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A woman’s perspective

page 3 peace activists and palestinian familyA woman’s perspective

Samia Khoury

One of the first things that came to my mind after the June war in 1967, when we were faced with a new reality of a military occupation overnight, was the children’s schooling. They were six and four at the time and were attending the Rosary Sisters’ pre-school near our house in Beit Hanina – a new suburb north of Jerusalem – which was beginning to develop shortly before the June war. I was ever so grateful that they were still young and could stay at the school which had the first three elementary classes within its programme. Little did I know that twenty five years later I was going to start worrying about my grand-children’s schooling as they had to commute daily via a military checkpoint to be able to get to their school and back home.

On November 22, 1967 the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 242 calling for the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories with a preamble asserting the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war. So we were very hopeful and almost sure that no occupation would be viable in the 20th Century.  How naïve we were. We refused to think otherwise despite our frustrating experience with United Nations’ resolutions on Palestine since 1948. The General Assembly Resolution 194 pertaining to  the right of return of the Palestinian refugees was never implemented, and here we are in the 21st century facing one of the longest military occupations in modern history with no United Nations resolve to put an end to this great tragedy.

As a mother, a grandmother, and a community volunteer I have had to face many challenges during the last four decades, trying to maintain my humanity while bringing up a family under a military occupation. Although as a Palestinian Christian woman, my faith has sustained me throughout this nightmare, yet I have to admit that it has not been easy to hold on to my faith when so many biblical texts have been used and abused to justify all the atrocities that have been taking place against the indigenous people of the land: the land where Christ Himself walked and taught. Watching all this brutality affecting the spirit of the children and grandchildren was very  painful. The bewildered look in their eyes; sometimes with fear, other times with anger, made it very important to help them overcome. Being a mother or a teacher was one of the most difficult tasks under the circumstances as we tried to bring up a generation in a healthy atmosphere, void of hatred, bitterness and violence. Sometimes we succeeded, other times we failed, and desperation found its way through the hearts of some of our young people, which led to very sad endings.

Verses like ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘love your neighbour’ have not been easy to implement under the boot of a military occupation which has systematically used all means to attempt to obliterate our very existence. However we were determined to have our children live their childhood against all odds. Whether they were my own children, or the children with whom I worked in my community service at Rawdat El-Zuhur school or the YWCA, it was important to instill the spirit of hope in the hearts of those children. We would not allow a brutal military occupation to deprive them of their humanity or hope for a better future. Otherwise all the work, education and moral values we were nurturing in them would have been wasted. Breaking the spirit of a whole generation has been one of the goals of the military occupation. It would not be accurate to say that the occupation has not succeeded in some cases, yet our strong belief in the justice of our cause made us more determined to keep our spirits lifted and hold on to our faith and hope, so that we can work for liberation and a just peace. The determination of the Palestinian prisoners who were on a hunger strike for months recently is in itself proof that no matter how harsh the occupation is, it cannot break the spirit of a whole nation.

For me personally the experience of being one of the founding members of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, was a very enriching experience and it helped me personally, and eventually a large number of the community, to deal with so many complicated biblical texts relevant to what we have been going through. It was a new forum for the Christian community, yet reaching out to all Palestinians with a commitment to justice as the basis of this new ministry. It is not difficult to realize that the root cause of most of the problems is injustice, and as women and mothers we know that more than anybody else.

Maybe as mothers and women we are more sensitive and can appreciate what justice means, for we are all put to the test by our own children from their early days. How many times one of them would accuse us of not being fair, should we give one child a better treat than the other? Very often laws in some countries are biased to begin with, especially when they have to deal with women’s rights, such as inheritance, divorce and custody of children. In some so-called developed countries, men get paid more than women in the workplace for the same job done. Being unfair is asking for trouble. Therefore justice seems to be the logical prerequisite for peace of mind; at home, and at work, and more so for peace amongst countries. The Golden Rule according to the Gospel of Matthew 7:12 ‘so in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,’ is such a beautiful verse and makes so much sense, and could be used as a basis for human relationships. Unfortunately the powerful always feel that they are entitled to a different set of privileges than others, but this kind of attitude is another aspect of injustice that can lead to trouble.

Like many Palestinian mothers, I went through the traumatic experience of having my son in jail. That is long behind us now, but I pray and hope that I

Samia Khoury

Samia Khoury

do not have to live through the same experience with any of my grandchildren.  f