Saved by the Torah – Johann Funk

Janet Benvie and I are swarmed by Israeli settler youth as we monitor the occupation of Wadi Nasara on the outskirts of Hebron, Palestine.  We are both on the Hebron Christian Peacemaker Team that monitors checkpoints and potential conflict zones in an effort to reduce the level of violence.  For several days the youth blockades a road across the valley forcing Palestinians to cross an open field to get from their neighbourhoods to the Old City of Hebron.  Israeli Boarder Police patrol the area but do not intervene in the sporadic confrontation between the Israeli youth and Palestinian passers by.  The youth shout insults and throw rocks at Palestinians within range.

As one Palestinian crosses the field below the road the youth begin chanting, “Mohammed is a pig” and other insults.  When the man stops to reprimand them they violently attack him.  Janet and I run forward to draw their attention.  The Palestinian slips away but the Israeli boys swarm Janet and push her to the ground.  At this point that the soldier runs up and encourages the settler youth by shouting, “You are the problem.  You are the ones provoking the violence.”  The girls rush me to prevent me taking pictures.  It becomes chaotic.  As I reach Janet she is able to regain her footing.  We are pushed and shoved but are able to back against a wall so we can see all of our attackers.  I am sprayed in the face with pepper spray but fortunately my glasses keep the spray out of my eyes. Once they have exhausted the usual demeaning slogans such as Nazi, Jew killer, anti-Semite monkey, go home to your mother, an Israeli youth in perfect English shouts, “This is our land, God gave us this land.”

I ask, “Have you read the Torah?”

“Yes, three times.”

Janet replies, “I doubt it very much or you wouldn’t behave the way you do.”

To the second round of, “God gave us this land” Janet asks, “Why then did Abraham have to buy the cave of Machpela to bury Sarah?”

I add, “The whole land is God’s and he gives it to whom he pleases.  He did give it to the Jews but he also had it taken away from them.”

“When?”

“During the exile.”

“This is our land and I am right,” is his final reply as the group fades away.  The steam has gone out of their protest.

That evening I leave for Jerusalem.  What sleep I get is interrupted by nightmares of what could have gone wrong in Wadi el Nassara.  Janet could have been trampled, we could have been badly beaten or arrested.  However, more frightening for me is processing my feelings of anger that border on rage.  I realize that deep down I am capable of feelings that can turn into violence.  Next morning, I across the Kidron Valley to spend time in meditation and prayer on the Mount of Olives.  I am grateful for my upbringing in the nonviolent Anabaptist tradition that is strong enough to keep me from going over the edge.  I summarize my feelings and recommit myself to non-violent peacemaking in my journal:

deep in the caverns of my soul

linger vengeance anger hate rage

the charge is set

the detonator primed

screams of goyim murderer nazi anti-semite

pushing kicking spitting pepper spray

vile flames

lick at the fuse

I fear the shadow side of being human

falling into the black hole that dooms us all

I am ashamed

I strain for peace with justice

to cool the scorching heat

to fan my faith in humanity

to chain the demons

that haunt my soul

For Kelowna First Mennonite, I am Johann Funk.  To learn more about Christian Peacemaker Teams see CPT.org.

About The Author
- I am a designer, videographer, artist and musician. I love to tell stories in many ways.

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