By Josie Setzler (our wonderful volunteer blogger)
“We’ll do it next Friday!” Iyad Burnat tells our audience the words that he uses with his fellow demonstrators. Every Friday since 2005 Iyad’s Popular Committee has led demonstrations to protest the wall built through the middle of their village Bil’in by Israel. After 7 long years, he needs to keep their hope alive.
Every Friday they return to the wall. Will this Friday be the day they overcome the oppression the wall has brought into their daily lives?
Iyad’s movement uses nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in the hope of a future where Palestinians will have access to their farmland and a daily water supply, move freely to work and school, and be secure in their own homes.
As he describes this future to his fellow demonstrators, he tells them they will make this future happen. The freedom they long for could be as close as their next demonstration. “We’ll do it next Friday,” he says.
My heart jumps to hear his words. What a magnificent statement of hope! He sounds as if it is already true, this future he imagines. It is as if it is right around the corner, ready for the people to claim it. And Iyad does indeed believe it will be the people who will bring it to pass, not political leaders.
Acting in hope is constrained neither by time or success. The demonstrators of Bil’in lay claim to their own dignity. They feel a new reality, they act by it, and in some way it begins to exist.
In Ohio, where I hosted Iyad’s presentation, the audience was moved and humbled by his stories of his community’s courageous witness. He asked for our solidarity through raising our voices in our own communities on behalf of his people. We, too, need to lay claim to Iyad’s testament to hope.