I guess a person gets used to anything. "Normal" is a relative term describing a situation which is happy or sad. However, when a familiar tragedy strikes oneself or one's family personally, the sadness, the anger, the hopelessness all more easily enter a person's soul.
Such is a "normal" day in the lives of our neighborhood friends who live in H2 under Israeli martial law.
It's been a long 40-plus years now that the Israeli occupation has ruled a huge section of the West Bank. It's been a human-degrading 15 years for all the Palestinians in my neighborhood since martial law has ruled them.
Martial law in H2 governs thousands of people's lives in almost every aspect of their lives: travel and movement to their families, to schools, to health services, to sources of income to their farms or to their stores.
My friend Fatima did live in a small outlying village, but due to lack of money, she needed to move to H2, Hebron, where she could work in a small shop owned by her sister. Fatima's seven children now are all teens, and one daughter is married. The two sons, though certainly bright enough, have quit high school. The reality of finding a good job after schooling is almost nonexistent, they reason.
There is no mandatory schooling for Palestinian children. Consequently, the children roam the streets, smoke or help their family in their store. Two times in the recent past, the military snatched two of these working young men, handcuffed them, led them behind the gate leading to one of the Israeli settlements. One of these boys had a cutting knife, helping his father unpack boxes of store goods. The other boy was sent by his father on an errand, but his coat looked like a policeman's coat; so he was taken and questioned for some hours along with his father who was trying to reason with the soldiers.
Fatima, like many shopkeepers, opens her shop each morning very early, hoping some tourists will pass by that day and buy a dress or an embroidered pillow case or small purse or shawl. She and her sister have plenty of women who want to embroider for them, thus earning a small amount of money, but Fatima barely makes enough money for her own family. Her husband is not able to work, so the family depends entirely on her income.
She and internationals constantly assure visitors there need be no fear for them to enter the Old City, even though Western media rarely show a Palestinian in any other light than as a "terrorist." The visitors see guns and soldiers throughout H2, but they soon learn only Palestinians are the target of these M-16s.
Fatima, like most parents, tries to live through the day as "normally" as possible, with a good sense of humor about all the insanities around her. Already, one of her two sons has been accused of throwing a stone at a soldier and thus, despite all his insistence he did not throw the stone, he served 2 months in a prison. Like many other families in our neighborhood who have borrowed and paid thousands of shekels for the release of their sons, this boy's family had to pay 1,200 shekels on his release. It seems Israel actually thrives as a business on "stone throwing" accusations of young men.
The day isn't over when it's technically over for these people. Parents with teenage sons in our neighborhood rarely sleep soundly. Like a mother with a newborn baby, they worry the night will bring soldiers breaking into their house, awakening everyone, locking all the family into one room and then snatching their teenage son off with them to a jail and finally to a prison.
A Christian Peacemaker Team member's friend in first year university tells such a story. He, like others we know, served six months in prison with no official charge against him. I ask myself often: "How can the spirit, the soul of this people survive? How can anyone, any country not hear their cries for compassion and justice?"
Sister Paulette Schroeder of St. Francis in Tiffin is a member of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron, Palestine. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.