Saturday, October 10
Last night we were split between two families to stay with in Tel Rumeida. Two of the women and I stayed with a family who has suffered much abuse from the Israeli settlers as well as the soldiers. These families live just below an Israeli settlement block that is extremist, even by Israeli standards. Both groups heard horrific stories of land confiscation, home demolitions, attacks, restrictions, abuse, and so many other atrocities that were hard to hear & process. The family I stayed with had 3 children, ages 10, 6, 18 months. They lost two babies because a woman from the settlement came down to their house when the mother was outside and beat her up causing the miscarriages. The father was at work both times when this happened. They reported it to the Israeli authorities but because there was nothing to verify the attack, nothing was done. Most likely nothing would have been done even if there was video. His brother and family live in the same house but he is unable to find work. Several years ago the settlers caught him and put his right hand on a live electrical wire which burnt his right arm and he can no longer use it. Hashem, the father, works as a Physical Therapist at the local clinic operated by the UN. If he works 30 days a month he gets paid $360 for the month. But with holidays and days the clinic is closed he rarely works 30 days. Next year the UN said he could possibly be hired full time and then his pay would be increased. He supports his family and his brother’s family on these wages. His wife, Nisheen, is an artist and sells a few paintings which add a small amount to the yearly income. I bought two from her. His 6 year old nephew was out playing in the yard several years ago when a woman settler saw him, came down threw him on the ground, took a stone and broke out several of his front teeth. The Palestinians are not permitted to defend themselves or they are arrested. The Palestinians living in this area are not permitted to have sharp kitchen knives but the settlers have M-16s. I could share so many more stories we either saw on video or heard just from this family but these are enough for now. It is extremely difficult to put your mind around the fact that human beings can treat other human beings with such contempt & so little regard for life. The families we stayed with were some of the most forgiving & peace filled people I have ever met. They did not express anger just a desire to live their lives as we live without the occupation. It was not just these families, but everyone we met shared this philosophy. It is not just words for these people but they live them out in their daily lives in nonviolence actions. Yes, there are those who have chosen violence but the vast majority of the Palestinian people live by Micah 6:8 more than we “Christians.” We are to “live justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly before our God.” The Israeli’s and settlers try to portray all Palestinians as terrorist which could is simply not true.
At 9:00 a.m. we listened to Walid from the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee. He explained that closures can be made of barbed wire, barrels, large rocks or anything else that makes a barrier. There are presently 106 street closures in Hebron. Hebron used to be the largest commercial and business center in the West Bank but because of the street closures hundreds of family shops have been forced to close causing the unemployment in Hebron to dramatically increase. In 2000 when the military zones were put in place hundreds more were closed and in just one area of the old city, called the Gold Suk, 800 shops were closed bringing the total to 1800. This area sold the more expensive items like gold, silk and old coins.
The Rehabilitation Committee is working to revive the old city by focusing on their culture & repairing old buildings, cleaning up the streets, putting in parks, attempting to get some shops reopened by trying to connect the shops with open streets and painting the door fronts of existing shops to give it a brighter appearance. It was good to see the improvements they have made over the past several years. Of course, we were not permitted on Shuhada Street which is an Israeli only Street unless you have a permit. We were on it a short distance the night we stayed in Tel Rumeida.
On returning to the CPT apartment we listened to a young man who works with Youth Against the Settlements. He is an electrical engineer from Hebron working with the youth of the area who graduated from Hebron University. In 2002 the university closed because the young men were learning things that could prove dangerous to the Israel's, like electrical engineering. He was the student who spear headed a nonviolence resistance to the closure. The Israeli government with the assistance of the military did get it reopened months later & it remains open today. He is a dynamic young man who is committed to nonviolence in response to the occupation.
We participated in a Nonviolent Candlelight March he organized that evening to show our solidarity with them. The marchers carried torches as they walked through the streets to the one area were there is a street closure onto Shuhada Street manned by soldiers 24/7. It was a peaceful march with chants pertaining to the occupation & the Shuhada street closure. We left that area & passed through a street where settlers live on second floor apartments adjacent to the street. There is netting over the street to catch the garbage thrown down on the Palestinian people by the settlers. The netting and even some tarps were put in place to prevent it falling directly on those passing by on the street below. They throw urine, feces, acid & any other garbage they wish to throw. While there the group stopped to chant at the settlers & once again the settlers threw some kind of liquid on us. It appeared to be gray water with particles in it as that is what hit me. After that the march dispersed & we went back to the apartment.
Shuhada Street is the main street in the old city of Hebron. This street was closed at first to all Palestinian vehicles in the 1990’s but both could walk on it. Then in 2000 when the military zones where put in place the street was closed to all Palestinians, even walking. Palestinian homes that are along this street can not use any doors that open into the street.
During the afternoon, several of the group went out & bought falafel for our lunch since we were on our own during the afternoon. Everyone but one of the guys & myself went shopping in the old city to buy souvenirs. We went with Donna from CPT to buy food to prepare for the evening meal since the delegation was responsible. I made something similar to pasta primavera in a kitchen quite unlike my kitchen at home but it must have been okay because they ate every bite. There were 11 of us for dinner that night.
Following the Candlelight March we had Communion lead by Allwyn who is part of the Hebron CPT Team. He shared remarks from Mark 14 where the woman anointed Jesus head with a very expensive perfume just prior to His crucifixion. It was a very meaning time for all of us as we shared the bread & cup together.
(Today has been day 3 without a shower and no prospects of any for another 3 days with temperatures in the 80's and 90's.)