.

Peace (I hope)!

Same Story, Different Voices

Not too long ago I came across this article from the UK news source The Guardian. It contains the reflections and stories from a Jewish man's time spent in the Israeli military. Here's just one story:
My friend Shai, who was assigned to accompany two prisoners en route to Shin Bet interrogators, told me that the interrogators ordered the soldiers to finish their meals and put the remains from the plates into a sandwich for the Palestinians. Shai refused - "Are we Nazis?" - and gave them half his meal. He also told me that when the Palestinians offered some of the food back to the soldiers, the Shin Bet men tossed it out the window, saying, "Don't eat food after an Arab's touched it."
This is mild as far as stories go, but it reveals the depth of racism inherent in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

It was an interesting article to me, because I find myself often wondering what is going through the minds of these Israeli soldiers as they force Palestinian shepherds off their land, harass Palestinians at checkpoints, and refuse to escort Palestinian children to school (and the children are attacked by Israeli settlers as a result.)

If you're interested in leaning more in the same vein, I'd highly recommend you visit the website of Breaking the Silence, an organization of veteran Israeli soldiers that collects testimonies of soldiers who have served in Israeli military in its occupation of Palestine.

The amount of good documentation and information of human rights abuses committed by Israeli occupation of Palestine is incredible. This information comes from such a variety of sources, as well: Palestinian, Israeli, and international. Yet the world continues to turn a blind eye and stand idly by in the face of such incredible injustice.

This fact so deeply troubles me. But I suppose it's best not to think about it too much.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What does a nonviolent resister look like in At-Tuwani?

Nonviolent resisters in the Palestinian villages of At-Tuwani come in all sizes, ages, and genders. One happens to be a little girl. My friend and teammate Sarah writes about her in a Bittersweet Memory: “She’s driving me crazy, but this girl is going to make a great resister.”

For those of you who may read my friend and teammate Joy's blog, you may have already come across this reflection. But really, it is too lovely not to share.

Monday, September 1, 2008

On Politics and Nonviolence

A friend pointed me in the direction of this article a couple days ago. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared recently that "Greater Israel [from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea] is over. There is no such thing. Anyone who talks that way is deluding themselves." Apparently there's an evacuation-compensation bill being proposed, which would pay compensation (approx. 1.1 million shekels) to Israeli settlers who are willing to leave their settlements in Palestine. (Never mind the Palestinian refugees who had fled their homes, with fear for their lives, who are still waiting for compensation, or the recognition of their right to return.)

I'm not hopeful that this, or any such bill, will be passed or enforced to make any meaningful change in the short term (say, the next five years). For any bill like the one being proposed there is also the problem of the settlers who will not be willing to leave -- and I am certain that the settlers from the Israeli settlement of Ma'on and the illegal settlement outpost Havat Ma'on, outside of At-Tuwani, are among them.

In fact, the longer I am in At-Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills, the more I am convinced that the real power to make change lies in the Palestinian people and their commitment to nonviolent resistance. I have seen "success" and hope in the nonviolent organizing of Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills. As bad as the military occupation is in Palestine, I find it impossible to lose hope in Tuwani, thanks to the villages' commitment to nonviolent organizing.

Yes, the Israeli government needs to commit itself to making justice, and I will be ecstatically happy for that day. In the meantime, my hopes are in the Palestinian nonviolent organizers, embarked on the serious, holy endeavor of living, striving, yearning, working for justice and peace.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Festival, a Closed Military Zone, and Lots of Dancing

On Sunday, 9 August, the village of At-Tuwani organized a joint festival and press conference. The festival was to celebrate the end of Tuwani’s annual summer camp. The press conference was going to address the issues that the Israeli occupation creates for people in this area, not the least of which being the issue of the threat of violence Palestinian children face on their way to school and summer camp.

The festival was just beginning when the team received a call that the Israeli military had set up a checkpoint on the road to Tuwani, stopping anyone except Palestinians from At-Tuwani from entering the village. We discovered later that this was one of at least three checkpoints preventing people from entering the area. The military also declared the area a closed military zone until mid-afternoon (when the festival was scheduled to end.)

Needless to say, no media managed to come to the press conference.

Nevertheless, the Palestinian villagers continued with their festival. There was music, dancing, and a skit about life in Tuwani. People were clapping and laughing, and I have never seen such beautiful debka dancing, in spite of the military’s efforts to hinder the festival from going forward.

I am dumbfounded by the Israeli military and amazed and inspired by the Palestinians here in the South Hebron Hills. The event on Sunday was not a demonstration; yet the military was intent on preventing people from coming. The villagers here are committed to nonviolence, and they are courageous and steadfast – and the military knows it. There is nothing more dangerous to a violent regime than nonviolence and declaring the truth.

The villagers know this, and they were not going to allow the military to hinder their celebration or break their spirits – they went ahead with it anyway and had a mighty fun festival, living out the hope that someday their nonviolence will prevail.

And that, my friends, is far more powerful than any checkpoint or closed military zone.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

At-Tuwani Urgent Action

At-Tuwani: Urgent Action Update
3 August 2008

On Sunday 3 August 2008, human rights worker Kristin Anderson was released from Israeli police custody, but the Israeli police have taken no steps to prevent setter violence in the South Hebron Hills. CPT urges you to contact the Israeli police at Kiryat Arba and demand immediate action to prevent further setter attacks on Palestinian school children. Over the last two weeks settlers have attacked Palestinian children on their way to summer camp four times. Settlers continue to yell, chase, curse, and throw rocks at the children, while Israeli police refuse to apprehend perpetrators. In November 2004 the Israeli Knesset declared that the Israeli police are responsible for apprehending violent settlers.

Please call the police and demand justice:
Kiryat Arba Contact Numbers:
(Add your applicable country code first)

Summer Camp in At-Tuwani (Part Two: Nonviolent Resistance a Success!)

So, the Palestinian villagers in the South Hebron Hills responded to the frequent Israeli settler attacks on the Palestinian children, and the Israeli military’s refusal to ensure the safety of these children.

They responded nonviolently. They organized a march.

They, the Palestinians, walked their children home from camp.

Here is an excerpt from the release we sent out about the march:

“On August 2nd, more than one hundred Palestinian children and their parents from the South Hebron Hills marched from the village of At-Tuwani to Tuba, calling for an end to settler violence and expansion in the area. In a major success for the area, the children and their parents took the most direct path to the village of Tuba. For the past eleven years, school children escorted by the Israeli military have been the only Palestinians able to use this road. Palestinians parents organized the march to call attention to the violence faced by schoolchildren, the failure of the Israeli army to protect them and the effects of Israeli settlement expansion. The march was a part of the annual South Hebron Hills summer camp for children.

The march initially attempted to take the path that children use when unaccompanied by the Israeli military, around the illegal Israeli settlement outpost Havot Ma’on. The Israeli military declared the whole area a closed military zone and restrained the march with force, targeting leaders. Soldiers attacked and tried to arrest a Palestinian man. When a CPTer intervened, they knocked them both down and started choking the CPTer, but marchers nonviolently intervened and stopped the attack. One Israeli and one international member of Operation Dove were arrested. Palestinian organizers negotiated with the Israeli military and it was decided that the Israeli military would accompany the children and parents on the short path, using the road between Ma’on settlement and Havot Ma’on. A large group of settlers left Ma’on and harassed the marchers. A smaller group of settlers followed directly behind the marchers, but Israeli military and police prevented them from attacking the group. One village elder accompanying the children walked this road for the first time in years. Surprised by the settlement expansion, she shared with a soldier about how she plowed this land years ago.

Participating in the march were children from the villages of Tuba and Maghaer Al-Abeed who have been regularly attacked by Israeli settlers as they walked to primary school in At-Tuwani.”

P.S. What did you do when you were in summer camp? Was participating in nonviolent resistance part of camp?

I love the Palestinians here. They are some of the most amazing people. Ever.

Summer Camp in At-Tuwani (Part One)

For two weeks, the village of At-Tuwani has been conducting its annual summer camp. For two weeks, Palestinian children from the villages of Tuba and Maghaer Al Abeed have been harassed and attacked on their way to summer camp in At-Tuwani. The Israeli military, which has been charged with escorting the Palestinian children to and from school (and summer camp), has been refusing to do the escort, resulting in a number of attacks on the children in recent weeks.

Here is a chronology of the children’s journey to summer camp in the last weeks:

23 July – The military refused to escort the children. On their way to At-Tuwani, the children were chased by three settlers, one of whom was masked and carrying a stick.

26 July – At least four settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement outpost Havot Ma’on threatened the children on their way to summer camp. The children and my teammate and I had walked to the area where the Israeli military escort is meant to meet the children on their way to At-Tuwani. Israeli settlers walked towards the children, shouting and jeering. I called the military, explaining the dangerous situation. The military escort personnel told me the military was not coming. We then ran with the children all the way to Tuwani, fearing a settler attack.

27 July – Israeli settlers attacked the children and two of my teammates as they were walking in a valley south of Havat Ma'on. One masked settler came down the hill, hurling stones with a slingshot. The children and one teammate ran ahead, but saw other stone-throwing settlers approaching them from the opposite side of the valley. None of the stones struck the children, and they were able to run to safety.

When the masked settler saw my teammate Joel filming the attack, he began directing his stones at Joel. The settler hit him in the leg with a rock, inflicting an injury that made it impossible for Joel to run away. The settler then wrested the camera from him, and began beating him with a rock and the camera. After that, the settler ran off with the camera.

30 July – Five settlers hid themselves along the route of the children and waited for them as they were coming home from camp. When the children approached, the settlers began yelling, swearing, and throwing rocks at them. One settler jumped over the settlement fence and chased the children on a path leading to the village of Tuba. The Israeli soldiers assigned to protect the children abandoned the children approximately 500 meters earlier, thereby failing to complete the escort of the children as ordered by the Israeli Knesset.

The father of five of the children from Tuba told us, "The settlers must leave. If the settlers are here, there is no safety, only fear."

In 2004, the Israeli Knesset recommended that the Israeli military carry out a daily escort of the children of Tuba and Maghaer Al-Abeed to their school in At-Tuwani because settlers repeatedly attacked them. In 2006, Israeli Minister of Defense stated Havot Ma’on outpost should be dismantled because of the settlers’ violence towards school children. During the 2007-2008 school year, settlers used violence against these children on at least for fourteen occasions.

That has been the last two weeks in a “nutshell.” More or less. But, as always, the Palestinians here in the South Hebron Hills are not helpless victims. They responded to these settler attacks. Nonviolently.

To be continued.

(For more images of the children's journey to and from At-Tuwani, visit http://cpt.org/gallery/album252)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Summer Days in the South Hebron Hills

What are summer days like here in the South Hebron Hills? It depends.

On a good day, we sit with Palestinian shepherds as they nonviolently resist Israeli settlers, who have tried to violently seize land. The Palestinians graze sheep on lands where Israeli settlers have attacked, stoned, shot at, and threatened Palestinian shepherds. We sit, listen to the shepherds tell us stories of life on the land before the Israeli occupation. We laugh together, and the shepherds teach us how to flick tiny pebbles between our two index fingers.

On a bad day, the Israeli military builds a roadblock on the main road to Yatta, the nearest city in the area – a crucial road for medical services, education, and water aid in a year of severe drought.

On a good day, the Palestinian villagers work together to remove the roadblock.

On a bad day, Israeli settlers, sometimes masked, come to land where Palestinian shepherds are grazing, and they throw stones, or attack and hospitalize, the shepherds.

On a good day, we join Palestinian children as they graze their sheep – and then the children climb up fig trees and throw to us their delicious fruit. We join their family for a fabulous lunch of bread, eggs, and olive oil, followed by juicy slices of watermelon. And we laugh and joke and have lessons in Arabic, English, and Italian.

On a bad day, the Israeli military issues demolition orders on five homes in the area, and the village cistern in At-Tuwani.

On a good day, we sit and talk late into the night with our Palestinian friends, laughing with the funniest women in At-Tuwani, and listening to ways in which the village is organizing its nonviolent resistance.

These days blur together – they are often sweet and bitter simultaneously. Yet, on good days – I renew my belief that children and stories, love and watermelon, courage and nonviolence, will eventually triumph over military and propaganda, hate and weapons, cowardice and violence. On good days, I am amazed and inspired by the strength and devotion to nonviolent resistance of the Palestinian villagers here in the South Hebron Hills. And, on good days, I know that, no matter what happens, the Palestinian people are more powerful than the Israeli occupation.

And these good days are every day.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Occupation Humor"

Sorry it has been so long since I last wrote an update. Recently, it has been difficult for me to decide what to write . More and more often, it feels like simply a matter of asking myself, “What sad story do I tell about the violence, racism, and injustice that my Palestinian friends experience at the hands of the Israeli occupation?”

There are many, many stories.

Palestinian friends chased by Israeli settlers throwing stones. Israeli military creating roadblocks to our village, making it impossible for vital water aid to reach At-Tuwani in a year of severe drought. Watching the effects of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian children in the village, whom I love so dearly and bring me so much joy.

Yet I feel telling these stories do not quite capture the heart and spirit of my Palestinian friends, who are so strong, joyful, and committed to nonviolent resistance. Last week I went to a party. Afterwards, I thought, “This is what I want to write home about.”

Some of my favorite Palestinian women from the village gathered at a Palestinian friend’s house to dance. These women are warm, strong, hilarious, and overall just some of the most beautiful people that I know. We had a fabulous time at the party. I tried to feel insecure with my dance (in)ability, but I couldn’t help but relax as women started making up silly “At-Tuwani” dances. And then, in turn, they wanted to see “American” dancing. So my teammates and I did disco.

When everyone was hot and exhausted from dancing, we gathered around, drinking cups of coffee and telling stories. These women are some of the funniest women I’ve met, and that evening they were in rare form. They did impersonations of people from the village. They talked about children in the family (who are also very clever and entertaining.)

And they talked about the Israeli occupation.

One has to have some kind of experience living in Palestine to fully appreciate what I have come to call “occupation humor,” so I won’t bother retelling the jokes. But it is satirical, in the highest degree. And it is very, very funny. We laughed late into the night as these women cracked jokes at the Israeli occupation, Israeli soldiers, and crazy Israeli settler “security” guards. That evening (as they so often do), they laughed in the face a system of violence and oppression that attempts to crush their people.

This is the point: The Palestinians here in At-Tuwani are committed to nonviolent resistance. They resist with their lives, their land, and their sheep. And nobody – not even the Israeli occupation – will take away these folks’ love, laughter, and spirit. It is moments like these that give me hope, and something to write home about.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Israeli military issues demolition orders and again blocks main access road in South Hebron Hills

Israeli military issues demolition orders and again blocks main access road in South Hebron Hills:

On 26 June, 2008, the Israeli military issued a demolition order on the partly constructed water cistern in the village of At-Tuwani. The cistern is being built with financial support from a Spanish NGO. If completed the cistern will provide a vital additional water source in the arid
region of the South Hebron Hills.

Also on 26 June, the Israeli military issued a demolition order on a home in At-Tuwani and on four homes in the nearby village of Umm Faggarah.

The following day, 27 June, 2008, at 9 am, the Israeli military returned to the area and blocked the road between At-Tuwani and Yatta. A bulldozer massed a four-foot-high mound spanning the width of the road using boulders and earth. The roadblock not only prevents vehicular access, but also makes movement by foot and donkey extremely difficult. The same
bulldozer also closed several tracks used by tractors and trucks to access nearby small dwellings.

Besides being the main economic hub for the region Yatta is also the principal provider of critical services such as hospitals, secondary schools, public administration offices.

Several communities in the South Hebron Hills are again cut off from basic supplies such as water and animal feed, as this road is the main artery for the supply of water to the South Hebron Hills, which is currently experiencing a severe drought. According to Palestinian residents of the area, roadblocks have doubled the commercial price of water. A UN worker
reported that roadblocks on this road will increase by 30 percent the cost of transporting essential water aid to the area.

The new roadblock is the latest in a series of roadblocks erected by the Israeli army. The most recent, on the same site of today's roadblock, was removed by the army on 12 June. Previous roadblocks were removed by the local population through nonviolent direct actions.

See http://cpt.org/gallery/27-June-2008 for images.

To a Palestinian Child--Instructions for Living in the South Hebron Hills

By CPTer Laura Ciaghi

Do not go into nearby orchards to steal cherries. Twenty-five heavily armed adults from the neighboring Israeli settlement may attack your village, screaming, pushing and threatening your parents while soldiers and police stand and watch.

Make sure to have unarmed internationals with you on your way to school. When adult settlers attack you, the internationals might end up as battered as you, but their injuries will give you your only chance to have the media tell your story.

Do not get sick (or try to be born) at inappropriate times such as nights, Jewish holidays, U.S. presidential visits-or when the local military commander has planned a checkpoint between your house and the hospital for no particular reason. You will make the soldiers feel uncomfortable when, following mandatory security policies, they refuse to let you pass by foot or in your parent's arms, because they suspect you may have swallowed a bomb. If you cough, vomit or look sad, you might confirm their suspicions.

Learn by heart some good invocations to chase away bad dreams. When soldiers come to your house in the middle of the night, aim their rifles at your elder brothers whom they have pushed against the wall, and then detonate sounds grenades as a way of saying "goodbye," you will fall asleep again afterwards and wake to be a cute, joyful, polite child the following morning.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Israeli Settlers Attack and Hospitalize Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills

. . . And, incredibly, it made BBC news. Check it out:


These attacks occurred in the Palestinian village of Susiya (though the village name is not mentioned in the article), not too far from us in At-Tuwani.

Two editorial comments:

1.) It is interesting to observe the language that is used to describe these attacks: "an apparent assault", and "[police] were inquiring into the whether there had been any 'provocation' for the apparent attack and whether all the Palestinians in the footage where indeed shepherds." I wonder how this article would have been written, if it was about Israelis attacked by Palestinians? Would it have been an "apparent assault", and would police be asking whether the Israelis provoked the attack?

Somehow I doubt it.

Which leads to my second comment:

2.) The article states: "Human rights groups say the Israeli police and the judiciary often show leniency towards the settlers, who live on land captured by Israel in the 1967 war with support from the Israeli state. The authorities deny such accusations."

My experience affirms the former statement, regarding leniency towards Israeli settlers.

Here end my editorial comments. Do research, come to Palestine and see the situation for yourself, and come to your own opinion.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"Joy! How are you?"

We received a call a few days ago from a Palestinian friend who lives in a nearby village. He was passing through At-Tuwani on his way home with his family (his wife, adolescent daughter, and two very young children, who were riding with him on his donkey.) For them, the journey home is dangerous, because they must pass in view of the Israeli settlement of Ma’on and the illegal Israeli settlement outpost* of Havat Ma’on. Israeli settlers might attack, harass, throw stones, or shoot at Palestinians passing this way. (Incidentally, the man who called us on this particular day was Shanti. A few months ago, settlers shot at him and his flocks in a valley not too far from where he and his family was going to walk. I wrote about his experience in my previous post, “Shanti’s Shot Sheep”.)

So Shanti called to ask us to accompany his family and himself on their way home. Away we all went, joking, laughing, and having little races along the way. We walked approximately a third of the way without incident. Then Shanti asked us to stand on a hill nearby and watch as they continued home; if we saw settlers coming their way, we were to call them to let them know.

Not long after they left us, we saw a car traveling from the illegal Israeli settlement outpost of Havat Ma’on in the direction of Shanti and his family.

I was standing next to my teammate, Joy, who called Shanti to tell him settlers were on their way. I could hear most of their conversation, which went something like this:

Joy: There are settlers.
Shanti: Where?
Joy: On the road. Going to where you are.
Shanti: Ok. (In the background, people saying, “Quickly, quickly!” and “Run!”) By the way, who is this?
Joy: This is Joy.
Shanti: Joy! How are you?

As he and his family were running (for their safety, possibly for their lives), Shanti was genuinely interested in Joy’s well being.

Shanti and his family arrived home safely, thank God. When Joy called him to see if they made it home, his wife insisted on speaking with Joy. She, too, very sincerely inquired after Joy’s welfare (never mind having just run home with her children and husband, fearing for their safety.)

These sorts of things – the constant threat of people following, harassing, or attacking other people – shouldn’t happen to anyone. But to know this happens regularly to such lovely people, so deeply committed to nonviolence and concerned for the people around them (even as they themselves are running for safety) somehow makes this unjust situation worse. To know that in the States, people believe the lie that Palestinians equals terrorists, when nothing is farther from the truth – it seems an unthinkable, racist crime.

“Joy, how are you?” Such a genuine, other-centered question in the midst of so much violence. It is a question I’ll never forget.

*According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Settlement outposts are illegal according to Israeli law.

Christian Peacemaker Teams announces publication of "118 Days," book detailing Iraq hostage crisis

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has announced the 5 June 2008 release of 118 Days: Christian Peacemaker Teams held hostage in Iraq, a book about the hostage crisis endured by the organization and its team members in Iraq, beginning in November 2005. Editor Tricia Gates Brown has compiled chapters written by members of CPT and CPT sympathizers actively involved with securing the release of Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney, Tom Fox, and Norman Kember, as well as by family, friends, and others whom the crisis profoundly affected.

"These honest and sobering reflections help all of us committed to the work of peace better understand the world in which we live. I hope this book will be widely read," writes theologian Stanley Hauerwas.

The book contains first-hand accounts of what led the four men to Baghdad, where their paths crossed with armed militants who did not understand their mission. It also provides insight into the daily lives of CPT delegations and teams, who risk all on their path to peace. The chapters weave a story of hope, friendship, fear, courage, and forgiveness, describing the daily sacrifices of the four hostages. In particular, readers will understand better the rich, textured life of Tom Fox, a CPTer who found a new calling late in life, leaving behind his careers in music and organic grocery retail to die in the streets of Baghdad. His bullet-ridden body was found two weeks before his colleagues were freed from captivity.

"God created us to form the human family. The Christian Peacemakers went to Iraq to help build that family. They went to work with their sisters and brothers for justice and peace. They are an example for Christians everywhere in their commitment to the Lord's ministry of reconciliation," Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote after reading 118 Days.

Visit http://www.cpt.org/118days to learn more, purchase a copy, and help spread the news!

Israeli military again blocks main access road in South Hebron Hills

At 11:00 a.m. on 5 June 2008, the Israeli military again blocked the road between At-Tuwani and Yatta. A bulldozer massed a six-foot-high mound spanning the width of the road, using concrete slabs, boulders, and earth. Several villages in the South Hebron Hills are again cut off from secondary schools, hospitals, and basic supplies such as water, firewood, and animal feed, because this road provides the primary vehicle access to Yatta, the region’s economic hub.

The new roadblock expands a pile placed by the Israeli army on 28 May. It is the largest in a series of obstructions erected over the past three months. Unlike previous roadblocks, the new blockage not only prevents vehicle access, but also traffic by foot and donkey. (Recently, closures and rising fuel prices have forced increasing numbers of Palestinians to use donkeys for travel throughout the Palestinian Territories.)

The road between At-Tuwani and Yatta is the main artery for the supply of water to the South Hebron Hills, currently experiencing a severe drought. According to Palestinian residents of the area, roadblocks have doubled the commercial price of water. A U.N. worker reported that this roadblock will increase by thirty percent the cost of transporting essential water aid to the area.

For photos go to http://cpt.org/gallery/Israeli-military-erect-roadblock-on-5th-June%2C-2008


So a lot has happened during two months of my personal blogging black hole. (Oops.) One of the big changes being that I am now at Christian Peacemaker Team's (CPT) project in At-Tuwani, a tiny Palestinian village of approximately 100-150 people. Some of my previous posts ("A Little Girl's Story" and "Shanti's Shot Sheep") have been a little about the absolutely amazing, fantastic Palestinians living there.

Anyway, more about At-Tuwani in the posts to come -- I live in the most fantastic village ever!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Little Girl’s Story

by CPTer Maureen Jack

6 April 2008

There is a little Palestinian girl called Maha* who lives next door to us. She is six and bright as a button. We like her a lot, which is just as well as she loves to spend time with us. She likes doing things like helping us to clean the floor or rinse our hair when we wash it. Also, she helps us with our Arabic. She is an exacting teacher and our efforts to pronounce words correctly often meet with a firm ‘No.’ But she is patient, and when she speaks to us her Arabic is slow and clear. She has taken us to visit her mother and be served tea with bread and freshly-made butter. Sometimes we spend less time with her than she would wish, because we have to accompany shepherds with their sheep and goats. So three days ago she asked two of us to go with her and her mother with their flock of sheep. On our way out of the village we bumped into her mother who told us that the sheep were safely tucked up at their house and were staying there for the rest of the day. We await Maha’s next strategy with interest!

So, Maha is a sturdy, resourceful little girl. But a few days ago she was terrified. My teammate Jessica and I saw her set off with her younger sister and an adult relative. They were going to Yatta (a nearby city) for the day and Maha was very excited. They headed off to cross the Israeli road to walk on the Palestinian track to Yatta. Suddenly Maha was running back towards us in tears, crying, ‘Miriam, Miriam!’ (This is what some of the younger children call me.) A car was sitting beside the turn-off to Yatta and an Israeli man was outside speaking on his phone. Maha’s words tumbled out among her tears and all we could make out was ‘Settlers!’ She gripped my hand tightly as we walked with them across the road and saw them off on their way to Yatta.

Now, I don’t know whether the men in the car were settlers or simply Israelis driving from Jerusalem to Beersheva.. Maybe Maha’s fears were not justified. But they were understandable. In the last few days adult Israeli settlers have thrown stones at her schoolmates as they played in their own garden area; they have assaulted the father and grandfather of one of her classmates; and a settler and his three sons have chased after and yelled at her schoolmates as Israeli soldiers escorted them home from school.

Maha is a great kid. I’m sad and angry that she was scared yesterday. If you knew her you would be too.

* not her real name

Monday, April 7, 2008

Shanti's Shot Sheep

One of the shepherds here in the South Hebron Hills reminds me of a prophet from biblical times. I’ll call him Shanti, and he is a Palestinian shepherd from a village near At-Tuwani. His beard is dark and bushy, his hair wild.

And, like the prophets, he is fearless in nonviolent witness of truth to the Powers that Be.

On Wednesday, 26 March, Shanti was grazing his sheep in the Mashaha Valley. Settlers in the illegal Israeli settlement outpost of Havat Ma’on frequently harass Palestinian shepherds as they graze their sheep in this area. On this particular day, while his flock grazed, Israeli settlers shot two of his sheep and a billy goat.

For over six hours, Shanti told and re-told his story, with relentless passion and animation. To Israeli police; to Israeli military; to the Israeli police (again); to armed Israeli settler security agents (who were suspiciously vague about their identities and their interest with Shanti’s shot sheep.)

A few times, standing near an unsuspecting Israeli soldier, he would launch into his story (whether the soldier wanted to hear it or not!) As Shanti recounted the violence done to his flock, soldiers shifted uncomfortably or became very interested in the rocky ground beneath them. Shanti’s story rendered soldiers defenseless. Their guns and army gear could not protect them from the truth of his account.His persistence in telling the story of the violence done to his flock was powerfully reminiscent of the of the fearless and truthful witness of the biblical prophets’ speaking Truth to Power.

The next day, in response to the shooting, Palestinians from around the South Hebron Hills came together to graze in the valley where settlers had shot Shanti’s sheep. Shepherds, sheep, and goats dotted the valley and the hills in the Meshaha valley.

Despite the trauma of the day before Shanti joined them. Of all the shepherds in the valley, Shanti was the shepherd grazing his sheep nearest to the illegal Havat Ma’on settlement outpost, nearest to the risk of danger and attack from settlers. Like the prophets of old, on that day (and in the days that have followed), Shanti put himself in a place of danger in an act of nonviolent resistance.

The Palestinians here in At-Tuwani and the surrounding villages are my mentors on my journey of nonviolent response to structures and situations of oppression and injustice. Shanti’s fierce courage and persistence in response to violence around him nurtures me. To me, he is like a modern-day prophet, stepping out of the pages of the biblical witness.

For photos, visit CPT At-Tuwani's photo album.

Monday, March 24, 2008

"Way of the Cross, in Occupied Palestine" Continued

Happy Easter Monday! In a stroke of liturgical backwardness, I wanted to link readers to the rest of CPT Palestine's "Way of the Cross, in Occupied Palestine". Posted there are each of the fourteen Stations of the Cross, with reflections on those stations from life in Palestine.

Apologies that I'm posting this link *after* Lent. Life here has been very busy for the past couple of months.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"He was attacked, so they arrested him."

In a rational world, this statement is mind-boggling at best. During this past month, I feel as though I have heard this story far too often: "He was attacked, so they arrested him." After living in Palestine for a while, this sentence is far too conceivable. For example:

A few teammates and I recently went to visit a Palestinian deeply committed to nonviolence, on whose lands we regularly have nonviolent actions -- harvesting olives, tilling the fields, etc. He has the misfortune of living between two Israeli settlements, and this is vulnerable to settler harassment and attack. So every week (weather permitting), Palestinians, internationals, and (sometimes) Israeli activists gather to work the fields. Sometimes Israeli military and police come. Sometimes Israeli settlers stop to watch or verbally harass the workers.

Only during our recent visit, did we hear part of this man's story. He told us about his upcoming trial. In July, he was shepherding his land when Israeli settlers attacked him and members of his family, and the settlers fired some shots. When he attempted to defend himself, Israeli military arrested him and two of his sons. However, the Israeli authorities did not inform him of his arrest. They told him, “Come to [the police station] to make a complaint.” When he went to the station to file a complaint, they arrested him, and he and one of his sons spent 14 days in jail. They had to pay a fine of 2,000 shekels. His other son spent one month in jail and had to pay at 3,050 shekel fine. His trial is in military court. Settlers accuse him of throwing stones at settler guards. An Israeli activist present at the time of the attack can witness to the fact that settlers attacked this man. Regardless, the settlers are asking for a three year sentence, and the court has not yet ruled on his case.

And then we heard another story, on the same night:

In January, Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian family living in the valley below the Kiryat Arba settlement, and the family recorded the attack on video. The Israeli military did little to prevent settlers from throwing stones (the one instance in which they intervened, a soldier got between a settler boy and the Palestinian home and said simply, “Go back”) but physically restrained Palestinians from throwing stones. The settlers surrounded the house on three sides. Twelve family members were injured and four taken to the hospital. Two family members were hurt seriously and required stitches (one person needed four and the other five stitches.) Two of the four seriously injured were arrested first and the military denied them medical treatment. The Israeli police held one of the Palestinian men for four hours and then released him. Only then did he receive necessary medical treatment.

"He was attacked, so they arrested him." Is this justice?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The weekend, in brief

Israeli settlers have been regularly attacking Palestinians in the Wadi Al Nassara ("wadi" means "valley"; it is a valley in Hebron). While having dinner in a Palestinian home yesterday, the woman was telling us that settlers have been preventing Palestinians from walking on the road, telling them that they will only let the Palestinians pass if they pay a thousand shekels. After that the settlers beat the Palestinians. In addition, settlers have been throwing stones at the Palestinians living in the wadi.

There have been regular (practically daily) Israeli military incursions into Beit Ummar, a village not far from Hebron (it is on the way from Hebron to Bethlehem). Last night, Israeli authorities shut off power to half the village, and then invaded. They shot two Palestinian men, and then arrested them, denying them medical treatment.

Finally, the Israeli government issued home demolition orders on nine Palestinian homes and a health clinic that is being built that would serve about 600 women and children. These homes and clinic are in the Beqa'a valley, between two Israeli settlements outside of Hebron (one can see the two settlements expanding. It is the theory that they will one day join and become one. The Beqa'a valley is right between the two settlements, so it would seem the Israeli authorities want to take over the Beqa'a -- hence all the demolition orders.) I slept last night a cell phone by my bed, ready to dash out the door if one of our friends called to tell us that the demolition crews had arrived (the demolition crews generally arrive at dawn, before the Palestinian community can get mobilized.) My first thought this morning was, "Did the demolition crews come?" I can hardly imagine what I would be thinking and feeling if it was my home at risk of being demolished.

Friday, February 8, 2008

"Way of the Cross, in Occupied Palestine"

In honor of the Christian season of Lent, which began on Ash Wednesday (6 February), Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Palestine has decided to introduce the "Way of the Cross, in Occupied Palestine" campaign, to encourage international churches, communities, families, and individuals to reflect and raise awareness of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. As part of this, we are publishing a number of reflections that follow the Stations of the Cross. Recently, my teammate Jean Fallon wrote the following reflection, for the first station of the cross:

Lenten Stations of the Cross: The First Station

By Jean Fallon

The First Station – Jesus stands condemned by Pilot by the word of his enemies

As we recall Jesus standing before Pilot, who represents the Occupying Roman Forces, and the full weight of the Roman Empire, let us meditate on a scene happening now in Hebron.

Six Palestinian youths, around 15 or 16, the oldest 18 and 19, stand before the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) … accused by a settler woman of breaking and entering her home. Not knowing what would happen to them, they stand with their arms raised, hands on metal doors, legs apart and some of them still in the thin clothing they were wearing at home when the IOF came to arrest them,. For close to four hours of standing in the cold, they endure a heckling crowd of settlers, being blindfolded, handcuffed and finally taken away to the police station where police continued to question and finally released them after midnight. At a checkpoint on their way home, a soldier tore up one of their IDs.

Six teenagers… whose actual ‘crime’ was discovered to be; breaking through a fence into an open square near the settlers’ housing area to look for scrap metal. Even though their Palestinian families gave witness on their behalf they were condemned by the word of a settler, with two now facing a hearing and the rest with their names on the Israeli police list of potential ‘terrorists’.