Monday, June 30, 2008

T Minus Two Days

I'm two days away from heading back to the West Bank. I'll be spending two months working with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron, south of Jerusalem, documenting and trying to prevent violence and human rights abuses.

I only spent a day in Hebron last summer when I was living in Ramallah and studying Arabic at Birzeit University. That day was the only time I saw it rain in the West Bank. In the morning and early afternoon, while we toured the old city and visited Hebron University, the sun shone, and it was hot and clear as usual. The sky grew cloudy as we drove back to Ramallah, though, and we arrived in a steady drizzle. Ever since, my memories of Hebron have been infused with that evening Ramallah rain. The deserted streets of the old city, the rows of green metal doors welded shut in a now-silent market, the windows veiled with mesh for protection from rocks, the racist slurs and threats written on walls and storefronts. They all seem to belong under a cloudy sky in a lethargic rain, not under the bright sun of a Palestinian summer.

Hebron was the most depressing place I think I've seen. In Hebron, problems that exist throughout the West Bank are magnified by the close proximity of settlers, soldiers and Palestinians. Some of the most extreme Israeli settlers live in and around the city; the kind that throw rocks at Palestinian children and shoot Palestinian livestock. The IDF is deployed in the city to protect the settlers (there are 15 checkpoints in the old city alone), and for the Palestinians, this means severe restrictions on movement and commerce. The result is economic stagnation, poverty, resentment and a tension that is palpable.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll have plenty to say about settlers and soldiers and checkpoints in the coming weeks. For now... I hope you'll follow along this summer as I share my experiences with CPT and reflect on life in this occupied and divided city.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Emily,

Andy here (your mom's friend). Best wishes for a safe time in Hebron. I look forward to your insights regarding the current conflict - both from the Palestinian and Israeli sides, as neither is fully to blame. May there be peace in the Holy Land and, as the hymn says, may it begin with you.