Israeli settlers burn Abu Haikel family olive grove for eighth time
On Sunday, 28 July, settlers from Tel Rumeida set fire to Hani Abu Heikeâ€™s olive grove. The Abu Haikel family has lived in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood for generations, and has been under constant attack from nearby settlers since settlers established their presence there in the 1980s.
Members of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron arrived while fire department and internationals were extinguishing the flames with hoses and buckets. Hani Abu Haikel told team members, â€œThis has become a yearly thing,â€ elaborating that this act of vandalism marks the eighth time settlers have set his olive grove on fire.
Abu Haikel said that the fire started from directly under the nearby Israeli military and speculated that the settlers, whom he had seen on his land earlier that day, had spread gasoline or some other flammable substance over the ground. His evidence for this, besides the unnatural smell of burning chemicals coming from the ashes, was a small patch of ground left unscathed. Settlers had recently planted a garden on Abu Haikelâ€™s land in another attempt to push the Abu Haikels off their land. The settler-planted garden, in the middle of the blackened grove was untouched by the flames.
Abu Haikel, a peace activist who is commited to non-violent resistence, is planning to file a report with the Israeli police, although he is not optimistic he will receive justice. If this experience is anything like his last seven, then the police will not follow up on his complaint.
New book on CPT Palestine hitting the shelves
Letters from Apartheid Street: A Christian Peacemaker in Occupied Palestine is now available
In the winter of 2012, Michael McRay interned for two months with the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron and then traveled to Nablus, Ramallah, Qalqilyah, and other locations in the West Bank. His time in Hebron coincided with the arrival of a particularly brutal battalion of the Golani Brigade and McRay helped put a report together about its abuses that was widely distributed by the United Nations and other international groups.
McRay kept an extensive journal about his experiences that became his new book, Letters from Apartheid Street: A Christian Peacemaker in Occupied Palestine. Several of the reflections in the book first appeared on CPTnet. In â€œWelcoming the Enemy,â€ he writes of the first time he monitored Israeli soldiers with automatic weapons, while they swept through Hebronâ€™s Old City, detaining Palestinian men and checking their IDs:
"As they approached the end of the Old City, one of the soldiers in the back turned and quickly pointed the barrel of his weapon into an elderly manâ€™s shop. The storeowner sat out in front, his head just beneath the level of the gunâ€™s barrel. He simply looked up at the soldiers passing his shop, bowed his head, lifted up his hand, palm upwards, and said, â€œAhlan wasahlan (you are most welcome).â€ His response so caught me off guard I laughed out loud. Here was an Israeli soldier, a member of the military occupying this Palestinian manâ€™s land, who walked the streets of Hebron to protect the Jewish settlers who were illegally taking more and more land from this man and his people. In short, there walked his enemy.
And this Muslim man extended his hand in humble invitation. Resistance."
CPTâ€™s Palestine Support Team Coordinator, Tarek Abuata, writes of the book:
"As a Palestinian Christian peace worker, I've learned that to truthfully and authentically do human rights work halfway across the world, we have to simultaneously reach much closer to home, into our own hearts. Michael's reflections into his internal struggles as a Christian international peace worker, intertwined with the external struggles of facing Israel's Occupation, are an important read for human rights workers who want to do this work with integrity, but more importantly, who want to learn how to be the change that they want to see in the world."
Conflict Transformation authority John Paul Lederach writes, "Our field needs passionate, on-the-ground, firsthand descriptions of the challenges of constructively engaging settings of deep and painful conflict. McRay's book provides such a window," and Nobel Peace Prize nominee and CPT associate Kathy Kelly calls it â€œsurprisingly invitationalâ€¦worth reading and rereading.â€ Other academic plaudits for the book are available on McRayâ€™s website and the Wipf&Stock website.
Before joining the Hebron team, McRay had visited Palestine and Israel numerous times.
McRay is donating 20% the profits of Letters from Apartheid Street to Christian Peacemaker Teams. It is available from Amazon and Wipf&Stock.
Ramadan at the checkpoint
We are in the month of Ramadan, the month Muslims fast, have to be devoted to charitable giving, peacemaking, and helping whoever is in need. It is the time of renewing spirituality for each person. Itâ€™s the time to practice social solidarity by all means, help the poor, strengthen family ties, and pray for the world.
In Hebron the activities in Ramadan may be different, and more challenging. In cities all over Palestine there are public events held in the streets. This is not possible in Hebron due to the overwhelming Israeli military presence. But on the 19th of Ramadan a group of activists in Hebron organized an activity in front of Checkpoint 56 (the checkpoint closing off Shuhada Street).
The activities included music celebrating Ramadan and speeches from the organizers. According to the organizers the activity was about resisting the occupation nonviolently. They resisted by practicing spiritualty at the checkpoint, by remembering the prisoners and their families, and by reminding the world that justice will prevail.
During the event soldiers came out and asked the crowd to move, but did not stay, and the crowd continued to grow and celebrate. About a hundred people where there. Men, women and children where participating in the event, and enjoying the Music. Even the Hebron Governor participated to show the residents of the old city the importance of their resistance, and to thank residents for all the efforts and the sumud (steadfast perseverance) they are doing to protect the Hebronâ€™s Old City.