It’s the children of Palestine I think about the most!
In the summer of 2015 I spent two months in Susiya, a small village in the South Hebron Hills of Palestine on a UN assignment. The homes of Susiya were once again being threatened with demolition by the Israeli government. The people of Susiya had twice been forced out of their village in recent years. This time they were determined to stand their ground!
Our assignment was to provide a protective presence for the village and advocate for changes in policy. If there was a demolition, there would be witnesses.
School was out for the summer, so children played and did their daily chores. Hamoudi, a ten year old boy, was one of many children I came to know well. He’s a curious, gregarious boy with a contagious smile.
One memory Hamoudi’s family shared with me was that, at five years old, he overheard adults making plans for a possible sudden evacuation. After that, Hamoudi would always wear his little sandals to bed, prepared for any eventuality.
While I was there in 2015, Israeli soldiers drove into the village. It’s never a good sign when soldiers pay a visit. Hamoudi set his jaw, squared his shoulders, and put his chest forward as he strode toward them. He was oblivious as I warned him to come back! He verbally accosted the soldiers (as did his grandmother and others). I knew the dangers involved—the possibility of being detained, held, and tortured. I considered him a boy, but in Palestine, children are rushed into adulthood.
Hamoudi continues to face the possibility of having his home demolished. He has seen the adults in his village abused, humiliated, and jailed. He has heard the stories of expulsion, theft, and violence with little pretense of justice. He is yet again hearing plans to mitigate a disaster.
I fear for brave Hamoudi!
The World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel (September 18-24, 2016) is a time to join together in worship, prayer, education, advocacy, and action in support of an end to the occupation of Palestine and a just peace for all in Palestine and Israel. (for additional resources see Unsettling Goods)
As people of faith who share the hope of justice, we must unite to take peaceful actions so that children like Hamoudi have the chance to live the full lives God intended.
By Patricia Mercer
Patricia Mercer is a teacher who attends Gower Street United Church in St. John’s, NL. She has twice participated in the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel, providing a protective presence and contributing to a just peace in the Holy Lands.