AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: Living with absurdity


17 October 2012
with absurdity

Climbing two ladders to
a rooftop and then passing through a hole in a wall to gain entry to their
house is a daily experience of one Palestinian family living in Hebron. Others
are subject to similar absurdities with minor variations, such as a rope replacing
the ladder.

Why is this? Their homes
happen to face Shuhada Street, where only Israeli settlers are allowed to
walk. The Israeli military closed this street to Palestinians in 2000. In the
name settler security, it chooses to ignore a 2003 Israeli Supreme Court decision
that deemed the closing invalid and ordered the street’s reopening to

One Palestinian resident
related how he had to carry his wife, who was in labor, on his shoulders down
the wall in his backyard to gain access to the road to the hospital. Why? The
occupying Israeli authority does not permit him to use the road that leads to
his house.

Schoolchildren have to
pass through military checkpoints consisting of turnstiles and containers
fitted with metal detectors and electric doors that heavily armed soldiers can close
at will, trapping children and teachers inside. Despite international law
safeguarding children’s rights to education, they face this frightening scene daily.
On occasion, soldiers search their school bags or conduct body searches of teachers,
humiliating them in front of their students.

A weekly Israeli settler
tour of the old city presents an additional absurdity. The activity of the
Palestinian market comes to a halt when groups of settlers accompanied by a
large patrol of Israeli soldiers make their way through, forcing Palestinians
to take alternate routes to reach their homes, which may be only a few feet
away. Others simply have to wait to one side before proceeding to make their
purchases. Meanwhile other soldiers have taken up positions on the rooftops of
Palestinian homes, further closing the cordon.

This section of Hebron,
which is under full Israeli military control, is home to 30,000 Palestinians
and some 500-600 Israeli settlers who are protected by 3,000 Israeli soldiers.
Are not these figures yet another absurdity?

Yet hope persists, like
that claimed by Palestinian-American writer Ibtisam Barakat in her memoir, Tasting
the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood

Play slide show

Alef, the letter
that begins the alphabets
of both Arabic and Hebrew—
two Semitic languages,
sisters for centuries.

May we find the language
that takes us
to the only home there is—
one another’s hearts.

Alef knows
That a thread
Of a story
Stitches together
A wound.”

Abraham Heschel wrote
that “morally speaking there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the
suffering of human beings,” “indifference to evil is worse than evil itself,”
and “in regard to cruelties committed in the name of a free society, some are
guilty, while all are responsible.” How can we assume our responsibilities in this
absurd situation?

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