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.

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.

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