Wednesday, June 25, 2014

His Name Was Nadim Nuwara

And he died at age 17, outside Ofer Prison near Beitunia in May, protesting imprisonment of Palestinians. Video released by Defense for Children International shows that he and another boy, Muhammad Abu Thahr, 16, were both shot without provocation. A third boy, 15-year-old Mohammed Azza, was seriously wounded by gunfire from Israeli soldiers.

While we in the US have heard much about the three Israeli teens kidnapped near Hebron, little has been reported about the deaths and injuries of these three Palestinian boys in May. Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz published an opinion piece by the director of B'Tselem, the Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Hagai El-Ad writes about one of the Palestinian boys, Nadim Nuwara.

Nadim Nuwara, in a photo from an article about his killing  in The Guardian
By Hagai El-Ad    |  Jun. 23, 2014 | 3:20 AM |  15
 
He was a premature baby when his mother was in the seventh month of pregnancy. When he was finally released from the hospital he still suffered from jaundice. In second grade, a passing car hit him after he played at the neighbors’ house. He was thrown in the air by the force of the blow from the car, and after two days in the hospital he was released. He loved to play on his Playstation and learned how to type quickly, and sometimes even typed in the dark. At 16 he began to feel grown up and rebel against his mother’s wishes. He loved her very much.
 
A month ago, when his father heard he was in the hospital, his legs collapsed. On the way to the hospital he said time after time: “O God, have mercy on us.”
 
I have hope that these days, when so many people’s hearts are filled with worry, love and identification with the fate of the three youths they never knew, in these days when our hearts go out to the suffering families, that these days will be a time of aspiration and not of hatred. A time of hope for the fate of the families and the young men we never knew; for families, some of whose loved ones no longer even have a tiny bit of hope.
 
The premature baby who was born to a Palestinian family in Ramallah, who knew how to type in the dark, who was shy and innocent, who would kiss his parents every time he returned home, who God did not have mercy on his parents, was Nadim Nuwara of blessed memory. He was 17 years old when a member of the Israeli security forces shot him at the Nakba Day demonstration in Beitunia. An hour later another youth was shot, Mohammad Salameh, at the very same place.
 
No Facebook campaign will return the youths Nadim and Mohammad to their parents, the Palestinians do not have an army to conduct house to house searches, and according to the Oslo Accords they don’t even have investigative authority.
 
These days Jews in Israel and in the territories are very attentive, in the great spirit of mutual responsibility, to the horrible suffering of three families hanging between despair and hope, and if only that hope could win. But what responsibility is this, what hope is this, and what humanity is this if it is so completely blind to the Palestinian suffering?
 
A great majority of the time, for most of the Jews here, the Palestinian suffering is completely denied. When it is not documented on video it interests almost no one, and when it is documented it is repressed as a conspiracy. What significance is there to the display of mutual responsibility of these days if when they see the Palestinian baby who survived a premature birth and a car accident, but did not survive a live bullet fired at his upper body, in light of the documentation of his death we do not become angry and give our hearts out to him and his family; and instead we ask with estranged cynicism and in arrogant contempt: “Why don’t they show us what happened earlier?”
 
What happened before is that Nadim Nawara was born a premature baby, and survived a premature birth and an automobile accident, but did not survive the occupation. What happened before is tens, hundreds and thousands of Palestinians that Israel has killed. It is the theft of property and the stealing of land. It is roadblocks and control and permits and searches and orders, and an entire mechanism that under the cover of the big lie of temporariness built an entire system in which the members of one people have determined for almost 50 years the fate of another people: They arrest them, steal from them, question them, judge them and sometimes kill them.
 
His name was Nadim Nawara and he grew up and had his own political opinion and went out to demonstrate and died in Beitunia in the Nakba Day protest on May 15, 2014. He survived a premature birth and a car accident, but did not survive the occupation.
 
Hagai El-Ad is the executive director of B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

"How do you expect me to confess to something I didn't do?"

Stone Cold Justice
  • 700 Palestinian children are jailed every year
  • at the end of April, 196 Palestinian children were being held in Israeli prisons—some as young as 12 years old [http://www.btselem.org/statistics/minors_in_custody]  
  • in July, a five-year-old boy who lives in Hebron was taken into custody and held by Israeli soldiers for 2 hours…"I was playing and then a car came."
  • in Hebron, settlers attack Palestinian children on their way to school
  • "the Israeli military courts have a conviction rate of 99.74%"

  • Israeli military targets children in order to use them to gather military intelligence. The children are easily intimidated by the interrogation.
  • Israeli military regularly engages in "mapping"—raiding Palestinian homes at night to gather information on the residents, then returning to arrest children, sometimes as young as nine years old.
Meeting with Nader Abu Amsha (YMCA) and Ayed
(DCI-Defense for Children International)
Every day, Palestinian children's lives are in danger and Israeli soldiers are ordered not to intervene. Watch this Australian news report on the arrest and detention of children in the West Bank and the Israelis who are working to end this horrendous practice. 

One of the Palestinians featured, Basem Tamimi, a community leader in Nabi Saleh, is one of the non-violent activists we met in November. We also met with Nader Abu Amsha, from the YMCA Rehabilitation Project in Beit Sahour, which works to support Palestinian boys who have been arrested and detained. Watch the report, Stone Cold Justice.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

And you will be my witnesses….Ascension Day, May 29

“And you will be my witnesses
in Jerusalen, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1.8

According to the writer of Acts, these are Jesus’ last words before he was taken to heaven. A friend in Taybeh wrote today to wish all of her friends a blessed Holy Ascension, commemorated today, forty days after the resurrection.

The descendants of these disciples, who stood watching as Jesus was taken to heaven, still live in the Holy Land today. And they take Jesus’ command very seriously. Today I share the witness of one of these disciples, Dr. Maria Khoury, who lives in Taybeh, near Ramallah, in the West Bank.

What Does the Pope’s Visit Mean to Me?

Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D. [Read this in the Arab Daily News]

The Visit of Pope Francis to Israel/Palestine brought more excitement than ever because anyone and everyone in news media came to Taybeh to interview the local Christians.  I am so very disappointed, however, that one might spend five hours with a news team and it is not sure they will use the two minutes they are planning since the producers always have the final word. Either way, since the village is known for having people who are “Taybeen,” meaning “good” or “pleasant,” we continue to welcome visitors and news media with open arms.  Although, on the ground we feel our situation will stay the same no matter who visits.

Furthermore, when follow-up emails begin with such a sentence:  “…my apologies for the delay in responding to your email.  Indeed, I am deeply thankful for your time, consideration and gracious hospitality.  Our trip to Taybeh was as eye-opening as it was heart-breaking…Your struggle is real and I applaud you for your courage…” most likely they are not using the footage and they are not bringing the Holy Father to visit you.  So sad! But at least His Excellency the Consul General of France expressed his solidarity and support and had a great tour of Taybeh this last week.

It was a remarkable moment that Palestinians can say Pope Francis came directly to Bethlehem when he finished his schedule in Jordan.  This was a very symbolic message since Israel controls everything and one day Palestine wishes to have its own airport, seaport and its own internationally recognized boarders.  What was even more extraordinary is that His Holiness stopped to pray at the wall that circles Bethlehem completely in a huge prison.  For me it was a way to validate that everything we experience because of the wall was recognized by a world leader since it has affected 80% of the Palestinian people in our daily life.  Although, again, the visit by Pope Francis will not change anything unless he asks Israel to end the occupation.
Dr. Maria Khoury

The Pope’s visit will surely touch the lives of many.  Especially the thirty young people from the Latin Church Choir who participated in the mass in Bethlehem.  Although very tired…it was an amazing experience.  Sister Leonie, the choir director who accompanied the group said the visit of the Holy Father was “very important to the Christians of the Holy Land.  It inspired Christians to maintain their faith and promote harmony among the denominations. Pope Francis reminded all Christians that they are one in Christ. The visit inspires love, peace and co-existence among Christians, Muslims and Jews.” Abu Johnny, the music teacher, also recognized that Pope Francis simply had a “peace sign” on his face and his visit was very important in supporting Christianity in the Holy Land. Many students said that the Pope’s visit was a great comfort to the Christians in this region and his message of peace was critical.

I am so very grateful that Pope Francis helped me believe in miracles since he invited both the Israeli and Palestinian president to come to the Vatican. In my thinking he should have possibly invited them to pray on the moon since our resolution seriously needs an out of the box solution.  And I wish he can invite some female leaders from both sides to join the prayer session since I am thinking women can contribute creative solutions. But again, I wish the Holy Father asked Israel to allow all people to enter Jerusalem freely if in fact they support religious freedom.

My husband David Khoury, former mayor of Taybeh and co-founder of the Taybeh Brewing Company said that “the visit of Pope Francis expressed great solidarity with the people of Palestine and very symbolic of the shepherd looking over his flock.  His visit means Christians are not forgotten and since he is a man of peace it will hopefully bring peace to the Holy Land.  Although his visit was announced as a spiritual pilgrimage only, it was important that he called for a just peace.”  However, on a personal level, I wish I heard Pope Francis or Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew ask Israel to end the occupation right now today because it has been one day too many already.  I wish they visited me in Taybeh so I would have mentioned it personally after explaining that every week water is turned off 5 days per week and in September, I did not have running water for 17 days. Last July no running water for 21 days. While the settlements all around [us] get water 24  hours a day, 7 days a week.

May we keep our hope for a better future so such Apostolic visits allow us to see a light at the end of the tunnel. It is the True Light of Christ that I will keep seeing no matter who visits me. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Will the Holy Fathers Bear True Witness?

This post comes from Dr. Maria Khoury, who lives in Taybeh, a Christian village in the West Bank near Ramallah. Maria was raised in Denver and now lives in the West Bank with her husband, whose family owns the Taybeh Brewery there. They returned to Palestine after the Oslo Accords, filled with hope for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and freedom for Palestinians. They are sti

Dear Friends of Saint George Taybeh,
Wishing all of you a blessed early Holy Ascension,
truly the Lord is Risen, maria

Will the Holy Fathers Bear True Witness?
Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.


It is a special day in the Holy Land where His Holiness Pope Francis will meet Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to commemorate the historic meeting of their predecessors in Jerusalem fifty years ago that began a new era of Church relations. The motto for the Apostolic Pilgrimage is "So that they may be one" (John 17:20-23). Also scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem is Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai of Lebanon. 

Although the Holy Fathers will not make it to Taybeh, many newspapers came to report on the Christian community.  We wish to be for the world the light and the hope needed under Israeli occupation.  We are locked up behind a wall in an open prison and settlements continue to go up all around us while Israel continues to control all of the boarders, the roads, the natural resources.  It is a hassle and harassment not to have the freedom to enter Jerusalem without permits.

Will the Holy Fathers speak against the atrocities we experience and see?  Does it have to take a miracle to hold Israel responsible for the death of two Palestinian children gunned down by the Israeli soldiers during Nakba Day protest (May 15th) near Ramallah? Will the Holy Fathers even have time to see the video released by Defense for Children Palestine which reveals that the sixteen year old Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Salameh and the seventeen year old Nadeem Siam Nawara were not holding any rocks or weapons, nor were they posing any security threat when the Israeli soldiers shot them assassination style.  Does the world know about this brutal killing that goes on daily in Palestine.  Yes, Palestine.  I am sorry to say that some of the press releases refuse to even include the word “Palestine” and mention the visit only to Israel.  So sad! We do exist in 22% of the historic land of Palestine; over 4 million people although less than 1.6% Christian, we are united as Christians and Muslims with the hope for a free Palestine.

As Pope Francis is celebrating Mass in Manger Square in Bethlehem which we are so honored that the Taybeh Latin Church choir will sing for him, will he say anything about the destruction by the Israeli military this past week, May 19th of 1500 fruit trees at the Tent of Nations Peace Farm near where he is praying.  I am so shocked and outraged of the damage at the Daoud Nassar farm because many of the trees were ready for harvest this June.  But will His Holiness say anything to Israel?

Our local Latin priest Father Aziz Halaweh has written a letter more than once to the Holy Father about the twenty Palestinian priests of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem who do not have the right to enter Jerusalem without a permit.  If they get this permit, increasingly unlikely, however they cannot enter Jerusalem with their own car. They must use public transportation.  They must cross the checkpoint on foot (not drive through with other priests who have a visa). They must be inserted into a queue and wait many hours as Palestinians to cross without  being sure they enter Jerusalem. Even when the Apostolic Delegation in Jerusalem which is an official Vatican Representative has tried to facilitate their pastoral mission and provide a pass for priests to show at the checkpoint the Israeli military authorities refuse it.

One priest said: "Every time I show it to pass, the Israeli soldiers refuse it, and they always ask for a visa. Recently, a soldier told me, in view of this pass: " Throw it away; here it’s worthless."  Another priest also said: "Israeli soldiers accused us in an arrogant way of being liars," You Catholic priests, you are liars, you have a document without a visa and you pretend to enter Jerusalem. "


Will any of the Holy Fathers this weekend be a loud voice to speak against military occupation and the discriminatory laws? Or will the Christian community be like a museum where the media simply comes to see how we are keeping the Christian values and traditions for two thousand years here in the very land where Christ was born.  One of the commandments is “Thou shall not bear false witness.”  We hope everyone who comes to visit Israel/Palestine will have their eyes open and speak the truth for justice and peace.  Will Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew have the courage to speak against the injustices happening in the very land where Christ was crucified and Resurrected? Will they see the crimes against humanity like we see them with our eyes?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Wondering what has happened to my tree

On an evening in early November, our group of Interfaith Peacebuilders got off our tour bus and trudged up the hill toward our next destination—Tent of Nations, a farm in the West Bank, just outside Bethlehem. We had to walk around large boulders on the road, which blocked our bus from driving up to the farm. The boulders had been placed there by Israeli soldiers some time ago, to prevent the farm from bringing in any equipment—like trucks, tractors, or other heavy equipment.

Here we are squeezing through the boulders blocking the road.
Daher Nassar met us and told us the story of his family's farm—he welcomed us into his grandfather's cave, which he built in 1916 when he purchased the land and registered it with the Ottoman government. Things changed for the Nassar family in 1991, when the Israeli settlements were being built and they started being harassed by the settlers. Settlements are built on hilltops, to command the surrounding countryside. The Nassar farm is on a hilltop.

Today the farm produces carob products, figs, almonds, apricots and apples. The farm has also begun developing solar energy and recycling wastewater—a necessity, since Israel has cut off their access to electricity and water. Israel has ordered them not dig cisterns or collect rainwater. Since their road was blocked they have been forced to farm without equipment.

In the summer, they host peace camps for Muslim, Jewish and Christian children. This year they had 65 children and 25 volunteers. They also host international volunteers who want to gain experience in sustainable farming, or simply help this family stay on their land.

Then his sister Amal spoke to us. She is a psychotherapist, working in Bethlehem. She tells us, "This land is precious to us like a mother." She also tells a story about meeting a woman from a nearby settlement, who can't believe there are Palestinians living in the area (in addition to the Nassar farm, there is also a Palestinian village in the valley). She explains that they use her grandfather's cave, rather than building more buildings, so as not to destroy nature.

The farm used to produce wheat and grapes for wine, which they cannot raise now, without machinery. Although they have four sets of documents proving their ownership of the land, this West Bank family has spent thousands of dollars and the last twelve years in Israeli court, fighting to keep their land. They could choose to leave, she says, but "my father said 'Always keep hope alive.'" Their father was a lay evangelist at Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, where the family still worships. She continues, "we have a task to do on this land."

So the Nassars have chosen not to be enemies. The sign for their farm shows their motto, "We refuse to be enemies." She tells us, "Christians have a duty to make peace and share the land."

Amal also tells us that international pressure has helped save their land—in spite of all the demolition orders.

This week Israeli soldiers came with bulldozers and uprooted one of their orchards—1500 apricot and apple trees were destroyed and the terraces where they were planted were leveled by the bulldozers. The valley looks like a wasteland.
Before and After—Tent of Nations orchard (left) and the valley after Israeli's military bulldozed and uprooted the trees (right).
I'm wondering whether the tree I gave them was one of the destroyed trees. Amal's name means "hope." That night, when I gave the tree, I, too, had so much hope for the project. Tonight I'm angry—at the waste, the meanness, the hard-heartedness. But I'm also inspired by the hope the Nassar family maintains—the hope of their father Daher, whose vision of a farm bringing people together still preaches hope in these dark days.

Please be part of that hope—sign a petition to Secretary of State John Kerry asking for his help in rebuilding the destroyed orchards and getting compensation for the Nassar family, and an end to the Israeli effort to take their land.

http://action.cmep.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=17591

Read more about Tent of Nations: https://www.facebook.com/tentofnations
Watch "Love Your Enemies"—Daoud Nassar tells about how their faith supports them in their peacebuilding work.