1 June 2012

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 schoolchild’s bag. Having heard of a
march planned in the city’s 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  Palestinians commemorating the Nakba in Aida refugee camp, where they, like hundreds of thousands of others in camps all over the region, wait until they are finally allowed back to the land they were expelled from in 1948.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.

To our relief, the main group began to march in the opposite
direction toward tents commemorating the prisoners’ hunger strike, which had
just ended the evening before. The smaller Hamas group then followed the
previous group to the tent. We split our group, with half following the rally proceeding
toward the tents, and the rest toward the Old

Upon reaching the plaza in front of the Ibrahimi Mosque, the
latter group observed a large contingent of soldiers jogging briskly. After
hurrying to follow them, they discovered it was only a drill. The CPTers
following the march reported all quiet and headed for the Old City. They
stopped by Bab il Baledeyya on the way, since incidents had occurred there the
year before. All was quiet so all returned to the apartment.

About 3:30 p.m., we
heard the familiar sound of percussion grenades in the area of Bab il Baledeyya.
Team members who went to investigate discovered that Palestinian police had
dispersed several youths who had thrown rocks and burned a tire. While
troubling, this was minor compared to reports of larger violence in other areas
of the West Bank and Jerusalem. The rest of the day and evening passed without

One has to ponder why things were so calm, on a day
traditionally known to be a flashpoint between these two entities. Could it be
because the hunger strike had been resolved the previous evening, with the
prisoners being granted most of their demands? Or might it have been because a settler
eviction scheduled for Naqba Day had been postponed? Had one of the two
prisoners on hunger strike for over seventy days died, I shudder to think of
what the day could have brought. I spent time in fervent prayer for all
involved the night before, and I am so very grateful for answered prayers. One
can only hope for every day of our mission here in Al-Khalil to be as calm as
Naqba Day.

The author is a member of CPT Al-Khalil.

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