When mothers no longer dream
The title for this blog is telling of the situation here. Mothers no longer have dreams for their children because their dreams have been taken by the occupation – this according to a child psychiatrist working in Hebron. He says there everyone is depressed. They are just living day-to-day. Their children have no playgrounds, no vacations, no escape.
An Israeli lady, during our training, said if you feel you should be punished for your sins, go to Hebron because it is hell. It is a city divided into area H1 and H2. There are Israeli settlements in Hebron and the disparity between the two areas is great. As I walked through the old city, saw the barriers, checkpoints and soldiers, I wonder how this could happen.
The last week has been busy. We covered the Meitar checkpoint, did some school runs and visited several villages that we had not been to before. We also did protective presence for ploughing and shepherding. Those of you reading this blog for the first time may wonder what protective presence is and why it is needed.
There are Israeli settlements near villages. Also there are outposts purposely built on land owned by villages. The outposts are usually occupied by very radical Jews and are really illegal under Israeli law but are never demolished. They have electricity and water and may eventually expand and become settlements. Since they consider Palestinians or Arabs as squatters on Israeli land, they are out to make their lives miserable. Thus a shepherd is very vulnerable since he is usually alone with his herd. Shepherds have been beaten or shot, their sheep poisoned, etc. If an international is seen, it discourages the settlers since we are witnesses and record everything. And now it is the season for ploughing and sowing and we are called also to be present.
This week, a lady invited us in for tea in one of the villages. She had been out with the sheep several months ago. Some settlers came down and beat her. She spent four days in the hospital and no one was arrested as is usually the case. However, if a Palestinian hits a settler even in self-defense, he/she is promptly arrested and jailed.
There are also cases where the Israeli Defense forces are needed to protect Palestinians from the settlers. Take for example the children walking to school in At Tuwani from a nearby village. The road they travel has a settlement on one side and an outpost on another. Soldiers come to escort them to school as they walk on the road. It is to protect them from Israelis. Can you imagine how a child must feel to know some people hate them so much?
Yesterday, we had a land action. Internationals, Israelis from the Ta’ayush organization and villagers all walked towards an outpost that had been built on land belonging to the village. It was a way to show presence in the land and hopefully keep more land from being taken. Awaiting us was a row of military vehicles and soldiers and two police cars. They were there to stop the villagers from getting close to the outpost. They were also there to protect the villagers from the people in the outpost. I walked further up the road towards the outpost hoping to see more. However, I was stopped by the police and told to go back. They said my life would be in danger if I went to the outpost so I was escorted back by three soldiers.
I talked to one young Israeli person who was obviously well known by the village children. She feels strongly about the need to end the occupation and live together. When I asked how her parents felt about her being here, she replied that her mother once came along but her father is very much opposed to what she is doing. He is originally from Canada and she thinks he needs to prove he is a strong Zionist.
After two and a half hours, we returned to the village. However, as I walked back, Ezra (also an Israeli belonging to Ta’ayush) came in his truck and told me to go back since a shepherd was coming. My teammates, Christian and Laura were ahead so I yelled for them and we walked back and sure enough, about fifteen minutes later, a shepherd came. So we stayed another hour as he kept his sheep within sight of the outpost. I noticed too that some of the military also stayed.
Palestinians are finding non-violent ways to resist the occupation. Being present on the land is one way. Another is rebuilding time and time again after demolitions. They have no where to go of course with their sheep and animals. And it is land that they bought and worked on, sometimes for generations. And there are Israeli peace activists joining them as well as more international delegations coming to the area. That is a hopeful sign.
But time is running out. Year by year the occupation is more oppressive and whole villages are disappearing.
The Ta’ayush website states: The lives & livelihood of 3.5 million Palestinians in occupied Palestine are subordinated to Israeli interests for more than 40 years. Through concrete non-violent actions of solidarity and resistance, Ta’ayush is there with them to stand up for their rights, end the occupation and achieve full civil equality for all.
We can all take action to achieve the goal of bringing justice to this land. Pray for a just peace and end to the occupation, boycott products made in settlements and speak to others about the situation here.