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.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Let the shops clap their hands

A reflection by my CPT colleague

CPTnet 23 de septiembre AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: 
God’s justice, even for the shops by Steve Heinrichs “And the shops of the city will clap their hands!”

That’s what those radical biblical prophets would be singing if they were here in occupied Hebron, tramping through the streets of the Old City, seeing the overwhelming number of Palestinian shops that have been shut down by the Israeli forces. A long time ago, courageous truth-telling Jews like Isaiah and Jeremiah went around proclaiming to the oppressed that God was coming to bring justice to all things. Not only people, but everything would receive God's peace, so that, according to the prophetic imagination, even “the trees will clap their hands” (Is. 55:12). And if trees clap, why not Palestinian shops? 

The prophets dreamt of a world with jubilant trees because the trees were one of the chief victims of ancient imperial politics. They had been clear-cut by empire after empire in order to satisfy a variety of violent and extravagant purposes; military chariots, fleets of naval war ships, opulent palace residences, and temples. "But there is hope for the trees!" shout the prophets. One day they will clap their hands because God will come at last to rescue them from the death-dealing ways of the empire. One day the trees will clap because the powers of this earth will finally stop abusing them, stop taking more than they really need, and never again cut them down for purposes of war. 

Today, in the streets of Hebron's Old City, I can hear those old prophets singing that familiar tune once again, yet remixing the powerful words to speak hope and challenge into this particular situation. “And the shops of the city will clap their hands.” 

Over the past decade, more than five hundred Palestinian shops have been welded shut and well over a thousand more closed due to Israeli imperial politics. That is about 75% of the shops in this place, and the impact of such oppression, as you can well imagine, has been devastating. Once the hub of trade, giving life to the entire community, today’s Old City struggles simply to survive. And the violence against the shops continues. This past month, we have witnessed Israeli soldiers arbitrarily breaking open the doors of three more shops, and welding shut three others. 

The prophetic tradition will not stand idly by. So if you and I have ears to hear, let us hear those ancient Palestinian activists singing a subversive song in today’s Palestine, crying out to God and to us and against the Israeli Empire, “And the shops of the city will clap their hands.” 

One day, God will restore all things; not just Israeli and Palestinian, but even trees, and yes, even the shops of Hebron. Until that day, let us boldly sing the song of our elder prophets, and perhaps we will hear a little clapping, even today.

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