HEBRON: A Strange Familiar Place
August 30, 1999
HEBRON: A Strange Familiar Place
by Eric Frey
[Note: Eric Frey works with Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) among First
Nations people in Riverton, Manitoba. He was in Hebron visiting his
brother, CPTer Mark Frey at the time the following release was written.]
I am not from this neighbourhood. Nor am I from this country. I am not of
this side of the globe. I am from a quiet place. A place of green and of
water; a place of fish and forests. A land ill with knots of history; a
past illness lingering still. A land in stark contrast to this place of
desert and stone.
A native elder told me one day, in conversation over tea, that we are
children, all of one Creator. Children of the four directions; of the four
races of the earth. Children born of broad spirit and mind, in different
lands. Distant lands.
She explained that we were born into the world to bring gifts to one
gifts from inside the broad mind, the broad spirit. We were to bring the
gift of respect to the land, the gift of wisdom to our children, and the
of love to our neighbour. We were to bring food to another who had none.
We were to bring forgiveness for those who stole fish from the fire. And
were to gather comfort for those whose kin had passed back to the
to the earth in which we started.
Quite a conversation over a simple cup of tea. I was moved
deeply by this, because even without any Christian theological
background or teaching, this person seemed to embody everything that I
believe God intends for the world, everything I have learned through
As I experienced Hebron tonight, my second day here as a visitor with CPT,
saw a world not unlike the one in which I work-one just as overburdened
oppression, anger, hate, fear, jealousy, and greed. A people divided in
belief. A people quibbling over who shall be the Creator's favored
On night patrol with CPTers Joshua Yoder and Natasha Krahn, we walked
headlong into a prime example. We had spent the evening observing
fascinating, uncommonly friendly relations between Palestinian and soldier,
settler and Palestinian, settlers and ourselves as well as soldiers and
The night changed dramatically, frighteningly, and almost instantly. We
came upon a group of soldiers, maybe twelve or more, beating and kicking
young Palestinian men, for what reason we do not know.
As we attempted to get closer and intervene in some way, the
Jewish settler children, women and men grouped in close to push us away.
I was pushed, restrained and threatened for my simple use of an automatic
camera. It quickly became obvious that my
photographing was a diversion, pulling the settlers'
attention from the altercation at hand and allowing Joshua and
Natasha to get in closer proximity to the soldiers. This also allowed for
time to contact TIPH (official international observers).
After managing to get ourselves away from the settlers, we were able again
to keep in close range of the soldiers, now detaining and interrogating the
two men. Continuing to photograph the interrogation seemed to stymie some
of the residual anger in the soldiers, but raised the settlers' level of
The fast-shooting automatic camera sounds seemed to really be an asset that
night. We received no injury outside of absorbing threats and anger.
I think back to my conversation with the elder, and that dark, hollow
sadness I could see deep in her heavy eyes. From a humble home in the
Canadian bush country she can sense the weight of a world in turmoil. She
has experienced it -- the domination, the oppression, and the sadness of a
people removed from their freedom, their peace.
The night of anger and violence seemed a sight I'd seen before, but in a
different world, and with a different people. And for me, a learning
experience like no other.
Violence is not an uncommon sight in my MVS assignment in
Riverton, Manitoba. Nor is oppression. And one might ask, "Where is God
during all of this?" I believe that Natasha Krahn was correct in saying
God was working within us, while at the same time working within the
violent, angry settlers assaulting us; the angry soldiers stripping the
human rights from a man. And within the men on the ground, in the dirt.
God, our Creator, has woven an intricate, difficult puzzle. And as one
opens their mind and heart, he/she may begin to see when pieces fall into
place, or when pieces fall by the wayside, waiting to be picked up and
dusted off by the faithful.
Next time, I should really put some film in that camera.