This will just be a short post tonight because I am in Bethlehem without my computer. But I want to tell you this story.
We met a Palestinian farmer today on the outskirts of Bethlehem. After days of torrential rain, the sun was shining, so we sat on his porch, shaded by grapevines, drinking coffee and looking out onto the valley below.
He is 67 years old and his family has been on that land for seven generations. They originally owned about 2000 dunams (about 2 square kilometres). In 1948, all but 300 dunams were confiscated. Gradually, after 10 dunams were take. to build a military road here, 30 dunams for settlement expansion there, and he now is left with little more than the land his house sits on.
A military road runs below his house, cutting through what used to be his property. On the other side of it are his family’s graves. When he asked permission of the military (because land confiscation in Area C of the West Bank — the land under Israeli control –is a military matter), they insisted on doing tests to ensure there were actually human remains in the graves.
After months of legal investigation and delays, they finally built him a tunnel under the road so he can visit the burial site of his family.
There was no need for his land to be taken. No need for a settlement to be built nearby. No need for a military road to divide his property. The official reason is ‘security’. A lot is done in the name of security here.
We all listened humbled and shaken as he told us he no longer trusts the world. ‘Your country, America, Europe, you are all complicit,’ he said. ‘You all stand by while we suffer. You do nothing.’
His voice gained passion as he continued, ‘I want peace. I do not want violence. But when soldiers destroy your house, kill your brother, beat your mother, you can see that suicide bombers make sense. To live like this, to die, it is all the same.’
Later he said, ‘Israel is the spoiled child of America and Europe. She is stabbing us in the belly. She is crucifying us. Jesus was crucified here and now we are too.’
Eve if I spoke Arabic, I would not have had words to respond to him. Most of us walked back to the bus in silence.
We then drove down the road where the three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in June.
On our way to the Tent of Nations, we came across a flying checkpoint on the road we needed to use. Our bus got through without a problem, but the members of our group in the car behind were stopped. When the soldiers realised where we were headed, all of a sudden the village we were traveling to was ‘closed’, and we had to find another way to our destination.
We were 45 minutes late as a result.
There is so much to be said about the effect of such arbitrary decisions and cruel displays of power. It is dehumanising, demoralising and distressing to watch. All of it — the land grab, the checkpoints, the settlement and security roads that separate village from village, the wall, the confusing laws and division of territories, and so much more — all of it is designed to humiliate and intimidate.
I am not sure I could seek peace with the patience of the people we have been meeting. I’m not sure I could trust that one day justice will be done. I’m not sure I could endure without the frustration and anger boiling over.
I’m not sure I could face a single day here without asking, ‘God, where are you?’