Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Virgin Mary and the Plowmen

Palestinians plowing their land (December 5th 2004)

Last week, I found myself in the midst of a situation that put me in mind of a Palestinian story about a figure revered by both Christian and Muslim Palestinians, the Virgin Mary:

When the Virgin Mary was on the flight to Egypt with her son in her arms, she passed by some plowmen making furrows in their filed. She said to them, “Though today you are only sowing, before the sun rises tomorrow morning, your field will be ready to harvest. But remember, if anyone comes this way and asks about me, say, she was here just as we were getting ready to plant these chickpeas.”

Indeed when the soldiers who were after the Virgin came to the place on the very next day, these same plowmen were busy harvesting chickpeas. The soldiers asked, “Has a women carrying a child passed your way recently?” The plowmen replied, “By God, such a one did go by, but that was when we were digging the furrows to sow this crop.” “O,” said her pursuers, “that must have been some time ago. How will we catch up to her now?” Excerpt from Sahtain: Discover the Palestinian Culture by Eating
Very soon, once the rains begin to fall over the South Hebron Hills, Palestinians will begin tilling in preparation for later planting wheat and barley. But on Friday a Palestinian landowner decided to start early, in a valley south of the Havot Ma’on Israeli settlement. This valley and valleys and hills that regularly surround it have been the sites of Israeli settler attacks on Palestinian farmers and shepherds. Therefore, when a landowner announced he was ready to begin working on his land, Palestinian community leaders began to prepare to deter and document a settler attack.

In order to ensure that one brave Palestine was able to work on his own land, Palestinian leaders had to coordinate the efforts of ten Israeli and international activists. Following the instructions Palestinian activists, six internationals spend the better part of a day observing from hillsides, prepared to gather evidence and intervene. It would be unwise and dangerous to describe exactly what Palestinians organized, but it was a James Bond-style operation. The Israeli army District Coordinating Office (DCO) was on-hand to prevent an attack and members of Christian Peacemaker Teams were prepared to collect video evidence if they did not do so (as too often happens.) In the end, settlers did not attack the plowman. Like the Virgin Mary, Palestinians outwitted their oppressors. It was another victory of Palestinian nonviolent resistance.

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