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Peace Not Walls

30 Hebron school children detained by Israeli army


According to a report by the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), on Wednesday, March 20, at 7:30 am, the day President Obama landed in Tel Aviv, 22 Israeli soldiers arrived at the Hebron Public Elementary School where they forced schoolchildren to walk to Checkpoint 29 and then into military vehicles. In total, the Israeli Military apprehended 27 minors, ages 7-15 during this incident.  An international protester took the video above.  According to BtSelem, an Israeli human rights group, 14 were under the age of 12.  It is illegal to detain Israeli children under the age of 12, but the occupied Palestinian territories are subject to a different set of laws through the Israeli military.

Though reports of the details differ, according to the EAPPI report:

– two of the children were released on the side of a road shortly after being detained. The remaining 25 children were taken to the police station near the Ibrahimi Mosque, where they were photographed and had their fingerprints taken.  Teachers from the school went to the police station but were not allowed to enter.

– At 2:00PM the soldiers released the 8 youngest children, and continued to detain the remaining 17, who are all between the ages of 13 and 15.  After interrogating them at the police station the soldiers transported the 17 children to the Jabarah and Junaid military bases, where they continued to question them.

– Later that night soldiers released 14 of the remaining children. Three of the children, Muhamad Al-Razim, Muhamad Burqan and Muhamad Al-Fakhoury (ages 14-15) were transported to the Ofer Military Prison where they were still detained as of Wednesday, March 27.  

– The minors were questioned, photographed and had their fingerprints taken multiple times without consent and without the presence of parents, legal guardians, lawyers or teachers. Moreover, throughout the incident, the children were held along with other adult detainees, one of which is a long-time contact of EAPPI, Issa Amro, who confirmed that the children were both blindfolded and handcuffed for extended periods while being detained in the police station.

Ynet reports that the IDF confirmed it had arrested Palestinian schoolchildren on Wednesday morning “due to recent stone-throwing incidents toward the security forces and citizens in the city.” The Israeli army added that seven children had been taken for police interrogation.

Under international law, children should be restrained only if they pose an imminent threat to themselves or to others, and all other means have been exhausted.  They also are entitled to have a parent, guardian or lawyer present for the interrogations.   

Also in Hebron that day, according to Reuters, dozens of children and adults marched through Hebron’s Shuhada Street to protest the American president’s visit. Hebron is a flashpoint of tension between the more than 150,000 Palestinians and the less than 1000 Israeli settlers who live in the city.  Shudada Street has been closed since 1994, and parts of the Old City of Hebron, where Palestinians used to own houses and shops, have been either closed or taken over by settlers.  

According to Ali Gharib, reporting for the Daily Beast from Hebron, the protesters wore cartoon Obama masks and spoke out against segregation of Palestinians and Israelis in the city. They were joined by international activists with t-shirts saying “I have a dream.”

See EAPPI action alert  |   See story in Huffington Post  |  See BtSelem report

EAPPI helps build peace and work for justice in the Holy Land

Tammie walked children to this school in Hebron, where here soldiers came to detain young students who were supposedly throwing rocks. This is Tammie's photo.

ELCA member Tammie Danielsen spent the winter in Hebron this past year as an Ecumenical Accompanier with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).  There she walked children to school to be a presence to prevent violence from Israeli settler attacks, as well as lived in solidarity and community with the local Palestinian residents. 
Tammie is featured in an article this month in the Lutheran.
Hebron has been divided into two zones since 1997. The area under the control of the civilian Palestinian Authority is populated by some 120,000 Palestinians. The zone under Israeli military control is home to 30,000 Palestinians and 500 Israeli settlers.  The settlers – and military stationed there because of them –
have free access to areas, while some 1,830 Palestinian shops in the city center have closed due to restrictions on Palestinian movement, curfews and the sealing off of entire streets to Palestinians by the Israeli military.
EAPPI is an organization of the World Council of Churches begun in 2002 in response to the Jerusalem heads of churches request for other Christians to “come and see” what was happening in the Holy Land.  Volunteers spend three months in one of many sites accompanying the local residents as they work for peace and justice and to end the occupation.  The ELCA has sent more accompaniers from the US than any other US denomination.  For more information about the US program, see

US Accompanier Chris Cowan: This is Living Under Occupation

In the mix of the muddle over the Palestinians’ UN statehood bid, something often gets lost.  The US – and others – are adamant that the only way to Palestinian statehood is negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, probably brokered by the US.  But this is not negotiation between two equal parties.  One is the occupier and one is the occupied.   It is an illusion to think that they sit at the same table with equal power.  One has the unquestioned support of much of the world’s power – and $3 billion a year from the US, which is supposed to be the honest broker.  The other doesn’t, and has watched while illegal settlements and land reserved for their future growth and infrastructure have eaten up half of the land supposedly reserved for their future state.

Chris Cowan, a Luther seminarian, is an accompanier for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) living in the Southern Hebron Hills, protecting Palestinian school children and villagers from some of the violent settlers there.  Read her reflections and follow her days at her blog    The Lutheran church sends a big percentage  of the EAPPI-US program.                        .

But for now, read her observations about what it’s like to live under occupation.  And think about what you would do if you lived under those circumstances.    Perhaps you would do something as “unilateral” as appealing to the most multilateral peace organization in the world – the UN – for some protection, some hope and a fulfillment of the almost 60 UN resolutions supporting international law and a just peace.

Dear friends,

Today, I want to reflect a little bit on the experience of living in a militarized environment.  It goes without saying that Jesus himself lived in such an environment, when 1st century Palestine was under Roman occupation.  So it’s worth spending a few moments thinking about how it feels to experience this.

Of course, I can’t know, really know, how it feels because I have a 3 month visa and a foreign passport.  I am clearly and visibly an international and am treated as such. This isn’t my country, no matter how much I love it, and I know every day that in a short time I will go back to the “land of the free”.  As for being in “the home of the brave”, however, I am already there.

We were stopped by the Army yesterday as we drove to a village.  And we were stopped by the Army today as we drove to a village. And also yesterday, in the Old City of Hebron, we walked past several soldiers, their guns pointed at us as we approached, because they were in the process of detaining a man in that place. We kept a wide berth between the guns and us.

When you have guns pointed in your direction, however casually, you are not free. You are not free, for instance, to openly take photographs, although you might try to take one on the sly.

When you have guns pointed in your direction, you have to do what you are told. Show your ID. Leave the road. Get out of the car. Go over there. Come with me. Wait here. Answer my questions. The conversations may even seem friendly but the guns send a different message.

When you have guns pointed at you, you feel tense, and it’s a little hard at that moment to interpret exactly what is happening.

For instance, it’s a confusing experience to be told by a soldier, while other soldiers train their rifles on you, to “be careful because it can be dangerous here”.  It’s an interesting experience to be told by a soldier wearing a gun that you can’t go into a place of prayer because you are wearing a peace vest.   Really?  Really?

This is living under occupation.

This is not the land of the free, but I am already in the home of the brave.  In such an environment, continuing to be civil, continuing to be hospitable, continuing to be hopeful, continuing to be loving, continuing to rebuild, this is courage.

Today I hope to use my freedoms and to act bravely. 

Blessings on your journey,

Chris Cowan