Sunday, July 06, 2008

Buckets and Demonstrations

"Mumkin daloo?"

Every evening when the heat breaks and it's time to draw water from the well, the children of at-Tuwani come to our house and ask us for our bucket. Our bucket is small and gray and exactly the same as every other bucket in the village; I think it's purely the thrill of asking us crazy foreigners "mumkin daloo?" ("Can we have the bucket?") that keeps the kids coming. Usually we hand over the bucket and return to whatever we were doing. But last night, my teammate Sarah politely turned down our young neighbors.

"We're on strike today. We're having a demonstration," she explained. "I'm very sorry, but I can't give you the bucket."

The reason for our daloo (bucket) demonstration was simple. The previous evening, seven-year-old Samih never returned our bucket. He forgot it and left it to spend the night at the well, not making its way home until yesterday afternoon. My teammates decided to express our discontent the firmest and most easily understandable way we could - through nonviolent resistance.

The girls asking for our bucket knew immediately what we meant by "demonstration." Here in At-Tuwani even the youngest child can tell you about the violence and injustice that the village is facing. Children alert us when the army sets up a checkpoint at the entrance to the village and they have christened our frayed Oscar the Grouch doll "Gadalia" after the armed Israeli settler who threatens their parents routinely. But from the oldest man in the village to the young girls who asked for our bucket, everyone in At-Tuwani also understands how the village is resisting the Israeli occupation of their land. Children observe their parents nonviolently confronting Israeli soldiers. Little boys accompany adults as they graze their sheep on their land in defiance of threats made by Israeli settlers. Women clear away roadblocks knowing they might be arrested. Everyone is familiar with nonviolent demonstrations and our neighbors vigorously debate their strategies.

Recently Sarah interviewed one of my favorite little girls for a short video on life in the village. "My name is Amira," she explained. "I live in At-Tuwani. I love At-Tuwani because…no!" she declared. "I don't love At-Tuwani. There are settlers and soldiers and they always cause problems!" Amira may be well aware of the situation facing her as she grows up, but she is also learning what resistance means under the tutelage of her parents and relatives. A few months ago she sagely informed me, "Wherever they go, soldiers always cause problems, but they don't come to Tuwani as often now because the people here are strong." When Amira grows up, whatever challenges her village faces, I'm sure she will be ready to organize nonviolent actions far more powerful than a "mumkin daloo" strike.

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