The Tree of Life Educational Fund will be presenting a program exploring the severe impact of the Israeli occupation on the economic vitality of the city of Hebron and the challenges of daily life for Palestinians living there. While many use the more familiar name of “Hebron”, we should honor how Palestinians use the Arabic name, “Al-Khalil”, which means “The Friend.” The city of Al Khalil (Hebron) has roughly 200,000 Palestinian inhabitants, the second largest Palestinian City in the West Bank after East Jerusalem. Approximately 40,000 Palestinians live in the Old City under direct Israeli control with a substantial military presence, surrounded by around 700 Jewish settlers. Another 8,000 settlers live in the settlements of Kiryat Arba and Giv’at Ha-Avot, on the outskirts of Al Khalil (Hebron). For international visitors, including travelers on Tree of Life journeys, Al- Khalil (Hebron) represents some of the most oppressive manifestations of the occupation.
|Doors open at 1:15 pm
Program from 2:00 – 4:00 pm
|St. Peter’s Lutheran Church
310 Rte. 137, Harwich, MA
|Doors open at 6:00 pm
Program from 7:00 – 9:00 pm
|Community Church of Boston
565 Boylston St., Boston, MA
|Doors open at 4:30 pm
Program from 5:30 – 7:30 pm
of Greater Hartford
1781 Berlin Turnpike, Berlin, CT
|Doors open at 4:00 pm
Program from 5:00 – 7:00 pm
35 Harris Rd, Avon, CT
|Old Lyme, CT||Sunday AM
|10:00 am Service||First Congregational Church
of Old Lyme
4 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT
|Woodbridge, CT||Sunday PM
|Doors open at 2:30 pm
Program from 3:00 – 5:00 pm
|Palestine Museum US
1764 Litchfield Turnpike
Our speakers will include Dalia, a young Palestinian woman from Hebron, graduate of Bethlehem University, and speaker at our 2019 program; and Sadeq, a young Palestinian man who is a recent graduate in English Language and Literature from Hebron University, a representative from Community (formerly Christian) Peacemaker Teams, and Mella, author of a recent Mondoweiss article, “Ilegal Kings On Palestinian Land.”
As residents of Hebron, Dalia and Sadeq will provide insight into Palestinian life there today. They will describe the economic impacts of Israeli actions following the 1994 massacre at the Ibrahimi Mosque and the consequent description of the Old Town as the “Ghost Town.” Efforts to revive the Old Town through assistance from a variety of organizations will also be touched on. One of the most important local initiatives that Dalia and Sadeq are involved with and that Tree of Life helps support, is the Hebron Soup Kitchen, which provides free food to the poor. They will reflect on the importance of this service to the community.
Community Peacemaker Teams will discuss the work of CPT in Hebron providing a protective presence for school children who are often threatened by the settlers and for Palestinians facing home demolitions or trying to get to the Ibrahimi Mosque for prayer. CPT is also engaged in work with youth to empower them to tell their stories, document the restriction of movement and lack of access to education for children in Hebron, and help to prevent the displacement of hundreds of people in the South Hebron Hills for an Israeli firing zone. She will also describe cultural and business initiatives that are providing employment and support for the people of Hebron.
We will be offering Palestinian olive oil, food products, and crafts for sale. Crafts will be provided by the Olive Branch Fair Trade shop on Martha’s Vineyard.
Click here for information about the speakers
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The Oak Tree of Mamre: A Personal Reflection
On our annual Tree of Life journeys, I’ve visited Hebron (Al-Khalil) on many occasions. We’ve driven through the large Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba. With our guides from Breaking the Silence and the Christian Peacemaker Team (now renamed Community Peacemaker Team) we’ve visited the Ibrahimi Mosque where we were reminded of how on February 25, 1994, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, a US citizen from Brooklyn, NY, burst into the mosque and opened fire on those at prayer. 29 men and young boys were killed, and in retaliation, Dr. Goldstein himself was killed. Yehuda Shaul, a former IDF soldier and founder of Breaking the Silence, showed us a monument in memory of Dr. Baruch Goldstein with the inscription, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” We’ve walked down Al-Shuhada Street, and there we saw a sign that said, “There never was and never will be a Palestine.”
Guided by CPT volunteers, wearing their distinctive red hats, we learned how they have to stand between Palestinian children going to school and angry, threatening settlers who perpetrate violence against the children and the CPT volunteers.
We’ve walked down ancient streets, and we have seen the once proud vibrant bazaar now closed off with shops boarded up, and we have learned how settlers would throw bricks, garbage, and dirty diapers on the Palestinians below.
We’ve also seen beautiful remnants of what the city used to be, including a factory that continues to manufacture the Keffiyeh. We’ve also marveled at glass blowing factories where beautiful cobalt blue vases are still created. This craftmanship has made Hebron Glass famous throughout the world.
With the help of a friend, we now have a Bedouin Tent, made in Hebron out of camel’s hair. We use the tent for our church’s annual Christmas pageant. It serves as a reminder of the Bedouin culture and the hospitality of the Palestinian people. On our journeys, we’ve slept inside those camel hair tents, and on cold mornings, we’ve warmed ourselves with their cardamon coffee and sage tea.
For over 15 years, Hebron (Al-Khalil) has been an essential but challenging part of our Tree of Life itinerary. More than any other place we have visited, it has helped us to see the pain and the cruelty of the Israeli version of settler colonialism, how cruel theologies of entitlement have driven the madness of the settlers in that area. But also, it has helped us to see the tenacity and resilience of the Palestinians who live there.
However, it wasn’t until very recently that I came to realize that Hebron is home to one of the most important and powerful of our biblical stories – the story of Abram, later to be known as Abraham, who found shelter in the shade of a giant oak tree. “The Oak Tree of Mamre” is now little more than a dead tree waiting to be cut up as firewood. Situated within a monastery of the Russian Orthodox Church, the remnants of the tree are a reminder of how Abram pitched his tent in the shade of the “Oak Tree of Mamre” where he welcomed 3 strangers who turned out to be angels. Thus, in the scriptures, we are offered the wisdom to “welcome strangers, for in doing so, we may be entertaining angels unawares.”
How does a place with such a sacred story become a place now known for its xenophobia and violence? Is there hope for such a place?
Though declared dead in 1996, in 1997 a root sprout appeared. Perhaps it’s not too late for the Oak Tree of Mamre? Perhaps, it’s not too late for the sacred gift of our sacred stories that remind us of our true humanity, our capacity for hospitality. Perhaps it’s not too late to overcome the fears that divide us. Perhaps it’s not too late for us to sit in the shade of the “Oak Tree of Mamre”, wherever it may be, and think about ways in which we can restore the harmony and interrelatedness of all Creation?
The Rev. David W. Good
Founder, Tree of Life Educational Fund