Christianity and the Middle East: "Peace Churches" Team in Hebron Arrested, Grilled, Imprisoned, Freed

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Christianity and the Middle East: "Peace Churches" Team in Hebron Arrested, Grilled, Imprisoned, Freed

By Rev. L. Humphrey Walz

Known as the "Peace Churches," Quakers, Mennonites and Brethren are especially renowned for seeking practical ways for rooting out discriminatory injustice as a major cause of strife. Among their joint projects they support small Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPTs) to live in troubled areas and work out on the ground nonviolent ways of resolving problems at points of special irritation.

One such team--two men and three women, aged 24, 27, 33, 41, and 45--assigned to the ancient city of Hebron, focused their attention in late July on the Israeli army's blocking and sealing, since 1987, of the main gates to Hebron (Arab) University campus. The sealing requires the 3,000 students, faculty--and whoever else has business to attend to on campus--to go around to a side entrance and walk or drive up a steep dirt road. Every university attempt to reopen the gates has been resisted by the Israeli military government.

The CPT team members elected to call public attention to the problem, which they consider unparalleled in any other country. Early on July 22, aided and abetted by Jewish members of the Hebron Solidarity Committee, they proceeded to sledgehammer a section of the thick cement-block wall that the Israeli army had built and a metallic extra front gate that the Israeli army had welded closed.

By 10:45 the wall was down and Cliff Kindy (of the Brethren) was using a hammer and chisel to break the welds on the original gate when seven Israeli military and police jeeps arrived containing some 15 soldiers. Although Israeli law forbids any military presence on university property, a Captain Eyal Ziv strode over and forcibly arrested Kindy, charging that he was in a "closed military zone."

Quaker team member Kathy Kamphoefner was clearing rocks from the roadway in front of the gate when the Israeli soldiers arrived. When they asked why she was there, she explained that as a professor of communications she saw unrestricted education as a vital right. She was arrested on the spot, as were Mennonite teammate Wendy Lehman and Jewish colleague Maxine Kaufman-Nunn of the Hebron Solidarity Committee who came to stand by them. (It is to Lehman's detailed report to American Brethren and Mennonite headquarters that this account is most indebted.)

The four were taken to the militarily administered Hebron police station and held in a small room containing only two chairs. …