After some plans changed, I decided to start my stint with the International Women's Peace Service (IWPS) a few days early. For those of you that know me well, you're probably thinking umm, dude, 'women' 'peace', yeah none of that describes you at all - what are you thinking? It's true that I'm no pacifist and I really don't identify all that much with 'womanhood', but I came here because this is an organization that came highly recommended from a whole bunch of people both here in Palestine and back home. I'm clearly uncomfortable with the woman thing and am having some more serious issues with the idea of non-violence (more about that in my next post), but still, they have great connections and seem to be well respected by the community here. Being here has not in any way lessened my serious concerns about the role of internationals in Palestine. I still maintain that my purpose in coming is not to swoop in like some great white saviour - I'm here to learn as much as I can in order to make me a better activist back home. At this point, I need to rely on organizations like the IWPS to make connections with people here that I can learn from. If I can do some good work while being here, great. If I think I'm doing harm, I'm outta here.
So last night we got a call around 11pm from a nearby village - Kifl Haris. They called because the army was all over the village, which was under closure. We were asked to come to observe, document and intervene if needed. Two of us went - we took a taxi to the village, but were stopped on our way in. The soldiers told the driver - in Hebrew - that we would have to walk. They let us into the village and we headed towards the centre of town. It was there that we found out what was going on. Inside Kifl Haris lies the 'Tomb of Joshua'. Every so often, settlers decide to come into the village to pray and celebrate at the tomb. Last night was one of those nights, so the entire village was taken over by soldiers so that two bus loads of settlers could come to the tomb. They were there all night. Beyond the violence of closure, there were no physical altercations and the people from the village told us that our presence wasn't needed and we went home. We did take some pictures to document the incident.
Now someone who didn't have the misfortune of 10 years of Orthodox Hebrew school might have assumed that this tomb is a very holy site in Judaism and that last night was an important Jewish festival. Not true. Last night was just Thursday - no holiday at all. Apparently there was a huge celebration on Joshua's birthday a few month ago - that's not a Jewish holiday. In fact, it's probably sacrilegious to worship a prophet like that. Isn't that why Jews frown upon Christmas? Also, I was taught that Jews don't tend to pray at so-called holy sites. This may betray the Ashkenazi (European) Jewish bias of my education and may only be true of Jews like my ancestors who lived for centuries far away from these sites and communicated with good ole g-d just fine. Still, all the settlers were white Jews who have only recently invented these 'traditions' as an excuse to invade and terrorize Palestinian villages.
This is just more proof that the so-called 'conflict' here is not about religion - it never has been. This is apartheid and colonization - even if it wears a kippa. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise because it's simply not true. Last night, these violent settlers created a fake celebration to worship at the tomb of someone not all that revered in Judaism; they did it as a show of force - plain and simple.