Four members of the Christian peacemaker team in Hebron were turned away by Israeli soldiers yesterday when they accompanied a group of Palestinians in a symbolic tree-planting ceremony in a demolished orchard. Worshippers' Way in Hebron was the scene of an ambush in November 2002, at which twelve Israeli soldiers and security guards, and three Palestinian gunmen, were killed. Straight after the ambush the Israeli military bulldozed the Palestinian orchards on both sides of Worshippers' Way (Wadi Nasara), and angry Israeli settlers smashed the windows of every house in the neighbourhood. Since 1976 Palestinians have observed Land Day on 30 March to remember six Palestinians killed in the Galilee during a protest against land confiscation by the Israelis. This year, to commemorate the anniversary, 75 Hebron Palestinians set out to plant olive saplings on the site of the demolished orchards along Worshippers' Way. David Corcoran, David Jansen, John Lynes and Paul Rehm from the Hebron CPT team joined them. Shortly after the planting commenced 25 Israeli soldiers and 12 police came on the scene, declaring the area a "closed military zone" and giving the Palestinians notice that they would be arrested in ten minutes if they did not leave. Two CPTers, David Corcoran and John Lynes, refused to move. The Palestinians retrieved their remaining unplanted saplings and retreated slowly. Once they had left, Corcoran and Lynes followed them. Palestinians expressed warm gratitude for the CPT presence, which showed solidarity and helped to prevent any violence. CPTers felt privileged to have taken part in this symbolic commemoration. Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical initiative to support violence reduction efforts around the world. For more information visit www.cpt.org.
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