Our Biblical Christian village has co-existed in peace with the surrounding Muslim villages for centuries. Not being able to comprehend the tragic events that took place in our little innocent village of Taybeh, I have been speechless for many days. I literally lost my voice yelling at the fanatics to go away from our doorsteps at the Taybeh Brewery as they were about to torch modern-state of the art equipment that produces the only micro brewed beer in the whole Middle East area named after our village.
A violent mob of armed young men took the law in their own hands and come for a revenge attack on our whole extended family since a distant cousin was accused of having an affair with a woman from their village of Deir Ejreer. Over three hundred men aggressively raided the village between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. on Sept 3rd burning down houses, cars and looting. Taybeh residents evacuated their homes in fear of their lives thus no one was injured.
At the moment, Taybeh Beer, for me stands as a symbol for democracy in Palestine. It was Muslim fanatics that wanted to burn it and Muslim policemen that saved us. It is a challenge for the Palestinian Authority to protect the small Christian community and diverse populations in Palestine if there is to be a democratic two-state solution following the pro-longed years of occupation. By the way, the Israeli army jeep came in the village and the soldiers simply watched the houses burn down without doing anything in their power to stop the rage. Although we were on the phone with the army captain begging for immediate help to stop the violence.
We are overpowered by tribal laws which make it legal in the Islamic religion to kill women in the honor of the family. Thus, the Muslim woman, Hiyam was killed and buried by her brothers without a death certificate after discovered pregnant. The accused man, a Christian, paid the highest price by not only going to jail but knowing that sixteen homes were attacked belonging to his extended family leaving fourteen homes completely burned. Innocent families losing all of their personal belongings, furniture, clothes, family keepsakes that were passed down from generation to generation and beautiful family portraits that reflect the deep roots of this Christian village having a unique character and identity since the time Christ our Lord walked into this village before his crucifixion (John 11:54).
This barbaric and uncivilized behavior could not be stopped by the Israeli Army or by the Palestinian Authority. As American citizens we made numerous phone calls to the American Consulate Emergency services pleading for help to put pressure on the Israelis to allow the Palestinian police to pass the checkpoints and arrive in Taybeh to stop the catastrophe. It took over three hours for the Palestinian police to arrive but with great appreciation to the American Consulate at least our brewery and our home were saved. This was totally unjustified violence that left over 72 people, the majority children, in despair and agony having nothing left except the shirt on their backs.
Furthermore, as a woman believing in human rights, what bothers me the most is that I live in a culture that wants to punish the man who slept with the woman instead of the men who killed the woman? And not only punish one man but in barbaric style punish every family member that is related to him; and we are talking about fifth cousins and sixth cousins; innocent people that have nothing to do and cannot control the sin of an individual. This aggression is something bizarre that has happened in our village and should be condemned by all people who believe in law and order.
I have never had such an experience in my twenty-five years in Palestine. It is my Muslim collogues who call me before my Christian friends to wish me "Merry Christmas." It is a Muslim mother that picks up my son at midnight when he is stranded in the city. My son's best friend is a Muslim and I love him like my own son Costa. I cannot make logical sense of what has happened in our village. And we are in such deep need of reconciliation among all groups of people who are just in pure shock.
Christ's love and peace is more important than ever. Our witness to Christian values and our struggle to exist as a small community is now at the mercy of not only the Israeli Occupying power which is legally responsible for protecting unarmed civilians but also at the hands of the Palestinian Authority who must bring law and order and put an end to tribal laws which are detrimental in this new millennium. Family feuds should be taken to a courtroom not solved in the hands of hundreds of crazy fanatics that are capable of wiping out a whole village with such aggressive violence that leave you speechless.
My husband David Khoury, the new mayor of Taybeh has make an appeal to many religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian and to all authorities including humanitarian organizations to help us have a strong voice as a Christian community and send letters of condemnation to the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers that justice, law and order should prevail. Protection against such aggressive unjustified violence should be guaranteed for all human beings in the Holy Land regardless of religion, race, and gender. The violent aggression against our village should be condemned to help Taybeh maintain its unique character and identity as one of the most ancient places in Palestine and the only 100% Christian village left. We want the Palestinian justice system to prevail and not the tribal traditions that seek blood for forbidden relationships.
Maria C. Khoury was born in the US, but moved to Taybeh (biblical Ephraim) after marrying David Khoury, an Orthodox Christian Palestinian.
Maria Khoury is author of Witness in the Holy Land and the new children's book, "Christina's True Heroes" about seven women saints.
Contact Maria Khoury at Saintfirstname.lastname@example.org