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March 5, 2016

Thursday evening, Jerusalem forest is bursting with life. The wild mustard stalks sway in the breeze. Cyclamen and the wild anemone in full flower rake the slopes with dusky purple and blood-red. I interrupt my run to plunge my face into the wild almond trees’ blossoms, swooning in their musk. The neighbor’s apricot is blooming, and outside our door, the pomegranate’s buds already peek greenly from their jackets. This beautiful land comes alive while we humans keep seeking ways to kill each other. The weeds begin their fight with the coming dryness that will turn them to brown/grey by summer. Last week’s late rain will extend the verdant hills’ blossoming. But the rain ended with the first hamsin of spring. Hamsin, in Arabic literally, “fifty”, which local lore distinguishes as the number of days each year that host this harsh, oppressive eastern wind. The hamsin is a bitter gift blowing into Israel/Palestine from the deserts of Syria and Iraq. Hamsin, fifty days, and now nearly fifty years of occupation.

In Jerusalem forest, not far from my running path, 16 year old Muhammed Abu-Khdeir was burned alive. His murderer pled insanity. Yes, he was surely crazy with hate and evil when he killed Muhammed, but he sought to get a court psychiatrist to excuse him as insane. The shrink said no, he knew what he was doing. After a year and a half, the killer will finally be sentenced. Muhammed’s father, Hussein, demands the man’s family home be destroyed by army engineers, as are the homes of Palestinian terrorists. Unlikely.

Yet, how wondrous, back then the day after Muhammed’s murder, as we discovered a moment of human greatness on the Israeli side. Rachel Frankel, the mother of 16 year-old Naftali, slain by terrorists with his two friends, when she heard that a Palestinian teenager had been murdered in apparent revenge for her son, broke her own period of mourning to issue a statement: “There is no difference between blood and blood. Murder is murder. There is no justification and no atonement for murder.” And later, when the Dewabshe family was firebombed, Rachel came to the demonstration in Zion Square, walking among the leftists. Frumit, my wife, approached and asked if she could hug her. She agreed.

We are all in this together, settlers, peaceniks, the paralyzed silent majority and the Palestinians, all of us trembling as we watch this five month drama, the horrid knifings and then the unnecessary killings of already-disarmed teenage terrorists, officers quietly giving their soldiers carte-blanche. The weaponless settler who fought off two youths last week, his family shuddering in the next room. We all respond to this madness differently. The settlers hunker down for what they are sure is to be an eternal war. We active peaceniks clutch at any small twig of hope to keep us afloat, denying we’re being swept along with the prevailing flood. My friends in East Jerusalem neighborhood Issawiyeh, forbidding their kids to go out as nearly nightly the army’s stray live bullets pound the buildings. Across the West Bank, galloping unemployment, and, as Gershon Baskin writes, “The Palestinian Authority is facing greater turmoil than ever before. The Palestinian street in the West Bank is simmering with anger and frustration. Teachers are on strike and university students are joining them. There are conflicts between the prime minister and the finance minister. Mahmoud Abbas is under fire from senior officials within Fatah. There are new charges of corruption being brought up by everyone against everyone else.” Grim.

Friday arrives, and we meet, 600 of us, Israelis and Palestinians, under the leadership of Combatants for Peace. A large contingent is there from the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families Circle, children, aged people with canes, at the West Bank junction just beyond the roadblock leading to Jerusalem. Old friends who haven’t seen each other in a while embrace with delight. So much hugging, bearded faces scratching mine. I stutter in my rudimentary Arabic, they smile at my efforts. We set out along the highway, the 8-meter separation barrier hovering over us. Across the road, dignified Palestinian terracing on the hillside, greenery and flowers adorning the ancient walls that people built, stone by stone. Drummers beat out the march rhythm, always there to bring the spirit. People with bullhorns lead the chants, rhythmic. “One, two, three, four, no more killing, no more war.” The Palestinians are particularly happy to be there. It is good to see the couples and families marching beside us, their children flitting in among the marchers. They seem to feel protected, comfortable among friends. Everyone has stuck the Families Circle’s stickers to their shirts and jackets, It Will Not End Until We Talk. Together, we are the wondrous goodness of the peoples of this land. So happy to be together. No one is frightened of anyone here. Passing settlers scream from their cars, like flies at a picnic. Even the soldiers walk quietly beside us, and unlike last month when they arrested two of us in the march’s first minutes, they are friendly to the crowd.

Huda speaks, so clear, translating herself into Arabic. The crowd hears her cry, her clear insistence that we continue. A six year old girl is given the microphone, and like a flute, soaring in Arabic above the adults gathered there, she demands an end to this occupation. Her life ahead of her, thrilling us anew as she calls for the possibility of a different future. We are an island of determination, solidarity, human connection. For two hours, one powerful, beautiful people, especially at this moment of cautious hope.

Hope seems to be just a thought/feeling. Yet within the hope is a picture of our common future, Palestinians and Israelis walking and talking together, and for this moment the future is here. On Friday, we demonstrate how it will be, must be, someday.  This is our created future. It is as real as we say it is. We fearlessly detail that future….Where we meet hate, we’ll bring love and solidarity. When we are attacked, we’ll protect ourselves by looking to the frustrated longing of our attacker. We will win him over by caring for him as we want him to care for us. He will come around.

Like the wildflowers, sucking moisture from the soon-to-be-arid ground, we will spread the perfume of our blossoms, breathing freedom and possibility deep into our lungs, and we will allow our glorious land, our gorgeous laughing people, to bring us home.

Yoav Peck

Demo March 2016



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  1. Gilead Meroz permalink

    That”s beautifully written, Yoav.


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  1. March 9, 2016 – News of Abrahamic Interest | Abrahamic Family Reunion

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