a time for peace

– standing against occupation

schools under siege…

Tuesday we were called to the village of Al Khader, whose four schools are located near the international soccer field I mentioned earlier – two elementary schools (boys and girls) and two secondary schools (girls and boys).  It seems that Israeli soldiers have been harassing the teachers and students for the last week – putting in a flying checkpoint some mornings that delays the start of school one to two hours, announcing (untruthfully) that the schools have been closed, surrounding the schools and delaying the students leaving by an hour or more. Please understand that school starts at 7:20 am and does not serve lunch, so by 1:00 pm dismissal, the kids are exhausted and hungry – and now being traumatized by scary men with huge weapons.

Each principal has tried to stop the soldiers from being near the schools, but the commanders harshly push their way past, pointing high-powered weapons at him/her, claiming they can go anywhere and can do anything they want. A few months ago, they shot tear gas into the boys secondary school to make sure all the students had come into the courtyard! Even worse, in the past couple of years, they have “detained” 24 boys from the secondary school for six months and longer without any charges. Right now, they continue to hold eighteen boys and two girls, who were roused from their beds and taken away from their families with no explanation, and held in prison without any charges or trials. 

This time, they say they saw a student throw a rock onto the apartheid “settler road” that runs past below the back of the school compounds. When we went to the scene it was obvious that no one could have thrown a stone that could have hit the road. Due to a slanted roof over the road at this point, it is a physical impossibility! But the harassment continues, because it can.  Sadly, the powerful can always find reasons and ways to abuse the oppressed.

As the time for school dismissal approached, we could feel the tension build up, from both teachers and students. One little girl who feels especially traumatized by the soldiers presence, comes into the headmistresses office everyday now about a half hour before the end of school, just for reassurance. While she agreed to smile for a picture, I saw her heart wasn’t in it. Gratefully, the soldiers didn’t come the day we were there.  The teachers tell us it is because the Israeli long-range cameras are placed so they can see into the schools, and when internationals are there they stay away.

Imagine for a moment, any of this happening in American schools. I believe the outcry would be deafening – from parents, the public, the officials, from everyone! Yet here, in the Land of Occupation, the cries cannot be heard. Harassment like this is so common, it is considered almost normal.  Individual families who protest are punished. Teachers and counselors are ignored.  Even the local officials have no power to fight the Occupiers.  The Israeli government continues to claim it is all in the name of “security.” And they are backed by the money, the resources and the power of the USA – which includes me… and you.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, when facing the apartheid and abuse in South Africa, said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  For Americans, it’s something to think about as we send our kids off each morning confident of their safety, at least from those who serve in our security forces. Maybe it’s time to tell our political leaders, we expect the same for children everywhere!  

peace/salaam – Pastor Pat

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October 24, 2008 - Posted by | children, Occupation, Palestine, peace

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