Sumud in action! Friday was my day off, and I was in Jerusalem. At 12:30 I found myself wandering toward Hagar Square ~ a major intersection of five main roads where the Jerusalem Women in Black hold vigil every Friday from 1:00-2:00. Rain or shine, hot or cold, 5 or 25, they stand. Every Friday for 24 years, these amazing Israeli women (and an occasional man) have stood in silent protest to their government’s occupation of Palestinian lands. Holding simple, handmade signs, they stand in witness. A black “hand” with simple words in Hebrew, Arabic and English: “Stop the Occupation.”
I am honoured to stand with this noble tribe of courageous Israelis who dare to protest the actions of their government in a conservative climate that does not support their witness. On the opposite corner a few counter demonstrators hold signs and wave a flag. Cars honk their horns, but not in support. Passers-by stop to argue and take issue with this simple slogan. A meager few stop to say “thank you.” I note that most of those who stand in witness are the elders, the disabled ~ wise souls. Where are the youth? Where are those in the mainstream? They are absent.
Returning to the hotel, I search a map. The meeting place is designated as “Paris Square.” I look up the website for Women in Black. It is noted that Hagar Square is indeed called Paris Square. But why not Hagar Square? I reflect on the name ~ Hagar. Woman of sorrow, acquainted with grief ~ Foreigner ~ Oppressed by her Jewish employer ~ Mistreated, cast out, rejected ~ An irony?
I reflect on this courageous witness ~ this example of sumud in action ~ 24 years of standing with no end in sight.
Year after year, would I be this faithful ~ this steadfast ~ in the midst of what appears to be impossible odds? ~ When we have knowledge of unspeakable injustice, do we have the luxury of inaction? ~ Are we not compelled by all that is right and just to stand in silent witness that another way is possible? ~ On this particular Friday, this silent tribe of Jewish elders clad in back was the answer to my question.