Staying put: the nonviolent resistance of daily life in the West Bank

Nonviolence has many faces in Palestine, but the most fundamental act of nonviolent resistance is probably the simple act of staying put.  I’d like to share with you the stories of three families who resist the military occupation of their land by staying in their own homes and on their own land:  the Anastas family of Bethlehem, the Nassar family of Tent of Nations near Bethlehem, and the family of Hani and Rema Habuhaikal in Hebron.

What each of these families has in common is that Israel and/or its settlers want their land/house.  The Anastas family lives in their family home housing three generations and their businesses on what was once a busy thoroughfare in Bethlehem.  In 2005 Israel built a nine-meter high concrete wall in Bethlehem that surrounded their house on three sides and cut their street off from traffic.  Below is a photo taken in the early days after the wall was erected.

I’ve snapped a photo (below) of the Bethlehem map that shows the incursion that the wall makes into Bethlehem land in their area.  Israel annexed Rachel’s tomb which is on Bethlehem land with plans to build a settlement nearby.  They offered the Anastas family a handsome sum of money to sell their property, but Johnny and Claire believed it was their right to stay in their home.  They believe that staying is the most important way they can struggle for the rights of their fellow Palestinians.  They operate a travel hostel in their home and a Christian gift shop featuring religious olive wood carvings.

Johnny moved his brake shop for cars to another street in Bethlehem so that he could attract more business.  Recently the Israeli military entered his shop, took the machinery he uses for grinding brakes, and shut down the shop with a sign alleging that the owner was making weapons in the shop.  Two weeks later Israeli military officials admitted that they were mistaken.  Johnny asked for his machinery, but was told it was destroyed and he would have to sue for compensation.  The suit may take three years to resolve.  In the meantime, Johnny is deprived of his livelihood.  The action puts pressure on him and his family to vacate the house and leave it to the Israelis.  The Anastas family is determined to stay.

From Bethlehem we made a drive to Tent of Nations, the environmental and educational farm belonging to the Nassar family.  The drive would have been shorter, but the direct road to their farm has been blocked by the Israelis forcing the family and their visitors to take a longer and more difficult route through the narrow streets of the small Palestinian village of Nahalin.  Why would Israelis want to block the road and make life difficult for the family?  Take a look at the map below for clues.

Tent of Nations is at Daher’s Vineyard near the center of the map.  Surrounding Daher’s Vineyard are the Israeli settlements of Bitar Elite, Gush Etzion, Eliaza, Nev Daniel, and Erfatz.  Each settlement sits on a hilltop and smack in the center of the ring is the hilltop where the Nassar’s Tent of Nations farm is located.  Settlements are attempting to join together into settlement blocks encompassing large swaths of land, and Tent of Nations stands in the way.

Daher Nassar was the grandfather of Daoud, Amal, and Daher who now operate the farm.  Their grandfather bought the 100 acre farm on a hilltop near Bethlehem in 1916 and registered it with the Ottoman Empire.  The family lived in caves on the farm and cultivated it in grapes, olive trees, and other crops continuously since that time.  In 1991 the Israeli government declared the Nassar land and its surroundings as Israeli “state land.”  The Nassar family has the documents to establish their claim to the land and have been in court for many years.  The history of their struggle is at this site.

In 2014 Israeli bulldozers arrived in the middle of the night and bulldozed 1500 olive trees.  With the help of the international community, including Jewish people living in England, 1000 new trees were planted.  The Nassar family is determined to protect their family land and at the same time “embody a positive approach to conflict and occupation.”  Tent of Nations  seeks to “work with others in the local area to lay the foundations for a future Palestine, in the belief that justice and peace will grow from the bottom up.”

Yesterday in Hebron, we spent time with a family being squeezed at very close quarters.  Hani and Reema Habuhaikal and their children live in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron where settlers live in close quarters next door or across the street from Palestinians.  Hani and Reema can no longer keep a car at their home, since their cars have been burned by settlers in the past.  They must pass through checkpoints staffed by Israeli soldiers to go back and forth into the heart of Hebron.  Their car is now parked on the other side of Tel Rumeida where they haul all their purchases up and down steep rocky slopes and long paths to reach their house, passing security cameras and armed soldiers along the way.

Sometimes the power lines or the water pipes to the family’s well have been cut by settlers.  On one occasion Hani organized the neighborhood in a nonviolent action to demonstrate their community’s legitimate need for water.  They ordered a tank truck to deliver water to the community after the well had been disabled.  When the soldiers refused to let the truck pass, down the hill came all the little children with bottles and bowls and pitchers to fill with water and take it back up the hill while major media network cameras rolled.

Hani is a strong believer in using nonviolence to work toward social change.  He said he learned about nonviolence when he was jailed during the intifada along with many professors and activists with “huge minds” who held discussions about their methods.  He said jail gave him lots of time to think.  When an oppressed people uses violence, he says, their actions feed into the hands of the powerful oppressor who uses it against them. He has taught his five children not to hate the settlers or the soldiers and to greet each person with respect.  I’ve encouraged him to ask his daughter who intends to study journalism to write down these stories to share with the world.  We all need inspiration for ways to demonstrate the realities of oppression without engendering new hate.

That evening Hani’s family invited us to celebrate Iftar, the breaking of the Ramadan fast, with them, and we are grateful for their hospitality.

What unites all of these stories and many others we heard is the families’ conviction that staying put is worth it.  The occupation has made their daily lives difficult, and they could let the difficulties drive them out.  They choose to stay, however, and view the simple acts of daily lives in their homes as their own contribution to nonviolent resistance on behalf of their people.  Capturing the spirit of their lives is the tree that Amal Nassar told us about at Tent of Nations.  The bulldozers left one fig tree standing in the middle of the grove and they have named the tree “Sumud” or “steadfastness.”  At the entrance to the Tent of Nations stands a rock with these words inscribed in three languages: “We refuse to be enemies.”

Palestinian farming: land, access, water

Maybe because I grew up on a farm, the plight of the Palestinian farmer speaks to me.  When Iyad Burnat in Bilin tells me his father and grandfather used to take their sheep out across the hilltops to graze, I remember my own father’s stories of shepherding in his native Holland, where he took the sheep out all day walking out across the heather to find enough grass to graze.  Holland’s heather is more lush than the dry, rocky hills of the West Bank, so the Palestinian shepherd needs to take his sheep out for long distances and many days to find enough grass to feed them.

The Burnat family can no longer make their living from sheep herding, because Israeli settlers hace colonized the hilltops where the family’s sheep once grazed.  There is no longer enough area to feed many sheep.  Iyan took us out to the wall that separates their fields from the settlements.  We looked out across a steep gulley to a development where many multi-story buildings are being built.  These settlements have grown greatly since I visited four years ago, confiscating land that by rights belongs to the West Bank, bringing it under Israeli control.  Our eyes sweep out 180 degrees from our perch and I see that not much wild ground remains for sheep-grazing.

Next we walked a hundred meters over to the wall that is meant to protect the settlements from the villagers.  Bilin’s residents succeeded in the courts and through their popular resistance movement to get this wall moved closer to the settlements so that Bilin farmers could have access to their own farmland, but it has been a rare victory.  Even so, some of their farmland remains behind the wall.  In many spots across the West Bank, the wall has cut across farmer’s olive groves and vineyards, cutting off farmers from their own land.  They may apply for permits to pass through openings in the wall to work their land, openings which often are far away from their plots of land. In some cases these permits are issued only to the owner of the land.  Even if the owner is elderly, he alone can access the land, not his sons and grandsons.  Many olives, grapes, and other crops go unharvested.  To make matters worse a farmer can never be sure that the Israeli soldiers will give him access on any particuar day.  The soldier might tell him to go home and come back another day.

Not only is land confiscation and access to the remaining land a problem, obtaining water for irrigation is also a critical issue.  Iyad took us on a tour of villager’s vineyards and organic vegetable farms.  We saw cucumbers planted beneath grapevines to make the most efficent use of the land, and efficient drip irrigation systems were laid out across the beans, peppers, tomatoes, and more.  Yet we learned that not all the land can be planted at one time, because the farmers do not have access to enough water.  Their farmland sits atop the West Bank’s mountain aquifer.  Israel uses 80% of the water from this aquifer while the Palestinians receive only 20% which they must buy from Israel at inflated prices.  Meanwhile the settlements are able to fill swimming pools and irrigate landscaping while West Bank farmland goes dry.  Water rights will be a critical issue for any peaceful solution for Israel-Palestine.

Several years ago my father and I attended a talk back home in Ohio given by Daoud Nasser, a Palestinian farmer, who shared stories of similar difficulties at his educational and environmental farm, called Tent of Nations, near Bethlehem.  My father was delighted to find out that Mike Phillips was on the board of Friends of Tent of Nations.  My father used to milk cows for Mike’s father, Norm Phillips of Risingsun, Ohio.  Through Mike’s farm experience, he understood well the plight of farmers who suffer from land confiscation, access restrictions, and water shortages, and so did my father.  Daoud told us that he has spoken with a number of American farmers on his US speaking tours and finds that they are sympathetic to the Palestinian farmers’ problems.  My father died at the age of 90 in 2015, and I’m sorry I won’t be able to share this trip with him.  The Palestinian cause interested him for the last decades of his life.

I hope I’ll have the chance to tell you more about the specific challenges the Nasser family faces in another post.  Many thanks to fellow delegation member Tessa Laubacher for providing the photos for this post.

P.S. After our land tour with Iyad we returned to the Burnats’ home to share in their Iftar meal, the breaking of the Ramadan fast.  Later some of our delegation members got up at 2:30 am to share Suhur with them, the last meal before dawn and the start of a new fast.  We’re grateful to the Burnats and their children for sharing their wonderful food, fellowship, and warm hospitality.

Day 4 Blog: Art as Resistance

For me Bethlehem is about art and the human spirit.   When we drove into town on Friday, the brightly-painted images with their heartfelt, yet light-spirited commentary reached out to us from the high wall that snakes through the heart of town.  And that was only the beginning.  We witnessed the role of dance, filmmaking, and other art in the lives of refugee youth, the artwork of Banksy in the Walled Off Hotel, and the memorial murals at Aida Camp.  And yet another kind of artistic expression in the gardens and collections of the Palestinian Natural History Museum.

In the face of oppression, artistic expression reasserts a person’s human dignity.  When Israel built the bleak gray concrete wall and watchtowers that cut off the people’s views and their movement, Bethlehem residents answered the wall with their graffiti.  The mysterious  artist Banksy made the wall famous with his sly commentary.  Here is a well-known example:

But many other artists grace the walls with their own interpretations of liberation.  And international visitors often leave messages of solidarity.

At Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem,  teenagers from the camp performed a beautiful and spirited Dabka dance for us that brought tears to my eyes.  The Alrowwad Center for Culture and Arts works with youth in the camp to foster their self-expression and help them become “change-makers.”  Their mission is to encourage “beautiful resistance against the ugliness of occupation and violence.”  One of the directors explained to us that they teach teenagers filmmaking to put them on the other side of the lens where they are not the passive subjects of the film, but the active creators.  These youth are probably the 3rd or 4th generation descendents of the refugees who first entered the camp after the war of 1948.

Heartfelt murals graced the walls of Aida Camp with memories of villages left behind and loved ones lost. A brand new mural commemorated the Palestinian prisoner hunger strike that had just concluded the week before.

The newly opened Walled Off Hotel (next to the wall in Bethlehem, of course) featured social commentary on its lobby walls, like the following example.  (Check my Facebook page for more.)

And not to be too narrow in our notion of art, I’d like to include the work of biology students from Bethlehem University who are volunteering at the Palestinian Natural History Museum to collect, preserve, classify, and mount species of grasshoppers and other indigenous insects of Palestine, which they proudly displayed for me.  Their work encourages Palestinians to recognize and value the rich diversity of their own land.

All of this artistic work touches the hearts, minds, and spirits of both the creators and those of us lucky enough to observe it.  If you’d like to see more examples, please visit my Facebook page.

Now I’ll try to catch up on some sleep, after two very busy days of travel and meetings.  Hope to talk to you again next time the Wifi is good.  Thanks for reading, friends!  Josie

Day 3: Gaza and the Psychological Trauma of War

No, I’m not in Gaza.  The Israelis give very few people permission to enter and witness what has happened there.  But our group heard from a man today who was there just days after the conclusion of the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict which Israelis named Operation Protective Edge.  Sami El-Yousef, regional director for CNEWA, Catholic Near East Welfare Association, told us about the psychosocial services his agency provided in Gaza to hundreds of children traumatized by the military assault.  He maintained, however, that the conflict left all 2 million people of Gaza needing psychological services.  

Sami interviewed many Gazans about the military violence they had experienced and in every case, he told us, they could not complete the conversation without both of them ending up in tears.   He was so overcome by the level of psychological trauma he observed that he decided to look for some measure of the trauma these people had experienced.  Using United Nations figures for the number of bombs and other munitions inflicted on Gaza during that conflict, he calculated that the people of Gaza heard one explosion every minute for 51 days.  

One explosion per minute round the clock day after day.  Add to that the fact that the people of Gaza cannot leave the narrow confines of their land to take refuge from the bombs.  They are walled inside a strip of land 25 miles long and 7.5 miles wide at its widest point with no exits allowed them.   During the 2014 conflict Israel declared half of Gaza a closed military zone and people were crowded even more densely together.   Most war produces streams of refugees leaving the country, but for Gazans this was impossible.  For 51 days they could not escape the walls that form what is called the world’s largest open air prison.  And for 51 days the constant explosions did not even allow escape into sleep.  It is no wonder that the conflict produced so much trauma.  Yet the resources to meet that trauma are severely limited.

We were impressed by Sami’s account of CNEWA’s work.  As a pontifical mission, it was established in 1949, intended as a temporary mission to care for the 30% of Palestinian Christians who became refugees during the 1948 war.  68 years later the refugees have not been able to return and CNEWA’s work has become long-term.  They have kept a Christian presence in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza providing healthcare, education, and social services for all Palestinians regardless of their religion.

An aside for my husband, Scoutmaster Denny Setzler of St. Ann’s Troop 339:  CNEWA supports 32 Scout troops within Israel to promote Christian community amoung the Palestinian youth, providing them ways to come together to do volunteer work and socialize.  I know Denny will enjoy CNEWA’s appreciation for the role scouting can play in Catholic life. 

A little more about our day

Tonight we made our way out the Damascus Gate and up the hill to the conference center Notre Dame to have dinner with Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, retired from the Pontifical Council on Interreligious Dialogue, arranged by our delegation member Jeff Abood.  The Archbishop specializes in Christian-Muslim relations and recently spent a year at John Carroll University teaching a course on the Koran and finishing a book.  I hope I’ll have a chance to share our conversation in a future post.

As we left for dinner and passed through the markets of the Muslim quarter to approach the Damascus Gate we were swimming upstream it seemed.  We passed through crowds of Muslims entering the old city to head to Al Aqsa mosque for the breaking of the Ramadan fast.  Sundown was still more than an hour away.  As we returned from dinner after dark, we encountered the festive lights for Ramadan strung all around the Damascus gate.  We made our way through throngs of people celebrating the breaking of the Ramadan fast with food, music, children’s fun, and general high spirits.  Even if I’d had my camera with me, I could not have captured the warm, spectacular vitalitiy of it all for you.  As I sit here on the hostel terrace, I can still hear the singing at the gate at 11 pm.

Now I’ll capture a few more moments in photos.

Watching Bar Mitzvah processions pass by as we stood in line to go to the Temple Mount.

My favorite view of the old wall with Al Aqsa mosque visible on the left.  We stood in line for an hour and a half to make it up to the Temple Mount to see the mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Another market scene.  Can’t resist sharing it.

Jerusalem and the Three Abrahamic Faiths

By the time we ate dinner last evening at Al Nasser’s Restaurant in Jerusalem’s old city, we felt worlds apart from the airport in Tel Aviv where we’d landed in the morning.  We arranged to meet up with eight energetic students in a tour group from Kent State University.  Over dinners of chicken or beef kebabs, they told us what they’d learned about “Settler Colonialism,” the title of the course that was culminating with this tour.  And since our trip’s objective included fact-finding on this very subject, we had some animated conversations.  More importantly, however, they cleared up some mysteries we’d been wondering about all day.

Why were the streets deserted as the Nesser (taxi) wound its way through West Jerusalem to deliver us to the Damascus gate of the old city?  The Kent State students had already been here two weeks and they were pros.  That’s easy, they told us.   It was Shavuot, the Jewish feast of Pentecost, and Jews were observing the holiday.  We saw more evidence as we approached the Western Wall in the afternoon, where we encounted scores of black clad orthodox Jewish men and boys with distinctive black hats.  The Russian Jews wore cylinder-shaped black fur hats and some even carried hat boxes with them.  Toward evening large crowds of orthodox Jews made their way through the closing markets of the Muslim quarter in the old city presumably on their way to the Wailing Wall once again.

Earlier we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and arrived just as the solemn office for the Feast of the Visitation was ending.  Monks from several different Christian sects in colorful robes, one after another, were moving the throngs of pilgrims back as they processed from altar to altar incensing each of the holy sites within the shrine.   The church is shared in a complicated arrangement by the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Egyptian Copts, Ethiopians, and Syriacs.  The young women on our delegation later shared that they were particularly moved by the experience of visiting the sites of Calvary and Christ’s burial.

And of course, our visit coincides with the Muslims’ holy month of Ramadan, still in its first week.   As we sat on the hostel’s terrace waiting to go to dinner, we observed an older couple at a nearby table quietly, and tenderly I thought, chopping vegetables and herbs to prepare a beautiful salad.  After bringing kabobs to the table they sat perfectly still.  Suddenly we heard what sounded like a cannon in the distance and the muezzin announcing the call for prayer from the minarets.  At that moment the man and woman lifted their cups of water to their lips and began their meal, and we realized we had been honored to witness this couple’s sacred iftar, the breaking of the fast.

Now after a good night’s sleep I’m sitting on the terrace of our little hostel listening to the racket of the markets in the Muslim quarter opening up.  We’ll be visiting with a member of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, CNEWA, today to learn about their work in Gaza and with Rabbi Arik Ascherman this afternoon about his work with Hagel. But for now, coffee, bread, and fruit and some cool morning air.  

Come and See, Go and Tell

It has been more than four years since I made my first trip to Palestine with a tour group led by my friend Sr. Paulette and her ministry Project Peace.  Now here I sit at Toronto airport with Paulette and a new group of travelers.  I promised I’d go back some time, because I knew I hadn’t yet accomplished what I’d set out to do back in 2013.  Daoud Nassar, a Palestinian farmer/activist from Tent of Nations near Bethlehem, had challenged us back then:  “Come and see; go and tell.”  I had come and I had seen, but I still had not done enough to tell what I had learned.

On the first leg of our journey today as we flew from Columbus to Toronto, I took out my journal from my first trip and read the detailed notes from the people we had interviewed.  I was fascinated by their stories of nonviolent resistance in the face of oppression, and now I’m ready to learn more.  And so I promise to write a few blogposts as I travel in the next ten days.  I hope you will join me for a virtual journey through Israel/Palestine, as we visit with Muslims, Christians, Jews, bishops, rabbis, UN officials, Bedouins, villagers, farmers, and more.

You may sign up to receive email notices on this blog page.  Or you might find notices of new posts on my Facebook page.

For now, we are gathering our energy here in the food court as we prepare for a 10+ hour flight to Tel Aviv. Talk to you later!





My cameo role in my daughter’s poem shows me mostly asleep. It’s a joy to be awakened by the poem itself! If anyone needs to know, she really did return to that place to live, nine years later as an Americorps volunteer who helped valley residents grow vegetables in the fertile dust.

City Sister & Mountain Mama

nevermind the dust
blowing in every direction

if you can take a breath
even if only for one moment,
you are alive
i graduated from eighth grade
my first kiss, a dare i chose
in a gazebo
on an early summer night

quickly, i touched my lips to his
in the middle of a circle of
eyes watching
the next morning
on the flight to Denver
my walkman in my lap
forehead pressed to the window

all i remember from the night before
is the rhythm of my knees shaking
in anticipation

the snow-capped mountains
are grand in their majesty,
i learned to say

always in the distance
and my mother can’t stop sighing
in the face of their majesty

but their jagged, rocky edges
viewed from the highway
bring me no peace of mind
we drive south,
my mom, my sister, and i


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Why do we protest?


Protest.  All it means is to disapprove or object to something.  Yet the word carries so much baggage, it seems downright inflammatory sometimes.  I served on a local panel of women who had attended the Women’s March in Washington in January.  The moderator asked if anyone had any concerns now that they were back home again.  One woman spoke up with considerable energy about how the media had characterized those who marched as “protesters.”  No, she insisted, we weren’t protesters.  We weren’t angry.  We were peaceful.  We had a positive message. Several others on the panel strongly agreed.

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” as Queen Gertrude says in Hamlet.  This woman’s protest of protest brings us right to the core issue: many Americans are afraid to express their disapproval or objection to what their leaders do or say.

Europeans have been quicker to pour a million or more citizens into their streets when their leaders misuse their power, but we Americans relish a sort of exceptionalism about ourselves.  Let’s be polite and patient, and perhaps the leaders of our storybook democracy will save us in the end.

Whatever we call this exercise in free speech, all of the women on the panel had been drawn to travel across three states to speak out plainly in our nation’s capital on the side of justice.  It was something to celebrate.

My activist group, People for Peace & Justice Sandusky County, has been protesting war and social injustice at a downtown Fremont corner every week since 2007.  Friends sometimes ask me why we do this thing that seems so futile.  What can it accomplish?

My favorite answer is that we are telling passers-by that it is legitimate to dissent.  Each of us has a right to decide whether or not to consent to the dominant political ideology. Members of the public are not unanimous in their views.  We hope we can give passers-by the courage of their convictions, and at the same time find our own.

A few years ago, I wrote an article for Toledo Faith and Values that attempted to express all of this.  I offer it, slightly updated, below.

Shattering the Unanimity of Consent

Josie Setzler | Original version published by Toledo Faith and Values | Sep 4, 2012

There can be great urgency in protest’s seeming futility.  Pietro Spina, the hero of the novel, Bread and Wine, felt that urgency.  Pietro does just one thing during a time of war; he goes out in the night and writes the word NO on the town walls. Writer Robert Ellsberg comments, “If nothing else, his deed shatters the ‘unanimity of consent’; it allows people to envision the subversive possibility of an alternative reality.”

Saying no feels plenty futile.  I’m one of the Sandusky County residents who gather at a busy downtown corner in Fremont every week to say no to war.  We’ve done this for some nine years now and we don’t expect the world will give us an excuse to stop anytime soon.  Nonetheless I feel the urgency of saying no.

The “unanimity of consent” pervades and supports the comforts of my daily life that have been bought with the application of immense US military might.   It’s convenient to turn a blind eye to the suffering caused elsewhere, and life’s daily busy-ness serves well to distract us.  It seems as if every week the news gives us another story of innocents killed, drones hovering menacingly over houses in tiny villages, men tortured, people incarcerated without charge, our own citizens surveilled, but then the stories pass into oblivion.  And my life goes on as always, just like the lives of all the drivers passing by me at the corner of State and Front.

I’m complicit until I find a way to say no, to break the unanimity of consent.  In small ways, consent starts to break up once someone says no.  Long-time Chicago peace activist Kathy Kelly tells us we need to “catch courage” from each other.  I’ve found the process is mutual for motorists and protesters alike.  My husband Denny holds the sign that lets people make their own statement.  “Honk 4 Peace,” it proclaims boldly.  He pumps the sign up and down strategically as the light turns, and the honking begins.  The honks crescendo beautifully and our spirits soar.  Some folks whose horns don’t work gesture in frustration at Denny.  He grins and tells them to turn on their windshield wipers.  They are delighted to comply, and we laugh in solidarity.

I admit there’s something foolish about facing traffic with a sign announcing my wisdom in just a half dozen words.  I remember a conversation with my friend Jude who called our signs ineffective, because “you don’t have room to make an argument on a sign.”  With a master’s degree in theology, Jude figured a statement is a thesis that needs arguments to defend it.   I knew I liked to argue with the best of them, but the vigils gave me something else.  “Jude, just making the statement is the whole point,” I told her.  “It’s about finding the courage of our convictions.”  People fear they’re not allowed to dissent, let alone express that dissent.  They see someone they know standing on a street corner in their own hometown expressing what they know deep in their own hearts, and they are surprised.  The protester finds the courage of her convictions in the hopes that passers-by might discover that same courage in themselves.

Yes, there are the occasional obscene gestures and angry shouts.  My friends at a longstanding vigil in Tiffin actually got mooned once by a passing motorist.  We’ve learned that we are not there to change the minds of people who disagree with us.  We are aiming instead for the hearts of those who wonder about these things.

Don’t judge your action by its prospect for success, long-time peace activist Father Daniel Berrigan told his Toledo audience back in 2002 as he spoke about activism in the run up to the Iraq War. An audience member asked him why our religious leaders were not speaking out at the time. “You can’t wait for them,” he told us. “It’s up to you.  Do it.  Get going.”

Speaking out is the job of each of us.  That much we can do right now.  Fellow protester Tom Younker tells me as we wave at passing motorists, “I stand here now, because I didn’t do it when the Vietnam War was raging.”  He senses it is not too late, and so we’ll be out there with him again next week.  We welcome others to stand with us wherever they might be.

–Josie Setzler | March 24, 2017

springtime in the desert

My daughter’s poem.


City Sister & Mountain Mama


the desert in utah
fills with wildflowers in may

prickly pears
all blooming in
cadences of color
dancing in the
spring wind
i wake to the sound of
birds in green mulberry trees, singing
in delight to
see the sun
there are layers of life
so apparent in
sandstone mountains
salty, smooth but jagged

inside, i stand atop the misty canyon
at peace with
all the questions and scars
all the layers of my self

because valleys fill
and empty
over and over

grow wildflowers from
salty, sandy dust

sing songs in gratitude
to see the seasons
change as they do

it seems that
beauty can thrive in the most
unlikely of places



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