"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." - Jesus
When accompanying Palestinian shepherds, one can never know what to expect. Israeli soldiers might arrive and attempt to drive the Palestinian and his flock off his land. Israeli settlers might arrive, masked and armed with slingshots, and use violence to deter Palestinians from asserting their right to access their land.
Or, nothing happens, and one spends a lot of time watching sheep and goats, making small talk with teammates and shepherds, or playing little games to pass the time: How far can a person flick a pebble from between their thumb and forefinger? How does one make a propeller from a thorn, a twig, and some dried grass? (These games are always concocted by the shepherds, and enthusiastically participated in by us foreigners.)
Or we, the internationals, learn lessons about peacemaking and the kingdom of God.
It was a quiet, hot day not too far from At-Tuwani. My teammate and I were accompanying a Palestinian shepherd whom I will call Kareem, which means "generous." Kareem is goofy and playful, whose face often breaks into broad, childlike grin. He is brilliant in his nonviolent resistance, using creativity and play to run mental circles around Israeli soldiers attempting to drive him off his land.
We were sitting on a hill, talking about the situation here in the South Hebron Hills. Kareem turned thoughtful, and he began speaking about peace. He was imagining a life of coexistence, between Muslim and Jew. He began dreaming of a day in which children from the Israeli settlement of Ma'on and the Palestinian children of At-Tuwani would go to school together.
Kareem - who knows well the violence of the Israeli settlers of Ma'on and Havat Ma'on, who knows that these people from the Israeli settlement and the outpost have attacked Palestinian children time and again as the children were on their way to school and summer camp - had the generousity to imagine a day in which the Israreli childern of Palestinian children's attackers would go to school with Palestinian children in peace. Kareem has no illusions about the current situation, the violence, and the oppression here in the South Hebron Hills. Yet he has the audacity to dream of a different world.
Kareem is, undoubtedly, a greater peacemaker than I. I, who frequently struggles to subdue my rage and hopelessness over the situation here in At-Tuwani. And as I sat and listened to him on that day, I had the sensation that I was blessed, because I was sitting in the presence of a true peacemaker, who is called a child of God.
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.