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.

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.