This morning while I sipped my tea, I thought to myself, “It happens every day.”
Yesterday afternoon, October 14th, a group of six to twelve year old Palestinian children returning home from school were forced to run for their lives. Every morning and afternoon, these children must walk to past an Israeli settlement on their way to and from school in the village of at-Tuwani. Yesterday, two adult Israeli settlers waited for them near the end of the settlement, threw stones at the children and chased them towards their homes in the village of Tuba. Because these children have been attacked frequently, lately in this very location, the Israeli army is charged with escorting them each day. But yesterday, as usual, the Israeli soldiers drove away, abandoning the children while they were still in danger. “The children were very afraid when they arrived home,” said one father.
It happens every day. Serving with Christian Peacemaker Teams in At-Tuwani, I’ve born witness to more attacks on these children than I’ve been able to keep track of. The children are not attacked every day, but every day they face more danger on their walk to school than I have faced my entire life. We’ve sat together, the children, my fellow CPTers and I, and waited for the Israeli army to come for more hours that I care to recall. Sometimes we play together and manage to have a genuinely good time. One afternoon we played with my camera, the kids posing for me as they climbed trees, climbed on top of each other, giggled and danced. The next day, one of the older girls pulled on my hand and said to me, “I was so happy yesterday! Last night I woke up in the middle of the night because I had a bad dream about the settlers. But then I thought about all the fun we had and I fell back asleep.” Those words broke my heart and I can’t put it back together.
It happens every day. We all know the many ways, tiny and humongous , that our world is falling apart around us: polar bears who are losing their habitat, millions of parents who can’t feed their children, wars with no end in sight, petty meanness, decreased community, and children who are attacked on their way to school. It’s so much to bear. Too much.
It happens every day, but that’s not the end of the story. Lately my mantra has been, “It is as bad as you think it is, but that’s not all.” To paraphrase an old slogan, if your heart isn’t broken, you aren’t paying attention. But if you aren’t also filled with hope, you’re missing half of the story. In at-Tuwani, every day Palestinians are resisting a military occupation that is trying to crush them and their culture. They are grazing their sheep, building new houses, organizing nonviolent demonstrations, and sending their children to school. Now it’s time for the olive harvest and throughout Palestine, farmers will step out on to their land, sometimes risking arrest and attacks, to harvest a bounty of thousands of green, blue, and even purple hued olives. Here in my own pacific northwest, I’ve been thinking about the salmon who every year come down the river, offer themselves up to the people, and then swim back to their headwaters to spawn and die. For thousand of years, despite ever increasing odds against them, they’ve survived through this cycle. I can’t help but think there is something they are trying to tell us.
It happens every day. Horror and hope. They stand together, side by side, on the knife’s edge. And they offer us a choice, every day.