Editor"s Note: Indianapolis resident JoAnne Lingle"s work as a member of the Hebron-based Christian Peacemaker Team has been chronicled in these pages ("Daily Life that Creates Suicide Bombers," NUVO, Feb. 13, 2002). This report comes from a message JoAnne sent Dec. 4.
Two days ago, I arrived in Hebron. This is really an awful situation. Palestinians are under curfew and it is a few days before the end of Ramadan, when families must shop for food for their feast days of Eid and for presents for their children. Yesterday, curfew was lifted for two hours in H1 Hebron so that Palestinians who live there could go out, but most shops remained closed. On the first day of Hanukkah, Palestinians were put under curfew so the Israeli settlers could have all of H2 Hebron (the old city where we live). It is bizarre to see no one but settlers walking the streets and Palestinians, caged in their homes, peeking out their windows. The exact same thing happened last year on the first day of Hanukkah; curfew was called for Palestinians. Thirty thousand Palestinians were locked in their homes so that 400 Israeli settlers could roam freely. Our hope is that curfew will be lifted for the coming days of the Eid. Yesterday and today, four of us spent most of the day in Bab iZaweyya (a market area just inside H1). Israeli soldiers came in jeeps to disperse Palestinians who were hoping to continue their shopping and resisting the occupation in a non-violent way by refusing to leave. We tried to talk to the soldiers. Most refuse to talk with us but some do. We feel our presence keeps soldiers from being physically abusive; although, sometimes, it does not. This afternoon, I was standing near the checkpoint between H1 and H2 with two soldiers who had detained 11 Palestinian men. The Palestinian men were against a wall, sitting on the cold ground, one of them was handcuffed. Typically, a scene like this means IDs are being checked. This process never takes more than 10-15 minutes. When I arrived at 11:35 a.m., the Palestinians were already sitting so it was difficult to know what time they were originally detained. I tried to talk with the soldiers, asking them why the men were being held. They refused to engage in any conversation (unlike another soldier earlier who wanted to know where I lived, why I was here, etc.). Soon, one of the soldiers pulled an ID from his pocket and handed it to a Palestinian so he could leave. I realized the game that was being played. The soldiers were holding the men simply because they had the power to do so. We"ve seen this many times before. Soldiers take Palestinian IDs, pocket them and return them when they feel like it. I went up to the soldiers and said, "Why are you keeping their IDs in your pocket instead of checking them like you should? Is this because you have guns and can make them do what you want?" Finally, a reply: "It"s none of your business." An older Palestinian walked up with a jacket, pockets turned inside out so the soldiers could see there was nothing hidden. He wanted to give it to one of the detained men, but the soldier refused. It was cold and would have been an act of kindness but it was not to happen. After one hour, one of the men needed to urinate. One of the soldiers took him on the other side of the sidewalk so he could urinate in public (surely a humiliation for him). Another man indicated that he, too, needed to relieve himself. The soldier went up to him, grabbed him by the nape of the neck and yelled at him. Continuing to engage the soldiers, I asked one about his mother. He misunderstood and said, "Don"t talk about my mother!" I explained that because I am a mother, I was thinking that his mother must miss him, love him and worry about him. He smiled at me and said, "Yes, and it"s my birthday and look where I am." With that, I sang "Happy Birthday" to him as loud as I could. The detained Palestinians broke out in laughter. After one and a half hours, I had to leave. Three Palestinians" IDs were returned so they could go home but four more had taken their place. Although the basis situation didn"t change during the time I was there, I hope the birthday soldier will remember that someone cared about him and recognized him as a Child of God.