7 February 2012
AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: Darkness cannot drive out darkness
by Michael T. McRay
Hebron’s Old City has one main street. It connects the Ibrahimi Mosque to Bab il
Balideyya, an open square next to the Beit Romano settlement and military base.
Along this cobblestone road,
narrower streets branch off, meandering deeper into the Old City, intersecting
with other less trafficked alleys. At night, the Old City is dark, with only the main road lit,
and there, only in scattered places.
On 25 January, the CPT team was walking home in
high spirits after celebrating Kathy Kern’s 50th birthday. As we entered the Old City, we glanced
down the first side street on our left and noticed two soldiers standing in the
darkness up against the wall, a few paces from the main street. Both had their weapons in hand. Without much discussion, we decided to
stay, hoping to be a de-escalating presence.
“Hi guys!” we said, voices raised. “How are you tonight?” The soldier in the front nodded. “What are you doing back here in the
dark?” Chris continued. “Are you waiting for someone?”
The soldier in front smiled, “We are waiting for the Messiah.” Our laughter reverberated off the stone walls.
“You are waiting for the Messiah with guns?” I asked, chuckling. The soldier shrugged, still grinning.
“Would you like some cake?” Kathy offered, presenting her chocolate
birthday dessert. Rosie took off
to retrieve forks from the house.
I know you want some,” I pursued, after they declined. “That smile on your face says it all.” The soldier in front stifled his
Chris, Kathy, and I decided to maintain a casual
presence, not forcing the soldiers into conversation but neither allowing their
intimidating presence to dominate that space. Kathy handed me the cake and her stuffed rainbow unicorn (a
tool of de-escalation), and I posed for pictures. Over the next several minutes, we exchanged a few
light-hearted remarks with the soldiers to keep tension minimal. As Rosie returned with forks, a group of
female students from Oxford University on a stroll joined us, more than
doubling the size of our group. Our
laughter and cheerful conversation penetrated the night’s silence, bringing a
smile to the faces of Palestinians walking by. Yet, as some of these individuals turned down the alley where
the soldiers were hiding, many hesitated, a few even jumped back, at the sight
of these armed men in the shadows.
As we divided the cake among our group and sang “Happy
Birthday,” the soldiers decided to leave, stepping out of the shadows and
disappearing behind the gate of the military base.
cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.’ -Martin
Luther King, Jr.