Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Plowing In Tears, Reaping In Joy"

Morning, November 29
"Usually Ta'ayush activities are well-planned, and much thought is given to various contingencies that might arise. But today's plowing is mostly a more or less private initiative of Ezra Nawi's; when the Samu'a people spoke to him of their troubles, he somehow cobbled together a disparate group of activists, arranged for two tractors, and headed south early this morning..."

Afternoon, November 29
"Such were today's gains and sorrows. By South Hebron standards, a huge area was safely plowed. Will our friends actually harvest what they have sown? I doubt it. The settlers will see to it that the crops are burnt or buried. But plowing a ready field is one of those things in life, like listening to music, like loving, that have their own innate perfection, that are not judged by results. We follow in the wake of the tractor, the settlers above and below us, still cursing; in the end they throw a few stones. The stones miss."

"So is there hope after all? I suddenly remember something Gandhi said: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

THE WORDS ARE those of my old friend David Shulman, Hebrew University India scholar, MacArthur Fellow, stubborn Zionist of the old school--you know, someone who came to Israel after the 1967 war, and stayed out of love of modern Hebrew poetry. David is a founder of Ta'ayush. He and a few others may be all that is left of it in this time of resignation. His widely admired book, Dark Hope, tells the tale. 

Anyway, when his friend Ezra Nawi says that there is an action in the South Hebron Hills, he musters himself; and when David says I should join him, I join. I wrote about one such action two years ago. Yesterday's witnessing was pretty much the same event, a kind of opera playing out, as David and I took turns listening to excerpts from "Turandot" on my iPod. Except that the sheer vulgarity of these settlers was curiously unoriginal, in the pathetic way Klan epithets were unoriginal; while the army (a reserve platoon of mainly young professionals from Kfar Saba, Netanya, etc.) behaved just about perfectly, keeping the peace, allowing the plowing to be completed with tact and humor, and making no bones about their doubts about the settlers' sanity. When people say that things cannot go on this way, eventually they can't.

David sent me his diary entry after the trip which is well worth the several minutes it will take to read it.