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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom
Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
In one highly-packed week from January 12-19, a Brit Tzedek/Meretz-USA delegation will meet with members of Knesset, top Palestinian leaders, and a variety of peace activists among other activities. Steve Masters, president of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom and staffer Anna Freedman will write regular journal entries. We will also provide links to the trip blog of Rabbi Brant Rosen, a member of Brit Tzedek's Rabbinic Cabinet from Evanston, IL.
Breaking my heart
Yehuda Shaul, a religious Israeli Jew pictured above who served as a commander in a Nahal brigade in Hevron for 3 years and who founded Breaking the Silence after his army service ended, was our tour guide.
Our tour focused on the city center of Hevron in what is known as H-2. This report from Btselem provides important background information on the history of the settlements in Hevron and the significance of the designations of H-1 and H-2. In brief, in H-1 the Palestinian Authority is in control. In H-2, the Israeli military authority is in control and Israeli military policy calls for many streets and buildings to be “sterilized” of Palestinians. Yehuda told us that the military uses the chilling term “sterilize” to describe the policy of prohibiting Palestinians from walking on, driving a car through, or operating a business on a particular street or parcel of land.
While it is well-known that the settlers in Hevron are amongst the most violent in the West Bank, I was impressed with Yehuda’s balanced presentation throughout the tour. He described in detail all of the terrorist attacks against settlers and soldiers that lead to a number of murders and the reprisals by the settlers after each attack.
His main point was that it is the settlements, not the settlers, that is producing the heart breaking military policies of the IDF. For example he explained that it was not the settlers that closed Shahouda street to all Palestinian travel and commercial activity, but rather the IDF.
The first photo shows the main food market of Hevron, permanently shuttered by the IDF and graffitied with stars of david by the settlers. The second shows the meat market, which was bulldozed by the IDF after the murder of ten month old Shalhevet Pass by a Palestinian sniper.
Perhaps the most moving part of the tour was a visit to the home of Hani, a Palestinian man pictured below whose grandfather rescued Jews during the 1929 massacre of Jews in Hevron. Hani, without any bitterness or anger, described the terrible hardships his family has endured by living in the H-2 region of Hevron. Just one of the many stories – after his grandfather had died in the hospital, an ambulance brought his body back to his home. A group of settlers encircled the ambulance and began to dance and throw candy at the vehicle, celebrating the death of this Palestinian and singing out that they wished Hani’s entire family would die quickly.
What he said next will remain with me forever – he said that he explained to his children that the settlers who attack and oppress the Palestinians may be Israelis but they aren’t really Jews, since the violence and contempt for life embraced by these settlers does not embody Jewish values. Rejecting a path of hate and violence, Hani has joined Yehuda to form a Jewish/Arab peace group called Bnei Avraham (Children of Abraham) because he wants his children to develop friendships with Jews who respect and care for them.
Hillel taught: “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.”