When last I wrote about Sabastiya, the village was rejoicing over the cessation of sewage dumping on their farmland. At that time (April), the concern was how long it would take to renew the land so crops could again flourish in the fertile northern Palestinian farmland.
Today, I write with a heavy heart. My EA colleagues now serving in Tulkarm report that they were called to Sabastiya late Thursday night because of a fire in the olive groves.
|Fire in the olive groves
According to Jussuf, one of the EAs currently in Tulkarm, the team arrived on the scene about midnight and were told that between 50 and 70 olive trees were burning and that the Palestinian firefighters who were summoned to the scene were denied access to put the fires out. Likewise, the farmers whose trees were burning were pushed back under threat of force from the Israeli soldiers!
Depending upon the news source, the fires were either started by Israeli soldiers engaged in “exercises” or by the settlers of Shave Shomeron (the same settlement where the raw sewage spills of last winter/spring originated!)
|Shave Shomeron - from the hills of Sabastiya
Jussuf and his fellow EA Sissel did get into what Jussuf described as “the combat zone” to “obtain photographic evidence and reverse immediately before reinforcement (military jeep to intercept witnesses) was fetched.”
He reported that, by the time they got there everything was already burned although settlers then arrived and spend 30 seconds spraying water - “superfluous” at that point, and probably for show, Jussuf said - then added, “I could not hold on, the grief, the fear, the desperation of the farmers, who are faced with the scorched earth… [Again we] are witnesses of devastation, quite helpless.”
As if this weren’t enough, two days later Jussuf writes of again being called out to witness a fire and a violent confrontation between settlers and villagers in Fa’rata – another Palestinian town in the Tulkarm area. This time, not only were firefighters and farmers kept off the land by armed settlers, but villagers who tried to protest were beaten and, in some cases, arrested.
Did I mention that the Israeli army is there to “protect” the settlers, but there is no one to protect the Palestinians – and that the US government continues to turn a blind eye to the settlement building that is putting these people in peril?
And, sitting here in my peaceful home in Portland, Oregon, on a beautiful summer day with my five-year-old granddaughter playing quietly beside me, I too am overcome with grief and anger!
Only last weekend, I was at the Oregon/Idaho United Methodist Church Annual Conference, celebrating passage of a motion that would authorize establishment of a “task force” to study how the church can help our Palestinian brothers and sisters. Divestment is our ultimate goal, but we have to tread gently, taking “baby steps” so as not to upset the church hierarchy.
Yet Palestine continues to implode far more quickly than all the well-meaning people in churches, schools and businesses can act to make a difference. And the US government continues its unconditional support of Israel!
Please join me in prayers for Sabastiya and Fa’rata – and, indeed, for all the Palestinian people. [With thanks for Jussef and Ahmed for sharing their photos]
For more details about the Sabastiya fire: http://english.wafa.ps/index.php?action=detail&id=22713