Letter from Hebron: Learning to hate

 Christian peace worker Sara Reschly sent this report to the Amos Trust: During my first two weeks in Hebron, I came across several disturbing incidents of children speaking hatefully and acting violently. On Thursday evening, as I was walking down the street with another peace worker and a Palestinian woman, a settler boy about 12 years old rode his bike past us and swore at us. On Monday afternoon, I visited a Palestinian family whose home has been demolished three times by the Israeli military. An Israeli television station was there making a documentary. While the camera was rolling, I overheard the following conversation between two sisters: "Do you love Mommy?" asked Wilaa, the 16-year-old. "Yes," answered Wa'ad, aged three. "Do you love Daddy?" "Yes." "Do you love the Jews?" "Yes." "No. No," corrected Wilaa. "The Jews hit mummy and demolished the home. Who hit mummy?" "The Jews," answered Wa'ad. Wilaa smiled and gave her younger sister a kiss and asked again, "Do you love the Jews?" "No," answered Wa'ad. With that, she jumped off Wilaa's lap and ran to play on a make-shift swing hanging from one of the bare beams that once held up the tent the family lived in for months after their home was demolished. Wednesday evening, on night patrol, two Palestinian children who were playing on a balcony that overlooks the road attempted to spit on another person and me. The five- and six-year-old children did not seem old enough to know why they were spitting. On Sunday afternoon, as I was walking down the street next to our house, I witnessed settler children harassing a Palestinian woman. When a TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron) car stopped to document the incident, four settler children, aged about 10, surrounded the car and tried to break off a windshield wiper. I walked over to the soldiers and said: "These children are causing a lot of trouble." The soldier said he knew and that he had tried to get them to go away, but the children just mocked him. "Can't you get their parents or something?" I asked. Another person said: "The parents send their children out to do this. They are part of the problem." Sometimes, it is difficult to be optimistic that one day there will be reconciliation, especially if "the children are our future". And yet, at times there are glimpses of an alternative. What gives me hope are the Palestinian children who mistake us for settlers and still smile, wave and say "shalom". Or parents who, in spite of the fact that their houses have been demolished, continue to invite Israeli Jews into their homes. When the lessons of the occupation can so easily lead children to hatred and mistrust, small signs of humanity are all the more important. Perhaps these are the 'mustard seeds' of reconciliation and peace.

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