Friday, April 17, 2009

A story from Arthur Gish, A member of the Christian Peace Maker Team (CPT) in Hebron

Hebron Journal: December 16, 1995, Saturday (Arthur's first day in Hebron)

After spending the night in Jerusalem, I got a taxi to
Hebron this morning. It was exciting to see the beautiful
countryside, to drive through Bethlehem. Soon I was at the
municipal building in Hebron. Ahlam Muhtasib, the public
relations person for the Palestinian mayor and CPT's contact
in city hall, invited me into her office. Soon Cliff Kindy (a
50-year-old organic farmer from Indiana) and Anne
Montgomery (a 70-year-old Catholic nun), both members of
the CPT team here, arrived and we walked to our apartment
in the old city.

The old city is in a valley surrounded by hills and ancient
stone houses. Our apartment is on the second floor of a
building at the edge of the old market, in a small street that
used to be the glassmakers' street. Now it is known as chicken
market. Each day the competing squawks of the chickens,
turkeys, ducks, geese, and other creatures fill the air.

Our apartment is two doors from the corner of Shuhada
Street, which used to be the main street through Hebron, but
is now closed to Palestinian vehicles. Walk half a block up
Shuhada Street and you come to a military encampment in
what used to be the Palestinian central bus station. Go one
more block up the street and you come to the Beit Hadassah
settlement. Go two blocks up a steep hill to the left and you
find the Tel Rumeida settlement. There is a Yeshiva school
(Beit Romano) just below the military encampment. Go the
other way on Shuhada Street about three blocks and you
come to the Ibrahimi Mosque/Synagogue, also known as the Tomb of de Patriarchs.
Between our apartment and the mosque/synagogue is the Avraham Avinu settlement. There are military checkpoints in each direction. It
feels like weare in the middle of the action.

Today was Saturday, the biggest day of the week for our
team. Lots of settlers from all over the West Bank come to
Hebron each Sabbath weekend to support the Hebron settlers.
Many acts of violence have happened on Saturdays,
due to the interaction of settlers, soldiers, and Palestinians on
the street. Anne, Cliff, and I spent the day walking up and
down the street. The most disturbing thing I saw was settlers
Walking back and forth with their automatic weapons.

Right away I began to learn CPT tactics from Cliff. We
Were in the park near the mosque/synagogue when two soldiers
ran across the park, pretending to be attacking some
one with their weapons. Soon another group of soldiers did
the same thing. Cliff walked right up to them and talked with
them about how dangerous it is to act that way in a tense situation where their actions could be interpreted as an attack.
He talked to them about the need to be sensitive. I was
impressed with his courage and gentleness. It had never
occurred to me that one could actually confront soldiers
about their actions.

Later I saw four Palestinian men standing up against a
Wall. We learned that two soldiers had taken away their
identity passes and made them stand there for four hours
because they had opened their shop during curfew. The market is closed as a collective punishment because two days ago
a Palestinian was shot in front of the mosque/synagogue and
left for two hours to bleed to death. He is reported to have
stabbed a settler after being harassed by settlers.
We approached the two soldiers and asked them about
What was happening. They didn't want to talk with us, or
give us their names. Cliff told them his name and said that
since he wasn’t ashamed of what he was doing, he wasn't
afraid to give his name. We went to the police station and
made a complaint about this incident. The policeman said he
would contact the commanding officer.

This evening we visited the Abu Haikel family. The family
has been harassed for years by the settlers in the neighboring
Tel Rumeida settlement, because the settlers want the
Abu Haikelland which adjoins the Tel Rumeida settlement.
Settlers have attacked the Abu Haikels and damaged their
property. We have been accompanying their young daughter
past the settlement when she comes home from school,
because she has been threatened by the settlers.
Last summer soldiers detained two CPT members for ten
hours after accompanying a water truck up to the Abu
Haikel home. The family had been without water and the
settlers were preventing water trucks from passing the settlement.
Because two North Americans were involved, this incident
received international attention and raised awareness
about the water problem in Hebron, where settlers enjoy
well-watered lawns even as Palestinians lack water for basic
needs. Prime Minister Rabin even sent a fact-finding group
to evaluate the water problem in Hebron. The publicity also
helped ease the pressure on the Abu Haikel family.

On the way home we were stopped by six soldiers who
wanted to see our passports. They told us they heard we had
created a lot of trouble this afternoon. We had a good talk
with them about what we are doing in Hebron.

To learn more about Hebron:
Read information about Hebron from Btselem
Read Btselem's publication entitled, "Ghost Town"

To learn more about CPT work in Hebron:
Visit the CPT Hebron site

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