Hebron. Barbed Wire. Segregation. Separation. Racist. Need. Divide. Outrageous. Juxtaposition. Frustration. Bullet Holes. Conflict. Divided. Green LIne. Moving. Systematic Injustice.
These are just a few of the short words by which students have described our trip to Hebron.
To write a short blog post about Hebron is to be majnoon (crazy in Arabic). But, I will try my best, to pack thousands of narratives into one small story.
In effect, Hebron is a city in the south of the West Bank where over 500 Israeli Jewish settlers live among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. As many of you may know, Hebron is a holy place for Jews, Christians and Muslims, as the Patriarchs are buried here. These Israelis, who are living here illegally according to international law, are protected by almost 800 Israeli soldiers around the clock. These soldiers are known to be oppressive to Palestinians, but not nearly as oppressive as the ideological settlers they protect. Most settlers in Hebron carry weapons, with some even carrying automatic machine guns. Violence by these settlers is not uncommon, as soldiers are often seen stopping settlers from harming Palestinians. Tension boils into violence weekly if not daily.
After touring present day Hebron, I feel as if God would look at this place distorted by conflict and call it anything but “holy.”
While this post may seem somewhat one-sided, I am only telling you stories and narratives we were told, and we experienced.
A few short Narratives include:
Palestinians and Jews in Hebron share the same water sources, but Palestinians are not allowed running water 24 hours a day while Jews are. Palestinians must hold their water in large tanks on their roofs, hoping that will last them until their water is turned on again. Settlers often shoot these tanks, leaving leaking water tanks that many cannot afford to replace.
In the old city, many shop owners have had their shops forcibly closed because they have been deemed too close to the Jewish settlements, which again are illegal according to international law.
Palestinian children have stones, eggs, bottles, etc. thrown at them by settlers as they walk to school. These objects are often thrown by settler children, as they cannot be prosecuted by the army. Palestinian children must often be accompanied to to their schools for their own protection.
In the old city, nets and caging are often placed as a type of ceiling, used to protect the streets of the Palestinian market below from being hit by flying objects thrown by settlers above. Objects thrown are not limited to eggs—we heard stories of dead animals, boulders and bottles of urine being thrown as well.
In parts of the old city, Palestinians are forced to walk on one side of the street, enforced by construction barriers that allow Jews to walk on the other side. These barriers must never be crossed by Palestinians. If they are, soldiers are allowed to use violence against them.
Many Palestinians who still own homes in the old city are not allowed to lock their doors, as Israel has declared they must be able to easily walk into each of these families homes. Many of these families must also always keep a family member in the house, as if the house is empty for even five minutes, a soldier may come and confiscate the home, deeming it abandoned. Many of these families have sign up sheets for who will be at home at which times.
Injustice does not always flow one way, and many times the oppressor in these situations also feels, and sometimes is, oppressed. Please, do not come away from reading this post with more hate and more hostility towards those who oppress, but instead come away with compassion and love for them as Jesus taught us. Martin Luther King, Jr. once proclaimed, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate, only LOVE can do that. How true is this!?
Our Palestinian friends must be encouraged to Love those who oppress them. They would be the first to tell us that Jesus’ teaching of love your enemies may be the hardest to live out. However, after seeing hatred not work for thousands of years, now, not later, not tomorrow, but this minute of this hour in this day, Jesus may be calling us to love those who persecute us, or who persecute God’s children. Love comes now, and love will win now.
Christ at the Checkpoint Student Delegation Participant