I have only a couple weeks yet to be here in Hebron, West Bank, before I leave for Tiffin again. Until this last month, I thought this rotation was going to be the easiest and least violent I've experienced yet in the neighborhood I live. However, my hopes were dashed as a new Israeli Defense Forces development showed its face.
H2, which includes Hebron Old City, is militarily controlled in Palestinian movement. This means every day, the Israeli soldiers heavily patrol Hebron's Old City streets and its surrounding areas, just "doing their duty." It is not uncommon to see young men, legs spread, hands up against the wall, backs to the soldiers, IDs in the hands of the soldiers.
Recently, however, the soldiers have their eye on younger children - detaining them for extended lengths of time. First, there was our 15-year-old neighbor boy helping his father in his shop. He was using a knife to cut a rope on a package of materials for his father when the soldiers saw him. They grabbed him, blindfolded him and led him off to their military gate at another checkpoint close to a settlement. All the time, the father followed the soldiers, pleading for his son, trying to reason with them why the son needed to use a knife.
Next, a neighbor boy, age 14, was running an errand for his father who asked him to hurry because there was another meeting the father needed to attend. Unfortunately, this boy was wearing a coat similar to a child whom the soldiers said had thrown a stone at them. Six soldiers apprehended him. Even before the soldiers had released him, four more soldiers led 10-year-old Mohammed and his 8-year-old brother behind the gate, also. The soldiers insisted they, too, were throwing stones. At this point, I stepped up to the gate on the Palestinian side to take a picture of the action through the cracks of the gate. One of the soldiers from the other side either forcefully threw a stone or roughly kicked the gate close to my ear. I jumped back, alarmed.
After one hour, the father of the two small brothers arrived from his work, punished his boys in front of the soldiers, then led them home, his strong hands squeezing the neck of the smallest boy. The Christian Peacemaker Team member looked at the soldiers responsible and said, "Are you happy now?" As one soldier put his arm around a fellow soldier, he responded: "Yes, I am happy now." A Palestinian bystander said, "See, if they can't punish the father, they will get the children, harass them until the family finally moves away."
Living under an occupation affects almost every aspect of a Palestinian's life. The soldiers are everywhere, and many times I meet soldiers trying, it seems, to sort through what the truth of the situation is. I feel compassion for these men who are given orders and frequently haven't the experience to think on a different track. I raise questions, hoping they'll take time to consider some challenging impacts their actions have on the lives of the Palestinians.
As American representatives to Palestine/Israel juggle the balls, looking for a solution to this conflict, I ask the reader to again e-mail President Barack Obama and your Congress members, telling them what you know, telling them, too, that peace cannot possibly come to this region without justice toward the Palestinians.
Sister Paulette Schroeder of St. Francis in Tiffin is a member of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron, Palestine.