Monday, August 4

Life Takes Over

Who knew that running an NGO, having a child, and being unwillingly drafted into a political showdown in the Middle East could be this time-consuming? In order to catch people up on what has been going on (all both of you who still check this blog, thanks mom and Steph) I'd like to fill you in on the above mentioned items: Hiba, Paidia, and the settlers.

Hiba: I'm going to start with her, because I like her the most of the three. I never imagined that I could get so much enjoyment from spending time with someone who never talks to me, only occasionally recognizes me, and constantly pukes on me. I often find myself trying to leave the office early, skip out on social obligations, etc just so I can spend time with Hiba, and she doesn't even know the difference! I know that a lot of parents feel this way about their children, but I really think that she is the most beautiful, strong, and intelligent 3.5 month old that has ever occupied the planet. Seriously, check out these pictures.

Look at that personality! Those beautiful blue eyes! Her smile! Sorry moms and dads of other children, it's been decided . . . mine is the best.

Paidia: We've just completed summer camps, and while this is technically the second summer that we have held camps, this is the first summer that we have done independent summer camps, without going through another organization. Let me tell you, that is very different. The most importance difference was recruiting kids to be a part of camp, which is more work than you might think. Simply getting our name out there for the community to be aware of was more effort than I imagined. But, after all is said and done, we did give about 60 kids the chance to be a part of one of the coolest camps that Palestine has seen. A number of people from here and from the states contributed money to the camp effort, and for that we are very thankful. There are some kids who got to attend camp that would have spent the week waiting for their parents to get home from work if y'all hadn't stepped up. Thank you very, very much.

Settlers: Now this is where this update really gets long. On May 15, a group of right-wing Israeli's descended upon an abandoned army base that directly borders Paidia's Jack Forrest Adventure Gardens. The group's stated purpose was to start a new Jewish settlement on the land, because they wanted to prevent the Palestinians from building a hospital for children with disabilities (the land is under the jurisdiction of the Israeli Army, but is owned by the Municipality of Beit Sahour, the town we live in). A number of Palestinians and internationals (including the Piston family and Paidia employees and volunteers) gathered in the are to see what the Israeli Army would do. After all, there were signs posted on the road leading to the area that inform Israeli citizens that their presence is illegal in the area (since it is a Palestinian town). Eventually, the settlers left that day, but they promised to come back.

Who wouldn't want this guy as a neighbor?

They have come back over a dozen times since that initial foray into our lives, and they show no signs of stopping. They have stated their intentions to start a settlement in a number of right-wing websites and newspapers, and thus far, little has been done to stop them. Each time they come, the settlers spray paint the base with racist and nationalist graffiti, hang some Israeli and right-wing flags, and leave. Each time, we paint over the graffiti with pictures and sometimes silly things, remove the flags, and we leave.

So far, we have been unable to discern the intentions of the authorities in the midst of all this. The military that shows up to the site every time the settlers come are basically just there to protect the settlers (even though they are the ones carrying guns anyway) and regularly give us conflicting answers to lie to us outright when we ask them about what they are going to do. The army and the Israeli civil authority continue to say that they are not going to allow the settlement to be built, but that is something that can easily change if the political winds change.

The last encounter we had with settlers was particularly disturbing. Some of us were painting over graffiti from the week before when a group of about 70 teenagers came onto the site, they started shouting at us to leave, that the land was only for Jews, and threw at least one paintbrush and a rock at some people who ignored them and continued to paint. The soldiers watched. Rather than risking confrontation or injury, we decided to abandon our painting project. The group of settlers spent the night at the site, despite the fact that the soldiers present told us the teenagers were not allowed to be there.

A settler shouting at a Paidia volunteer.

If the settlers succeed in establishing a settlement at this location, Paidia's Adventure Gardens, the Municipal park, and the children's hospital that Cure International wants to build here are all finished. Even now, we have noticed fewer families coming to our free climb because they are afraid of settlers and soldiers. I really don't know what will happen next. I wish I could have faith in the Israeli government and army to do the right thing, but I am far from convinced that they will.

God Bless,

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about the issue of settlements in the West Bank, the links below contain useful information.


John and Carol said...

I am so sorry to hear about the continued problems with those Settlers. We will pray that the Israeli's do the right thing. Good to hear how things are going!

Lynn Trew said...

Darn- so hard to stay in faith regarding this I will bet. Remember how Haman had it all tied up and then God used Esther to intervene. I will join you in prayer that God will see fit to use you and to protect this site. Blessings!

russ said...

wow. i'll be prying for that. i'm back in the states for 3 weeks and have been speaking on the issue (one time to a statewide methodist convention of sweet old women!). keep it up man. hi to wife and kiddo for me.

Kimberly said...

I'm writing for a new website now, and they recently posted a CPT update about the conflict. Since it was not a feature article, it did not receive much attention, but the one comment it did receive didn't seem to have an understanding of what is going on beyond what they see in news snippets. All that to say, if you would be interested in writing an article (you know, between loving on your daughter, spending time with your wife, working, etc.), we would definately be interested in publishing it.