There and Back again: Reflections on my first stint with CPT
My last night ‘on team’ was spent in the village of Jinba, a village in Firing Zone 918, which I have visited many times. I stayed with the family I have stayed with many times and have become a friend to despite not speaking the same language. I played games with the kids. (Old Camp Friedenswald games I had taught them in the previous weeks.) I attempted to chat with the ‘man of the house’. We have gotten pretty good at figuring out what each other is saying.
But there was something different about this trip. As we surveyed the horizon there was something new. The abandoned army base, south of the village was no longer abandoned. There were flags, soldiers, military vehicles, and tanks, but the most disturbing thing was a military bulldozer. See, this family’s home had been demolished before by one of these bulldozers, so the sight of a bulldozer in the area was unnerving. Even though the Israeli courts granted the villages an extension on submitting petitions, an act which should delay any demolitions, there is always the possibility of dissonance between the ruling of the courts and the facts on the ground in the firing zone.
Throughout the day the military did trainings. We heard helicopters and fighter jets flying over head, bombs going off, rockets being launched, and live fire. Although we knew this was not aimed at anyone, we knew it didn’t make it safe. A few years ago, the oldest boy was nearly killed when his horse stumbled upon an unexploded rocket outside their village.
Still the scariest sound was when, at dusk, the bulldozer fired up its engine and headed on the path toward the village. Everyone held their collective breath as the bulldozer passed and we collectively gave a sigh of relief when it continued down the path that led back into Israel.
The rockets and gunfire lasted late into the night. This included a military helicopter touching down in a field outside our room before taking off immediately and going to awaken the next village. By midnight though, we saw no lights at the base, and the next morning the base was empty again.
So on that note I returned to Hebron Thursday morning. This was the first Thursday I did not return to the sight of riots in the streets. Two weeks ago there was a fight between a Palestinian policeman and an Israeli soldier. In response boys threw stones. In response soldiers shot tear gas. Last week the situation was even more dire. On Wednesday a 17 year old Palestinian was shot and killed by the Israeli army Border Police at a checkpoint near our house. I was away in the Firing Zone when this happened, and the details are sketchy. All we know for sure is that a Border policewoman shot and killed the Palestinian boy. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) confiscated 4 cameras from the scene and beat up at least one cameraman. The IDF ransacked the boy’s room after the incident. The Soldier who did the shooting was commended for her actions. What set off the incident is controversial. The IDF originally said the boy had a toy gun. Later they released a grainy video of the boy fighting with a soldier, and getting shot (no gun can be seen). Regardless, a boy is dead. It was a tragic occurrence, and it led to three days of riots last week. But this week I returned to relative calm.
After doing some last minute shopping, saying goodbye to some friends, and finishing packing I headed to Bethlehem to spend the night with my cousins before crossing to Jordan for Christmas (them to be with family, me to catch a plane to the States). Bethlehem has been an important city for me in my time here. I spent nearly every day off there. I am so fortunate to have family so hospitable as my cousins to give me a place to relax and unwind from the stresses of Hebron. My last sights of Bethlehem were beautiful. The whole city is decorated for Christmas. There is a huge tree up in Manger Square and Christmas lights strung across every street. It was a great transition point between Hebron, where Christmas is not celebrated, and the US where it’s over-celebrated.
With my first stint ending, I reflect back on my time with CPT so far and I am filled with gratitude.
Although it is demanding, and at times heartbreaking, I have a wonderful job. I can’t imagine wanting to do a job more than I want to do this one right now. I get to stand with people as they fight oppression. I get to live in a way that promotes justice. I get to meet and work with some amazing individuals and organizations. In the next few weeks I get to share about these struggles with all of you (hopefully).
Further, it’s odd to do work that so many people appreciate. I get thanked for my work daily, I have people praying for my work daily. The encouragement is overwhelming (and undeserved, thank you all for that gift).
I am thankful to CPT for giving me the opportunity to take part in their work. I hope that you will consider donating to CPT. While CPT stretches every dollar as far as they can this work still costs money. If your not sure about giving, I made a flow chart to help you think about it. (click donate to donate)
Pray for the people living in the Firing Zone, that they are able to live in peace.
Pray that I get rest while at home, and am able to return to the work even more vigorously than before.
Pray that I am able to relay the story of the Palestinians (probably the most important part of my work)
Pray that CPT is able to raise the funds it needs to continue, or even expand our work.
Pray for peace.