Sunday, December 05, 2004

Sit Ins

Remember those 1960s Sit Ins as a form of non-violent protest against the US government, against the Vietnam warm? I didn't know what I was getting into on Saturday, my supposed day of rest. I had volunteered to join the Taayush group in the South Hebron area to assist the villagers of Twane to plow their fields. What do I know about plowing? Nothing. But I was told we just have to be there as support, not as workers. That sounded just hunky dory. It was a beautiful Saturday morning. I woke up at 7:25 am and had about 5 minutes to get dressed, have a coffee, pack a lunch, etc. I wondered about the lunch bit since being in a Palestinian village automatically gets you a free lunch via their hospitality, but I didn't want to depend on that so I grabbed anything in sight that could be wrapped up in tin foil and had Hubby the chauffeur, drive me to the meeting point. Our group of 25 people travelled in two Ford Transit vans and 2 private cars. One private car got held up at a checkpoint. It was a random check and unfortunately for the driver, he happened to have a Palestinian passenger who did not have the permit to get into West Jerusalem. They detained him and the passengers for a few hours and they, of course, could not join us.

We got to Twane and walked about 20 minutes through fields near a Jewish outpost of Maon where apparently the young Jewish people living there are quite violent towards the inhabitants here. I hate telling on my own people. It makes my stomach turn or churn or whatever. About 8 (?) years ago a Palestinian shepherd murdered a Jewish man who lived there alone and there has been strife ever since. But the Arab villagers wanted to plow their fields which were very close to the Jewish outpost. They needed our help and we were there. When we arrived, the army jeeps were waiting for us - thinking we were going to be a violent and angry mob - telling us it is a closed military zone and they cannot work their fields. We told them we're not moving unless they can plow their fields. And we sat and waited and waited -about 3 hours. Thank God it was sunny and not too cold outdoors. We heard of another hill being plowed nearby with settlers throwing stones at the Palestinian guys on the tractors. So we had this choice. We were going to be split into two groups. Your chances were of either getting hit by a rock in one place or you could be arrested if you stayed with this group. I figured getting arrested would probably be safer than getting hit with rocks so I stayed. We were primed up for being arrested, what to say, what not to say, what not to sign, etc. I was getting nervous. A big Canadian woman with the Christian Peacemakers Team decided she was going to go with the other group. "I've been beaten up before by settlers, so I don't mind getting beaten up again." Wow. From the great white north comes the great white woman. She looked like she could take on the entire Calgary Flames hockey team in battle.

Meanwhile, after people making phone calls to their connections in the army and finally getting through, we were told that the villagers can plow their land. We were thrilled. We didn't get arrested and had we not been there, it wouldn't have happened. Everyone cheered as the tractors came at full speed ahead to work the land. Mission accomplished we headed back towards the village. It was so quiet in the village. I didn't expect a friggin' ticker tape parade, but it was eerily quiet. We sat around quietly at the entrance and I walked around the village with a Quaker woman from the US talking to the kids we saw on that one road running through it. Some of the kids there were very European looking, very blonde. I was surprised to see that. I was expecting everyone to look more swarthy. When we got back our group was already invited by one of the families for tea. We sat around on mattresses while the women served us hyssop-flavored tea and mandarins. Their kids played with our digital cameras and their little 7 year old girl rummaged through my purse until she finally found what she was looking for. My purple nail polish. She opened it up quickly and spilled half on her school uniform. I thought - shit, her mum will fucking kill me. She let me polish her nails, although in this very small, very traditional village, I doubt hot purple polish will be looked at favorably by her parents. I hope she can wear it for a few hours though until they take it off.

We were told another family had invited us for lunch. We moved to their home and sat in the backyard on mattresses and pillows. Out came homemade grape jam, heavy, large salted pita-type breads, fresh olives, and french fries. These people are poor and only have their agricultural produce to live on, yet they had no problem feeding 13 guests. Not a problem. I went over to the host afterwards. Is this your house? I asked him. He said - Your house too. We're partners in this. Huh? Is it that simple?? I have a house in Twane!!! I can't wait to tell Hubby and the kids and the entire Israeli government. All you have to do is to be helpful to Palestinian villagers and their home is your home. Simple. No need to fight, demolish homes, blow up people, etc.

On the way back, with people knowing I am the coordinator of the Interfaith group in Jerusalem, they made me tell the Christians the story of Hanukah. One Israeli guy thought the holiday is "too militant." He was surprised I was having an interfaith gathering at my home for the holiday. It doesn't have to have a militant bent to it. You can talk about the Hanukah lights. Focus on the other stuff, on the freedom to worship our religion, on the miracles, etc.. It's just how you look at it.

1 comment:

Zoe said...

"All you have to do is to be helpful to Palestinian villagers and their home is your home. Simple. No need to fight, demolish homes, blow up people, etc. "

In an ideal world yes... but you are forgetting that we are not the only people "blowing up" and "fighting".

I don't believe the settlers should be there and I think everything should be done to get them out.

While I recognise the need for peace and understanding between Palestinians and Jews. And I wish that the Palestinian people were able to plow their lands without interruption. I do feel there is a need for everyone to understand that terrorism has a price. YOu yourself claim that a settler was killed, so why would the army "allow" the Palestinians to plow their land so close to the settlement? Better the settlers shouldn't be there, and our soldiers lives not risked, and the Palestinians could get on with their plowing... no?

However, none of this is possible if the Palestinian people are not willing to better their lot and fight their own extremists and terrorists. I don't see any Palestinians standing in front of the suicide bombers to protect Israelis from having their lives interrupted! If Israeli's (Jews) anywhere in the world committed the crimes the Islamic extremists have been committing, I for one would not keep quiet about it!