Network in Hebron

Hejazi Jaaberi is a cheerful, youthful looking man who seems to exude peacefulness. I met him at the
central Square of Ramallah, beneath the famous statues of four lions on Al-Manari Street. He arrived
precisely on time and beaming, despite the grey, sombre weather.

He recounts how he first enrolled on MEND's nonviolence training in 2004. Describing nonviolence as a
"style of life" he has been highly active for MEND since then.

As Hebron Coordinator for the Active Nonviolent Network, he runs training courses in nonviolence, human
rights and communication skills, and oversees a summer camp with nearly 100 young people.

However, Hebron is not an easy place in which to run an organisation such as MEND. Hejazi was instrumental
in establishing a Hebron office for the network in 2004, but it had to close in 2006 due to financial
difficulties. Despite his positive outlook, it is clear that the lack of office makes even the most basic
organisational task difficult.

Perhaps partly to counter this, he has prioritised joined-up working with other Palestinian civil society
organisations. Amongst these, Palestinian Youth Association Taa'un, or ‘Cooperation’, Hebron Youth Club,
and YMCA Hebron are regular partner agencies. Hebron University have also offered some courses in
nonviolence for students. Through this kind of cooperative project, many young people have begun to
take nonviolent resistance seriously. One group learned how to use film as a change agent, and made a
film about Hebron.

But logistics aren’t the biggest problem Hejazi and his MEND team face. Hebron is a divided city, and
tension is never far from the surface of daily life. Nonviolence is not always popular amongst a population
that suffers the persistent abuse of settlers, many of whom promote a virulent and supremacist strain of
religious Zionism.

In this light, we discussed the recurrent question among nonviolence activists in Palestine. Why is there no
Nelson Mandela, no Martin Luther King, nor a Mahatma Gandhi in Palestinian society yet?

Hejazi’s take on this is boldly self-critical, and he suggests that, too often, society refuses to allow the
individual to flourish. Despite the tireless work of MEND and nonviolence activists throughout Palestine on
empowering individuals, it is unclear whether or not the quiet charisma of a Gandhi would be able to
command a popular following.

Regardless of these mountainous challenges, Hejazi is unwaveringly determined. I asked the blue-skies
question – if they had money, what would they do? Summer camps, training courses, and offices came the
reply. In rich detail he described a range of nonviolence facilities that would change Hebron for good. He
finished, "With money, or without money, we will continue - we hope that we can convey this message of
nonviolence to all Palestinian people".

Perhaps in Hejazi’s message, his character, and his experience, we can discern something of Gandhi’s own
nonviolence – the ‘weapon of the strong’ as he put it. He is certainly committed to nonviolence. And
through his resilient personality and gentle, wise words, it is evident that he is strong. Perhaps Hejazi Jaaberi,
and others like him, are the Gandhis Palestine so urgently needs.

This article is based on an interview conducted on February 26th 2007 by Takanobu Nakahara, International
Public Relations volunteer for MEND.
Author: Takanobu Nakahara
Edited by: Mark Calder

Photo: Takanobu Nakahara