by Tarek Abuata
Jesus said to “love your neighbor” and to “love your enemy.” Jean Zaru, in her book Occupied with Nonviolence: A Palestinian Woman Speaks (2008, Fortress Press) poses the question, “What if your neighbor is your enemy?” The answer? More love.
On several occasions I’ve been beaten by Israeli soldiers and I’ve experienced the ugliness of the Israeli Occupation on a very deep level. As a privileged Palestinian, I know that I have gone through only a fraction of what others my age living in Palestine are subjected to.
Nevertheless, I believe that more love works because I know both Israeli settlers and soldiers who have experienced transformation through the love energy with which we have faced their hatred.
Jesus did not say that the way of love would be easy however. Take “school patrol” for example.
In al-Khalil/Hebron, children as young as 6 years old have to pass through checkpoints, walk under metal detectors, hand over their school bags to be searched, and sometimes get patted down. CPTers patrol the streets on a daily basis to lessen the harassment of these children.
One day, feeling absolutely exhausted after patrolling, we ran into a settler who spit in our faces and called us Nazis for helping these “terrorist” children. At that moment I did not think “it takes more love to fight an Occupation.” No! I said to myself, “I want to slap him!” Such reactions make me feel the deep, unnatural ugliness of allowing hatred to shackle me in a never-ending spiral of destruction.
A different day, Israeli soldiers detained six little 5-year old Palestinian children for playing with toy guns on Eid. Observing that scene, I actually softened. I stood back wondering which kids were suffering more abuse – those 5 year olds with toy guns or those 18 year olds with real guns. I could only feel compassion for all involved, including myself.
I have learned, and continue learning, that with love, we become a mirror to someone’s actions. Jesus asked us to turn our cheek, not our eyes. I look directly into a soldier’s eyes for him to see my soul, and in the process, he sees his own soul through that mirror, connecting us at a profound level that can’t be verbalized, and waking us both out of our societal self-inflicted nightmares.
Thank you for your ongoing prayers and support for the work of the Palestine team as we look into the eyes of Israeli soldiers and stand with Palestinian peacemakers.
Abuata serves as CPT’s Palestine Project Support Coordinator and lives in the Washington, DC area.