I first knew Ezra Nawi as the man with the roses. He was not a florist. He was a plumber, a gentle Jerusalemite who would show up every Friday at French Square, his rucksack brimming with bouquets of long-stemmed roses. He would cross the moat of Friday traffic to where we stood: 20 or so women, wearing black and holding little hand-shaped signs that read, "Stop the Occupation" in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Smiling, Ezra would slowly circle the low wall on which we perched, stopping to hand a rose to each and every one of us.
In Jerusalem in the 1990s, this was the routine. Every Friday, we Women in Black would stand for an hour, holding signs, registering our protest. And every Friday, this smiling man would appear with his roses.
Years later, Ezra is now on trial for yet another peaceful act of protest. On July 22, 2007, as Israeli soldiers and bulldozers advanced on a Palestinian home in the West Bank, Ezra tried to prevent its demolition. With the family soon to be made homeless, he stood his ground and placed himself between the bulldozer and the home. This video shows what happened.
Following this so-called "crime," Ezra has been charged and found guilty of assaulting a police officer. On August 16th, he will be sentenced.
I had taken his weekly gift for granted. It was sweet, I knew. But I didn't understand, then, the tremendous generosity of spirit and political commitment that lay behind Ezra's simple, weekly act. Now, fifteen years later, I understand. And it doesn't surprise me to hear that he continues to act with the same generosity and commitment. It is shameful that his government imprisons him for standing peacefully with those most in need of defense. And it is upon us, the people whom he supported so lovingly all those years, to support him now.
Click here to find out how you can send a letter to the Israeli consulate calling for his release. To find out more about MADRE's long-standing work to demand an end to the occupation and to support women's health in Palestine, click here.