Holy Land reflection: a historic day not sexy enough for the press

 Sarah is a member of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron I feel today was a historic day in the South Hebron Hills. As the world follows the sensationalized stories of violence and division between Hamas and Fatah, Palestinians in this rural part of the West Bank are uniting to non-violently exert their right to live and work on their lands. Palestinians from many villages in the area, along with a few Israelis, CPT and other internationals, gathered in solidarity with the village of Susiya, which is under threat of demolition pending a decision by the Israeli Civil Administration. Young and old, women and men, all of them have stories of the horrible affects of the Israeli occupation on daily life and their efforts to stay on their lands. Today, I saw those stories converge into energy for unified action. As we took shade under a tent in the late morning, one of the Palestinians spoke to the gathered group about what has been happening in Susiya over the last 20 years: confiscation of land by the Israeli army for Israeli settlements and army bases, house demolitions, violent attacks on Palestinians and their livestock by Israeli settlers, the lack of response from the Israeli police to such attacks, etc. He stressed that Susiya is an example of what is happening everywhere in the South Hebron Hills; the story of Susiya is everyone's story. It is only by uniting together with a common strategy that real change will take place. Following this speech, we ventured out into the hot sun to take a walking tour of the village. We visited actual sites of attacks and house demolitions as Susiya residents recounted their stories. Eventually, a group of Israeli army jeeps and soldiers joined our entourage. They were confused as to our purpose in walking around, but did not stop us. Israeli army units in the area change frequently; I wondered if any of them knew the history of the village and hoped they were listening to what the residents said. They followed us to a road which the Israeli army closed to Palestinian use. We stopped about 30 metres short of the barrier, which is the farthest any Palestinian has ventured on that road since its closure over five years ago. The group then returned to the tent for lunch. What I learned from today is stories are powerful. Though today's gathering and tour was a small beginning for unified Palestinian action in the area, it is laying the path for common stories and action in the future. This may not be sexy enough for the press to cover, but I believe it is the stuff people and governments around the world need to hear. I thank God for the chance to share their stories, and I pray for the day when Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills will not feel a need for the presence of CPT and other internationals as they go about daily life. Photos from the Susiya tour action are available at the Tuwani photo gallery www.cpt.org/gallery/album205. Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical initiative to support violence reduction efforts around the world. To learn more about CPT's peacemaking work, visit our website www.cpt.org.

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