December 7, 2002
HEBRON: “What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!”
by Anne Montgomery
What does it mean to “watch?” In Bethlehem, this first week of Advent,
faces watch from doorways, at corners, as those under curfew risk the
streets to visit sick relatives or find the half-opened grocery door.
Soldiers watch from tanks, at checkpoints for the unwary traveler, or invade
houses in the dark hours before dawn when no one is watching.
It is difficult, in the midst of this almost obsessive watching, to practice
awareness, especially in those low moments: “in the evening, or at midnight,
or when the cockcrows, or at dawn,” when the watch fires are burning piles
of uncollected garbage.
Yet, some are awake to what is real beneath the facts–the human spirit that
can throw off the occupation of mind and body. Children know this
instinctively as they kick balls in Nativity Square or ride bikes wildly
down Manger Road. Adults, frightened by the unpredictable, be it night raid,
the tank around the corner, or even the mood of a particular soldier, have
inner walls to break down.
A Palestinian friend has his own obsession: to smash such walls. He shops
for a “Palestinian Thanksgiving” and invites the neighbors. He walks to
meet with Muslims and Christians for long evening discussions. He drives
from the top of Beit Jala, through Bethlehem, to the center of Beit Sahour,
stopping to talk to friends or offer strangers rides – always an example of
nonviolent resistance. He judges its growth by counting cars passing and
shops opening on streets largely not patrolled where, although risk is a
reality, the “curfew of the mind” is even stronger. His car sputters; his
sink fills with dishes; he forgets to buy bread; but he is truly aware, not
needing the cockcrow to call him back to hard reality and the hope hidden
within: the groaning of the Spirit birthing new life in those who watch for