Saturday, July 19, 2008

Summer Days in the South Hebron Hills

Reprinted with Permission from Christian Peacemaker Teams

Summer Days in the South Hebron Hills

by Jessica Frederick

What are summer days like here in the South Hebron Hills? It depends.

On a good day, we sit with Palestinian shepherds as they nonviolently resist Israeli settlers, who have tried to violently seize land. The Palestinians graze sheep on lands where Israeli settlers have attacked, stoned, shot at, and threatened Palestinian shepherds. We sit, listen to the shepherds tell us stories of life on the land before the Israeli occupation. We laugh together, and the shepherds teach us how to flick tiny pebbles between our two index fingers.

On a bad day, the Israeli military builds a roadblock on the main road to Yatta, the nearest city in the area – a crucial road for medical services, education, and water aid in a year of severe drought.

On a good day, the Palestinian villagers work together to remove the roadblock.

On a bad day, Israeli settlers, sometimes masked, come to land where Palestinian shepherds are grazing, and they throw stones, or attack and hospitalize, the shepherds.

On a good day, we join Palestinian children as they graze their sheep – and then the children climb up fig trees and throw to us their delicious fruit. We join their family for a fabulous lunch of bread, eggs, and olive oil, followed by juicy slices of watermelon. And we laugh and joke and have lessons in Arabic, English, and Italian.

On a bad day, the Israeli military issues demolition orders on five homes in the area, and the village cistern in At-Tuwani.

On a good day, we sit and talk late into the night with our Palestinian friends, laughing with the funniest women in At-Tuwani, and listening to ways in which the village is organizing its nonviolent resistance.

These days blur together – they are often sweet and bitter simultaneously. Yet, on good days – I renew my belief that children and stories, love and watermelon, courage and nonviolence, will eventually triumph over military and propaganda, hate and weapons, cowardice and violence. On good days, I am amazed and inspired by the strength and devotion to nonviolent resistance of the Palestinian villagers here in the South Hebron Hills.

And, on good days, I know that, no matter what happens, the Palestinian people are more powerful than the Israeli occupation.

And these good days are every day.

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