Jenin: A Town of Wasted Hopes
by Nick Pretzlik in Jenin

January 20, 2004

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The Israeli policy of early release from jail for hardened criminals -- in exchange for military service in the Occupied Territories -- coupled with the racist attitudes embedded in Israeli army culture encourages the cycle of violence, which ensures that prospects for peace in Palestine remain remote.

Jenin, a trading centre on the northern fringe of the West Bank, is a town of wasted hopes -– the debris of destruction visible on every corner. The heavy rain of the past few days has left streets, ripped up by Israeli tanks, ankle deep in mud and potholes filled with water. A sullen sky sits above the houses like a shroud and drops of rainwater drip silently from lemons and tangerines dangling defiantly in the trees. People’s faces, aged beyond their years by decades of occupation and oppression, look tired and ashen.

I spent last night in a house near the mosque in the refugee camp adjacent to the town. The family, whose home it is, has lost one close relative from three different generations to the guns of Israeli soldiers –- a grandfather carrying a bag of flour shot on his way to market, a father torn apart by a hail of bullets in front of his family as he stepped from his house hands above his head, and the eldest daughter struck in the chest by a sniper’s round as she stood in the window of her home. Eleven years old, she bled to death on the living room floor.

The disproportionate violence visited on Jenin since the Intifada began has, if anything, made the townspeople more not less defiant. They know they have no escape from suffering and no alternative but to continue with the struggle. Although young men with guns can still be seen slipping from hiding place to hiding place within the confines of the town, the fight has now gone underground. The days of open confrontation with Israeli soldiers have passed and in the future, while street traders and coffee salesmen hawk their wares, terror will also been on offer.

So much misery and death and all because of a 19th century colonial concept for an exclusive Jewish state. A concept already well beyond its sell-by date when conceived, it has become an anachronism on a catastrophic scale. In an increasingly inclusive world there is no room for such an aberration. Yet after fifty years of oppression Israel still fails to grasp this fact, as do those British politicians who talk blandly of "conflict resolution" and "land for peace" rather than deal with the problem of Zionism itself. In 2004 how is it possible that Britain and the United States permit Israel to construct an apartheid wall, which will divide people from their land, relative from relative and create Palestinian ghettos on a vast scale? Do these countries’ leaders seriously believe that this hideous monument to American strategic interests will bring peace and security to Israel? Can they be that naïve? And are they really not able to appreciate just how enticing the water resources and fertile fields of the West Bank are to Israelis -– that what Israel is embarked upon is nothing less than a land grab.

A short walk to the west of Jenin is the village of Burqeen. A narrow road snakes its way from the refugee camp between gnarled and wrinkled olive trees to a 6th century, dome roofed church standing at the centre of the community -- a timely reminder that both communities are situated in the heart of the Holy Land. Sandwiched between Nazareth and Jerusalem, Burqeen church encompasses the grotto where Jesus healed ten lepers while making his way from Galilee to Samaria (Luke chapter 17, verse 11 of the Bible) and as I stood in the little churchyard looking back towards Jenin and Nazareth, I could not help but wonder how it is that Christians around the globe remain silent in the face of so much torment and destruction in the land where Christianity began.

Nick Pretzlik is a semi-retired businessman living in London, England. He travels frequently to the Middle East. He can be reached at: upretzlik@yahoo.co.uk


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