The approach of Naqba Day, the Day of the Catastrophe, brought
a sense of trepidation to the Al-Khalil Christian Peacemaker Team. This day
commemorating the displacement of Palestinians following the Israeli Declaration
of Independence in 1948 is often marked by demonstrations and violence on both
sides. While patrolling the evening before, we had observed Israeli soldiers
conducting drills, moving portable barricades and simulating the rescue of
fallen comrades. This stoked our anxious anticipation of the day to come.
As morning dawned on Naqba Day, additional military presence
was evident throughout the Old City.
Soldiers at their checkpoints checked every schoolchildās bag. Having heard of a
march planned in the cityās Palestinian-controlled sector, we proceeded as a
group to the planned route. Various political parties, clearly separated and defined
by their distinctive flags, participated in the march. When part of the Hamas
Party group broke away and moved toward the Israeli-controlled zone in the Old
City, we became concerned that heightened tensions could lead to violence.