ST. MARYS — A St. Marys native traveled to the Middle East this week to begin a three-year project as a peacemaker.
Jonathan Brenneman left for Palestine on Tuesday to join a team of people working to keep peace between Israeli settlers and local Palestinians in the southern West Bank city of Hebron.
“This is something I’ve been really passionate about for a long time,” Brenneman told The Evening Leader. “The situation there has always seemed unjust to me. I had the opportunity to join and organization called Christian Peacemaker Teams that does peace and justice work in conflict areas. I researched into them, and after graduating college, I decided that was what I wanted to do with my life.”
He noted his interest in the situation was sparked by family ties.
“My mother is actually Palestinian, so hearing stories from my family of what’s happening there peaked my interest and I went from there,” Brenneman said, noting he still has distant relatives in Palestine.
In Hebron, tensions have risen because of an Israeli settlement in the middle of the Palestinian city, he said.
“The city that we’re living in is supposed to be a Palestinian city under Palestinian authority, but some Israelis colonized a small area in the middle of that city,” he said. “The Israeli army protects them, and the people there are extremely antagonistic to the local population in Hebron.”
The Christian Peacemaker Teams arrived in Palestine in 2004 and support the “Palestinian-led, nonviolent, grassroots resistance to the Israeli occupation and the unjust structures that uphold it,” according to the organization’s website. While in Palestine, Brenneman will be aiding the Christian Peacemaker Teams’ nonviolent resistance.
“There’s a lot of different advocacy-type work there,” he said. “One of the things we do is we walk the Palestinian school children to and from school because they have to walk past the Israeli settlement in the middle of the city. They’ll get stuff thrown at them and things like that, and when there’s adult internationals walking with the children, the chances of that happening are a lot lower. That’s just one example of the kind of things we do.”
Members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams also accompany Palestinian shepherds and farmers to their fields where Israeli settlers often assault them, monitor the treatment of Palestinians at Israeli military checkpoints and roadblocks and intervene during human rights abuses and violations, among other tasks.
Tuesday marked the beginning of Brenneman’s first rotation in Palestine.
“I will be working there for the next three years,” he said. “Because of the intense nature of the work and also because we can only get tourist visas, which only last for three months, I’ll be in Palestine for three months, then I’ll come back to the states for one month to try to de-stress and also to share what’s going on to try to raise awareness for the situation there. After a month, I’ll go back to Palestine and do the rotation for the next three years.”
During his time in Palestine, Brenneman said he hopes to help support the nonviolent efforts.
“I’m hoping that I’ll be able to lend a hand in the work that the Palestinians are already doing and be a backup to the efforts that are already going on there,” he said.
For more information about the Christian Peacemaker Teams and its efforts in Palestine, visit CPT.org/work/palestine.