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.

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.