Monday, July 28, 2008

Drops of Water

Everyone the CPT delegation has met over the last few days seems to agree that the situation for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is getting worse. The frustration is palpable, and it’s seen on people’s faces and heard in their comments. “Don’t even think about that,” said our host in Bethany, Issa, when one of our team asked what he thought about the prospects for peace. We hear again and again the stories of broken promises and vanishing optimism. The settlement activity that exploded during the “peace process” has not slowed down since the Annapolis conference; construction of the wall continues; the military closes roads, arrests people and raids houses at will.

The suffering is extreme and ubiquitous. Friday we met Saleem in East Jerusalem, whose house has been demolished four times. After one of the demolitions, his 6-year-old son hid for eight hours in a field, and his wife was so traumatized that she didn’t speak for a month. Saturday we talked to Ahmed in the Arroub Refugee Camp, who has spent 10 years in prison, beginning when he was 16. We also met with a family in Beit Ummar with five demolition orders on their house and the mayor of Beit Ummar who spent 11 months in jail, where he was sometimes handcuffed to a chair for 15 hours at a time.

No one we have talked to is expecting a miracle. Rather they are quick to challenge our naivete if we act shocked by Israel’s actions or look for hope in the legal system or negotiations. Incursions, roadblocks, imprisonment without charge and home demolitions have become normal, and the Palestinians are prepared for them to continue.

But in the people we’ve met so far, this resignation hasn’t led to nihilism or defeat. We met Saleem at a workcamp sponsored by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions where he was leading a group of internationals and Palestinians in the rebuilding of two demolished homes. Ahmed raises money to help the people in his refugee camp. Recently they built a playground and swimming pool, and he also helps raise money to send youth from the camp to college. The mayor of Beit Ummar hopes for a time when relations in Palestine will be governed by human rights and equality. “I hate [the Israelis’] behavior,” he told us, “not their soul.”

There is wisdom in these people, born, I think, partly from decades of suffering and being forced to face questions of justice and injustice, life and death. They do not hope for peace and justice to fall down on them like rain in the desert, but they do continue the struggle for their existence. “It is like a soft drop of water that falls on a hard surface,” said the mayor. “If it falls continuously on the same place, eventually it will leave a mark.”

1 comment:

Phil said...

Em.

I think this is your best post yet. Those quotes are magnificent. I think you've really expressed the incredibly important primary distinction between action and identity perfectly. You are really doing a good thing here!

Good luck for the rest of your time there! I'll keep reading! Take Care x