The righteous cry, and the Lord hears them and delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and will save those whose spirits are crushed. (Ps 34)
This post must be short tonight. We are back in Jerusalem now, but tomorrow, we will mark the start of Advent by going through the Bethlehem checkpoint with Palestinians on their way to work in Israel. We will leave here at 4.30am.
We spent this morning at a Bedouin village in the South Hebron hills. I have never seen scenery so beautiful and peaceful. Nor have I ever seen a landscape so marred by ugliness and fear.
Later in the morning, we sat out under a cedar tree on a hill overlooking the valley. Children played in the village below and their laughter danced up to where we were sitting. Colourful laundry was hanging out to dry in the cool breeze. Everywhere we looked below, we could see signs of life and joy.
We walked a few hundred yards further up the hill to see a settlement. All around was a chainlink fence topped with barbed wire. The windows of the houses were dark. There were no people around. There was nothing but a fearful silence shrouding the houses there.
It would not be too far wrong to say that that sums up the horror of the situation here. So many people we speak with not only want the occupation to end in order to liberate the Palestinians, but they also want to free the Israelis from a life of constant fear. It is no way for anyone to live and it is stifling the life out of this beautiful place. We went to Hebron in the afternoon, and that deserves a blogpost of its own. I can’t articulate what I saw there except to say that it was truly f*cked up beyond all imagination. I have no better words to describe it. Each time I think I’ve seen all the horror human beings can inflict upon one another, I witness something else that makes my blood run cold.
Anyway, here are a few pictures and a wee story from the Bedouin village this morning.
The village is right next door to a settlement. Or rather, the settlement is right next door to the village, and the land of the village — in Area C (land in the West Bank under Israeli civil and military control) — has been declared State land. Demolition order after demolition order has been served, and houses and tents have been destroyed over and over and over. An outdoor oven on which they bake bread was even smashed because one of the settlers claimed the smoke was affecting his children’s health.
One young man spent two years building a house so that he could have a place to live with his wife when they got married. They now have a four month old little girl. The new family had one month of peace before their house was demolished. He now lives in the same house as his parents, in a room with his father and brothers. His wife lives in another part of the house with his mother and their baby.
‘We as Muslims believe it is not right to have relations with a woman until we are married,’ he told us. ‘I worked hard to build a house for the woman I love, for our children. I want us to be happy. We had one month of happiness and now we have nothing. I have not had relations with my wife in over a month because we now live separately with my parents.’ He smiled coyly, ‘It is like being single all over again!’
We all laughed at his look of mock desperation. But underneath, the desperation was real. At the same time, however, I have never met a people with such patience, resilience and determination. They put up with so much violence and abuse and yet they refuse to allow their spirits to be crushed.