Sunday, January 14, 2007
Hebron and CPT
Hebron and Christian Peacemaker Teams
“Peace also takes courage” (Jeff Vamos’ bumper sticker). About two months ago, on Nov. 7, 2006, our group visited the city of Hebron. As our bus entered the very lively old city and drove us to its center and “the square, we found it filled to overflowing with people, taxi cabs and cars, with hardly room to breathe. It was there that we were met by two members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, Jerry Levin and Abigail Ozanne. As our tour began, Jerry explained how, since early 1997, the city has been divided into two sectors: H1 and H2. The H1 sector, home to around 120,000 Palestinians, came under the control of the Palestinian Authority, in accordance with Hebron Protocol. H2, which was inhabited by around 30,000 Palestinians, remained under Israeli control due to the presence of around 500 Jewish Israeli settlers living in an enclave near the center of the town. During the last five years, the Palestinian population in H2 has decreased by 20,000 and the current figures show that only around 10,000 Palestinians continue to live in this sector. This decrease of the Palestinian population in the H2 sector has been attributed to continuous harassment of the Palestinians by the settlers, as well as extended curfews and restrictions placed on Palestinian residents by the Israeli Defense Forces (Occupation Forces).
As we walked from one section closer to the settlements, fewer people and most of the businesses have had to close down because of the occupation. We visited the apartment of the CPT and the end of a closed off street and walked to the rooftop of their apartment where we could see much of the city of Hebron, with the Israeli military watching us from the top of a nearby building to our south. We then continued our walk through more of the Old City stopping long enough for a lunch of falafel sandwiches, one of the best sandwiches of the trip. Along the way, we were pestered continuously by several small Palestinian boys asking for money. Abigail explained that school had not started yet nor were there any playgrounds for the kids.
At the turnstiles in the Old City leading to the Ibrahimi Mosque, we met with our guide from the mosque, about 86 years old and he could say all the names of the states in the U.S. in less than a minute. The mosque is also know as the Tomb of the Patriarchs -at present half-synagogue and half-mosque - and it is thought to lie directly above the underground tombs of Abraham, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. The security was tight and we were required to present passports and pass through a metal detector. This security was the result of the actions of an American-born Jewish extremist who, in 1994, entered the mosque and opened fire killing 48 Muslims and injuring 200 ( as stated in my guide book). But the CPT says that 29 Muslims were murdered as they were praying in the Ibrahimi mosque. Modest dress for the women in our group required brown monk like capes and having our heads covered. And of course, we all had to remove our shoes.
I am one of the leaders for our Women’s Bible study of Genesis this year so, I was very excited to see this Holy site. I took many photos to share with my friends. As we were leaving, we came up one pair of shoes short – missing a size 6 pair of sneakers. Jan was given a large pair of sandals to wear until a replacement pair could be purchased. It was quite emotional seeing and the realizing what these people have to endure everyday – with the occupation.
Upon returning my husband, Ted and I have received the Hebron Update from the Christian Peacemaker Teams and read about their day to day encounters and nonviolent approach to various incidences makes us admire their efforts in dealing with Israeli police and military and the Israeli settlers. And I was appalled at what happened on Nov 18, to a 19 year old Swedish international human rights activist, when a violent incident occurred and her checkbone was fractured by an Israeli settler who hit her with an empty bottle. Being able to stay calm and react in a nonviolent way would be very hard for me, when confronted with the situations facing the Christian Peacemaking Teams. My prayers and support go with them daily. I learned from this and other experiences on the trip that “if you want peace work for justice.”