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.  

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