5 September 2020
Sunrise in Hebron, Palestine Photo: Aseel ZM Wikmedia Commons
by Esther Kern
“Time to get up,” says the sleepy voice beside me. “For what?” I reply.
“Morning has broken, like the first morning. Blackbird has spoken like the first bird….Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning…” As I sip my first cup of hot coffee, excerpts from the song written by Cat Stevens race through my mind as I look out the window at a blue sky dotted by white clouds coated with gray underbellies. The shining rays of the sun break over the horizon, lighting up a lush green landscape. Birds chirp their first morning songs. I hear the soft rumble of voices as my partner has already turned on the morning CNN news, which I have no desire to watch. Coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic is too depressing as the global numbers of cases and deaths creep ever higher.
The grim reaper! Hot tears sting my eyes as I remember. This deadly Covid 19 virus claimed the life of Han – a friend bigger than life. A physician with healing hands, brilliant mind, and, most of all, a compassionate heart. He loved to challenge us with progressive ideas. He pushed the boundaries of freedom, sky diving with abandon, and working diligently for justice for all people who live under the yoke of oppression. He was an imposing man, standing a head taller than the rest of us, and his presence was always marked by his booming voice and hearty laughter. And yet…he was still and listened intently and respectfully to all those who brought him their ideas, burdens, illness, or life experiences. As a Gerontologist, he created time for the elderly, providing comfort measures in the twilight of their years.
But the most prominent image in my mind of him is Han, standing tall and firm, just outside of a natural cave that had been transformed into the Sumud Freedom Camp in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank. Our CPT Palestine Delegation group of ten had just spent the night in the cave, cocooned in fleecy blankets on foam mats. We had slept peacefully, a silent night punctuated only by snoring, braying of a donkey, and the bleating of sheep and goats from the nearby village of at-Tuwani. As we emerged from the cave in the morning, the crisp air enveloped us, and the sun rose into the sky, bringing light and new life to the endless hills. Our hosts had prepared us cups of strong, sweetened black Arabic coffee for that extra jolt into the reality of the day. Shepherds would soon be leading their flocks out to graze on the hillsides in the cool of the day. Guided by Henk, our voices broke out in song, with Han’s voice soaring, “Morning has broken, like the first morning…,” invoking feelings of peacefulness, unity, universal friendship, and trust. That was one year ago, and now, our current reality is a raging pandemic that seeks to destroy and claim the lives of those near and dear to us, including Han. But dry your tears. Weep not! They have been ushered into the new dawn. Their morning has broken…