HEBRON: The Gifts of the Magi

January 21, 2000
HEBRON: The Gifts of the Magi

by Ben Long and Gary Brooks

On a cold, rainy Epiphany morning, Thursday, January 6, a group of five
peace studies students from Manchester College and members of the CPT Hebron
team brought symbolic gifts to three Palestinian families whose homes are
threatened with demolition. As it was with the Magi who left the manger
blessed with a greater gift than those they had brought, so it was with this
group of gift bearers.

After trekking uphill through rain and mud, the group entered the make-shift
of Yussuf and Zuhoor Al-Atrash and their 10 children. The family has built
homes only to see all three demolished. Last winter, the family lived in a
tent and
now is living in a small three-room concrete-block structure topped with a
roof. The new "house" is hardly an improvement. Rain blew in between the
walls and dripped from virtually ever square inch of the tin roof. There
was not a dry spot in the house and the stove was so wet that cooking was

"Where is the peace? Where is the peace?" cried Zuhoor Al Atrash whose
first home was demolished in 1988. Eleven years later her new home can
barely protect her 9 children from the cold wind and not at all from the
rain. The delegation presented the Al Atrash family with an orange tree as
a sign of hope and of our support for her family's struggle for justice.

The delegation crowded back into the van and made its way to the Beqa'a
Valley to visit the home of the Omar Sultan family. The Sultan family has
subjected to a month-long siege by Jewish settlers demanding that the Sultan
home be demolished and that a new settlement be established on Palestinian-
owned land adjacent to the Sultan property. As a result of a 24-hour-a-day
presence, the efforts of local Palestinian activists and authorities, and
peace groups, the Sultan house still stands and Israeli authorities have
that no settlement will be permitted in the area. The delegation presented
Sultan with a ceramic plate and dates, the food traditionally eaten to break
fasts of the Islamic holy days of Ramadan, as a symbol of our community with
his family.

In Beit Ummar, an agricultural village famous for its grapes, the delegation
with Edna Sabarneh Baran. Edna and husband, Abu Ra'ad, wanted to build a
larger home for their family. Shortly after the foundation work was
the Israeli military government issued a "stop work" order in March of 1998.
Since then, no new construction has been possible. Edna spoke of her
longing for simple, decent housing and her desire for a just peace between
Israelis and Palestinians. The delegation presented her with a pitcher of
water and cups symbolizing our wish that justice would flow like water in

Three families, three gifts. Our gifts to the family were small and
symbolic, the
gifts of the family to us, immeasurable. Their courage, commitment to
peace, and tenacious endurance are lights shining in the darkness of the
occupation, stars to light our way as we continue the journey toward peace
and justice in the Holy Land.