The Common Good

From Bethlehem: A Human Story

091029-bethlehem-familyWhen it comes to Israel/Palestine, the human story often gets lost in the confusion of ideology and politics. Let me just highlight the story of one woman, a wife and mother named Isme. Prior to October 12, 2009, Isme lived in a small but tidy one-story house in the outskirts of Jerusalem. But on that morning, while she drove her three young children to school, policemen broke into her home and demanded that her husband get out of bed and come outside. Isme returned home just in time to watch bulldozers destroy the house she had lived in for five years and everything in it. Israeli demolition of their home had been a constant possibility, because they did not have a permit to build the home -- a common plight, since it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to acquire building permits. But the threat had not materialized until an unseasonably hot October morning two weeks ago.

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Recenly, I met with Isme and her family in their new home, a white tent given to them by the Red Cross. Isme's 29-year-old husband is recovering from serious heart surgery, which is why he was home sleeping on the morning of the demolition. Her two little daughters have adjusted fairly well to living in the tent; they talk freely about the demolition, describing it in detail to their friends at school. But their 8-year-old brother holds his fear and frustration inside. Because of the stress he is unable to control his bowels, which humiliates him. He is becoming increasingly hostile and angry. And like many children in similar situations, he is feeling more and more vulnerable as he sees the inability of his parents to provide a safe and stable life for him.

Isme remained stoic until my traveling companion Christine Anderson embraced her, expressed her sorrow and promised to pray for her. Then she began to wipe the tears away from her eyes. We heard the previous night from a Palestinian friend that the family has now been threatened with eviction from their Red Cross tent; I don't think they knew that when we visited them in the morning. As with many things here, no one seems to know quite why they would be forced from the tent; the family owns the property on which it sits. The attached photos (by Christine Anderson) are prints the family showed us of before and after the demolition.

091029-bethlehem-before

091029-bethlehem-after

Click here to read more of Lynne's blog posts abour her recent travels.

Lynne Hybels is the advocate for global engagement at Willow Creek Community Church and author of Nice Girls Don't Change the World.

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