Friday, October 29, 2010
The Miqbels of Beit Ummar
On Thursday I made my way from Jerusalem south on Route 60 to the Palestinian village of Beit Ummar, just 20 minutes north of Hebron. My dear friend Jamal Miqbel met me warmly and drove me to his home where I was introduced to Jamal and Saddiya's new baby, Ameer, now 1 1/2 months old. Ameer rewarded the multiple sounds we all made (language didn't seem to matter) with lovely smiles and miniature sounds of his own. Friends and admirers of the Miqbels from Chicago and Boston had sent money, a laptop, an I phone and gifts for all the children which it was my privilege to help deliver. No one deserves this kind of support more than this lovely and courageous family.
Jamal and Saddiya's family continues to flourish in a tense and frequently dangerous context. The Israeli settlement next to Beit Ummar is expanding - construction never stopped there during the recent "freeze" - and now Palestinian farmers are prevented from entering their fields by threats and attacks from settler residents. Palestinian land is consistently being appropriated by settlement expansion. Residents in Beit Ummar have responded with weekly demonstrations protesting these violations of their land and their rights. Inevitably, rocks are thrown and the IDF quickly declared the village a military zone, meaning anyone can be arrested at any time. Jamal told us the story of his 15 year old nephew, Ibrahim, who was recently awakened in his bed at home at 2 AM by Israeli soldiers and taken for questioning. While in prison he was severely beaten and had electrodes attached to his genitals with the threat he would "become like his sister" and never marry. Jamal and his brother finally gained Ibrahim's release with a fine of 500 shekels and their signature on an agreement that Ibrahim would be returned for questioning within an hour of notification by the IDF.
I don't know how people like Jamal continue their work creating bridges of awareness and understanding between Israelis and Palestinians while living under such oppression. The T shirt the Miqbel's son, Zain, wore spoke volumes about his and his family's commitment to non-violent resistance: End the Occupation; Stop the Abuse of Detainees; Free the Peacemakers. Their oldest son, Yazan, is studying English and Hebrew in Hebron with the intent of teaching these to his younger sibs. Speaking Hebrew may help save any one of them from abusive treatment by Israeli soldiers.
Finally, a remarkable story about Jamal. Israeli friends who participate in his project invited him to spend a day in Jerusalem. They would take him wherever he wanted to go. To the amazement of his host family, he asked to go to Yad Vashem. He wanted to understand better, he said, the terrible history his friends had experienced.
We should all have such willingness to understand those who mistreat us.