To get to the airport to fly back to the US, I took the 7:00 AM Israeli settler bus this morning from Hebron’s Shuhada Street – ghost town of a street that that has been closed to Palestinians, with its shops and doors welded shut, since 1994 when an Israeli settler massacred 29 Palestinian worshipers in the Ibrahimi mosque. Some soldiers came over to talk. They asked if I was with the Jews or the Arabs? I said that I am a Jew but but for all people, a member of the US organization Jewish Voice for Peace. They responded that they were familiar with Jewish Voice for Peace, and on the express how pleased they were that I am a Jew.
One of the soldiers pronounced proudly, “I killed a Palestinian” referring to one of the teenage boys who had been shot dead two nights before in the Hebron neighborhood of Tel Rumeida where I was staying. he pointed to the stripes on the shoulder of his uniform to show his rank. I asked if death had been necessary in that stabbing attempt, that the knife was merely a mild kitchen knife. With all their guns and gear and military supplies, did they have to kill? Couldn’t they instead have subdued, wounded, arrested? “No,” they replied, “if he didnt kill him he would come back and kill us.” I asked how the boy could come back to continue his knife attack if he were wounded in the ground? “Later, he would,” The soldier replied. I told him that taking a life is what causes more [revenge] attacks. the soldiers made clear that they will always use their guns to kill when attacked. The conversation continued and soldier stated that this was the second life he had taken. He had also killed in Lebanon. Soon one of the soldiers soldiers lost interest in this topic and looked for a picture to show me on instagram if an American who had visited and brought them chocolate.
Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. I will be home in Ithaca to light candles and eat latkes with my children. In my head Woody Guthrie Happy Joyous Hanukkah has been playing. “Eight are the nights of Hanukkah, happpy joyous Hanukkah.” I’m trying to reconcile the joy I find in the Jewish holidays with the horrors I have witnessed this month in Hebron. On Saturday I will join my Rabbi for Havdala at my synagogue to have an conversation work our congregation about my recent experiences in Palestine and Israel. I don’t know yet what I will say about my conceptions of God and Judiasm and prophetic Judiasm. I ask you, God, for strength in this time when Jews take pride in our abilities to kill.