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Summary: Like so much of life, the parables of Jesus are often stories of violence. Here the violence is between a landlord and his tenants. ...

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“We were told that this [operation] was against armed people and against people climbing on our armed vehicles. Our APCs (armed personnel carriers) were cruising 24 hours a day close to buildings (in Jenin), waiting for kids to climb on them, trying to dislodge the top -mounted MG (machine gun) and to shoot them.

We had fixed positions inside Jenin’s casbah, the APCs were on the streets, below us. They were moving continuously. We were expressly told that we were just waiting for someone to climb on an APC, and ordered to shoot to kill. We quickly understood that we weren’t expected to deal with armed people as no armed Palestinian would roam the streets with so many APCs around. They (our authorities) were looking for children or plain people daring to climb on an APC or on any other armoured vehicle. We understood that from the talks with our officers.

After a day or two, a 12-year old kid climbed on one of the APCs. There were lots of guesses about his age. First they said he was 8, later, that he was 12. I don’t know. In any case he climbed on an APC and one of our sharpshooters killed him. I already mentioned, we were looking for kids. The neighbouring company also had an incident with a kid or teenager, climbing an APC, who was also killed. Some of us said that this whole operation was unnecessary as its purpose was to kill kids, while others said that it was very good.”

This report is from a sergeant in the Israeli Defence Forces, working as part of the occupying force in Jenin - an area in the West Bank of Palestine, best remembered for the terrible massacre that took place there in April 2002, where the Israeli army assaulted the Jenin refugee camp with helicopters, tanks, bulldozers, and troops.

This testimonial is part of a collection that I believe is about to be published on paper, but which is already available in electronic format. It’s called ‘Breaking the Silence’, and it includes about 80 pages of similar testimonials. It is the second collection of testimonials that this ‘Breaking the Silence’ group has published.

As you know, I have a particular interest in the welfare of our Palestinian brethren, which started through my friendship with Israeli peace activist, Morde Vanunu. Even so, I am resisting the temptation to read more excepts from this collection, because I suspect that, after two or three such accounts, most of us will start to switch off.

That sounds terrible, I know, but the truth is, we are all a little to familiar with this sort of violence. Violence is a part of our world, and we have learnt to accept that, particularly when it is happening somewhere a long way away.

Perhaps that isn’t quite right? Perhaps it is not that we accept it, but that we switch off because we prefer not to think about it, as we fear that it is getting too close.

We know what is going on in the Middle East, and we know that we in Australia are directly connected to the bloodshed in Iraq. Perhaps we simply do not like to dwell upon this horizon of violence that seems to be moving towards us.

The truth is of course that we are not strangers to violence in this land either. Even if we have thus far been spared public ‘terror attacks’, we know that violence - criminal, social and domestic - is a part of our landscape, and is certainly part of our history, as it is part of all human history. Perhaps it should not surprise us then, that when Jesus tells parables about our world, so many of them are stories of violence.

Jesus said, “listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a wall around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and went abroad.”

Thus begins the tragic story of a beautiful vineyard that gradually goes to seed through the mismanagement of its tenants, though the focus here is not so much on their mismanagement of the property that is put into their care, as it is on the callous disregard these people show towards the rights of the legal owner.

“When harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenant farmers to collect his produce. But the farmers took his servants and beat one, killed another, and attacked another with stones. Again, he sent other servants to them, a greater number than the first, but the tenant farmers treated them the same way.”

The behaviour of the tenants seems a little crazy! Why would any tenants act with such total disregard for their relationship with their landlord?

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