Saturday, July 21, 2012

Protest in Palestine

Pilgrimage Day 4: Women in Black and Sheik Jarrah Protests

The old city of Jerusalem is crawling with soldiers and police this morning. It's the first day of Ramadan, and 10 000 more Palestinian Muslims have crossed the checkpoints into Jerusalem to worship at the ancient mosques. Here and there we hear soldiers yelling at the pilgrims, gripping their rifles tightly as they move the crowds. People who pray are so terrifying...

We wander the narrow stone streets, exploring the souk and checking out the various gates to the old city. The crowds press against us, but the atmosphere is celebratory.

We participate in two protests today. The first is the weekly gathering of the Women in Black. These are Jewish Israeli women who are reaching out in solidarity to the Palestinian women. The protest began after the Intifada or uprising in 1988, when teenagers armed with rocks were brutally assaulted by the Israeli armed forces. The Jewish women saw the suffering of the young and their mothers and stood up to end the occupation which steals the rights, the homes and sometimes the lives of Palestinians. We stand with the women in the heat at a busy round-about in the heart of the Jewish part of the City. A woman comes by yelling at me, then finally spits. Drivers give us the finger and yell obscenities I can't understand. Counter-protesters yell at us from across the street. But I am honored to stand with these courageous women, awed that they would subject themselves to this every week out of compassion and hope for a better world.

The second protest is in a Palestinian neighborhood called Sheik Jarrah, where Palestinians are being evicted to make room for Jewish families. The houses had been abandoned in 1948 by Jewish owners and authorities had allowed Palestinians displaced from their own homes by Zionists to move in. Now they are being told to leave. The Palestinians would be happy to leave if they too could be given their ancestral homes back, but this is not on offer. They will be given no compensation, and no access to the lands stolen from them. In this community we are roundly supported by the Palestinian locals who honk and give us a thumbs up, or even join us. The day is long, full of emotion, and I struggle to find sleep in the night, wondering how the people who live in these situations ever find rest. I pray for them,think of the struggles Jesus faced, and slip into sleep.

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