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Thursday, June 09, 2005

 

On Being A Neighbor in Hebron

By Rusty Dinkins-Curling

9 June 2005

It seemed the lawyer already knew the right answer and had no need of asking
Jesus the question about inheriting eternal life. "Love the Lord your God.
and love your neighbor as yourself." But then he asked another question.
"Who is my neighbor?" You would think that this would be a difficult
question for the people now living in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of
Hebron.

Tel Rumeida is an ancient Biblical site, thought to be the place of the
first capital of King David. Because of this history a group of the most
radical Israeli settlers has moved onto the site. These settlers constantly
harass the Palestinians who live nearby.

Recently one of the Palestinian men living in a home with the settlement
enclave almost on top of his house talked about the settlers as being his
neighbors. As he related the story to me, one of the settlers was about to
throw stones and garbage at him and his house. He asked him to wait for a
moment and talk with him before he threw things at him. "Can we make the
peace together?" he asked, and then said, "I accept you as my neighbor.
Can you accept me as your neighbor?" The settler said he could not and
that, to make peace, the Palestinian would have to move his family to Egypt,
Jordan or Iraq, so that he, the settler, could take over the Palestinian's
house. The Palestinian said he would still be this man's neighbor if his
neighbor would let him.

The issue of neighbors and who can be accepted as neighbors is very
important here in Hebron where Israeli settlers live in close proximity to
their Palestinian neighbors. The situation is always tense and often
becomes violent. The answer of the Israeli government seems to be to build
barriers of concrete, razor wire, checkpoints and constant military presence
to keep Palestinians and Israelis apart. It seems that here Frost's idea
"good fences make good neighbors" is carried to a radical extreme, and that
my Palestinian friend offers a refreshing alternative: be a neighbor.

Jesus answered the lawyer with a story of a man who was beaten and robbed by
bandits. Two people who could be expected to help him would not. A
Samaritan, who would not be expected to help, was moved with pity and helped
the victim. Jesus took the question of the lawyer and transformed it. The
point was no longer to define neighbor, but to be a neighbor to everyone.
Unknowingly my friend taught me a lesson in how to live that out.

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