Anne Lamott, in “Bird by Bird: Some instructions on writing and life” writes: ‘Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up.”
We have seen a lot of darkness during our time here in Palestine. The Occupation is a darkness that deliberately attempts to drain and squeeze the very life out of the Palestinian people. But they are a resilient people. The way they live their lives models resilience and models non violent resistance to the oppression they face. They know that when all around you is darkness, it is important to find that ray of light in the night sky that will lead us to the morning. They know the way of living in hope.
Let me introduce you to some of the many people I have met here in Palestine -people who have taught me important lessons about hope. Some of them are Palestinians, some are Israeli, some are from other lands. They are all people who live their lives making a difference. They are people who do not give up. They are people who live in hope, who live the message of hope.
The people who are working on the new bathrooms at the Imneizil School. There is a stop work order on this project, but construction continues. Why? They need the bathrooms.
Hanna Barag is a 76 year old grandmother living in Jerusalem. She has, for the past 11 years, volunteered her time working long hours day and night with Machsom Watch (http://www.machsomwatch.org/en). This group was established in 2001 by Israeli women peace activists. They oppose the Occupation and denial of the Palestinians’ right to free movement in their land. They conduct daily observations at IDF checkpoints throughout the West Bank and publish them on the Machsom Watch web site. They also send their observations to public officials to influence Israeli and international public opinion to end the Occupation – an occupation that they believe is destructive to both the Israeli and the Palestinian societies. As well, they work diligently to assist individual Palestinians at checkpoints.
Both Mousa and Sulaiman teach at the Dkaika school, a grade 1-6 school of 45 students in the desert community of Dkaika. There are demolition orders on over 70 structures in the community, including 2/3 of the school. Both men aspire towards the goal of excellence in education and despite the stress that the demolition orders have brought to the community, they continue to focus on student learning. Students in this school do not have running water or electricity, but they do have teachers and leaders who care. It was an absolute joy to have the privilege of sitting in Sulaiman’s classroom in this remote village and hear his students speak English with remarkable comprehension and pronounciation!
Diana and Hamed work from the UN offices in Hebron. Both work long hours and are here for the long haul, 365 days of the year. Their commitment and their dedication to helping those who are suffering is exemplary. When we come across a problem that we need help with, they’re the one’s we call. The last time I saw her, I asked Diana what we, as EA’s returning to our home countries, can do to help. Her answer was clear. “The occupation must end. You can spread the word of what is happening here to everyone you see, to people you are in contact with. This cannot go on.” I promised her that I will do my best.
YY is a young woman who has asked that neither her name nor her picture be used. She lives in a tent in a remote village in the South Hebron Hills, living a simple but hard working rural lifestyle that involves herding sheep, making cheese and bread, growing what food they can, and caring for family. Well educated, she is a leader in her community, a woman of courage and vision who is sure of her values and somehow finds a way to blend traditional ways with modern life.
Alicia and Marthie are very good friends. They reside in distant parts of South African. Both are old enough to remember living through the time of Apartheid in South Africa. Watching them walk arm in arm down a street in Haifa, Israel, simply enjoying their time together and the gift of friendship that they share, left me with a real sense of hope for the people of Palestine. If South Africa can overcome Apartheid, Palestine and Israel will one day overcome this Occupation.
Ta’ayush (http://www.taayush.org/?page_id=49) is a ” grassroots movement of Arabs and Jews working to break down the walls of racism and segregation by constructing a true Arab-Jewish partnership. ” Every weekend throughout the year, groups of Ta’ayush volunteers drive out from Jerusalem to provide a “human shield” to the people of the South Hebron Hills. They provide protective presence and assist with a variety of projects in the villages. It takes immense courage to live with conscience, especially when living with conscience calls you, as an Israeli, to actively support the rights of your Palestinian neighbours.
Eid and his family live in the Bedouin village of Um al Kher. On our first visit to their village in September, Eid spoke to us passionately about the need for peace between Israel and Palestine and of his hope, his desire and his belief that it should happen nonviolently. Over our time here, he has continued to stand clearly for those values, despite difficult circumstances and Israeli provocation. He and his family stand as strong advocates for the Palestinian people, the villager’s way of life and the principles of nonviolence.
The people of Um Fagarah. Thursday, November 24, the Israeli army demolition crew arrived in their village and demolished a number of buildings, including the community mosque. The next day was Friday, the Muslim holy day, and on that day people from neigbouring villages came to pray with them. Construction on a new mosque began later that day, only one day after the demolition. The Israeli’s arrived the next week with a stop work order on the mosque. Construction continues.
Abed is our EAPPI South Hebron Hills team driver and translator. He is a young man with a huge heart, a love for rural life and farming, and a deep belief in the rights of the Palestinian people and their need for the Occupation to end. He knows the wisdom of finding joy in the simple things of life and brings happiness and laughter to those around him. Every day’s a good day when it starts with Abed saying “W’Allah, W’Allah, double good morning Hajji!
There are, of course, many others to add to this list of people who bring hope to this troubled land. The list goes on and on and on. But the most important ones are the everyday Palestinians….the people who have lived with the hardships this Occupation has brought upon them for the last 44 years. That’s a long time to get up in the morning with hope in your heart and a smile on your face. But they do it, day after day after day.
They find a way to smile and carry on. They find a way to welcome the visitor with amazing hospitality. They find a way to share a simple glass of tea and to enjoy good conversation with friends and family. They live life in spite of the Occupation. And they live in hope that one day the Occupation will end.
One day, the sun will shine on a new Palestine and a new Israel and it will be a place of justice, a place of peace and a place of equality for all its citizens.
“Hope is a star that shines in the night,
leading us on till the morning is bright.
When God is a child
there’s joy in our song.
The last shall be first
and the weak shall be strong,
and none shall be afraid.”
Hymn #7, Voices United: The Hymn and Worship Book of the United Church of Canada
Peace, Salaam, Shalom,
We sang that song in church today, Mom. And a lot of people asked how you were doing and knew that you would be home soon.
What a pleasure to hear of some hope and some ways we can help. I was delighted to see both the familiar and the unfamiliar. Human rights activists in Palestine, your teammates and the personal stories. How wonderful to see Eid and Abed. I hope they have a chance to see themselves on this blog. Loving this in Canada.
Dear Jan… what an inspiration these people – those who stand for peace- are to us. It is also very good to hear how the simple act of Alicia and me walking together can remind us all of goodness. Alicia has been so good to me on so many occasions. I remember that evening with all of you (you, Chris, Mpumi, Zodwa, Alicia and me – the northern Americans and the southern Africans) as nurturing.
We’ve been singing that song each week at the beginning of worship. It’s hard to be hopeful at times, but that’s what hope is for. Looking forward to seeing you at home, Jan.
What a powerful blog on hope–especially in our advent time when we live into hope. When I met Hanna Barag, one of the founders of Machsam Watch, I remember her saying to us that her vigils at the checkpoints were not for the sake of the Palestinians–they were for the sake of her beloved country of Israel. When I asked what she meant, she said that the Israel she knew was a strong, compassionate country deeply committed to human rights and she saw the the treatment of the Palestinians as a betrayal of the very roots of Israel. Your blog also remind me of the words of Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian Lutheran pastor at the Christmas Church in Bethlehem: “I am not optimistic, but I do have hope. Hope is not something we see; hope is something we do.”