Our Family in Palestine-Beit Ummar
September 8, 2021 / By Dianne Roe
For more than 30 years United Methodists from Upper New York (and the WNY and NCNY Annual Conferences that preceded it) have been “Getting off the Bus” to meet Palestinian families when we have been on Holy Land tours. This is the work of the Upper New York (UNY) Conference Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel. Sharing meals and hearing stories built relationships that have continued and grown over the years and now we want to share “Our Family in Palestine” with churches in UNY, so you can hear their “Cry for Hope” and we can help you carry out the “Because We Care” resolution passed at the UNY Annual Conference in 2021.
Task Force member Dianne Roe from Corning First United Methodist Church spent 14 years in Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Her work was supported by the NCNY Annual Conference. In 2002 she was living in the village of Beit Ummar where she was a neighbor to the alAlami family. Eleven-year-old Muhammad alAlami was killed by Israeli soldiers in late July 2021. Dianne sketched his portrait and wrote the following reflection.
I looked at the photo in the B’Tselem (Israeli non-governmental Human Rights Organization) report of the July 28, 2021 killing of an 11-year-old boy in the West Bank village of Beit Ummar and I wondered if I knew his family when I lived in the village 19 years ago.
Muhammad alAlami was killed by Israeli forces as he traveled with his father and two siblings in their hometown of Beit Ummar.
I sketched his portrait and noticed that he looked so much like the other children we met as we were preparing to move into one of the apartments that Abu Nabel AlQam had built for his sons in a three-story building near Beit Ummar Junction. The first and second story apartments were already occupied by the older sons and their families. There was one apartment on the top floor that was vacant because the youngest son was still single and living next door with his parents.
The year was 2002. I had already been with CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams) in Hebron-Al-Khalil for seven years and had met many families in neighboring villages. The municipality of Beit Ummar asked if we could have a presence in the village. Mary Lawrence, JoAnne Lingle, and I moved into the AlQam apartment. We were three women in our 60s, sent by supporting churches to be a non-violent presence in places of conflict. JoAnne was supported by Mennonites. Mary and I were both supported by our respective United Methodist Annual Conferences and by GBGM (General Board of Global Ministries).
That is how I happened to be living in the wonderful farming village of Beit Ummar - seven or eight years before Muhammad alAlami was born. He lived just behind the cemetery above the junction- a very dangerous place to live if the forces (Israeli) that are occupying and confiscating your land are planning on “cleansing” the lands bordering the road of Palestinian families. Unfortunately for the alAlami family, their family property bordered the road and was close to the junction. Israeli forces who guard the junction, either from a high tower or on foot, are on the lookout for “suspicious” activity. The soldier who killed 11-year-old Muhammad thought that his father backing up his car was “suspicious” so he fired live ammunition at the car, killing Muhammad.
Nineteen years earlier, about a week before JoAnne, Mary, and I were moving into our flat in Beit Ummar, the Israeli military shot and killed Muhammad’s uncle, Amjad alAlami because picking mint in the garden next to the house was “suspicious.” In the days that followed as the family gathered to grieve Amjad, Israeli military shot and killed his cousin Nidal. We moved to our apartment a few days later and happened to be walking behind members of the alAlami family on their way to the cemetery. That is how I met Um Nidal, and why I added a portrait of her to a mural I was painting in The Galilee. But that’s another story. I’ll tell you about it next time along with Beit Ummar involvement in Bereaved Families.