AT-TUWANI REFLECTION: Dreaming of paradise

12 August 2008
AT-TUWANI REFLECTION: Dreaming of paradise

by Joy Ellison

[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]

"I had a dream last night," Shaadi told my teammates and me while we sat munching sliced tomatoes and olives one hot afternoon. Shaadi told us that in his dream he had climbed to the top of one of the pine trees at the edge of Havat Ma'on, an Israeli settlement outpost. Below him, Shaadi could see Israeli settlers stealing the fodder that he uses to feed his sheep.

"Come down here," one of the settlers called up to Shaadi. "No, no" he said. "I'll up stay here." But the settler reached up into the tree and pulled Shaadi down to the ground. "They tried to kill me," Shaadi told us. He put his hands around his throat to show how the settlers in his dream had choked him. "And then I woke up."

Shaadi says that his children often have nightmares like the one he described. They used to have even more, he told us, but now his village is more organized and successful in nonviolently resisting the attacks of Israeli settlers. Still, to get to school in At-Tuwani Shaadi's children have to walk through an Israeli settlement, along a road where adult Israeli settlers have attacked them with chains and stones.

Seeing Shaadi's children greet me with smiles and laughter is a delight, but also it feels strange, like a dream.

Sometimes when I meet the children coming to school in the morning, Shaadi's daughters, Manar and Diana, catch my eye. They are still in elementary school, but the girls walk with commanding dignity. I stand beside Diana as she explains to the Israeli soldiers who escort her to school that they arrived late and did not meet the children at the correct location. "You have to come by 7:30," she insists. And as I watch this little girl speak to the soldiers with such conviction, my sense of despair eases. For a moment, I stop wondering, "When will this nightmare end?" and begin to think, "How much longer can this injustice possibly continue?" In the face of Palestinian children dreaming of a better tomorrow, surely today's horrors cannot stand for long.