Life is Daily Heartbreak
November 7, 2000
In the current situation, two moments stand as a counterpoint:
1) Palestinian gunmen have set up shop on the outskirts of Beit Jala, a Christian village just outside Bethlehem. After they shot at Gilo, the Israeli settlement on the other side of the valley, Israeli heavy artillery shelled the town. We have seen, as we suspect you have, television reports of the damage. We have read emails from residents and families of residents, telling about how terrifying it has been there as homes have been damaged and destroyed. Our neighbor from Gaza has reminded us that these losses are not only emotionally exhausting, but because there is no property insurance here, they are financially devastating too, leaving the victims homeless and penniless. The fighting and shelling also spread to Beit Sahour, another Christian village outside Bethlehem, with similar results. In Nablus last week, Israel destroyed Arafat's headquarters, 120 yards away from the Anglican Church and across the street from the Sisters of Mercy (Mother Theresa's order) Hospice. Fortunately, these churches were not harmed.
2) The same day as the shelling of Beit Jala began, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed HR426 (read text and see voting record). Several folks here (including our shepherd friend) commented on this latest statement by our government. "So did you see what your Congress did today?" This resolution expresses Congress's solidarity with the state and people of Israel, condemns Palestinian leadership for encouraging violence, and urges the US to use its veto power to ensure that the United Nations Security Council does not "again adopt unbalanced resolutions." We are disappointed, and hope truly that our Congress and government can itself find balance, such that American involvement in the region might support the lives and aspirations of all residents of the "Holy Land."
Friends, we are weary. To live here is exhausting - emotionally
and physically. The West Bank is under closure, there are Israeli
blockades between population areas, and every day is a constant reminder
of occupation: planes fly low overhead, sonic booms rattle the entire building,
power is cut off to nearby villages, work is drying up. We are all aware
that, if all roads are sealed, then Zababdeh will not have electricity
(because the village relies on petrol for the generator). It will not have
water (even in "Area A", lands under "total" Palestinian control, Israel
forbids Palestinians from using wells or digging new ones - so people in
Zababdeh like most villages, must buy water from Israeli trucks). And it
will not have much food, medicine, and other
goods that all come from other towns. But we are still extremely fortunate. The roads have not been sealed, and we have water and electricity, and plenty of food and medicines. Our friend Tom Getman, who works for World Vision, has reported that a truck convey of desperately needed relief supplies sent in partnership with the UN has tried for 3 weeks to get into Gaza and has been turned back four times at the checkpoint.
Since the current Uprising began, many of you have shared your words, prayers, and thoughts of encouragement with us, and we have shared these words with the churches in Zababdeh. A few of you have expressed disagreement, saying our views seem one-sided. Our work here is not a political campaign, designed to convince you of a particular perspective. Nor is it an investigation, designed to research all opinions and present them equally. Our call here is ministry - to live in solidarity with the Church in the Holy Land, the Church which gave birth to those of us raised in the Christian diaspora. And our call is to share with as many people as possible a glimpse of what life is like through the eyes of people here. And especially right now, that life is daily heartbreak. It is hardship. It is fear. It is exhaustion.
As usual, we have pasted a couple excerpts at the end of our message. We hope you enjoy hearing these other voices address the current situation.
1) Gloria Yi, PC (USA) Young Adult Volunteer, shares her first-hand account of teaching at the Friend's School in Ramallah (next door to the police station and where the seeds of our journey were planted seven years ago) on the days preceeding and of the lynching and bombing.
2) Former Israeli Member of Knesset Uri Avnery makes striking commentary on the lengths to which the current Israeli government has gone (or has not gone) to make peace.
Friends, seek real truth. Seek true justice. Seek the realm of God.
We greet you in Salaam-Shalom-Peace,
Marthame and Elizabeth