“Caged Bird” ~ A Freedom Song

When I received the invitation to come to Palestine for two months, I was immersed in reading Maya Angelou’s articulate and moving 7-volume autobiography. So, naturally, I brought the books with me to provide some diversion. Little did I know how much Maya’s story ~ particularly her involvement as an activist in the US civil rights movement ~ would parallel some of what I see and hear in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. While her story does not offer the diversion I seek, it offers much more ~ With gratitude for her witness, I quote here her poem which so eloquently portrays the expansiveness of freedom in stark contrast to the imprisonment of a cage ~ May it awaken and strengthen our commitment to freedom for all.

Birds in Flight ~ Photo Credit: Gerry Morgan

Free Birds
Credit: Gerry Morgan

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

Caged Bird ~ Birin Village ~ Occupied Palestine Photo Credit: Jan

Caged Bird
Birin Village ~ Hebron Governorate
Occupied Palestine
Photo Credit: Jan

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage 
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Free Birdsshutterstock.com

Free Birds
Credit: shutterstock.com

The free bird thinks
of another breeze
and the trade winds soft
through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting
on a dawn bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

Caged Bird Occupied East Jerusalem Souk (Market) ~ Old City Photo Credit: Dawn

Caged Birds
Occupied East Jerusalem
Souk (Market) ~ Old City
Photo Credit: Dawn

But a caged bird stands
on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts
on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped
and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

 

Maya Angelou, “Caged Bird” from Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing? Copyright © 1983

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Breaking News ~ Freedom of the Press Suppressed

This blog was published today by my colleague and friend, Jan, who is on the ground in Hebron. I am re-blogging sections of her post for my readers. Thank you, Jan, for your witness and for this window on the occupation and its systemic violation of human rights.

Freedom of the Press Suppressed

Posted by A Mosaic For PeaceNovember 4, 2015

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly December 10, 1948. It came about in the aftermath of World War 2, and was the result of nations states coming together with the common purpose of affirming human rights for the entire human family, while seeking to avoid the atrocities of war. The drafting committee included Canadian John Humphrey, and was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt. The document has been ratified by every country in the world and translated into 337 languages. It has been foundational for other declarations and treaties that have been agreed upon since then.  As such, it is one of the most important documents of the 20th century.

The Declaration includes 30 articles, covering a wide range of human rights. Article 19 affirms freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. It reads: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any  media and regardless of frontiers.”

Respect for the freedom of the press and the rights of the residents of Hebron to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media was severely compromised early Tuesday morning, when the Israeli forces entered H1, the fully controlled Palestinian portion of the city of Hebron, at 2:30am. and raided the offices of radio station FM 92.7, HR.PS, carrying a military order that read, in part (translated from Hebrew), “the military commander orders to close the station because it is necessary for public order, for correct governance and for the security of the IDF forces.” According to the order, the station is to cease operation for a period of 6 months. Not only did the IDF close the station, they inflicted serious damage to the office and its equipment.

Radio station FM 92.7 HR.PS

Radio Station FM 92.7 HR.PS Now off Air ~ Offices Raided 2:30 Tuesday Morning

one of several cabinets vandalized in the raid

One of Several Cabinets Vandalized in Raid

equipment was torn off the walls

Equipment Torn off Walls

cords, connectors, etc left in a heap on the floor

Cords, Connectors, etc. Damaged in Raid

a damaged office

One of the Damaged Offices at Radio Station FM 92.7 HR.PS

Freedom of the press is a foundational human right. As the preamble to the UN Declaration of Human Rights so clearly states, “every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive…to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.” Palestinians, as a people under the jurisdiction of Israel (as a result of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine) are as deserving of this right as the citizens of the 192 countries that have signed the Declaration.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,

Jan

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Road Not Taken ~ What If …

Rabin Square ~ Tel Aviv ~ October 31, 2015 Photo Credit: Oren Ziv, activestills.org

Rabin Square ~ Tel Aviv ~ October 31, 2015
Photo Credit: Oren Ziv ~ Activestills.org

What if Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had not been gunned down at a Tel Aviv peace rally by a Jewish extremist on that fateful night ~ November 4, 1995? What if Israel’s successive leaders had had the courage to risk peace? What if …

Last night, in the Tel Aviv square that bears Rabin’s name, 100,000 people gathered to remember the 20th anniversary of his assassination ~ against the backdrop of this wave of horrific violence and bloodshed during the past month ~ violence that has been committed by both sides ~ still they gathered. They gathered to remember and to honour the army general turned peacemaker ~ “It is no longer inevitable that we be a people who dwell alone, nor is it true that the whole world is against us. We need to break out of the sense of isolation which held us in its grip for almost fifty years. We must come aboard the great journey towards peace, reconciliation and international cooperation. If we don’t, we will remain alone in an empty station.” (Yitzhak Rabin ~ July 13, 1992)

Caption above Rabin's Photo (right) ~ "Leader" Caption above Netanyahu's Photo (left) ~ "Cowardice" Photo Credit: Oren Ziv ~ Activestills.org

Caption above Rabin’s Photo ~ “Leadership”
Caption above Netanyahu’s Photo ~ “Cowardice”
Photo Credit: Oren Ziv ~ Activestills.org

Chairwoman Zehava Galon of the Meretz political party said at the rally: “Rabin was murdered because he proposed a political vision for the State of Israel. He was murdered because of the politician that he was ~ a politician who wanted to end the occupation and make peace with the Palestinians … We do not agree and we’ll never agree to ever acquiesce to the only future Netanyahu is offering us ~ of living forever by the sword.”

Former President Bill Clinton issued an emotionally charged challenge to the applause of those gathered: “The next step will be determined by whether you decide that Rabin was right ~ that you have to share the future with your neighbours ~ that you have to give their children a chance too ~ that you have to stand for peace ~ that the risks for peace are not as severe as the risk of walking away from it. We are praying that you will make the right decision.”

Some 2,000 years ago, a Jewish teacher in Palestine is said to have wept over Jerusalem ~ Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes ~ Isn’t it time to remove the blinders? ~ What if someone would arise who would risk the road not taken? ~ It could make all the difference!

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

A Swing, a Slide, and a Soccer Field ~ Targets of the Occupation

Children's Playground Wadi Fukin, Occupied Palestine Photo Credit: Dawn

Children’s Playground
Wadi Fukin ~ Occupied Palestine
Photo Credit: Dawn

What do a swing, a slide, and a soccer field have in common? It would seem an obvious question ~ these are all things which provide children a safe place to play and simply be children. But in this Palestinian village, the swing, the slide, and the soccer field all share the same fate ~ They have received stop work orders and may well be demolished should anyone have the audacity to complete these playground projects without the required permits ~ permits which are impossible for Palestinians in this village to obtain under a cruel and inhumane military occupation.

It is a Saturday afternoon and I am invited to join a Methodist delegation to the village of Wadi Fukin (Foquin/Fuqeen) ~ one of the villages our Bethlehem EAPPI team monitored in the fall of 2012 (see earlier post, Between a Rock and a Hard Place ~ A Village Surrounded). It has been three years since I was here picking olives, and I am anxious to see what changes have taken place in this small community of 1,300 people.

Map ~ Wadi Fukin Green Area Shows Loss of Land Since 1948 Credit: Mayor's Office

Map ~ Wadi Fukin
Green Area Shows Loss of Land Since 1948
Credit: Mayor’s Office

As we turn off of the main road and make our way down into the lush and fertile valley, I am immediately struck by how narrow the valley has become. The two illegal settlements on the hills above have crept downwards, confiscating more and more village land, building more and more houses, hemming in the village on both sides, and dramatically restricting the arable land. So much has changed ~ and yet so much remains the same. The mayor relays stories of settler violence and harassment ~ sewage from the settlement is regularly released into the valley, contaminating the small plots of agricultural land ~ settlers bathe in the springs, burn wheat fields, and uproot olive and fruit trees. Just four months ago, 1,300 fruit trees were lost to the bulldozers. The ongoing effects of the occupation on this small community are devastating.

Unfinished Soccer Field ~ Wadi Fukin Photo Credit: Dawn

Unfinished Soccer Field ~ Wadi Fukin
Photo Credit: Dawn

Together with village representatives we make our way to the end of the valley as the Methodist delegation has come to see the results of their fundraising efforts through Friends of Wadi Fukin to build a small soccer field for village children. Above the dirt road on the right we spot an area that has been built up and reinforced with a retaining wall to create a level playing field ~ a sign is affixed thanking the Global Ministries of the Methodist Church for their generous support. But we quickly notice that it is clearly unfinished. Rebar and wire hold together the rock retaining wall which awaits its concrete casing. The jumble of rocks on the uphill slope have not yet been transformed into spectator seats. The field is not seeded. The goal posts are missing ~ We are informed that the soccer field, along with the adjacent small playground have all received stop work orders from the Israeli government, the most recent one in July. If the village completes the project it will result in the issuance of a demolition order ~ a demolition order on the only place in the village where children can play.

Stop Work Order ~ Soccer Field Orders Typically Under Rock for Villagers to Find ~ or Not Photo Credit: Friends of Wadi Fukin

Stop Work Order ~ Soccer Field ~ Wadi Fukin
Orders Are Typically Left Under a Rock
for Villagers to Find ~ or Not
Photo Credit: Friends of Wadi Fukin

And this is the story of only one village. Stories of stop work orders and demolition orders can be multiplied by the thousands throughout Area C of the occupied West Bank (see earlier post, The A, B, Cs of Occupation). What would it be like to constantly live in the shadow of the bulldozers? And yet the Israeli government claims that it is the Palestinians who are inciting the current wave of violence. Is not a 48-year military occupation incitement? Is not restriction of movement and an oppressive permit system incitement? Is not land theft and the demolition of playgrounds, homes and livelihoods incitement? An opinion piece published yesterday in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz boldly states: “Israel has created the boy ‘terrorist’… It is a moral indictment” ~ We are reminded that one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter ~ Has anyone thought of ending the occupation for starters?

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Standing Together ~ A Moment of Hope

Standing Together ~ Peace March in Jerusalem Photo Credit: Dawn

Standing Together ~ Peace March in Jerusalem
Photo Credit: Dawn 

“How do you remain hopeful?” This question was asked again this week. And sometimes it is hard to formulate an answer. Yet as I participated in the peace march on Saturday night in the heart of West Jerusalem ~ standing together with 2,000 Jews and Palestinians holding signs proclaiming their refusal to be enemies, exposing the racism, and calling for an end to the occupation ~ I experienced a moment of grace ~ a moment of hope ~ a realization of what could be possible.

Peace March Photo Credit: Gush Shalom

We Will Stand Together!
Photo Credit: Gush Shalom

Gush Shalom, the Israeli “Peace Bloc” was one of the primary organizers. Their rallying cry was: We will not surrender to despair ~ We will stand together! From their call to action, I quote: “Neither the terrible violence in the streets nor the fear was created in a vacuum. We must struggle against the root of this bloody cycle: A regime of control and separation that denies millions of Palestinians their right to freedom and equality. The Jerusalem Municipality distances itself from responsibility, and the government of Israel ignores the urgent need to address the root of the conflict. Instead, the authorities simply continue to pour gasoline onto the fire of incitement and violence.” Two quotes from the rally stand out for me ~ One from a Jewish Israeli activist teacher: “We came here to show that…Israelis and Palestinians can stand together and move toward a different policy, a policy of a just peace” ~ And another from a Jewish Israeli activist lawyer: “We are calling for an end to the occupation and to racism. There is an alternative. We can live in peace and understanding.”

Solidarity March in London Photo Credit: Public Domain

Solidarity March in London
Photo Credit: Public Domain

Also this weekend, in 60 cities in 17 countries around the world, people took to the streets. Protests and rallies in solidarity with Palestine were planned in Columbia and Brazil, Basque country and Slovenia, Norway and Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland, the UK, Scotland and Ireland, the US and Canada! This would not have happened a few years ago. This too is a sign of hope.

So, yes, I am hopeful, even though at times I struggle to hope in the midst of what appears hopeless. Appearances aside, I believe that despair is not an option. The dream of peace may not become a reality in our lifetime, but we must work toward it nonetheless ~ simply because it is the right and just thing to do. Our highest values as human beings demand it. Our faith in all that is good and right and holy ~ life itself ~ requires it. We are called to do justice and love mercy. And even if the dream is a distant hope ~ we must hope nonetheless. As the poet Emily Dickinson reminds us:

Hope Feather Photo Credit: annawrites.com

Hope Feather
Photo Credit: annawrites.com

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.

And neither can we …

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

“The Situation Is Back to Normal” ~ Redefining “Normal”?

Children in the Ruins ~ Az Za'ayyam Photo Credit: Dawn

Children in the Ruins of Demolished Home
Photo Credit: Dawn

I currently have one of the mobile phones from our office which alerts the recipient to incidents of “clashes,” rammings, stabbings, search operations, or other violence. These messages come from UNDSS ~ the United Nations Department of Safety and Security. I received nearly 100 “dings” in three days. When a situation is deemed resolved, a message is sent: “The situation at ___ is back to normal.” The automatic response is to feel some measure of relief. It is impossible, however, to escape the irony, especially when one stops to consider what is considered normal. And perhaps this is part of the problem…

Photo Credit: Dawn

Destroyed Olive Trees
Photo Credit: Dawn

It is a sad day for humanity when ongoing occupation and oppression, checkpoints and closures, permits requested and permits denied, demolitions and detentions, humiliation and hopelessness, restricted movement and refusal for prayers, night raids and nightmares, illegal settlements and unjust laws, blocked access to land and livelihood, confiscation of property and resources, being walled in and walled out, uprooting of trees and uprooting of lives ~ when all of these things are considered normal.

And while writing this post I have received seven “dings” ~ I wonder if any of the many and varied situations are back to normal … But what is normal? ~ Certainly not this litany! Perhaps something more akin to the dream of an ancient prophet ~ And everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree. And no one will make them afraid.

How can we change the discourse? The perception? The reality? How can we redefine normal? ~ May we be willing to place our efforts in the service of this prophetic dream ~ not an impossible one ~ that it may be so for everyone in this troubled land.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Where Do We Get Our Information? ~ It Makes a World of Difference

People often ask, “Where do I find good information?” My thanks to long-time activist for peace with justice, Kathy Bergen, for the following which she sent on email this morning. Kathy has lived 16 of the last 33 years in this land. I hope that you find these resources useful in providing “context” and thus a bigger picture.

From Kathy … I am forwarding the list of articles and statements – from Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals – which I just received from Jewish Voice for Peace. All are interesting, informative, and helpful in giving us a picture and analysis of what is going on in Israel/Palestine. I am adding one article here that I think is worth reading.

From Jewish Voice for Peace … The situation right now in Palestine and Israel is really dire.  There is much more to be said about it but for now we wanted to offer some resources for you to keep up to date about what is happening. See below for a round-up of commentary and statements about the events of the last couple of weeks.

Resources for understanding current events in Palestine:

  • Boycott National Committee statement.
  • Al Haq statement.
  • IMEU Factsheet on Al Aqsa/Temple Mount Misperceptions.
  • JVP’s statement (from Sunday October 4, 2015).
  • Mouin Rabbani on Palestinians being the most isolated they’ve been since 1948 in the Guardian.
  • Haaretz columnist Amira Hass writes: “Palestinians Are Fighting for Their Lives; Israel Is Fighting for the Occupation.”
  • Stories of terrorizing Palestinians that don’t make the news, by Samah Salaime in 972 Magazine, which has lots of other pieces of helpful reporting and analysis.
  • Seven killed in Gaza, with video, in Mondoweiss.
  • JVP media coordinator Naomi Dann on the occupation and repression at the root of the current violence in the foreign policy blog Lobelog.
  • Ben Caspit in Al Monitor arguing that the real intifada is taking place among the Israeli right, as they agitate for more settlement construction and a new operation defensive shield.
  • FMEP interview with Daniel Siedemann about the context of repression in Jerusalem over the last year. 
  • US Campaign’s Yousef Munayyer writing for CNN on what Palestinians really wanted Abbas to say in his speech last week.
  • Adam Horowitz in Mondoweiss on the scale of settler attacks.
  • Noam Sheizaf says Israel holds all the cards.
  • Saeb Erekat  in Newsweek about decades of impunity.
Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Ready? Set? Go!

Jerusalem Photo Credit: Dawn

Jerusalem
Photo Credit: Dawn

Are we ever really “ready” or “set” for what life places in our path? But ready or not, we can choose to open to what presents itself ~ Here I am, send me! ~ And so I find myself in Palestine and Israel for two months, providing interim staff support for the East Jerusalem EAPPI office and team support to Bethlehem, Hebron, and South Hebron Hills. I join EAPPI in thanking the United Church of Canada for their unflagging commitment and continued support of this important work. It is good to be here.

EAPPI Group 58 Bringing Total Number to 1,600

EAPPI Group 58
Total Number of EAs Now Over 1,600
Photo Credit: Dawn

When I arrived late last week, the outgoing Group 57 consisting of 23 EAs was winding up their last few days in their placements ~ the incoming Group 58 with 30 EAs was completing their training near Bethlehem and about to be launched. And no one would have predicted that this level of ongoing violence would erupt as it has. Yet again, the status quo on the ground has shown that it is unsustainable ~ that it must change. Even if the current wave recedes, this cycle will only recur and ultimately spin out of control unless the root cause ~ the occupation~ is addressed.

Bethlehem ~ Behind the Separation Barrier

Bethlehem ~ Behind the Separation Barrier
Photo Credit: Dawn

I was in Bethlehem the day that Abdelrahman Obeidallah, a 13-year-old boy from Aida refugee camp, who was returning from school, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers ~ a bullet in his chest. Killing after killing, one supposedly answering the other ~ and no one seems to ask why. In the international media, the context is either missing or skewed. Yet deep down we know that violence answered with violence only results in more violence. Increasing the pressure in the pressure cooker only insures it will explode ~ Everyone who is killed is somebody’s son or daughter ~ Every death is tragic ~ Every life is precious.

A Light in the Dark Photo Credit: Dawn

A Light in the Dark
Photo Credit: Dawn

In these next months I will resume my blog, sharing both my experiences and the stories of those among whom I live and who are all in one way or another impacted by this cruel, inhumane military occupation.

I invite you to journey with me…

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Jewish Israeli Peace Activist Tours Canada

Jeff Halper

Jeff Halper, Director, Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD)

“The 2 state solution is dead, and Israel killed it,” says Jeff Halper, co-founder and director of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD). Jeff is currently on a 3 week cross Canada tour and will speak at 2 public events this weekend in Edmonton ~ Friday at the University of Alberta (ECHA, Room 1-182), 7 PM and Saturday at Southminster-Steinhauer United Church, also at 7 PM. (Click here for details and maps.)

demolition

Fear in the Eyes of a Child

Jeff is an Israeli anthropoligist and a committed activist who passionately and actively resists the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the demolition of Palestinian homes ~ 48,000 homes since 1967! He has been a long voice in the struggle for Palestinian human rights and a just peace in the region. Jeff participated in the first (and successful) attempt of the Free Gaza Movement to break the Israeli siege by sailing into Gaza. He was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize together with Palestinian intellectual and activist Ghassan Andoni.

BOOKJeff is the author of Obstacles to Peace: Re-framing the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and more recently An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossessionm Redeeming Israel (2008). His forthcoming book is entitled War Amongst the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification (2015).

This national tour is sponsored by the United Church of Canada, Anglican Church of Canada, Canadian Friends Service Committee, Canadian Friends of Sabeel, and the United Jewish People’s Order. Organizers include United Network for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI) and Independent Jewish Voices (IJV). Locally in Edmonton we are joined by Palestine Solidarity Network and Mennonite Central Committee of Alberta.

In the Wake of the Bulldozers

In the Wake of the Bulldozers

Jeff’s tour in the east has been very well received. To hear a radio  interview from Toronto, click here ~ and here to read an article in our local St. Albert Gazette. To view his tour schedule, click here. If you are in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Vancouver or Vancouver Island, you still have a chance to hear this powerful voice for peace! I am grateful for Jeff’s strong and courageous witness!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Walk on the Wild Side ~ Not for Everyone

It was about this time last year as I was preparing to return home after my second 3-month term as an ecumenical accompanier that I took my last walk on the wild side. The last for now…
Wild, as in desolate, rugged, rough, remote, sparsely inhabited…
Wild, as in unrestrained, out of control, senseless, crazy, ludicrous…

Magical Light ~ Masafer Yatta Photo Credit: Dawn

Magical Light ~ Masafer Yatta
Photo Credit: Dawn

Known as Masafer Yatta by the local Palestinians, this wild, seemingly desolate, rugged, rough, remote and sparsely populated area sits in the far south of the occupied West Bank bordering the “green line” – the unofficial boundary between Israel and occupied Palestinian territory. It is a haunting landscape of deep valleys and rocky hills that found its way into my very soul. Parched brown in summer and fall it is carpeted green in winter and spring. There are no paved roads.

Shepherds ~ Masafer Yatta Photo Credit: Dawn

Shepherd Boys ~ Masafer Yatta
Photo Credit: Dawn

Walking this terrain, we occasionally come across a small village ~ 12 of them, actually ~ where several extended families live in tents or caves and make their living as shepherds and subsistence farmers as their ancestors have done for generations. Children appear “out of nowhere,” on donkey-back or running alongside ~ shepherd boys with their sheep and goats fan out across the valley ~ the odd camel wanders by ~ a farmer with his small tractor or donkey and iron plough works the land ~ women wave us to their tents ~ Ahlan wa Sahlan ~ Welcome! We arrange ourselves on mats and are served hot tea, delicious Bedouin bread, and a special hard goat cheese that has dried in the sun ~ little ones play at our feet ~ communication is limited ~ the women smile ~ they are glad we have come ~ sometimes words are overrated and unnecessary ~ we have entered another world… It is to this land that I longed to return for one last walk on the wild side before my departure last year.

"Firing Zone 918" ~ Entry Forbidden! Photo Credit: Dawn

“Firing Zone 918” ~ Entry Forbidden!
Photo Credit: Dawn

Abed, our friend and driver/translator, also longed to return ~ to be able to walk these wild hills and valleys. It is the land of his birth. He knows the terrain like the back of his hand. The land is part of his soul. But to him it is forbidden! This walk on the wild side is not for everyone, meaning not everyone is able to choose to walk this land! The indigenous Palestinian people are occupied by a cruel, inhumane army ~ they live under military rule ~ and the state of Israel has declared this land to be “Firing Zone 918” ~ land that is needed for military training purposes. Thus, Palestinians who do not live there are forbidden entry. And Palestinians who do live there live in a state of fear because the ultimate goal of the state is to dispossess the local population. They fear the bulldozers will make them homeless ~ fear their two small schools will be demolished ~ fear the soldiers will conduct another night raid ~ fear their children will be arrested ~ fear the settlers will harm their flocks ~ fear their village will be obliterated ~ fear they will be expelled as has already happened to several neighboring villagers. This too is wild ~ as in unrestrained, out of control, senseless, crazy, ludicrous… Not to mention inhumane!

Masafer Yatta ~ Winter Green Photo Credit: Dawn

Masafer Yatta ~ Winter Green
Photo Credit: Dawn

We have come full circle, and it is our last day in the south Hebron Hills. Each person on our team has expressed a desire to pack a picnic and spend this day visiting villagers in these hills and valleys ~ a way of saying good-bye to what we have come to love. Abed longs to accompany us. But he is apprehensive, because he is forbidden! Has the army been active in the area in recent days? Would he be safe in the company of internationals? His wife is pregnant with their first child. Is it prudent? He weighs the risks. He seeks the council of his father, his friend, and his brother. Ultimately it is the call of the land and the tug of his own heart that prevail.

Lost in Thought Photo Credit: Dawn

Lost in Thought
Photo Credit: Dawn

We spend an amazing day together walking the land. We visit families and enjoy the tea graciously offered. And this time, with Abed’s help, we can communicate with words! Late in the day, we perch on the ubiquitous rocks and share a simple picnic. Everyone is comfortable in the silence. The day has been meaningful and memorable in many ways, and each of us is occupied by our own thoughts and feelings. I am feeling a mixture of gratitude and nostalgia as I say my goodbyes ~ I wonder what Abed is feeling ~ At times during the day he has seemed reflective and melancholy ~ a deep sadness settling over him like a cloud. At other times he has exuded a sense of euphoria, scampering over the rocky landscape ~ relishing his freedom. In those moments it was as if his soul was singing! This is my land ~ I am home!

Military Training Over Villages ~ Masafer Yatta Photo Credit: Dawn

Military Training Over Villages ~ Masafer Yatta
Photo Credit: Dawn

Returning to the present moment and mindful of the lengthening shadows, we pack up and begin to retrace our steps. Suddenly the idyllic scene and the tranquil calm of our peaceful day are shattered by explosions in the distance and helicopters overhead. Military training! This is wild as in crazy, insane, senseless. Our pace quickens ~ our hearts beat faster ~ our stomachs tighten ~ But we realize that we can walk away from it all ~ The friends we visited earlier this afternoon live here!

Masafer Yatta ~ A Beloved Landscape Photo Credit: Dawn

Masafer Yatta ~ A Beloved Landscape
Photo Credit: Dawn

As we round the top of the last hill, Abed speaks from his heart and thanks us for this day ~ for this opportunity to once again walk the land that claims him, the land in all of its wildness ~ And in so many ways it is wild! ~ For starters, we are the outsiders, and yet he thanks us for creating for him a feeling of safety so that he could take the risk of doing what we take for granted ~ walking the lands that claim our hearts ~ lands that are home… Making our way to the car, I reflect on the wildness of the day. For the goodness in this wildness I am deeply grateful. Against the insanity, cruelty and inhumanity in this wildness, I pledge to speak out ~ Will you join me?

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments