Saturday Dec 10
Day started in Zelicka's kindergarten with 30-35 children ranging in age from 3-10.. Normally, Saturdays are an off day, but Zelicka wanted to provide a chance for the kids to get out from their homes for some fun & games. Because of the possibility of settlers and soldiers in the streets of the old city, the younger kids are mainly confined to their homes, except for outings with parents or older siblings. It was quite a scene- very crowded, a little bit uncontrolled even though some adults present. Kids played some variants of Duck, Duck, Goose and Simon Sez, all with peals of laughter, and they wore masks & hats made by the adults.
We then went next door to speak with members of CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams) who have worked in Hebron since 1995. They stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, using their non-violent presence to try to decrease the violence. When harassment occurs, they try to intervene, when possible, by placing themselves between Palestinians and their attackers. They accompany people at risk of home demolition and/or land confiscation, do school patrols trying to safeguard children, monitor Israeli soldiers as they search homes, and go on 3 neighbor patrols a day. While they have a paid staff, it's mainly volunteers who pay their own way and usually spend at least a month or two. We had some fantasy about volunteering, but soon let that go after a discussion of the faith based nature of the organization.
After lunch, we went on another tour of the old city. Within two minutes we were stopped by Israeli soldiers who were "safeguarding" a large group of Israeli tourists, The armed soldiers kept Palestinians and internationals at bay as the Israelis walked slowly through the streets. Maybe 20 soldiers blocked our path. It was infuriating-a whole lot more threatening than the NYC police during the Occupy Wall Street crackdowns. We stood and stared, took lots of pictures, and H actually tried to talk to the soldiers about their personal responsibility. Some of the internationals, who had heard of a killing in another part of the West Bank were more confrontational with the soldiers, all to no avail. All words falling on deaf ears. H & I are in some philosophical disagreement on our relationship to soldiers and settlers. H believes that there are some real possibilities for engagement with an open human approach and N sees them as conscious enemies who engage in violent and representable behavior who are beyond the reach of discussion and much like the good Germans who were only doing their duty. Obviously there are more than two possible positions, but in this charged atmosphere that's where we find ourselves. In some sense it replicates the conversation about Roberta's attempt to get the two sides in one room engaged in non-violent conversation even before ending their unequal positions of power. How do conflicts end? Good conversations to have.
We finally were allowed to go on with our tour of the occupation. We climbed streets up in the Hebron Hills where Palestinians live, but where Palestinians are not allowed to drive. And it's quite a hike up those hills. We visited streets contiguous to settlements where Palestinians are no longer allowed to live. We passed through check points where we were asked for identification even though we were going from one Palestinian street to another. We passed by many observation towers manned by armed soldiers that were on Palestinian streets. We were stopped by an Israeli patrol cruiser and asked for identification for no reason. And we visited a family that lives right by a settlement that is not allowed to pick the grapes in their garden because it's too close to the settlement. This family always leaves one adult at home at all times in fear that, if left unoccupied, the settlers will come in and take possession of their house. This family has also experienced the Israeli soldiers forcing their way into their home, putting everyone into one room and then watching a soccer game for a few hours before leaving. It goes on and on and on. Everyone has a story. And, while stories start to become just another story for the listener, the reality of living the stories is overwhelming. We don't know how the Palestinians stand it. But what choice do they have.
We ended the tour looking for and finding some ice cream. It's so soothing. Then dinner- a chicken, vegetable, rice upside down dish that was delicious. Then off to bed in exhaustion.