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 []  
  • 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.

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Two Narratives—Independence Day and Nakba "Catastrophe"

May 15 marks two anniversaries in Israel/Palestine. the day Israelis celebrate as Independence Day is also a commemoration by Palestinians of the Nakba. While many Americans are aware of Israel's statehood, few of us ever heard about the Nakba. In conflict, the winners' story is usually the one that is told.

Nakba means "catastrophe" in Arabic and May 15 marks the 66th anniversary of the Jewish militias' campaign to remove Palestinians from lands it wished to make into a state. I say "Jewish militias" because the removal of Palestinians from their villages in what is now Israel began in 1947—before the UN vote for partition, before the British withdrew from Palestine, before any "Arab War" began, before the formation of the state of Israel. Before May 15, almost a quarter-million Palestinians had already been forced from their homes by Jewish militias. (Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, 2006, p. xv)

Entrance to Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem—this key looks like the keys many Palestinian families will show you, the keys the refugees grabbed as they hurriedly left their homes in nearby villages in 1947-48. It reminds us of their intention to return to their homes when the fighting stopped.
Palestinians fleeing from their homes was not an accident of war. It was a systematic plan to remove as many Arabs as possible from the land Israel claimed for their state (thoroughly documented, from Israeli archives, in Pappe's book). The Nakba continued through 1948, eventually displacing about 800,000 people.

The Middle East Children's Association has compiled a short narrative with photos, telling the story of the Nakba, which I encourage you to read:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Make new friends, but keep the old...

From Barbara Hanst, teaching English in Nablus:

Do you know that song from your childhood? I learned it as a Girl Scout and its message has stuck with me through the years.

On Wed I traveled to Jenin to make some new friends, the parents of Ayman Alawneh. Ayman is a Palestinian studying for his PhD at CU. He and his wife, Nancy, have become good friends in Boulder and Ayman wanted me to meet his parents and deliver a phone to them. I was happy to do so and enjoyed meeting not only his parents but also several of his siblings. What a LOVELY family!! Now I know why Ayman is so special!! His mother not only prepared a feast for me, but also sent me home with her homemade za'atar.

On Thursday I went to Beit Jala, a suburb of Bethlehem, to see old friends, Kamal Mukarker and his family. Kamal had been my tour guide both in 2010 when I traveled on a Sabeel tour and again in 2012 when I ret'd to Bethlehem on my own. Normally I would have taken a service (pronounced ser-veeese; a van holding 7 people) first from Nablus to Ramallah, and then from Ramallah to Bethlehem, but Kamal was going to be in Ramallah with a group so offered to pick me up and drive me the rest of the way. Lovely idea, I thought, but it ended up being a bit unsettling.

I was traveling on the anniversary of the Nakba ("catastrophe" in Arabic), the time in 1948 when about 700,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes and made refugees as a result of Israel's War of Independence. There are observances of the Nakba all over the country and, for sure, in Ramallah where Yasser Arafat is buried and Palestinian governmental offices are now found. I was to meet Kamal in the City Centre. Hah! No way!~! It was packed with people, so I was relieved when he suggested an alternative spot about a 10 minute walk away.

I finally found it and was enjoying an ice cream cone when suddenly the proprietor ran into the street and then lowered the steel rolling door that closed his shop. "What's going on?" I asked. Two Palestinians had been killed as they were demonstrating outside a near-by Israeli prison, and when news of it came to the City Centre, the people there were enraged and began marching and shouting. The ice cream shop as well as other businesses were closed to protect their property, I suppose. Other customers left by a rear door and I was there alone until Kamal came to get me. Fortunately by that time the shop had opened up again.

The ride to Beit Jala was filled with lively conversation during which Kamal told me of his plans to be married, the development of his tourism business, and recent time he had spent with Rick Steves. He is also in the process of building a 3 story home attached to his parents', which home I got to see during my full and somewhat tumultuous visit with his family.

The next day, not long after breakfast, Kamal's father was rushed to the hospital, fearing a heart attack, as his mother prepared to host a group of Swiss tourists, providing lunch and lecturing on Palestinian history. She, too, is a tourist guide. I ended up on kitchen duty, not that I was asked to do that, but because I wanted to do something to make myself useful!

Returning to Nablus late that afternoon via 2 service rides was also eventful, probably because of the Nakba observance and the killing of the two Palestinians by the Israeli military the day before. First we encountered the remnants of tear gas which, even though the driver quickly rolled up all windows, made it uncomfortable for both lungs and eyes. Since I feel sure that was from the previous day, I can't imagine the impact of it "freshly sprayed".

On the 2nd service we passed through two checkpoints, but only at the 1st did we have to show our IDs. At both checkpoints the lines were long and slow, inching forward, unless you had a yellow license plate, indicating yours was an Israeli car, which enabled you to zoom right by.

When I finally got back to Nablus, I was feeling tired and dejected as I trudged toward my Project Hope apt, backpack weighing me down. (This time I was carrying apricot jam made by my host from their trees.) What a surprise to be accosted by shouts of "Barbara! Barbara!" There were two of my students pleased to see me........but not nearly as pleased as I was to see them!! It was a joyous "Welcome Home!"

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Stung by a Question

Barbara Hanst, a friend who lives in Boulder, is currently in Nablus, volunteering as an English teacher with Project Hope. Project Hope "works in the refugee camps, cities, and villages of the Nablus region of the northern West Bank, teaching English and delivering other essential education, arts and sports programs to Palestinian children and youth.

The largest volunteer organization of its kind in Palestine, Project Hope fosters dialogue and cooperation between local and international volunteers, while encouraging its volunteer alumni to remain involved with the issue of Palestine afterward."

Barbara posts her encounters and thoughts on regular emails to friends and family. I'm sharing her post yesterday—a poignant reminder about why it is so important for us to keep working to change the US role in the conflict.

She writes—

Dear friends and family,

I've spent much of the past several days "playing hooky" from Project Hope in order to spend time with fellow Boulderite and Sister City Project Board member, Carl Tintsman, who is passing through Nablus and has been interested in meeting some of our contacts here.

Last night we had dinner with a recent An-Najah graduate who is now the Community Participating Governance Coordinator for Global Communities. We were soliciting his input for ways to make the Sister City relationship effective, i.e. what projects we might undertake.

Inevitably the conversation strayed to the difficult conditions under which Palestinians live. "Do you think life would be like this for us if the United States were not giving Israel 8 1/2 million dollars a day and exercising veto power at the UN?"

We responded with silence.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter in Palestine—Stories from the West Bank and Gaza

The Electronic Intifada compiles news stories from Palestine. Here are a four of the stories from the West Bank and Gaza in this Easter week. These are all in the Nablus area, in the middle of the West Bank, in an area where Israeli settlers are increasing their numbers and Israel is closing roads to "protect" them. (read this on the Electronic Intifada):

Israeli Forces Shoot Tear Gas into Houses in Awarta Village

On the 20th of April, five Israeli jeeps entered the village of Awarta. The Israeli forces broke into four houses and shot several tear gas and stun grenades inside the houses, leaving several families with no other alternative than to sleep elsewhere until the tear gas clouds dispersed, which could take weeks.

The Israeli soldiers beat several people and broke furniture during this event. A 26-year-old Palestinian was violently arrested and detained for two hours with no reason given.

Two days later, Israeli soldiers once again entered houses in Awarta and shot several tear gas more

Khan-al-Luban: Israeli Army Attack Read the whole story

From an ISM volunteer at the scene….At 6:45pm an Israeli army jeep pulled in front of a building across the street from the family house, then backed out of the driveway and drove along the road towards the back of the house. We all went into the center area and shut the doors, but went outside to photograph what they were doing as the three Israeli soldiers got out of the jeep and started coming over the fence and onto the roof. We climbed to the roof area where they had come onto the property. They asked one of the human rights volunteers to show her passport but she refused.

Jimmy stayed inside because he thought they might be looking for him. One of the young sons talked to the soldiers on the roof and the army called for back up.

After the soldiers began shouting at the mother and her child, Jimmy came out to the roof area, no longer able to stay hidden. He told the soldiers that they were on his family’s property and that they should stop yelling at his mother and younger brothers.

The soldiers became belligerent and hit him with their hands. They then attempted to handcuff Jimmy, and dragged him partway across the roof; by that time the cuffs were fully on. At that point they knocked him down and hit him on the head with the back of a rifle. Jimmy was unconscious from that time on and appeared to convulse slightly. They continued to beat him after he collapsed. [He was later taken to hospital in Nablus] Read more

Settlers Set Fire to Palestinian Chicken Farm
On Friday 18th April, during the night in the village of Madama, settlers from a nearby illegal settlement entered a Palestinian farm and sat fire to a newly built chicken house. The damage totaled $12,500 for the 3,500 chickens and their food, as well as $100,000 for the building itself. The Palestinian owner of the chicken house sold his car and some of his land in order to buy this costly farm, it is now completely destroyed.

The farmer described the day this incident occurred, stating how he finished his work and went home, passing two Israeli military jeeps on the road. When he returned to the farm at 4am on Friday, he found his chicken farm burnt to the ground, all 3,500 chicks dead. The fire was started near a window of the farm, most likely started with gasoline. More…

"A Message of Peace" from the Village of Qaryut Met with Violence from the Israeli Army
The people of Qaryut began weekly demonstrations three weeks ago, due to the Israeli military’s decision to close the main road near to the village.

Yesterday, the 18th April, approximately 300 from the village, of which 100 were children, decided to come to the hill to pray rather than to march. Israeli soldiers arrived immediately, with one soldier yelling: “Go back home!” A resident of Qaryut responded; “Insh’allah [If God wills it], this is our home.”

The prayer began despite the provocative military presence on the hill, during the prayers Israeli soldiers surrounded the gathering, one solider removed a Palestinian flag from its place in the ground.

As prayers finished, one of the villagers declared to the army that it was their intention to leave the area, repeating over and over that they brought “a message of peace”.

However, within a few steps of the people’s return to the village, Israeli soldiers started shooting tear gas at their backs. Due to the rocky terrain, many were unable to get away from the tear gas that the soldiers continued to fire. 15 people had to be treated by paramedics due to several tear gas inhalation, however it was difficult to access those in need because of the difficult conditions underfoot. Stun grenades were also used extensively by the Israeli forces. More…

Sunday, April 20, 2014


If Jesus’ resurrection teaches us anything, it teaches us that death is not the final word. Death, imprisonment, torture—these are not the end of the story.

Safe in our fairy-tale country, we struggle to understand the message of the resurrection, but it is a powerful message of hope that Palestinians—Christian and Muslim—live every day.

“No oppression, no denial of rights can continue forever.” Dr. Saeb Erekat quoted Nelson Mandela in his recent message on Palestinian Prisoner Day:

[From Palestine News Network, April 17] The PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Saeb Erekat issued a press statement marking the Palestinian Prisoner Day, as follows:

"For Palestinians, having loved ones in prison is not the exception: it is something which has affected every Palestinian family. In the context of prolonged occupation, Israel- a foreign military power- has unlawfully imposed itself on the land of another people and has oppressed millions, in many varying ways. The plight of the prisoners reflects the plight of the Palestinian people as a whole.

A staggering 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested by Israeli forces since 1967. 5224 remain incarcerated today, including administrative, sick, female and children detainees. These numbers reflect one of the worst experiences of imprisonment in contemporary history, designed to break the will of an entire nation seeking freedom.

Israel has criminalized all forms of resistance, both armed and peaceful, and even political and civic engagement. The Palestinian leadership has chosen to resist through diplomatic and peaceful means, in order to achieve the Palestinian people's inalienable rights, as enshrined in international law. We now need to demonstrate to our people that this path leads to freedom and justice in an independent and democratic State of Palestine. Exist so that we can coexist.

The release of the Palestinian prisoners will be the first signal that freedom is on the way.

Now, we await the release of the remaining 30 Pre-Oslo prisoners still captive in occupation prisons. These are people who have been incarcerated for over 20 years. Karim Younes, the longest serving of these prisoners, has spent over 32 years of his life in Israeli jails.

Israel committed to releasing these prisoners as part of the Oslo Agreement in 1993, again in 1999 through the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement, and a third time in July 2013. In July last year, we agreed to postpone our accession to multilateral treaties and conventions for nine months in order to finally release the 104 Pre-Oslo prisoners. We fulfilled our commitment. Israel, yet again, did not.

Where else in the world could a State imprison the elected representatives of another country with such impunity? The national leader Marwan Barghouthi was the first Member of Parliament to be detained. April 15th 2014 marked the 12th anniversary of his abduction. There has been a total of 50 Palestinian parliamentarians in Israeli jails at one time or another, equivalent to over one third of the Palestinian Parliament. Eleven remain detained today, including the Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Ahmed Saadat.

The level of support gathered by the International campaign for the freedom of Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestinian prisoners, and the signing of the Robben Island Declaration by prominent international figures, including six Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, church leaders, artists, parliamentarians, human rights figures, trade unions, and thousands of citizens, sends a clear message that must be heard: freedom of the Palestinian prisoners and freedom of the Palestinian people will pave the way to peace. Photo: “Free Marwan” grafitti on the wall near Ramallah. 

Israel must choose between the pursuit of occupation and the pursuit of peace. Each settlement, each arrest, each violation, each refusal to abide by its commitments and obligations, shows that Israel is heading in the wrong direction. But history teaches us that justice prevails. We follow the example of Nelson Mandela and the people of South Africa. No oppression, no denial of rights can continue forever."

Gracious God, keep us strong in hope and steadfast in our struggle to set the prisoners free. Amen.

Read an interesting editorial about how Marwan Barghouti’s release could lead to peace and a stable Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Resurrection of our Lord, Vigil of Easter—Hebron

Tonight, at the Easter Vigil, we read the stories of our heritage—remembering where we have come from on this long spiritual journey. The Fourth Reading is from Exodus, and the story is one that Jewish faithful are also celebrating this week—their Passover, which began on Monday.

In Jewish homes across America, families sit down to the traditional Seder supper and recall how God rescued them from the Egyptians and reflect on those who are less fortunate, those who are still slaves.

In Hebron, a Palestinian city in the West Bank, however, the holiday is a call to political protest, as an estimated 7000 settlers come for “tours”, led by Israeli soldiers and border police.

On Thursday afternoon, Israeli soldiers closed the main road into Hebron to allow settlers access to the Tomb of Othniel Ben Knaz, which is located in the H1 (Palestinian) sector of Hebron. Residents of Hebron had their daily routines disrupted as settlers, guarded by Israeli troops, paraded through the Palestinian suq, harassing the shop owners and preventing any sales.

The checkpoint between the suq and the Mosque has been closed since Wednesday, preventing Muslim worshipers from entering and forcing schoolchildren to walk a long way around. Schools have closed earlier and the children are forced to walk through large groups of soldiers. Many children stayed home.

Photo shows schoolchildren in Hebron this week, passing the Israeli soldiers.

April 17 is also Prisoners’ Day for Palestinians, when they remember all the prisoners held in Israeli prisons. In Hebron families gathered outside the stadium to pray for imprisoned loved ones. The International Solidarity Movement reports, “Many brought pictures of their family members and friends, and the people of al-Khalil (Hebron), together with many organisations and political parties, were there to show their support for the prisoners.”

Israeli soldiers have fired stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear-gassed the crowds. Young Palestinians have been throwing stones and some have been injured. You can read the whole story on the ISM website link above.

Savior God, you hear the cries of the oppressed and you set them free. Be with all who are oppressed and in bondage today. As you brought the Israelites out of slavery, give these people courage to resist their oppression and hope for their future. And give us courage and steadfastness to loosen the chains we hold. Amen.  

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday—Stations of the Cross 10-14

Good Friday
Stations of the Cross

10Jesus is stripped
They took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. Jn19.23

This week, Israeli Defense Ministry Moshe Ya’alon sized control of 984 dunams of Bethlehem land for the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, declaring it “state land.” This piece of land surrounds private Palestinian land, which will now be inaccessible to its owners. The land includes the illegal outpost of Netiv Ha’avot.

11Jesus is nailed to the cross

Reading Ha’aretz, the Israeli newspaper today, I found the story of Fuad Shehadeh, who has been hospitalized for six weeks, following an attack by Israeli settlers. Shehadeh lives in a village near Nablus, in the West Bank. He went with his friend to prune some olive trees and they were attacked as they were leaving. They ran, but one of the settlers threw a metal rod and broke Shehadeh’s leg, which immobilized him. After being beaten further, the Israeli soldier standing watching called to the settlers, “Enough,” and they left. He has ten fractures, eight on his right leg and two in his left arm. He has bruises on his head and right arm. The police have not even interviewed him, even though he is now in a hospital in Tel Aviv, being treated for his injuries. His assault was not reported in Israeli media.
Photo: Fuad Shehadeh and his son Mohammed at Ichilov Hospital. The police haven't shown up to investigate.

12Jesus dies on the cross

Jesus died, refusing to cooperate in his trial or answer to his accusers. He also rejected violence, even healing the ear of the high priest’s slave injured by Peter. In the account in Luke, Jesus forgives the criminal hanging next to him.

In Kairos Palestine, Palestinian Christians “call on the people of Israel to be our partners in peace and not in the cycle of interminable violence. Let us resist evil together, the evil of occupation and the infernal cycle of violence.” (Kairos Palestine, 4.3)

13Jesus is taken down from the cross

…when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. (Jn19.33)

Take a moment for prayer.

14Jesus is laid in the tomb

Now there was a Garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. (Jn 19.41)

This entire narrative of Jesus’ passion takes place within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In the early years of the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine sent his mother Helena to find the holy sites and build churches. She investigated the places where pilgrims had been coming since the first century and chose the site for the Holy Sepulchre. Constantine built a church there to celebrate the resurrection. Geographically, it’s a very small space for such a large narrative. Visiting pilgrimage groups usually spend 30 minutes or so visiting the five stations that are located inside the church. 

Good Friday—Stations of the Cross, 5-9

Good Friday
Stations of the Cross

5—Simon helps carry the cross
Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases… Is 53.4

Who are the people today who help suffering people bear their burdens?

6—Veronica offers her veil to Jesus

Who are the bearers of the image of Jesus today?
I think of a Muslim—Farhan, elected mayor of Beit Ummar in 2006, in the first elections under the Palestinian Authority. Upon election he was immediately arrested by Israeli soldiers and imprisoned for being affiliated with Hamas. Sitting in his mother’s home, with his youngest son, Salah Ad-Din, on his lap, he told us, “Every good action, even if very small, gives me more hope—a hole for the light to pass through.” This Hamas leader told us, “I teach my sons and daughters to love, not hate; I give them the courage of love, not to hate. Love needs courage; hate does not.” But, he says, “love is stronger than hate.” He tells us this is what the prophet Mohammad taught: “Hate is very dangerous for the human being. War is easy; peace is hard.”

Photo: Farhan and Salah Ad-Din

7—Jesus falls the second time
He learned obedience through what he suffered Heb 5.8

Almost every young Palestinian man I have met has been arrested and served time in prison. Usually it is for throwing stones in a demonstration against the Israeli soldiers and tanks in their villages. They tell about the network of Palestinian elders in prison who taught them about non-violent resistance. In prison they have studied Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., so that when they are released, they are equipped to continue the resistance.
8—Jesus meets the weeping women

I think of Eran Efrati, the former Israeli soldier who was in Denver in February. He told the story of his gradual awakening to what Israel was really doing in the West Bank. One pivotal moment was in Hebron, when he heard a mother’s cry as she mourned her son’s death. The night before, in the confusion and darkness, her son had been killed by some19-year-old soldiers. When he heard her cry, he realized it was the cry of his grandmother, waking in the night with nightmares about her time in Auschwitz.

Photo of women weeping at the death of Arafat Jaradat, killed in Israeli custody, February, 2013.

9—Jesus falls the third time
All we like sheep have gone astray
We have all turned to our own way…
(Is 53.6)

By Station nine, I am despairing. Will Jesus’ suffering never end? Will the Palestinians’ suffering never end? The US supports Israel’s human rights violations with our tax dollars. As a country, we have lost our way. All we like sheep… It’s not like the swelling choruses of the Christmas oratorio. It is like carrying the cross and falling under its weight.