Imagine, if you can, that you live on Capitol Hill in Washington. You and your family and neighbors are part of an established community of 25,000 people. You are “the 25,000.”
Imagine that 500 people move into your neighborhood, “the 500,” because they believe God promised to them millennia ago the land on which you live.
Imagine that the U.S. and DC governments fully support “the 500” and implement a series of policies that restrict how you lead your daily lives, your mobility, your opportunity to work, to shop, to relax.
Imagine that, because of “the 500,” all of the stores and restaurants on Pennsylvania Avenue SE, from 2nd Street to 10th Street are closed, their doors welded closed so owners and employees cannot enter.
Imagine that in a 30 square block area along that same piece of Pennsylvania Avenue, you are prohibited from driving your car or walking on the streets, that if you live in that area you must make your way by scrambling across rooftops, relying on neighbors for exits to the street.
Imagine that in order to get to your job, to take your children to school, to shop, to worship, you must pass through military checkpoints that have no set rules or processes but rather are arbitrarily changed from day to day.
Imagine that you have lived through over 300 days of curfew, when you literally cannot leave the interior of your home, even to be in your garden, with only limited, arbitrary weekly opportunities to shop.
Imagine that when, in more relaxed time, you are able to go to the Eastern Market to shop, there are five story high apartment buildings on each side – and that the residents regularly throw trash, garbage, feces and bleach down on you.
Imagine that there is no protection for you from the police or the military, that there is little media coverage of the realities of your daily life, that the rest of the U.S. simply does not care about what is being done to you.
Imagine that “the 500” and the state that protects them and oppresses you have as their ultimate goal to drive you – all of you, the “25,000” – from your homes by making life so hard, so unpredictable, so humiliating, that you will give up and leave.
Imagine being brave enough to stay.
If you can imagine all of that, then you can imagine what it means to be a Palestinian (“the 25,000”) in the ancient city of Hebron in the occupied territories known as the West Bank.
This is my witness. It is not in my imagination. It is the reality that I learned about today.