Posted by: http://www.newcatholictimes.com/ March 7, 2011
The settlers in Hebron do not have peace as their goal
One of the most enjoyable novels I’ve recently read is Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire. When the main character Iris asks the crone about casting a magic spell on someone, the crone replies, “It’s your job to change yourself.” (p.164)
I reflected on this enjoyable piece of wisdom after one of the settler visiting tours through the Old City of Hebron. On that tour I was astonished that the Israeli soldiers allowed us Christian Peacemakers to engage in conversation with the Israeli settlers. Four young University women circled me. They spoke nondefensively, to my amazement, pleading all of us to understand WHY they had 10 soldiers surrounding them as they made their tour through the Old City. Always referring to the Palestinians as “Arab” I heard nonetheless in their impassioned words a regret that the situation is as it is. They admitted that the “Arabs” paralyze them with fear. They came to Hebron this day because they wanted to see where their ancestors lived before 1929. In that year a huge massacre occurred across the country and 67 of their ancestors were killed here in Hebron alone. Authorities then ordered the Jews to leave the city they love, the city where they are able to visit the tombs of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca. Here they want to live.
I reminded them that the Palestinians risked their lives and saved 400 Jews in Hebron at that time. I reminded them, too, that there is controversy over who really started that massacre. They were hesitant to believe me when I looked directly into their eyes and said that the Palestinians always insist they will be happy to welcome Jews again as neighbors, if only they come in peace. I reflected with them that the settlers here in Hebron do not have peace as their goal. Rather they want all the land now belonging to the Palestinians. Since 1967, they have established 5 settlements in this neighborhood and their activities have caused not only the most thriving Palestinian street in Hebron but also over 800 stores in the neighborhood to close. With all the confiscation of land, the detentions and imprisonments of young men, and the restrictions on travel, Palestinians have NO chance to visit any of the lands and cities of their ancestors.
These personal interviews gave me more understanding how FEAR cripples and kills the creative imagination process within oneself. I saw that many Jewish people here in the settlements of the West Bank grow up with a fear from early childhood learning to see the “Arab” either as a terrorist, as an animal or as a thing. No language barriers or cultures or religion are the main problems.
Like the crone, Rumi the Persian mystic, gave us another nugget of gold: “Whatever you really see, You are that.” We human beings are called not only to look into the real nature of each other in our families and friends, but also into the hearts of the common people of this land: their desires; their wishes, and their yearnings for peace. Our enhanced “seeing” will challenge all of us to change any human barrier within us; then take action toward peacemaking.
Paulette Schroeder is a Franciscan nun from Ohio.Her diocesan paper will not print her articles.