“When I’m big will I go to jail like Daddy?”

A Palestinian boy watches as a man argues with an Israeli soldier as he tries to travel through the Old City of Hebron, the West Bank, 21 January 2008. (Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)

“Momma, when I’m big will I go to jail like Daddy?”

That was little Adam’s question for his mother when I came to visit their house, just before leaving the village of al-Tuwani for a brief trip home to the United States. Adam is three years old. His mother tells me that he wants his father to come home from jail and bring him ice cream. “Adam is upset,” she says. Looking at her eyes, I can tell that she is too. So am I.

Adam’s father was arrested on 28 March, just a few days ago. A group of eight to ten Israeli settlers from Havot Ma’on, an illegal Israeli settlement outpost, came inside the village of al-Tuwani where they found Adam’s father and his grandfather. The settlers sprayed them with an aerosol substance, which I can only imagine was pepper spray. They hit Adam’s father in the eyes. Soon, the settlement guard arrived, a man everyone in al-Tuwani knows all too well. He was followed by the Israeli army and total chaos began to unfold. The settlement guard accused Adam’s father of breaking his sunglasses. While the settlers who attacked Adam’s father and grandfather stood by, Israeli police arrested Adam’s father. They didn’t listen to the Palestinians who witnessed the settler attack. They didn’t question the settlers. The police forced Adam’s father, still seriously injured, into a police van and took him away. There was nothing anyone could do.

Sitting in Adam’s house, I try to find a way to convey my feelings of anguish in my limited Arabic. Adam’s mother is unfailingly gracious. Making terrible situations seem funny is an art practiced by many Palestinians and perfected by Adam’s family. Somehow, we laugh while we drink our tea. Then Adam’s mother tells me how the settlement guard threatened Adam’s father. “If he sees him again, he will kill him,” she says. “Then, he said, there will no more problems.” My mouth drops open upon hearing this threat on Adam’s father’s life. My Arabic fails me utterly. “Really? That’s bad,” I say. Adam’s mother laughs.

“Momma, when I’m big will I go to jail like Daddy?” Adam asks.

“No, when you are big, God willing, this will be Palestine.” she answers, smiling.

I wrap myself in the words of this beautiful and strong woman and praise God that she still has hope.

Joy Ellison is an American activist with Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organization that supports Palestinian nonviolent resistance. She lives in al-Tuwani, a small village in the South Hebron Hills which is nonviolently resisting settlement expansion and violence. She writes about her experiences on her blog, “I Saw it in Palestine” at http://inpalestine.blogspot.com.