Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dreaming of Paradise

"I had a dream last night," Shaadi told my teammates and me while we sat munching sliced tomatoes and olives one hot afternoon. Shaadi told us that in his dream he had climbed to the top of one of the pine trees at the edge of the Havot Ma'on Israeli settlement outpost. Below him, Shaadi said he could see Israeli settlers stealing the fodder that he uses to feed his sheep.

"Come down here," one of the settlers called up to Shaadi. "No, no" he said. "I'll up stay here." But the settler reached up into the tree and pulled Shaadi down to the ground. "They tried to kill me," Shaadi told us. He put his hands around his throat to show how the settlers had chocked him. "And then I woke up."

Shaadi says that his children often have nightmares like the one he described. They used to have even more, he told us, but now his village is more organized and more successful in nonviolently resisting the attacks of Israeli settlers. Still, to get to school in At-Tuwani, Shaadi's children have to walk through an Israeli settlement, along a road where adult Israeli settler have attacked them with chains and stones. Seeing Shaadi's children greet me with smiles and laughter is a delight, but also it feels strange, like a dream.

A week ago, I looked out on to Havot Ma'on from on a hillside where I had never sat before. As I saw on the settlement outpost from a new angle, I found myself filled with jealousy. Before me on the wooded outpost, in adjacent valleys, and in the neighboring houses of Ma'on settlement, settlers moved around freely, without inhibition. "They have so much space!" I thought. I envied all of room they had in which to walk without fear of attack or arrest. Certainly, the settlers of Havot Ma'on are afraid. But theirs are fears that born of prejudice and hate. And whatever their feelings, they are not enough to change the insistent reality of the South Hebron Hills – it's Palestinians, not Israelis, who run through the hills afraid for their lives.

As I sat watching dusk fall on Havot Ma'on, I thought back to another day I spent with Shaadi and his family. Shaadi asked my teammates and me to watch as he, his wife, oldest daughter, young son, and tiny baby made their way from to Magher Al Abeed. Sure enough, as Shaadi feared, as the family climbed over the hills a car left the settlement and speed after them. I called Shaadi to tell him that settlers were coming. "Thank you, thank you!" he said. Over the cell phone I could hear him calling to his family, telling them to run home. "What a nightmare," I thought.

Rarely do dreams of Israeli settlers and soldiers disturb my sleep, but I lately find it increasingly difficult to put my faith into a dream of a better future for Shaadi and his family. A taxi driver recently quipped to me, "If we have peace, we are in paradise." Sitting on a hillside watching the sunset stain the sky, I often imagine what at-Tuwani will be like when the occupation is over and Shaadi's family can walk over the hills without fear. Paradise is certainly the word for what I see. But everyday the Israeli government seems to have even less will deal with the extremist Israeli settlers who terrorize Palestinians like Shaadi. The longer that I live in Palestine the less certain a future of peace and justice feels to me.

But sometimes when I meet the children coming to school in the morning, Shaadi's daughters Manar and Diana catch my eye. They are still in elementary school, but the girls walk with commanding dignity. I stand beside Diana as she explains to the Israeli soldiers who escort her to school that they arrived late and did not met the children to the correct location. "You have to come by 7:30," she insists. And as I watch this little girl speak to the soldiers with such conviction, my sense of despair eases. For a moment, I stop wondering, "When will this nightmare end?" and begin to think, "How much longer can this injustice possibly continue?" In the face of Palestinian children dreaming of a better tomorrow, surely today's horrors cannot stand for long.

1 comment:

Sherri Munnerlyn said...

Hi,

I love reading your blog and seeing in what you are experiencing the power of God, in seeing the power and presence of God in nonviolent resistance, in seeing how no matter what we experience we can love and we can laugh and we can keep hope alive.

Since I started following what has been happening in Lebanon and the OPT, I started writing songs, and I wanted to share a song with you and comments I wrote down when I finished the song. My prayers are with you and all those in Palestine, always.

I Go To My Father's House
Day 2 2/26/08, (edited 3/27/08) It is a beautiful day, although it is turning cold again. I find myself feeling burdens of the world do not seem as heavy. And I know there can be joy and love and faith and hope to be found in all circumstances we find ourselves in. And we can share that with one another. And I have a new song, which is actually a verse of my last song which I have felt needs to be a song in and of itself. It is all because of the words of Jesus in that song. They have a life of their own. Every time I sing them, the words take me to new places and reveal new truths to me. So, the words of Jesus in verse 3 of the last song become the chorus of the new song. How strange this is, these very words I initially wondered if they even fit in the verse of the song In The Palm Of God's Hands. It seemed a paradox, wanting to tell the lost about Jesus, having a passion for those hurting, and wanting passionately to be with Jesus now. How could the two passions fit together? I do not understand this fully, but I know the places that Jesus words take me in this song are so uplifting, no words can describe this fully. And I realize, on further thought, it is not just about wanting Jesus to come now. It is going to the foot of that cross, where Jesus died for me and all of us sinners in this world, people alive then and in the future who would come to know him and believe in him. It is about going to the foot of that cross and standing there and seeing what Jesus did for me, his sacrifice and his love for me and every person in this world. In comparison to what Jesus did, my instant pain and troubles in my life are meaningless, are insignificant, no matter what those burdens are. They fade away, in comparison to the sacrifice Jesus made for us and his love for me and all of us. And my pain turns to joy, in the face of those truths. I Go To My Father's House (This is definitely the title of the song).

I Go To My Father's House

Verse 1

Jesus, My Jesus

You live in my heart

You lead and guide me each and every day of my life

You are the one who I was born to seek, and find, and to know

The only one who could have filled the emptiness I felt inside

Chorus

And when I feel burdened by the cares of this world

I find myself at the foot of that cross

Where you died for me

And I think about the words you spoke, Lord

Before you left this world, you said

I go to my father's house

Where there are many rooms

I go to prepare a place for you

And I will return for you

With these promises, Jesus

My pain turns to joy

And I long for that day

Come soon, Lord

Come soon

Verse 2

Jesus, My Jesus

You are the one who shows me that I am never alone

That I have nothing to fear

And that I am always loved

You are all I need, Jesus

Chorus

And when I feel burdened by the cares of this world

I find myself at the foot of that cross

Where you died for me

And I think about the words you spoke, Lord

Before you left this world, you said

I go to my father's house

Where there are many rooms

I go to prepare a place for you

And I will return for you

With these promises, Jesus

My pain turns to joy

And I long for that day

Come soon, Lord

Come soon

Verse 3

Jesus, my Jesus

You have a plan for my life

All you ask is that I turn to you, Lord

Believe in you, Jesus

And walk with you

Each and every day

I give my life to you, anew

Chorus

And when I feel burdened by the cares of this world

I find myself at the foot of that cross

Where you died for me

And I think about the words you spoke, Lord

Before you left this world, you said

I go to my father's house

Where there are many rooms

I go to prepare a place for you

And I will return for you

With these promises, Jesus

My pain turns to joy

And I long for that day

Come soon, Lord

Come soon

Verse 4

Jesus, my Jesus

You are more precious than silver and gold

You are the light that shines in a world filled with darkness

You are the one who brought grace and truth into this world

Chorus

And when I feel burdened by the cares of this world

I find myself at the foot of that cross

Where you died for me

And I think about the words you spoke, Lord

Before you left this world, you said

I go to my father's house

Where there are many rooms

I go to prepare a place for you

And I will return for you

With these promises, Jesus

My pain turns to joy

And I long for that day

Come soon, Lord

Come soon

Jesus, my Jesus

Come soon, Lord

Come soon

Sherri