I am writing something that some of you might disagree with, but I don’t really care, I need to write this tonight so I’m writing it from Hebron after spending Shabbat here. I came here expecting to meet with some jihadi beard wearing, m-4 carrying zealots who yelled a lot and hate everyone. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
First, I arrived here by bus, an armored bus, the plexi glass had marks on it from stones thrown by Arabs. Upon arrival, I could hear automatic weapons fire and what sounded like concussion grenades. What struck me wasn’t so much the noise but that there were children playing in a playground who didn’t even flinch. Toddlers and small children, they just kept playing. They were playing in a playground that was sheltered and I asked why, and was told that snipers actually targeted the children here. They actually killed a 10-month old.
We arrived at the hosting families home, I met one of the youngest, a 7-year old boy named Avraham and while he didn’t speak English, I taught him how to play thumb wars and he taught me to count to 4 in Hebrew. He thought my name was Klein because Ryan is such a foreign name lol. Then I met Rachel, an 11-year old who loves to read about far away places and daydream. She asked me about places I had been and laughed when her mother told her that I came from a place where it snowed for most of the year. Her mother dotes on her and she is a beautiful child and very good natured. The mother is Tzippi who pretty much destroys the stereotypes of religious Jewish women. She is intelligent and very educated, and we had some great talks about advocacy. She films the people who attack the soldiers and Jewish people in Hebron, I will now refuse to use the word settler to describe these people. The father is Israel, a rabbi who believes in walking the walk and I enjoyed talking to him about a lot of things. He reinforced the belief that Jews are indigenous without even really understanding it in the terms I used. He explained to me that he believes they need to be here to protect the second holiest site for Jews and because there has always been a Jewish presence here dating back four thousand years. He explained how important it was to protect these sites. He expressed dismay when I told him about the power plant in Edmonton that is being built over top of an Indian sacred site. It was unfathomable to him.
I saw so many things and I don’t have room to talk about it all. I saw sacred sites dating back to Herod being claimed by another religion (talk about appropriation) I saw children being incited to violence and baiting soldiers, and I saw tour guides giving lie-filled tours this week. I have been told that ” on this corner the IDF soldier, he kicked a baby who was crawling.” Another favorite was ” this mosque is built on top of a synagogue that the Jews built on top of a mosque. It’s a sure sign that you are on the wrong side when you tell lies because the truth is wrong for your side.
The history in Hebron is ridiculous, you can literally kick the ground and expose pottery shards. I did and I kept them as a reminder to me that protecting sacred sites needs to be the priority. I saw a 4000 year old stairway, and 3000 year old walls. I saw the tomb of the patriarchs, was told it was a mosque, as if that negated 4000 years?
We toured the casbah in Hebron. It was eye opening to see the hatred; they lie and say that our tour hurts their business but they are all closed at 5 pm, lol then they play loud music and yell at us as we walk. The Europeans took pictures and incited the Arabs. Fun times. I asked a Christian peace teams asshat if the Israel has a right to exist and he said ” its complicated” so I asked him if he believed that indigenous people have the right to self-determination on their ancestral lands. He couldn’t answer, but the Jewish kids he was preaching to, saw who he was and stopped listening to him. We finished the tour uneventfully. Then we attended a memorial picnic for a couple who were killed by a homicide bomber. It was very moving.
I went down to the 3000 year old olive grove for Lag Bomer, a holiday where Jewish people celebrate not dying (I’m sensing a theme here) by eating food and making big fires. I walked outside and heard booming music, which was awesome because in Hevron we were subjected by “calls to prayer” played at a ridiculous volume several times a day, so hearing Jewish music played at a high volume felt liberating and seeing all the kids dancing was awesome.
We walked down to the park where people were handing out free sandwiches and soft drinks, as well as pastries. They had a live band at the bottom of the hill who played very modern rock and some fashionable Jewish folk music. The juxtaposition of being in an ancient place with traditional people – less than 100 yards away is a 4000 year old stairway, 3000 year old walls and a tomb that its believed is the tomb of biblical characters and a crusader fort. It was funny because they tried to light the fire for several minutes and couldn’t get it going, so finally I showed one of the kids that you need kindling and to light the fire from the bottom.
The ISM owns a house right close, they use it to yell and attack the Jews verbally. The ISM is a joke of an organization who have ties to terrorists and who make it a mission to demonize Israel and Jews. Anyway, from the yard that overlooks the park there were several Arabs watching the party and some Europeans filming and taking pictures. One of them yelled at me so I walked over and he says ” This is how the Jews worship God? By dancing around a fire?” I said ” It’s a party, not everything is religious.” Then he said” No peace with settlers,” so I laughed and another Arab came out and said ” You need to lose some weight Canadian.” I laughed and said ” You need to lose some land.” He didn’t like that very much. The truth is that I didn’t care very much. After watching the way they act towards children, I had very little warm and fuzzies for those people.
Here is what I learned in Hevron. I learned that those people will never willingly leave, they feel that they are protecting one of the most sacred sites in Judaism and that they are living on their ancestral lands where the Jews became a people and I agree with them. I learned that people in Hevron are wonderful people, with beautiful children and that they are very warm and welcoming. I had the best experience of my trip there and in a trip that has been a blessing that’s saying a lot. I have experienced the best that Israel has to offer, I’ve seen life altering things, and I will be going back, because speaking up for these people is not just the right thing to do, it’s important for the world to understand what it means not just to Jews but to the world.
I love this place, I love these people and I will be back here. I will defend these people as if they were my own, because I feel as though they are.
You can find all Ryan’s posts from his trip to Israel here.