Terrorists Among The Apples
Art Gish, Hebron, West Bank
Woman stands in midst of rubble of her home with Israeli settlement in background.
January 30, 2003 - All of Hebron was under total curfew today. I could sense something was wrong. As I walked up the street I soon realized there was trouble at Al Manara. I was horrified at what I saw. There were two tanks and two bulldozers leveling the produce market which extended over two blocks. Produce lay scattered and smashed everywhere, here in this city where many are hungry. Shop owners were scrambling to save boxes of tomatoes, oranges, bananas, and more.
My first response was to just stand there, weeping and sobbing. The scene was so horrifying, so disgusting, so depraved. I could not emotionally bear it. I felt completely helpless.
The produce market was at Al Manara because the Israeli military closed the former produce market in response to the massacre of Muslims in the Ibrihimi Mosque in 1994. In every peace accord since then, Israel has promised to reopen the market. It has never been reopened. Israeli settlers now live in that building.
Tank overlooking Hebron
I continued to feel helpless, but I also felt I had to do something. I started carrying boxes of produce out of the way of the bulldozers. I saved maybe 12 crates of produce from being crushed.
I began confronting soldiers. In a loud voice, I asked them if they were proud of what they were doing, if this is peace, if this is what they want Israel to become. I shouted, "Baruch hashem Adonai" (Blessed be the name of the Lord).
The soldiers tried their best to ignore me, but I am sure they heard me. I ignored their commands for me to leave. One soldier spit at me, so I walked right up to him and invited him to spit on me. He declined the offer.
Three soldiers aimed their guns at and moved toward a group of Palestinian bystanders. It looked to me like they were going to shoot. I quickly jumped in front of the soldiers, raised my hands in the air and shouted, "Shoot me, shoot me, go ahead and shoot me." The soldiers immediately left.
A tank came roaring toward me, its big gun barrel aimed at me. I raised my hands in the air in prayer, and shouted, "Shoot, shoot, Baruch hashem adonai." The tank stopped within inches of me.
I then knelt in the street in prayer, with my hands raised. I felt alone, weak, helpless. I could only cry out to God.
Later this afternoon I went back to Al Manara and watched shop owners dig through the huge piles of rubble, trying to salvage what they could. What could I say?
The Israeli military had put all of Hebron under total curfew today, saying they were looking for terrorists. Now I wonder if there really were terrorists hidden among the apples and oranges. Or, are the Israeli soldiers committing acts of terrorism against the civilian population of Hebron?
I fear for what may come next.
An occupied building in Hebron
Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical initiative to support violence reduction efforts around the world. To learn more about CPT's peacemaking work, please visit our website at http://www.cpt.org.