Unto Us a Child Is Born

My Friend Sausan and Baby Jude Occupied Palestine

My Friend Sausan and Baby Jude
Occupied Palestine
Photo Credit: Ulrike

Into an occupied land
Into a world of trouble and beauty
A child is born …

As it was then, so it is now
New life ~ a sign of hope

And love waits to be born in us anew
Again and again and again …

May we work to create “goodwill to all”
That the hoped for peace might be born
In our troubled and broken world

Let it begin with me …
And with you …

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Neither Here nor There ~ Living in the Seam Zone

“No, the ambulance cannot enter there.”
“No, we must check the bags of all the schoolchildren who live there.”
“No, you cannot pass to visit your sick mother. You do not have the proper papers, and you do not live there.”

Palestinian Village of A Seefer Trapped Between Green Line and the Wall Credit: UNOCHA

Palestinian Village of A Seefer
Trapped Between Green Line and the Wall
Credit: UNOCHA Maps

Where is “there”? Actually it is neither here nor there. It is a place in between ~ between here and there ~ and thus nowhere. It is not in Palestine. It is not legally in Israel. It is in between…

My work in the South Hebron Hills last year took me there ~ to this “seam zone” ~ to the village of A Seefer ~ a place where Palestinians are required to have renewable permanent resident permits in order to live in their own homes. Statistics suggest that tens of thousands of Palestinians live in this unlivable zone created by the route of the separation wall, drawn by the Israeli government in order to enclose as many illegal settlements as possible on Israel’s side of the barrier ~ in this case, the settlement of Mezadot Yehuda. This means many Palestinian villages are severed from Palestine, farmers from their land, and families from each other. Rather than build the wall on the “Green Line” ~ the 1949 armistice line ~ the Israeli government has chosen to construct 85% of the wall on confiscated Palestinian land, creating this seam zone between the Green Line on one side and the separation wall on the other.

Mahmound with Two of His Children A Seefer ~ Seam Zone Photo Credit: Dawn

Mahmound with Two of His Children
A Seefer Village ~ Seam Zone
Photo Credit: Dawn

Palestinians who live there are trapped ~ defined internationally as Internally Stuck Persons (ISPs). As holders of West Bank IDs, they do not have the right to live, work, or access services in what has now de facto become Israel ~ in this strip of land that Israel has in essence illegally “annexed.” Palestinians only have a permit to be in their home. That’s it! They are not allowed to connect to water, sewer or electricity. They are nobodies. Their lives exist elsewhere. They must have the proper permits to cross the checkpoint in order to access all basic services such as schools and medical clinics, buying groceries or procuring school supplies. Getting through the checkpoint is time consuming, difficult, and sometimes even impossible. There is always the fear that if you leave, you will not be allowed back. A trip that used to take 5 minutes can now take hours. In order to attend school, children must pass through the checkpoint twice daily, often enduring long waits for no apparent reason. Their little bags are routinely searched by security personnel with guns. Families are socially isolated. Friends and extended family from “the other side” are forbidden to visit as they do not have the proper permits and do not live there.

One of our responsibilities as EAs is to accompany the children as they cross the checkpoint from their school in Imneizel back to their seam zone home in the village of A Seefer. We occasionally stay to visit with the only two related families still living there. And of course share tea and stories.

Sheepfold Collapsed in Snow Storm 8 sheep Died Photo Credit: Dawn

Sheepfold Collapsed in Snow Storm ~ 8 Died
Photo Credit: Dawn

Mahmoud and his family have lived on this piece of land for generations. He even has the Ottoman land deeds. But this appears to be of no consequence. He tells us many stories of how the settlers often harass and frighten the children and steal the sheep ~ how the army conducts frequent night raids ~ how they had demolished some of his structures including a toilet ~ how he had been held by the Israeli police for being “in Israel” ~ how he had sustained massive damage from the snow storm last December, but could not bring in the supplies needed for repairs ~ how it takes him a full day to bypass the checkpoint and cross where the wall is not complete just to obtain water from another Palestinian village. On and on it goes…

Rubble From Prior Demolition Photo Credit: Dawn

Rubble From Prior Demolition of Toilet
Photo Credit: Dawn

I recently learned from my EAPPI colleague serving in South Hebron Hills that three of Mahmoud’s sons were shepherding the sheep when they were attacked by seven young male settlers. One of the boys was badly beaten. Mahmoud’s friend from the UN sent an ambulance for the boy, but the security personnel at the checkpoint would not let it pass. The clock ticked. The guards refused. Time was of the essence. Finally, after a long, senseless delay, the beaten boy was transported to hospital where he was diagnosed as having suffered a severe concussion. Several days later he still had no appetite and continued to experience problems with his vision ~ It is beyond comprehension. And yet scenes like this one are common there ~ and there ~ and there ~ and there.

Mahmoud's Family's Home ~ A Seefer Village Neither Here nor There Photo Credit: Dawn

Mahmoud’s Home ~ Neither Here nor There
Photo Credit: Dawn

The strategy of the Israeli government is to make life there so difficult that Mahmoud and families like his will leave. But they are steadfast! Where would they go? This is their land, their home ~ What can we learn? It is a real life lesson in sumud! ~ Steadfastly clinging to one’s rights as a human being ~ Keeping one’s humanity even in inhuman circumstances ~ Holding to one’s land like a cactus in the desert ~ The ability to go on with one’s daily life despite all difficulties ~ These are stories that don’t make the front pages of our papers. They are not usually posted on facebook or tweeted on social media. But they are real, human stories we need to hear ~ Stories we need to share ~ Perhaps they can move us to act?

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A Tragedy ~ Five Families and the Disputed Oven

Speechless in Gaza Speechless in Gaza Photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Pain and Devastation in Gaza
Summer 2014
Photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Much has transpired in Palestine and Israel since my last post. During the first weeks of the assault on Gaza, I was “unplugged.” When I returned home, I was without words. What does one say? How does one respond to such an assault ~ a massacre of such proportions? ~ But the events of this summer and those of recent weeks have put into stark relief the reality that we must work tirelessly to end the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine and the inhumane blockade of Gaza ~ And so once again I am compelled to put pen to paper…

You may remember the two blogs I posted last year at this time: The Oven Goes to Court: The Oven vs. the District Civil Administration, Ministry of Defense, State of Israel,” and a follow-up posting 3 weeks later: Oven Wins in Court ~ But Battle Is Not Over.”

Remains of the Demolished Community Oven Um al Kher Village Photo credit: Jan

Remains of Demolished Community Oven
Um al Kher Village
Illegal Settlement of Karmel in Background
Photo credit: Jan

On October 27, the oven lost ~ but it was not just the community oven that was lost on this fateful day ~ Five Palestinian families lost their homes and Israel lost its humanity ~ The bulldozers came and went, leaving in their wake piles of rubble, sobbing women, and frightened children ~ What will they do? Where will they live? ~ Winter is also coming, bringing rain, cold, and icy winds. And one of the many homeless is baby Mohammed, not more than a few months old ~ My heart breaks for our friends in Um al Kher village in South Hebron Hills.

Palestinian Home Demolitions Um al Kher Village ~ South Hebron Hills Photo credit: Jan

Demolished Palestinian Homes
Um al Kher Village ~ South Hebron Hills
Photo credit: Jan

I urge you to read two painful but powerful blogs, “This Hurts,” and “After the Demolition.” They are written by my friend and colleague, Jan, who was in the village this week, reaching out in compassion and seeking to provide some solace and a human face to our friends there. As Jan so rightly states: “I do know, beyond any shadow of any doubt, that demolishing Iman, Balil, and baby Mohammed’s home will not further the security of the state of Israel in any possible way. This is an absolute act of willful cruelty.” Jan challenges us as Canadians to pressure our government to represent the values of the Canadian people on the world stage and hold nation states [here, Israel] accountable for their actions that so blatantly contravene international law ~ not to mention basic human decency!

So much more than the oven was lost on this fateful day ~ How can we remain silent? ~ Are we willing to do our part? ~ Together we can effect change!


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Taking a Stand ~ Not in My Name!

Soldier at Nonviolent Demonstration Photo Credit: Dawn

Soldier at Palestinian Nonviolent Demonstration
Photo Credit: Dawn

We Refuse to Serve in the Occupation Army! It is not easy to take an unpopular stand for what we know is right! And I am proud of the 50 Jewish Israeli teenagers who on March 8th published an open letter to Netanyahu declaring their decision to refuse conscription because of the military occupation of Palestinian territories ~ “In these territories, human rights are violated and acts defined under international law as war-crimes are perpetuated on a daily basis.” ~ For having the courage to follow their conscience, these 50 teenagers will likely be imprisoned.

Soldiers Patrolling the Old City of Hebron Photo Credit: Dawn

Soldiers Patrolling the Old City of Hebron
Photo Credit: Dawn

According to Ruth Hiller from New Profile, a feminist Jewish Israeli organization that supports conscientious objectors, “These youth are also protesting the way in which the army influences civilian life, deepening the sexism, militarism, violence, inequality and racism present in Israeli society.” Israel is not a state with a military but a militarized state. Military service is mandatory for Jewish Israelis ~ 3 years for men and 2 years for women ~ unless exempted for religious or health reasons. But “ideological” objectors who follow their conscience face jail time.

Some say this is the largest group of Israeli draft refusers since 2001. Some say it is the largest in Israel’s history. But it matters not. What matters is that people are taking notice. What matters is that the IDF ~ Israeli Defence Force ~ has become the IOF ~ the Israeli Occupation Force. And these young people know this! They know the consequences of their actions. They know that theirs is a highly unpopular stance in Israeli society. They know that they may be rejected and judged by their family and friends. They know that they face jail time and discrimination in job opportunities. And still they take a stand against what they know to be wrong!

Soldiers on Bethlehem Rooftop Photo Credit: Dawn

Soldiers on Bethlehem Rooftop
Photo Credit: Dawn

Mandy Cartner, a 16 years old signatory from Tel Aviv said: “The actions of the army distance us from finding a solution and from creating peace, justice and security. My refusal is a way of expressing my opposition to the wrongs done daily in our name and through us.”

The full text of the letter from these 50 “Refuseniks” is reproduced below. This powerful statement was published on the Facebook page of the Israeli pacifist group Yesh Gvul, “There is a Limit!” ~ I am left pondering ~ What is our limit? The line that cannot be crossed? The boundary that cannot be violated? ~ What are we willing to stand for? To stand against? ~ Is there something about which we need to say, “Not in My Name!”?

We Refuse! Photo Credit: Dawn

We Refuse!
Photo Credit: Dawn

“We, citizens of the state of Israel, are designated for army service.

“We appeal to the readers of this letter to set aside what has always been taken for granted and to reconsider the implications of military service.

“We, the undersigned, intend to refuse to serve in the army and the main reason for this refusal is our opposition to the military occupation of Palestinian territories. Palestinians in the occupied territories live under Israeli rule though they did not choose to do so, and have no legal recourse to influence this regime or its decision-making processes. This is neither egalitarian nor just. In these territories, human rights are violated, and acts defined under international law as war-crimes are perpetuated on a daily basis. These include assassinations (extrajudicial killings), the construction of settlements on occupied lands, administrative detentions, torture, collective punishment and the unequal allocation of resources such as electricity and water. Any form of military service reinforces this status quo, and, therefore, in accordance with our conscience, we cannot take part in a system that perpetrates the above-mentioned acts.

“The problem with the army does not begin or end with the damage it inflicts on Palestinian society. It infiltrates everyday life in Israeli society too: it shapes the educational system, our workforce opportunities, while fostering racism, violence and ethnic, national and gender-based discrimination.

“We refuse to aid the military system in promoting and perpetuating male dominance. In our opinion, the army encourages a violent and militaristic masculine ideal whereby ‘might is right’. This ideal is detrimental to everyone, especially those who do not fit it. Furthermore, we oppose the oppressive, discriminatory, and heavily gendered power structures within the army itself.

“We refuse to forsake our principles as a condition to being accepted in our society. We have thought about our refusal deeply and we stand by our decisions.

“We appeal to our peers, to those currently serving in the army and/or reserve duty, and to the Israeli public at large, to reconsider their stance on the occupation, the army, and the role of the military in civil society. We believe in the power and ability of civilians to change reality for the better by creating a more fair and just society. Our refusal expresses this belief.”

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Endings ~ And Beginnings

Masafer Yatta (Firing Zone 918)  South Hebron Hills ~ Palestine Photo Credit: Dawn

Masafer Yatta (“Firing Zone 918”)
South Hebron Hills ~ Palestine
Photo Credit: Dawn

Endings are difficult. But each ending also holds the potential for new beginning ~ And some things don’t end, they simply take on new form ~ So it is for me and my EAPPI colleagues in Group 50 as we prepare to say goodbye to all we have known and loved here in South Hebron Hills these past months.

Group 51 has arrived, filled with excitement, anticipation, and a measure of trepidation ~ all are infused with fresh energy and wide-eyed wonder. This is tempered by Group 50’s three months of treasured memories coupled with a sense of loss and nostalgia. As the “outgoing team,” we walk our new EAPPI colleagues through three days of intensive on the ground training as we prepare to pass on to them this work of accompaniment. They are keen and eager. We are pensive and nostalgic ~ Today is our last checkpoint monitoring ~ our last school run ~ our last village visit ~ our last walk in that haunting landscape that is Masafer Yatta (“firing zone 918”) ~ The last for now.

Dressed for the Occasion Photo Credit: Dawn

Dressed for the Occasion!
Photo Credit: Iman

As Group 51 returns to Jerusalem for their final days of training, time opens for us. We have only 4 days remaining. Our “to do” list is long. We revisit favorite villages ~ special places. We make phone calls and visit friends who have become family. We drink endless cups of tea as we reminisce ~ We laugh and cry over countless remembered moments.

It is true that at some point in time I will likely return to this land that has shaped my days ~ to these people who have touched my life and now have a place in my heart ~ But it will not be the same. Nothing ever is! ~ It makes me ponder…  But all things come to an end ~ Or morph into a new form ~ And so I choose to relish these last days ~ And I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity that has been mine ~ for this collection of moments, this place, these people with whom I have lived and worked ~ for the privilege of walking with them ~ for lessons learned ~ for the richness that is now a part of my lived experience because I have been privileged to touch what matters ~ I am deeply grateful.

Handover Ceremony ~ EA Group 50 to Group 51 St. George's Cathedral ~ Occupied East Jerusalem Photo Credit: Dawn

Handover Ceremony ~ EA Group 50 to EA Group 51
St. George’s Cathedral ~ Occupied East Jerusalem
Photo Credit: Marcos

A chapter has come to an end. But a new chapter waits to be written. Stories have been shared, and stories have yet to be told ~ May our eyes and our hearts open to all that is ours to learn as we continue in ways both old and new to work tirelessly for justice and peace ~ to speak for those who have no voice ~ to stand against the denial of dignity and basic human rights ~ to advocate for those on whatever margin ~ to hear one another into speech ~ What a wonderful world it could be! ~ May we be the answer to our deepest longings.

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Sometimes Signposts Are Helpful ~ But Not in Palestine!

Signpost in Occupied Palestine Photo Credit: Dawn

Signpost in Occupied Palestine
Photo Credit: Dawn

Signposts generally help us find our way ~ but not in occupied Palestine. When traveling through the occupied Palestinian Territory, you cannot depend on signage to help you navigate ~ unless of course you are intending to visit an illegal Israeli settlement or a city or town in Israel ~ on the other side of the wall. Every day I am struck by the absence of signs that would indicate the presence of hundreds of Palestinian villages in our region that are deemed invisible by the occupier.

Mileage markers for illegal Israeli settlements are written in three languages ~ Hebrew, Arabic, and English. But why should Palestinians need a sign in Arabic telling them where Qiryat Arba is ~ any Palestinian in South Hebron Hills who has been detained and interrogated knows this place all too well. The location of Ma’on settlement is not important to the vast majority of the population here, but it might be helpful to know that At Tuwani village is nearby. The settlement of Carmel is literally built on top of the village of Um al Kher, but according to the signs, this village does not exist. Carmel stands alone.

Directions to Illegal Settlements Photo Credit: Dawn

Directions to Illegal Settlements
Photo Credit: Dawn

The traveler will find a road sign indicating that Susiya is just down the road, but they will soon find that the sign points the way to Susiya settlement, not the old Palestinian village of the same name. Another sign leads the traveler to the ancient ruins of Susiya ~ an archaeological site which was presumably the reason for the forced eviction of 60 Palestinian families in 1986. Shortly thereafter, however, an illegal settlement outpost, Susiya Synagogue, was established in the same area. Meanwhile, the Palestinian village of Susiya ~ ‘signless’ and forced to move across the road to its agricultural lands ~ is denied basic services and much of the village is under demolition orders by the Israeli government.

And then there is the sign pointing the way to Beersheba. Of course, Palestinians can’t go there because of the wall, even though many of them are refugees from this area, having been evicted in 1948 ~ But signage in the occupied Palestinian Territory is not for the benefit of the 2.7 million Palestinians who live here ~ it is for over half a million illegal settlers who call this land home ~ in contravention of international law.

What Can One Say About This Sign? Photo Credit: Dawn

This Sign Speaks for Itself
Photo Credit: Dawn

However, there is one sign you will see that is a clear indicator you are entering a major Palestinian center. It is a huge red sign that tells you in no uncertain terms that you are approaching Palestinian Area A, and that entry is dangerous to your life and forbidden to citizens of Israel! I have lost count of the number of Palestinians who have commented on this sign! A friend said to me recently: “What do they think we are ~ a bunch of wild animals that will eat you if you enter?”

But just because Palestinians are rendered invisible by the occupying power does not mean that they do not exist! Palestinians are some of the most amazing people you will ever meet ~ warm, welcoming, resilient, loyal, kind hearted and loving ~ They want no more than any other human being ~ the right to live on their land and raise their families in peace ~ So, when you travel to Palestine, take a good map. Turn off the main routes. Venture down the dirt roads. And don’t pay attention to the road signs. Definitely ignore the big red one! Take the risk! ~ Your life is not in danger. But your heart could be. It might be broken ~ Ahlan Wasahlan ~ Welcome to Palestine!

Khirbet Bir al 'Idd Village Photo Credit: Dawn

Khirbet Bir al ‘Idd Village ~ Palestine
Photo Credit: Dawn

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Sometimes Words Are Not Needed ~ A Day in the Military Courts

Ofer Prison and Military Courts :Photo Credit: Dawn

Ofer Prison and Military Courts
Photo Credit: Dawn

We didn’t understand a word, yet we understood everything ~ “Do you speak Hebrew? Do you speak Arabic? Do you understand what is going on here?” ~ The prisoners have been brought in, feet shackled together. The court case has commenced. It takes a few seconds for me to realize the judge’s questions are addressed to us! ~ “No, your honour.” ~ We may not know the language, but some things do not require words in order to be understood! ~ A father’s anguish, a mother’s tears, a young man’s apprehension, a child’s fear, a soldier’s arrogance, a guard’s disdain, a lawyer’s indifference, a judge’s pronouncement ~ a message conveyed without words.

Holding Cage for Palestinian Families Awaiting Clearance Photo Credit: Public Domain :h

Holding Cage for Palestinian Families Awaiting Entry
Photo Credit: Oren Ziv, Active Stills

My colleague and I have applied for permission to spend a day in the military courts at Ofer Prison. One has to experience it in order to believe it! ~ Arriving by taxi before 9:00, we search in vain for the entrance. There is no signage. We discover a wire “cage” packed with Palestinian families ~ over 200 people ~ presumably the “holding area” for those awaiting clearance to attend the hearings. We greet them ~ Assalamu ‘Alaykum! The father of one of the two boys we have come to support sees us and comes over to the fence, a broad smile on his face. Language is a barrier, but it is unnecessary. It is clear that he is glad we have come.

Our “holding area” is separate, and we spend the next 2.5 hours trying to convince the Israeli military personnel that we have received prior permission to attend the court hearings that day. After many failed attempts, we finally succeed and emerge from the succession of gates, metal detectors, turnstiles, cages, an x-ray machine, and a body search ~ we are left with only our clothes, our locker key and a few shekels for the prison “cafeteria.” We join waiting Palestinians in yet another outdoor enclosure with only a small “canteen,” a water fountain, toilets, and a few chairs. Outside this cage are 8 dilapidated “caravans” ~ trailers ~ where court proceedings are being held.

Caravan ~ Ofer Military Court Photo Credit: Haaretz Archive

Caravan ~ Ofer Military Court Hearing
Photo Credit: Haaretz Archive

The morning’s roster reveals that our family’s hearing is not until 3:00. We take the opportunity to sit in on other cases, going from caravan to caravan. It is in one of these sessions that the questions from the judge interrupt my thoughts…  I had been thinking about the previous hearing where a proud mother had turned to me and said in broken English, “See this boy [pointing]; He my son! I see him only here. I not have visit.” I watched their faces as they exchanged stolen words, glances, and gestures. I saw her cry as they shackled his wrists and led him away. I squeezed her hand. I didn’t understand the details of why he was there. It didn’t matter.

At 2:30 we decide to sit with our family and wait to be called. Time passes. The sun sinks lower in the western sky. The wind is cold. And we wait. There are now about 20 people left in the holding cage. The guard has left his post. The gate swings on its hinges. The canteen is closed for the day. The place feels deserted. And still we wait. The father paces anxiously. The mother cradles her head in her hands. We feel helpless and without words. And still we wait. Finally at 4:50 ~ 10 minutes before closing ~ the family is called. They motion to us and we quickly follow behind them, filing into the one row of chairs. The judge tries to bar us from the hearing ~ “This is juvenile court.” We tell him we are friends of the family, and we have their permission. When asked directly, they all nod in assent. We are proud to accompany them.

But we are not prepared. The two boys look so small and vulnerable sitting in the prisoner’s box, feet shackled together. They are clearly afraid and uncertain of what to do. The boys glance at their mothers who are trying with gestures to find out if they are ok. They have been in prison, without parental visits, for two months, having been arrested for allegedly throwing stones at settlers while out with their sheep. The hearings have been postponed for as long as possible. Today they receive the verdict. The judge addresses them. The small boys stand together, trying desperately to be brave. The verdict is read. The mothers begin to cry. The boys are led away, wiping their tears and hoping no one notices. We file out of the caravan in silence. The father shakes our hands, tears in his eyes. Tears fill our own as we embrace the mothers. We have only been able to offer the gift of our presence ~ it is all we have to give. With our limited Arabic we think we understand that the boys must serve three more months and the families have to pay 4,000 shekels ($1,150 USD). But in the moment the details don’t matter.

Moon Rises Over Ofer Prison Compound Photo Credit: Dawn

Moon Rises Over Ofer Prison Compound
Photo Credit: Dawn

The family must use the “caged lane” leading to the West Bank, while we are allowed to return to the Jerusalem side. We wave goodbye through the fence and assure them we will visit them in their village. Deep in thought, we walk in silence to the highway to hail a taxi. The sun has set and the nearly full moon is rising behind us over the prison compound. But all I can see is the image of these two small, frightened shepherd boys in their brown prison clothes, crying, their feet shackled together.

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A Young Shepherd Boy and His Painful, Scarred Hands

Billboards in U.S. Removed Under Pressure Photo Credit: Public Domain

U.S. Billboards Removed Under Pressure
Photo Credit: Public Domain

It’s a big part of the problem. US military aid to Israel stands at over 3 billion dollars per year ~ no strings attached! Living and working in this land, it is difficult to be a dual citizen of two powerful countries whose governmental policies support a brutal Israeli military occupation and stand in opposition to justice for an occupied and oppressed people. It is more than difficult ~ it is embarrassing and something of which I am ashamed. Many Palestinians have commented to us on the huge sum of money that is given to Israel each year by the United States for the purchase of weapons. And as many Palestinians have said to us, “You’re from Canada? ~ But Canada supports Israel and voted against us last year at the UN.” ~ What can you say? “Yes, I am embarrassed and ashamed, and I do not agree with the policies of the US or Canada!” But this has little practical meaning to Palestinian families on the ground that are trying simply to live their lives.

Masafer Yatta ~ "Firing Zone" 918 Photo Credit: Goran

Masafer Yatta, South Hebron Hills ~ “Firing Zone” 918
Photo Credit: Goran

What  is the situation on the ground? In the South Hebron Hills, one repercussion of the weapons trade is manifest in the form of unexploded ordinances (UXOs). Large sections of Area C have been designated by Israel as “firing zones” ~ places where Israel conducts “military training exercises.” But these are places where people make their homes! Various UXOs, designated by the innocuous term “military waste,” are a cause of both injury and death, especially for children. (See Defence for Children International.)

USAF Weapon ~ UXO Photo Credit: Dawn

United States Air Force Weapon ~ UXO
Photo Credit: Dawn

The reality is grim ~ The phone rings. A boy is injured. He is only 15. He is on the hillside with the sheep and picks up something shiny. It explodes! He has second degree burns on both hands! ~ We are at midterm orientation when the call comes, but we visit the village when we return to our placement. We talk with the boy and his father who shows us the evidence ~ United States Air Force IR Flare! What good are the words in English ~ warning, explosive ~ for a Palestinian shepherd boy who reads only Arabic?

Shepherd Boy's Hands ~ Second Degree Burns Photo Credit: Dawn

Shepherd Boy’s Hands ~ Second Degree Burns
Photo Credit: Dawn

We express our concern to the father and to the young shepherd who is clearly in pain but smiles at us bravely. We promise his father that we will seek to raise awareness and will tell his story ~ Upon reflection, I am more convinced than ever that opposition to Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian land and lives must come from global civil society ~ not from governments. The words of Margaret Mead come to mind, providing a small ray of hope ~ Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has ~ But in  the moment, as we drive away, all I can think about is the young shepherd and his painful, scarred hands.

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Are We Brave Enough for Peace?

Palestinians Queue to Go to Work in Israel Checkpoint 300 Photo Credit: Dawn

Checkpoint Queue ~ Photo Credit: Dawn

Everybody’s talking about ~
Occupation! Segregation!
Discrimination! Alienation!
Indignation! Negotiation?
“All We Are Saying Is
Give Peace a Chance…”

Everybody’s talking about ~
Gunpoint! Checkpoint!
My point! Whose point?
What’s the point? No point!
“All We Are Saying Is
Give Peace a Chance…”

Separation Wall Bisects Main Road ~ Bethlehem Photo Credit: Dawn

Access Barred ~ Photo Credit: Dawn

Everybody’s talking about ~
This end! That end!
Which end? What end?
No end? Dead end!
“All We Are Saying Is
Give Peace a Chance…”

Everybody’s talking about ~
Demolition! Ammunition!
Imposition? Humiliation!
Contrition? Apparition!
“All We Are Saying Is
Give Peace a Chance…”

Home Demolition ~  Photo Credit: Dawn

Home Demolition ~ Photo Credit: Dawn

Everybody’s talking about ~
Displace! Replace!
Whose face? What’s the case?
My race! No grace!
“All We Are Saying Is
Give Peace a Chance…”

Everybody’s talking about ~
Eviction! Restriction!
Whose position? Superstition!
Conviction? Perdition!
“All We Are Saying Is
Give Peace a Chance…”

Soldier at Gaza Demonstration Photo Credit: Dawn

Might Not Right ~ Photo Credit: Dawn

Everybody’s talking about ~
Green line! What line?
My line! Border line!
Get in line! Hopeless time?
“All We Are Saying Is
Give Peace a Chance…”

Everybody’s talking about ~
Left or right? No rights!
Whose rights? What’s right?
Not might! Human rights!
“All We Are Saying Is
Give Peace a Chance…”

A Light in the Dark Photo Credit: Dawn “All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance…”
“All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance…”
(Inspired by John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” 1969)

~ Are We Brave Enough for Peace? ~

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Three Cups of Tea ~ And Counting


Enjoying Palestinian Hospitality
Deir Sa’eeda Village
Photo Credit: Yamen

It’s legendary and dependable. Palestinian hospitality is truly remarkable. It is not dependent on how much they have or don’t have ~ whether the cisterns are full or empty. It matters not how many of you arrive at their home unannounced. They may be in the midst of work, but it is unimportant. You are their guest! And you are always warmly welcomed ~ ahlan wa-sahlan ~ and served tea with sage ~ mariamiya ~ in small glass cups with 2-3 heaping teaspoons of sugar per cup! As soon as your cup is empty, it is refilled ~  1, 2, 3 cups and counting. We learn to drink slowly.


Time for Tea ~ Susiya Village
Photo Credit: Elina

We also learn that it is possible to ask for tea without sugar if one acts quickly. However, if one waits too long the teapot arrives filled with tea made in the traditional manner. To ensure sugarless tea, we learn to ask for it immediately after the initial greeting ~ Assalamu ‘Alaykum! Mumken shay biddun sukkar, min fadlek?  It seems rude. It is based on the assumption that tea will be served ~ but it will be ~ it’s the Palestinian way. And why someone would want tea without sugar is a bit of a mystery to our hosts, so our request generally results in smiles and provides a topic for conversation. Using our limited Arabic and our phrase books, we ask questions about their families, the village, and whether or not there have been recent problems with the settlers or the military ~ The children gather around. They are interested in who we are and where we are from ~ The family expresses gratitude for our presence in Palestine.


Second Cup of Tea ~ Khirbet at Tabban Village
Photo Credit: Elina

Soon tea arrives and the traditional taboon bread ~ khubez taboon ~ is not far behind. It is often accompanied by soft sheep cheese ~ labane ~ or occasionally the special Bedouin hard cheese ~ jameed. If we linger long enough over numerous cups of tea, coffee follows ~ tiny cups of the strong, dark brew ~ qahwe. The whole experience is punctuated by “Eat, Eat!” “Koli, Koli” ~ We know that many families are sharing their meager supplies. And yet we can’t refuse. It’s not the Palestinian way. We can only say thank you ~ shukran ~ We are grateful and humbled.

Tea ~ Bread ~ Cheese Khirbet at Tabban Village Photo Credit: Dawn

Simple Gifts
Khirbet at Tabban Village
Photo Credit: Dawn

Time is unimportant. It ceases to exist. Whenever we rise to leave, we are encouraged to sit for another cup of tea ~ it matters not if it has been 30 minutes or 2 hours ~ I reflect on this experience of hospitality and realize that our hosts have much to teach us ~ How often are we caught up in “doing” rather than just “being”? ~ We are so often in a rush ~ to go where or do what? ~ I wonder how often we miss what is truly important ~ As we gather for our new year’s eve celebrations, perhaps we might linger over 3 cups of tea ~ and ponder…

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