"We are a peaceful people. We will never attack any settler. We hope you have a good image of us." Sheik Sultan spoke these words to our Christian Peacemaker Team on one of our regular visits to his village, Al Bweire. Sheik Sultan is more than 100 years old. He spoke from his heart as he shared stories of Muslims and Jews living peacefully together before 1928 in this land.
Sheik Sultan and his large family live on a very fertile piece of land close to the Jewish settlements of Harsina and Kiryat Arba. In the past years, these settlers have established an illegal outpost - Hill 86 - on the hill close to the Sultans and immediately behind another Palestinian family's home in the neighborhood.
The outpost has grown dramatically within the last six months, from one small house to five houses at present. The settlers living in this outpost not only have been harassing the villagers with cursing, throwing stones at and chasing the kids, but they have been increasingly provoking the villagers to violence.
Within the last two weeks, they have burned a piece of village land. They have broken two car windows. They have attempted to invade a Palestinian field and to begin working it as their own. They have gathered in numbers to throw stones and to cut the water irrigation pipes of one farmer. They have set up two tents on Palestinian land.
Sheik Sultan pondered: "We want no violence on our side, but we see more and more violence on their side. We don't know why they do that, why they come here and attack us. Before 1928, we were here as one family."
I watched this old, small man, weathered, furrowed in face like the soil itself. I felt the immense pathos of such catastrophic soul pain and sadness as he shared this story with us. I felt, too, the cold non-compassionate actions of those settlers so numb, so indifferent to the cruelty they were exercising on these simple farmers.
I saw in that circle of Palestinians talking with us such a strong pride in the soil which they've always treasured for its rich harvests of grapes. I saw fear for their immediate and distant future. Would the settlers continue their efforts to harangue and gradually grab more and more land from them? Would they continue to destroy their crops? Are they doomed to lose this precious land dunam by dunam, piece by piece?
I felt we, as foreigners, stepping into their story were so honored to be trusted by this group of 15 Palestinians. I felt a strong desire to make their story known so people around the world would take some action to put a halt to this land confiscation which continues to escalate the violence and conflict in the area. There is no settlement freeze here.
I strongly suggest that you, the readership, call your congressional representative, Bob Latta, at (800) 541-6446, or Sens. George Voinovich at (800) 205-6446 or Sherrod Brown at (888) 797-8717 or (888) 896-6446. Insist that the $11 million per day the United States supplies to Israel to support this oppressive system must be stopped or conditioned until Israel abides by international law. This is your money our government is spending to support all this suffering brought about by Israeli policies.