A Conversation I have Never Had Before
So I get on the bus near St. Andrews to head out with hundreds of others for the demonstration in Susiya. There are four buses of mostly progressive Jews of various political stripes who share the common understanding that demolishing this village is not Ok religiously or otherwise. The buses have been organized by Rabbis for Human Rights. It reminds me of taking the bus down to Postville Iowa after one of the largest raids against workers in US history. That bus too was organized by progressive Jews, and in both cases they are trying to hold their own accountable.
So there I am in my black clergy dress that feels both too short and clingy and very hot but I am insistent that the Church show up and be counted in this cloud of witnesses for we too are complicit in what is happening in Susiya by our silence and empty utterances of “grave concerns.”
Once settled in my seat with the AC on full blast and sipping my precious water we women introduce ourselves and begin chatting the way women can and do. My seatmate was a radio newsperson. She is 75 years old so has seen and covered it all. She is retired and is now part of a few activist groups that work on human rights. For one group they gather testimonies of abuse and find lawyers for the Palestinians whose rights have been violated. I am impressed by her dedication and her sincere concern over this village and its residents about to have their homes demolished.
She tells me she is a proud Zionist. She simply believes the Jews deserve a homeland and so do the Arabs. She believes that she cannot have her land unless they have theirs. This is the clearest and cleanest definition of a two state solution I have ever heard and it has a certain logic to my non-zionist ears.
My busmate does not live in a settlement. She lives in the German Colony where Arabs lived before ’67. I let the irony of this fact go by without comment. Our conversation turns to children and where they live and what they are doing. I talk about my daughter and her wonderful work with fair trade. In what seems like the middle of a plain and simple woman’s talk about families I begin to notice she is edgy and a little tearful. She is concerned it turns out about her grandson going into the army. Tomorrow they are having a farewell for him. I misinterpret her grandmotherly concern to be about his safety.
Her tears now are full force. She is crying for the things he may be forced to do like destroy people’s homes. “He could be placed here. He could become one of them.” Not knowing what to say but feeling her pain, I grab and hold her hand. We sit like this for a long time as we roll through the dry southern Hebron hills. We smile at the recognition that a Jew and a Christian are holding hands, a Zionist and an non-zionist, two women concerned about the welfare of others—our own and others.
When we arrive to the village and begin assembling ourselves she expresses concern that I dont have a hat. I tell her that hats give me headaches. She then kisses my forehead and we head out into the boiling sun to do what mothers have done since the beginning of time to stand against violence. However this time I am aware that I will also hold in prayer those who will become perpetrators of violence, hers and other grandmother’s sons and daughters. I will pray for us all.