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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Binding the Wounds

"Love is not a vague feeling or an abstract idea. When I love someone, I seek what is best for them. If I begin to take the love of Christ seriously, then I will work toward what is best for my neighbor. I will seek to bind up the wounds and bring about healing, no matter what the cost may be." -Billy Graham 

Shortly before I came here, a friend told be she hoped I could bring some healing here.  Her comment made me very uneasy, mostly because I felt wholly inadequate for such a task.

I still feel wholly inadequate for such a task.

Israeli military during clashes
How does one bring healing to a place that has been broken and broken and broken and broken, that keeps getting broken down even more?

Off to the side of one of the hot spots for clashes, there are a couple of stone planters.  They don't actually have plants in them, just dirt, maybe some trash.  We've sat on them on several occasions while monitoring the clashes.  A couple of days ago as we were monitoring clashes again in the area, we noticed that we would no longer be able to sit on one of the planters.  It's missing two corners.  Our assumption is that stone throwers smashed off the corners to throw.

We've seen many a tire burn. Glass bottles broken.  Destruction.

By morning, or sometimes just hours after the clashes, the streets are always cleared of the rocks, the ashes, the broken glass of the young Palestinian men and boys. The streets are cleared of the tear gas canisters, sound bombs, rubber-coated steel bullets of the young Israeli men - the soldiers and border policemen.


Does the absence of the remnants in the street bind the wounds of the previous day?

What about the planter?  It can't be put back together.What about the buildings we pass that were partially destroyed years ago to create an access road to a nearby Israeli settlement? What about the olive trees of our friend, standing blackened and burned, dead?

Do these half-destroyed remnants keep wounds open and festering?

Rubber bullet wounds.  Live ammunition wounds. Broken limbs. These physical wounds can be tended, but they still leave their mark on bodies.  Do the men and boys see them as marks of pride or as permanent reminders of the pain of living here?

On Friday a man involved in the clashes was hit in the forehead with a rubber-coated steel bullet.  He was taken to the hospital, but came back to the clashes hours later, bandage on his head, gleefully waving the x-ray of his skull for all to see. On another day, a young man showed me one of his fingers; the top half of it is missing from an injury in previous clashes.  If such wounds are marks of pride, how does one bring healing to someone who sees himself as a proud warrior?  So proud that he may not even see the woundedness that compels him?  Is it even my place to try to do so?

If these injuries leave permanent reminders of the pain of living here, how does one bring healing?

A few weeks ago, I was feeling angry.  It was a combination of feeling voiceless in a few areas of my life, of being really tired, of feeling the weight of being here.  Thankfully, my voice was soon heard and I got some sleep.  I was able to let go of at least some of what ailed me. I felt the healing balm of friendship and rest.
Post-clashes street

But here... when will the voiceless be heard? Where is respite from the constant weight of living under Occupation? I don't have answers.

Perhaps it is presumptuous to think that I would have any answers. Because I don't have answers, I don't know how I can possibly bring healing.

As with many of my posts from here, I feel discombobulated trying to find words.  I can only raise questions and hope that somehow the answers will come.  I wonder if I've learned anything while I've been here, if my own perceptions have merit or if they constitute a horribly skewed and narrow version of what's going on.  The longer I'm here, the more I see that the same story is told and re-told in so many different ways; sometimes it is hard to know what is fact and what is myth.

How can I bind wounds?  I will keep listening and watching. I will offer smiles and my few words of Arabic. I will accept tea and offer gratitude in return. I will pray and pray and pray. This is all I know how to do.  I have no idea if my simple acts, my listening and watching, smiles, gratitude, and prayers are a salve or an irritant.  When I can, I will amplify the voices I hear, the stories I am learning.  And I will hope that somehow this is love and that it is enough.

"As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a Body of broken bones. Even saints cannot live with saints on this earth without some anguish, without some pain at the differences that come between them. There are two things which [people] can do about the pain of disunion with other [people]. They can love or they can hate. Hatred recoils from the sacrifice and the sorrow that are the price of this resetting of bones. It refuses the pain of reunion. But love by the acceptance of the pain of reunion, begins to heal all wounds." 
- Thomas Merton

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mourning

Gal Kobi
An Israeli soldier, Staff Sgt. Gal Kobi, was killed in Hebron on Sunday, September 22. His death was the second Israeli soldier death in three days.

During clashes, Kobi was shot, some sources by a Palestinian sniper, others say by friendly fire.  Even to write it makes my stomach turn. The Occupation is good for no one.

The Jewish holiday of Sukkoth has been going on for the last week.  In Hebron that means an influx of Israeli tourists and, as a result, a multiplication of Israeli military presence. For several days, the mosque is closed to Muslims, the Israeli military imposes greater restrictions on Palestinian movement, and there is often more-than-usual settler harassment towards Palestinians.  This year was no exception.  

Teargas used during Sunday's clashes
Early Sunday afternoon we monitored the beginning of the clashes near where Kobi was killed. The Israeli military had blocked Palestinian vehicle access to several roads, so that Israeli buses could drive through. The clashes began shortly after school let out. We monitored for about an hour and a half, but left the clashes because we heard two boys were being detained on a roof by the Israeli military. They'd been held since about 9:00 AM.  We went to a high roof near where they were to try to look down on them to document it, but they were sitting too far against the wall for us to see them. Thankfully, while we were strategizing what we might do to help them, they were released, about 5 1/2 hours after they'd been taken there.  The boys looked shaken, but OK; one said the soldiers had kicked him.  

Roof where the Israeli military held 2
Palestinian boys  for 5 1/2 hours
Assured that the boys were back with their parents, we went home to take a break. It was while we were away that Kobi was killed. He didn't die on the spot, but was taken to a Jerusalem hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Some friends of ours from another monitoring NGO were there and saw him right after he was shot.  I was talking to one of them today.  She is a beautiful soul and, as anyone with a modicum of compassion (and she has much more than a modicum) would be, she is deeply troubled by what she saw.  She is struggling to find an outlet for her own grief and looking for a way to express her condolences to the soldiers who are grieving the loss of their friend.

Understandably, his death sparked even greater tension (to put it mildly).  Checkpoints near where he was shot were closed. We tried to go through one to get to the area.  It was closed.  Many soldiers were there and when they told us to go away, I tried to ask why.  One soldier, one who I see frequently angrily lashed out, "Why do you ask so many questions? We told you to go, just go. Stop asking questions!"

We then tried to go to the checkpoint nearest to where Kobi was killed.  Many Israeli soldiers, border policemen, policemen, and settlers were gathered there.

 Two settlers came over to me, one hovering over me.  "You killed the soldier. You killed the soldier. Your Arab friend killed the soldier." At that point, we didn't even know that he'd died, only that he'd been shot.

"I didn't kill anyone. I am a peacemaker."

Another settler behind him, "You are an anti-semite.  You are an anti-semite."

The hovering man continued to hover, "If you don't leave, I'm going to..."

I looked towards an Israeli policeman, who intervened, putting himself between me and the man who was threatening me. I was thankful.  "Go, you must go."  We obeyed.

Through that encounter and throughout the rest of the evening, I felt calm. I can only attribute it to the prayers I'd requested from my church family at home earlier that day.  There was nothing around us to induce any sense of calm.

Seven Palestinians are taken away handcuffed. 
We walked back to the checkpoint we'd tried to go through earlier.  We stood back and observed.  Seven Palestinian men were seated, hands behind their backs, behind a guard post.  Then we watched the Israeli military escort the handcuffed men away. We watched as the Israeli military raided homes and took away many, many young men, sometimes children, for questioning.  We watched the raids for several hours until finally, at least where we were, things calmed down and we decided to head back home.  

Before doing so, we walked back to the checkpoint nearest to where Kobi was killed.  It was quiet, only a few soldiers were stationed there and a few other people, not the settlers we'd seen earlier, were also standing there talking. One was an Israeli journalist who we talked to for a few minutes.

We asked a soldier if the checkpoint was open. He said no.  We asked when it would be open again; he didn't know.  Five mornings a week, we stand at that particular checkpoint to monitor the children and teachers who go through on their way to school.

All of the above is only a small part of the chaos of Sunday.

Thankfully, the checkpoint that we monitor was open Monday morning.  However, very few children came through.  In fact, so few children showed up at the boys' school and girls' school nearest the checkpoint that classes were cancelled.  While we did our morning monitoring, a few settlers came by.  One muttered, "Piece of s**t" as he walked by and looked at us.  The hoverer from the night before came by and spit at my feet. An Israeli policeman stationed near us must've known the man, because when he showed up, the officer immediately stood between us and him. After saying some words we didn't understand but were clearly not nice, the man left. Tensions were high.  The day was not an easy one. Clashes, the beating of a Palestinian child, Israeli tourists parading through the Old City, house raids; I won't go into all the details.  Tuesday was not as bad, but it wasn't peaceful, either.

Tuesday was my day off.  I spent the day in Bethlehem, catching up on sleep, eating well, enjoying the fact that I saw no heavily-armed people.  My mind, my heart, my body got a break from the assault of the previous days.

I returned this morning.  Today life in Hebron is a little calmer.  There were clashes again, but they started later than in previous days and only lasted a couple of hours.  It is quiet again.

This afternoon, an elderly woman was trying to go to her doctor's appointment.  She had a heart condition and requested to go through the gate next to the checkpoint, rather than through the metal detectors of the checkpoint.  The soldiers wouldn't let her because she didn't have a card she was supposed to have.  She sat waiting at the checkpoint for at least 45 minutes. She would not go through the metal detectors and they would not let her through the gate. We approached the soldiers to intervene on her behalf.

We asked them to let her through.  We showed an English-speaking soldier the documentation of her condition, but this was not enough, he said.

"What if this were your mother or grandmother? How would you feel?"

"A soldier died.  No more examples." The soldier turned his back on us. His comment affected me. I didn't wanted to be discounted as someone who didn't care or worse, someone who was happy about Kobi's death. I knew I needed to say something, though I wasn't sure what or how.

We continued to plead on behalf of the woman.  Thankfully, after a few minutes, though the soldiers didn't open the gate, they finally turned off the metal detectors and let her walk out.

The two people I was with went their way and I went mine.  However, before I left, I asked to speak to the soldier who'd made the comment.

I looked him in the eye and said something like, "I think it is awful that the soldier was killed.  I wish harm on no one."  I felt my eyes well up and a lump form in my throat as I spoke. The heaviness of the death, the heaviness I am sure the soldiers feel much deeper than I, hit me.

It was later in the day that we saw our friend, the one who saw Kobi shortly before his death.  Her grapplings also affected me.

It wasn't until those moments today that I allowed myself to feel anything about Kobi's death.  What's worse is that I wasn't really even aware of how well the defense mechanisms were working to protect me from the feelings.  I am aware now.  I am sad now.

Here in Hebron we most often see the effects of the Occupation on Palestinians. There is no doubt that Palestinians bear the brunt of the cost of the Occupation. This week, there was also a high cost for Israelis.

And so I allow myself just a little space to grieve for Palestinians and for Israelis.

I won't allow myself too much space or I will be overwhelmed, something I can't afford if I want to continue to do the work I'm doing.  The time to fully feel may have to wait until I have a little distance from here.  The best I can do now is to pray with all my heart for an end to the Occupation, for a reconciliation I can't imagine but nevertheless hope for, for an end to the spiral of violence.  I pray for peace. And I ask you to do the same. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Visit to Firing Zone 918

I began my week with my first visit to Firing Zone 918, an area in the south Hebron hills that includes twelve villages and is near four settlements. Every week, CPT and other NGOs provide protective presence in the area that the Israeli military declared a closed military zone for training, Firing Zone 918.  It was declared a firing zone despite the fact that people lived in the area, or perhaps because of it.  When military exercises are happening near one's home or school or grazing fields, one might think twice about living there.  The uncertainty and danger might be compelling reasons to leave. However, residents of the area remain.  "To exist is to resist."  They will not be so easily forced out. 
Al Fakheit school & jeep used to
transport children there

Because some children have to go long distances from their own village to another that has a school, a jeep transports them each morning.  We, as accompaniers,  ride into the area with the jeep and visit the schools and/or villages during the day.  We spend the night in one of the villages and leave the next day when another group takes over the task.
Firing Zone 918; soldiers barely visible

From the school of Al Fakheit, the first place we visited, we witnessed the presence of a large group of Israeli soldiers and heard an artillery training activity in the distance. We saw soldiers and a military vehicle near the village of Halawah. It was the jeep driver who alerted us to their presence.  We needed binoculars to see the soldiers.  The driver knew the sight well enough to recognize it without them. We also witnessed two helicopter flyovers while we were visiting the school in Al Fakheit.   When it happened some of the children were in classrooms studying; others were outside playing soccer.  These activities didn't stop when the helicopter flew overhead.  That's how commonplace it is. 
Helicopter flyover



According to the headmaster at Al Fakheit, the school has been open since 2009.  The eight teachers and headmaster drive in each morning, many from Yatta, the nearest city.  The trip to the school can take up to two hours, on roads that can barely be called roads. It is the dry season now, but as we drove and walked through the area, I kept wondering how any vehicle could get through during the rainy season.  Maybe the earth is rocky enough that it doesn't get horribly muddy, but it didn't look that way.   The school in Al Fakheit currently serves about 50 children; about 20 more will come when the season changes from dry to rainy; for economic reasons, some of the local families divide their time between Yatta and their village.

Students busily working at Al Fakheit school
We stayed the night in the school of Al Fakheit and heard several others helicopters flying nearby, though we couldn't see them. The next morning, we heard what seemed to be bomb detonation and machine gun fire. These are not the sounds one wants to hear upon just waking up.  The sounds were incongruous with the beautiful sunrise I watched. Later in the morning, when we visited the village of Jinba (about a 45-minute walk from Al-Fakheit), residents confirmed that the Israeli military had conducted infantry training exercises nearby from about 6 to 8 AM that morning. Such activities are the reality of the area. 

School at Jinba (at top of photo)
Our time in Jinba included a school visit (where there are 30 students) and home visits, where we enjoyed tea and conversation. There we also learned that the Israeli authorities stopped members of World Vision as they were driving from Jinba to Al Fakheit and confiscated their car.  According to a member of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), this occurred on September 11 and Israeli authorities said they would not return the car for at least 60 days. 

 The area has been relatively quiet since May – with no training activities seen or heard, though helicopter flyovers continued even during this “quiet” time and settler violence and a military raid occurred in July.  
               
Girls at Al Fakheit
On our way into the area, we witnessed the digging of a new cistern.  The south Hebron hills are currently dry, dry, dry.  Palestinian residents generally rely on water tanks for their water.  They also collect water in cisterns when they are allowed to dig them and when they are not demolished.  The settlements in the firing zone have access to as much water as they want- no water tanks needed.  The Israeli government issued a stop work order at the digging site we saw.  The reason given: it's in a “nature reserve.” Military training exercises, however, apparently don't disturb the wildlife there.  

The firing zone is currently the subject of a court case in the Israeli Supreme Court because eight of the twelve villages, where about 1,000 people live, are under eviction orders. Many structures within those villages also have demolition orders. The case came to court on September 2 where the judicial panel proposed mediation.  The case will again come before the court on October 2.   The military exercises we witnessed were the first since the September 2 court date.

The UN’s 2012 Humanitarian Impact of Israeli-declared “Firing Zone” in the West Bank Factsheet reports that in addition to restriction on grazing livestock (the livelihood of many inhabitants of the area, “residents of firing zones face a range of other difficulties including the confiscation of property,
settler violence, harassment by soldiers, access and movement restrictions and/or water scarcity.
Combined, these conditions contribute to a coercive environment that creates pressure
on Palestinian communities to leave these areas... International law also prohibits the destruction or confiscation of private or public property, unless for reasons of military necessity, as well as the
forced displacement or transfer of civilians.”

Unfortunately, the Israeli government and military don't seem to have much respect for international law when it comes to treatment of Palestinians. Thankfully, this case has received considerable international attention.  Our hope is that international pressure will encourage the court to make the right decision.





Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Objection!

According to at least one person, I am writing "anti-semitic international propaganda" because in the one post (as far as I know) that he read by me, I did not write about Palestinian missiles or about Israel's right to exist. Palestinian missiles and Israel's right to exist are all some people read about and/or want to know about.   There is more, much more, to the story of this place. I am here to delve into those other parts of that story.

I'll admit I don't really know what "international propaganda" is. I am aware that antisemitism is the word some people use to try to shut down criticism of the State of Israel.

It is not the fact that Israel is a Jewish state that I object to.  I do object to the fact that non-Jews are subject to different laws than Jews.  I do object to the fact that Israel continues to build settlements in the occupied territories in violation of international law. I do object to the fact that Israel denies 95% of Palestinian building permit applications and then issues demolition orders for structures Palestinians build anyway. I do object to the fact that Palestinian access to water is limited, but Israeli access is not.  I do object to the fact that Palestinians suffer far more violence from Israelis than vice versa, and yet we rarely hear about it in the news.  A recent UN report (and a report from earlier this year from UNICEF) highlights Israeli abuse of Palestinian minors.  This, too, I object to.  I particularly object to the fact that all of these things are done in a place that is referred to as "the only democracy in the Middle East." These are objectionable acts regardless of where they are happening, but certainly don't belong in a democracy. The State of Israel, a nation to which my own country gives vast amounts of money, is carrying out these actions and I am most definitely going to speak out, not only for the well-being of Palestinians and Israelis, but also because I want my own country to uphold and support the values we claim to hold dear.
Remains of a demolished home in Hebron


Anyone who knows me personally or has read this blog for any length of time knows that I am critical of injustice wherever I see it;  my most intimate experiences with injustice have been in Latin America, in India, in the U.S., and in my own community.  Right now I see it in Israel/Palestine. I have written, do write, and will continue to write about the occupation until it ends.  That may mean I will be writing about it for the rest of my life.

This does not mean that I think that Palestinian missiles are acceptable.  I don't.  I don't believe that violence, wherever it comes from, solves problems.  But as I wrote above, Israeli violence towards Palestine is far greater than Palestinian violence towards Israel and the above examples point to the fact that it is systemic.


Two days ago my teammate and I were awakened at 5:30 AM because Israeli soldiers were on our roof, shouting to the soldier across the street (the building across the street from ours is part of an Israeli military base). When we went to find out what was going on, the soldiers told us that they'd heard someone was throwing rocks. No one was throwing rocks from our roof that morning. No one throws rocks from our roof ever. Even if someone did, was it necessary for six soldiers in full military gear to barge into our home before dawn to investigate? These kinds of home invasions happen all the time, though not often to us. For Palestinians, the stakes tend to be higher than disrupted sleep.

Such a rude awakening did not get me started off on a good note.  To try to temper my mood, I put on my T-shirt from His Holiness the Dalai Lama's visit to Louisville.  The back of the T-shirt reads, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."  I hoped that my very literal way of being "clothed with compassion" (Colossians 3:12) would help me to act with compassion.

I was still fired up when we went out for our morning school patrol.  As we went through the mosque area, I chose to challenge the soldier who told us we had to take off our hats and vests.  "Why?" I asked.

"It's an order," he said. I replied that I knew it was an order and was polite but insistent that the soldier explain the reasoning behind the order.  He directed me to the police and border police at the entrance to the mosque security checkpoint (different from the checkpoint to get into the mosque area).  After consulting with each other in Hebrew, they said I needed to call the spokesperson for the police (a response I hadn't heard before).  I asked who that was and how to contact him/her.  They said they didn't know and that I should do a Google search to find the information.  I did a Google search, found a name, but have not yet found contact information. I have my doubts as to whether or not he'd have the answers I seek anyway.

While on patrol later in the day, my partner and I saw an Israeli soldier limping down the street.  He was using a cane.  We asked what had happened and he said he'd gotten hit in the knee with a stone.  He didn't specify whether or not it happened during the clashes of a few weeks ago. Finally, the words of my T-shirt moved from outside of my being to inside. I wish I'd expressed my sorrow that he was injured.  I had the thought, but I didn't voice it.

I do not wish harm on the soldiers I encounter.  I do not wish harm on the settlers I encounter.  I do not wish harm on Israelis or anyone in the larger Jewish community. I do not wish harm on anyone. Period.

If speaking out against injustice, working for peace, and wishing the best for all people leads some people to believe I am spreading "anti-semitic international propaganda," then so be it.  I cannot control what they think.  But I will continue to speak out, to work, to wish, and to pray for a more just, a more compassionate, and a more peaceful world.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Peace

Today, in response to an invitation from Pope Francis, people around the world, including myself, are fasting and praying for peace, in particular, peace in Syria.. My prayers for peace extend well beyond the Syrian border.  There are so many, too many, places in the world suffering from violence. I am living now in a place that knows violence too well and too often.

It is evening here and I've already broken my fast, but the prayers from many different traditions that I've been posting on my Facebook page throughout the day continue to dwell within me.

Thank goodness.

If I had already let the words escape my mind and heart, the day would have been for naught.  Or would it have? If focusing on peace today made someone else's day better, then it was a worthy day, and perhaps just a hair more peaceful than if I hadn't fixed my attention more fully on peace.

However, while concentrating my energy more deliberately today on peace is good, doing so every day is better, particularly since I claim to be (and honestly strive to be) a Christian peacemaker.

Today is Saturday, normally the day of the settler tour.  It didn't happen.  It didn't happen last Saturday either.  We (international observers) don't know the reason. But I am grateful that one obstacle to peace here in Hebron did not materialize, now twice. For the most part, today was another quiet day. Again, I am grateful.

I am grateful that I had time to spend on peace prayers, on the rich words that my own and other traditions offer to bring us to greater harmony with each other and within ourselves. Of all the prayers I read, prayed, and posted, the one that resonates with me most is from St. Teresa of Avila:

May I be at peace.
May my heart remain open.
May I be aware of my true nature.
May I be healed.
May I be a source of healing to others.
May I dwell in the Breath of God.


Whatever your beliefs may be, may you be at peace.  May you dwell in the breath of life that sustains you this and every day.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A "Quiet" Day

"How are things in Hebron?"  I ran into some ISMers (volunteers with the International Solidarity Movement) in Jerusalem today.

"It's been pretty quiet. No clashes this week." Then I thought a little more about yesterday. "An 11 year-old boy was detained at the mosque, taken first to the military base, then to the police station, and released a few hours later."

"Yes, we heard. We also heard tear gas was used on young children?"

"Oh, yeah.  On their way to school, some small kids were throwing rocks at a checkpoint.  The soldiers' response was a sound bomb first and then teargas."  At small children. When Israeli soldiers shot out the teargas, a mother carrying her young child was also walking through the area.

"But this morning they only used a sound bomb, no teargas." Pause. "There is something wrong when 'only a sound bomb' constitutes a better day."

Let me repeat: There is something wrong when lobbing a sound bomb at young children on the way to school, even if they throw rocks, is a sign of a better day.

In my conversation with the ISMers I forgot to mention how we were again stopped while between the two turnstiles at the mosque checkpoint as soldiers consulted with their commander over whether or not we could wear our vests.  We could.  Well, the two of us who simply walked through the area on the way to another checkpoint were allowed to.  However, the border police told the two CPTers who stayed in the mosque area to monitor that they could not stay with vests and hats on.  They took them off.

I forgot to mention how later in the day border police threatened to arrest members of TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron) who were taking pictures at the mosque checkpoint. TIPHers have diplomatic immunity. It is highly unusual for border police to harass them.  ISMers who were in the area when the argument happened started taking pictures and filming.  The border police also threatened to arrest them.

I was not present at most of the above events.  Perhaps that's why the day seemed relatively quiet to me.  However, for Hebron such a day is a pretty quiet day.

As I write, I am aware that "quiet" is a more relative term than I had thought.  My notion of the word has certainly changed in the last month.  I look forward to a few months from now when a quiet day no longer includes checkpoints, arguments over wardrobe, arrests, and sound bombs.  I look forward to a time when no one's day includes any of those things.  I will likely never see that day, but I will nevertheless keep working to inch the world a little closer (if not an inch, even a millimeter or two would be OK) to such a reality.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Who Am I Really Mad At?

Note: I originally wrote this on Saturday, August 31, but due to Internet issues, was not able to post it until today.

Four of the five previous days' work has involved monitoring clashes.  Today is my day off.  If there are clashes in Hebron, I remain blissfully unaware.  I'm in Bethlehem.  For these 24 hours I hope to see no soldiers and hear no firecrackers, sound bombs, or gunshots.  I hope not to ingest the noxious fumes of teargas. So far, so good.

I spent my first few hours here reading a novel in my air-conditioned hotel room.  As I begin writing this, I am sitting at a restaurant, drinking a mint lemonade, and waiting for eggplant parmigiana to be placed in front of me.

Over the last week, within the range of emotions I've experienced, the one that particularly rattles me is anger.  In occupied Palestine, there are plenty of reasons to be angry.  However, several of the times that sentiment has struck me, I've wondered if my anger is misplaced.

At certain times I felt angry watching young men and boys gather in the streets to throw stones and firecrackers.  On Monday, the first day of clashes, the day of the deaths in Qalandia, I understood the outburst of fury.  As a proponent of nonviolence, I didn't necessarily like the actions, but I knew where they came from.

On the second day... on the third day... and then yesterday (after a quiet fourth day), the crowd got younger and younger.  They looked to me a lot like kids taking advantage of a situation to make some trouble. They didn't seem outraged.  They seemed bored.  "Bored" can lead to trouble.  To me, it looked like boredom did lead to trouble. And so, as I watched young men and boys throw stones and firecrackers, as I watched them set fire to boxes and whatever other flammable things they found, as I felt some of them a little too close to me saying things that, by their tone, I was pretty sure were not nice, I got angry.  As I watched Palestinian adults stand or walk by the clashes, I got angry.

The "What are you doing?" echoing in my head was not the same sorrowful "What are you doing?" that I felt when I looked into the eyes of soldiers during a settler tour.  Instead it was an exasperated "What are you doing?"

The scenes I witnessed seemed to reinforce the stereotypes many people have of Palestinians- violent and uncontrollable.  That reinforcement made me mad.

Then I looked at the scene again.

No Palestinian had a gun.  This was in contrast to Israeli settlers watching the clashes from the settlement roofs, some with semi-automatic weapons slung over their shoulders.  This was in contrast to the heavily armed soldiers towards whom the Palestinians threw stones.

No Palestinian wore any more protection than a scarf around his face. They looked no different than any other civilian on the street. This was in contrast to helmets with face shields of soldiers.

The level of the boys' actual violence or potential violence was nothing compared to that of Israeli soldiers and settlers.

In response to one of CPT's Facebook updates about the clashes, someone wrote: "Simple solution: Stop throwing rocks." A part of me agreed with her.  But I also felt a gnawing from within.

While a cessation of rock-throwing stops clashes, it doesn't change the larger picture.  It doesn't change the random ID checks that occur.  It doesn't make checkpoints go away. It doesn't end home demolitions or settlement expansions.  It doesn't change the laws that defend the humanity of Israelis and deny the humanity of Palestinians. An end to rock-throwing will not end the occupation.

Rock-throwing is one way to relieve the tension of living under occupation.  It is a form of expression.  It is a form of resistance.

Does this mean I am happy about young men and boys throwing rocks?  No.  But as I reflect on all of the above, as I acknowledge the anger that I feel, I must also recognize that the source of my aggravation is not actually rock-throwing.

Writing this is my way of digging in the dirt until I find the source of my anger. I am shoveling, throwing the dirt over my shoulder, exposing roots.

The boys are not the problem.  Saying they are is like blaming an abuse victim for acting out against the abuser.  Rock-throwing is a symptom of a sick organism.  It is a physical expression of emotional and spiritual pain.  Both the symptoms and the sickness must be tended.

When I put myself in the shoes of the boys in this moment, my anger turns to compassion.  My exasperation turns to sorrow.

Who am I really mad at?  I am not mad at any "who."  I am mad at a system.  I am mad at the system that makes it difficult for Israelis to see Palestinians as regular people and for Palestinians to see Israelis as regular people.  I am mad at a system that demands that I choose a side - Israeli or Palestinian.  I choose neither.  I choose both.  I choose the human side.

And after writing what I have written, after acknowledging my anger, I will try to release it, to fill the space I've dug out with rich soil that will nourish the roots of an ailing manifestation of creation. Feeding off the love of friends and family who nurture me, I know I have spiritual nutrients to share.  But I also know this is a process I will have to repeat. And repeat. It is a process I need help with.  I don't have enough within me to fill the hole, to give the roots the sustenance they need to produce a vibrant outpouring of life. It will take many people releasing anger and offering love to change things here.