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Calculated Provocation
October 2, 2000

No doubt you have seen at least some of the coverage of the last five days of bloody clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.  The death toll is around forty, mostly Palestinians, while the injured totals hover around 1000.  What began as a response to Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem (labeled "calculated provocation" by the BBC, in light of the sensitive issue of the city's sovereignty) has spread to clashes throughout Gaza, the West Bank, and now into Israel.  Ramallah, Nablus, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Hebron and many other places have seen armed conflict. The violence is far more lethal now than during the Intifada, because both sides are armed (now that there is a Palestinian police), causing a very lethal escalation of force.  However, as during the Intifada, this is not an equal contest - the Israeli soldiers are far better equipped and trained.

In many ways, Zababdeh seems isolated from the rest of Palestine, both by distance and geography, even in a land where nothing is too far away.  The village is in Area A, those portions of the West Bank under full Palestinian control.  Outside the town, though, lies an Israeli military training compound - part of Area C, those portions under full Israeli control.  There have been some tires burning near the compound, now a familiar sign of Palestinian protest.  We remain thankful that violence has not erupted here, and that we and our fellow villagers, like you, come only as close to the killing as our televisions and radios. People with family in other parts of the region are rightfully worried, and we share their concern.  Talk in the village is that the clashes are the bubbling over of frustrations with decades of Israeli rule, and a peace process that has not fulfilled its promise (and for many has made life even more difficult). In a sign of solidarity, there was a short parade through town today, with people waving Palestinian flags and black flags, mourning those killed in the violence. The rallying cry, in memory of the dead, was, "I wish that my breath and my blood had died instead of you."  And for the past three days, there has been a strike called, closing schools and businesses. We watched with a sense of irony, and a twinge of tragedy, as children reacted to the school closure with the joy of a snow day.

We ask your thoughts - find out as much as you can, not just what you see on television or in the newspaper.  We ask your pragmatic response - the U.S. has more say in the region than any other country right now, and we Americans should see to it that our nation and our tax dollars are used to promote justice and peace. But most importantly, we ask your prayers - that reconciliation, rather than compromise, political gesturing, or destruction, may be the legacy of these days.

Marthame and Elizabeth