Shanti Sena Stories: “You Are Not Good!”
2008 September 30
Paulette and I patrolled twice this morning. School is closed because today is Eid al Fitr, the great Muslim feast celebrating the end of Ramadaan. But today happens to also be Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. We were concerned that the superposition of these two celebrations on the same day within the tense context of Hebron and its provocative settlements might be dangerous.
As we passed our second checkpoint, beside the Gutnick Center for settlers, in front of the Tomb of Abraham, Sarah, and family, I greeted the two Israeli soldiers, “Le shanah tov,” the traditional Hebrew greeting on Rosh Hashanah (I had googled it last night). Then I turned and looked carefully at the three Palestinians being detained by the soldiers. I needed to remember what they looked like so that when we returned in 20 minutes, I would know if they had been released. If they were still being detained, I would call TIPH (Temporary International Presence Hebron, the official monitors of human rights after the 1994 massacre of Muslims inside the Tomb). But I said nothing to these three Palestinians.
Five minutes later, as Paulette and I were chatting at the next checkpoint, one of those three detainees, wearing a gorgeous new purple shirt for Eid al Fitr, walked up to me, shook his finger in my face, and said in an angry tone, “You are not good! You greeted the soldiers, but you did not greet us.”
I explained that we want to be friends with both sides in the conflict, the Israeli soldiers as well as the Palestinian people. We want the Israeli people and the Palestinian people to be reconciled, to become friends, to live together in peace like brothers and sisters… The man who had been detained seemed satisfied, and continued on his way.
But I felt a little ashamed. I thought to myself, “Yes, my friend, you are right! I should always greet both soldiers and Palestinians, especially those being detained. It is very helpful to the soldiers to see that I treat every Palestinian as my friend also. It will gradually help them recognize the humanity of those they detain day after day. I will never make that mistake again. Thank you, yanni (my friend).”