The Cross of Humiliation
“Ma atah oseh po?” the Israeli soldier demanded of me in Hebrew. “What are you doing here?”
“Nothing,” I replied—and the next instant, he was aiming his rifle at me!
The year was 1987, the year the First Intifada began, and I was twelve years old, playing in the streets of the Via Dolorosa, utterly unaware that a riot was underway in the market. But as I was head- ing home, suddenly soldiers were all around. Some were sitting right at a point I had to pass—and now this one, a man with an ugly reputation, was pointing his gun right at my head!
Click. Click. He pulled the trigger twice.
The magazine was empty. He was just dry-firing, amusing him- self at my expense, but I was terrified.
Since my only way home in the Old City lay directly past him, I kept walking as fast as I could, trembling inside and hoping to get by without any further incident.
No such luck. The soldier got up, approached me, and without warning, smack! slapped me hard across my face! I began to cry in earnest. I was hurt. I was afraid for my life. And I guess the man realized I had done nothing wrong, because after that, he let me go. I ran home, crying hard.
The slap stung all the more because I hadn’t deserved it, and the clicks echoed in my head. My dad, during his years as a policeman, had never slapped me like that, let alone scared me with his gun.
Lest it sound like I’m singling out Israeli soldiers, I assure you that, for a Palestinian Christian, oppression comes from every side. On another occasion, I had finished school at New Gate for the day and gone with my friends to play at Damascus Gate in East Jerusa- lem, the Muslim section of the city. I was standing near a toy shop opposite the gate when one of the local boys approached me—a big, fat, strong-looking kid.
“Are you Christian or Muslim?” he asked.
With a big smile on my face, I replied, “Christian.”
Wham! Out of nowhere he hit me in the face. I reeled back in
pain and confusion but otherwise did not react. I was too stunned to do anything except, instinctively, turn the other cheek, not real- izing I was doing exactly what Jesus said I should do when mis- treated (Matt. 5:39). The pain was intense, and I started to cry. Why did he do that? I thought. I did nothing wrong!
The owner of the toy shop, who happened to be a Christian, saw what had happened. He came out, took my hand, comforted me, and then sent me home.