Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Running For Your Lives

A panting child arrives at our door, trying to explain what has happened. Because of the language barrier, I struggle to understand how to respond. After gathering that jist of the story, I understand the settlers have done something to the sheep. So we grab our cameras and head out the door. While walking, I continue to get the details of what has happened.

It's not a new story, something similar happens every week in this village, but it still grips you with the force of something novel. Masked settlers had come charging out of the bushes. Running towards the Palestinian shepherds and sheep, they smacked the sheep with large sticks and threw large stones at the sheep. The Palestinians, two brothers under the age of 13, literally ran for their lives.

Last week, settlers captured these two boys and took them into the confines of the settlement. After they were in the settlement, the settlers beat the boys. After physically battering the elemnetary-age boys, the boys were left to wander back to their village. See the CPT Release

As I continued to stand with the boys, getting the details of the events of today, they pointed towards the settlment and exclaimed, “look, the settlers are in the trees, it's the same settlers.” As I turned with my camera and zoomed to get the faces of the settlers, they moved behind a tree, and out of sight, at the perfect moment. This same scenario played out another 6 times. The young Palestinian, Ahmed, said, “they think this is a game, those settlers are dogs.”

As the sheep started to meander towards greener grass, Ahmed stopped dead in his tracks and his expression became one of utmost fear. I turned and there were two settlers, coming out of the settlement, and running towards us. Ahmed began screaming at the sheep, slapping them on their backsides, urging the sheep to run away. My heart started pounding, as I struggled to focus the camera while staying between the settlers and the sheep and also backpedaling to distance myself from the settlers projected path.

Then I notice they are wearing shorts. That strikes me as unusual for Orthodox Jews. But they are still running. My heart is still pounding. And Ahmed is still screaming.

As the settlers approach the main road, they turn, away from us, and continue along the paved road.

In fact, they are just out for a late afternoon jog, some cardiovascular exercise. They aren't even aware that we are here.

I hate this. I hate that I end up videotaping people going out for a jog.

Yet because of the daily violence, fear, and intimidation, these Palestinians are afraid of anyone who comes out of that settlement. They are afraid of anyone jogging. They are afraid of anyone with seemingly Jewish religious dress. They are afraid of anyone who appears to be Anglo.

And they have every right to be afraid of people that fit this description. Today they were chased and their sheep were attacked by people who fit that description. And last week these boys were kidnapped, taken into the settlement, and beaten with sticks and fists by thugs, who fit that description.

People living in fear suspect everyone. Anyone is a potential attacker. Palestinian shepherds end up running in fear away from Israelis who are just running for exercise. And these shepherds run away for good reason.