Fear not…

Last night, about 20 EAPPI members (staff and Ecumenical Accompaniers) celebrated Christmas with the congregation and international guests of Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem. Rev. Mitri Raheb and Bishop Munib Younan presided along with additional Lutheran clergy. In his message, Bishop Younan offered these encouraging thoughts:  “Palestinians and Israelis today face a common enemy: fear. In the absence of justice and peace, the common denominator is fear. Fear of the other. Fear for the future. Fear that freedom is not coming. Fear that children will grow in hatred. Fear of insecurity. Fear of the occupation. Fear is our common prison that keeps us locked up in cycles of mistrust and shattered dreams. It is a fear that builds non-productive ‘facts on the ground’. It is a fear that will only ever vanish when there is peace based on justice and reconciliation built on forgiveness. We proclaim that such a just peace is possible today. We pray that all political leaders will seize the opportunity before it is too late. The same message of the first Christmas rings true today, “Fear not!” There is a child who was born into a world of fear in order to take away that fear and to bring peace to earth and good will to humankind.”

Merry Christmas, All…

As a gift, I offer this photo array of a Nativity set crafted by Elias Giacaman of the Holy Land Arts Museum owned by Joseph E. Giacaman & Sons Co. Elias studied the scale of the Separation Wall in Bethlehem relative to the average height of people living in Bethlehem.

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Salaam, shalom, peace…

Reflections on this first week of Ecumenical Accompaniment work…an intense experience…

On 20 December 2010, we attended the Christmas party in Sheikh Jarrah, an East Jerusalem neighbourhood in which Israeli settler groups have forcibly evicted the Palestinian, Al-Kurd, Hanoun, Al-Ghawi, and Rifhqa Al-Kurd families from their homes. Since late 2008, more than 60 Palestinians, including 24 children, have been forced onto the streets. Even as the settlers looked on, the evicted families celebrated and shared their hopes for 2011.

Sheikh Jarrah Christmas Party - Israeli Settlers on seized rooftop_20Dec10

Sheikh Jarrah Christmas Party - Israeli Settlers on seized rooftop_20Dec10


Wishes of Sheikh Jarrah Children for 2011_20Dec10

Wishes of Sheikh Jarrah Children for 2011_20Dec10

Umm Kamel - Sheikh Jarrah Christmas Party - 20Dec10

Umm Kamel - Sheikh Jarrah Christmas Party - 20Dec10

See news articles about Umm Kamel, a woman who has become one of the faces of Sheikh Jarrah. Also, see this October 2010 report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

On 20 December 2010, we received this report:  Human Rights Watch. (2010, December). Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. New York: Authors. 

An excerpt, p. 5: “As the occupying power in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israel is obliged to ensure the welfare of the occupied population and to limit its actions according to the law of occupation as set forth in international humanitarian law. In some cases, Israeli policies have made Palestinian communities virtually uninhabitable and effectively forced residents to leave. According to a survey of households in Area C and East Jerusalem in June 2009, some 31% of Palestinian residents had been discplaced since 2000 [see Save the Children document].”

On 21 December 2010… Within 1.5 hours, our Jerusalem team received three home-demolition alerts on my phone. We accompanied the family in the second demolition and tried unsuccessfully to locate the third demolition. The Bethlehem EAPPI team companied the family from the first demolition. Here is the information that we received in the Alert:

Demolition Working Group Alert 12:01 pm – Demolition ongoing of a Palestinian (inhabited) home in Ras al Ahmud in East Jerusalem.

Musa Ali Ibrahim Subah - East Jerusalem - 21Dec10

Musa Ali Ibrahim Subah - East Jerusalem - 21Dec10

In the final conversation that we had with Aida Musa Subah and her husband, Musa Ali Ibrahim Subah, he said, “We have no home.” He asked: “Pray for us. Thanks for coming. Maybe because you come here and are in solidarity [things will be better]….I will be alone but I know others will be here [i.e., because you will tell the world].”

On 22 December 2010, we responded to a request from the EAPPI UK/Eire Coordination office. They have asked us for quotations from Jerusalem residents, to be printed on a leaflet for use during World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel (29 May – 4 June 2011).

We have started asking for local people’s thoughts…

Jahalin Bedouin teen girl: “Jerusalem is my heart and my home.”

Jahalin Bedouin Teen's words - 22Dec10

Jahalin Bedouin Teen's words - 22Dec10

Note: Having already turned 16, she cannot visit Jerusalem except during Ramadan or if she has a health problem and if she can obtain a health permit.

Sune Fahlgren, Bilda: Swedish Christian Study Centre, Director: “Jerusalem is the cornerstone in this [peace] process…. There is no united effort to change it [the situation]. As long as the [Separation] Wall is not a problem for the rest of the world, what does it make inside [a person] for Israel to treat people [in such a] humiliating [way] at Checkpoints.”

On 23 December 2010, two of us attended Sabeel’s Communion service at 12 pm. Sabeel is the Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. The centre was founded by Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek in 1990 and works for justice, peace, and reconciliation in Palestine-Israel. The word, sabeel, is Arabic for ‘the way’ and also ‘a channel’ or ‘spring’. The weekly service is open to the community and facilitates a wave of prayer through the world’s time zones as individuals and groups pray together in solidarity with Sabeel in Jerusalem and with Friends of Sabeel worldwide.

Rev. Naim Ateek - Sabeel - 23Dec10 - Credit: J. Graham, KAIROS

Rev. Naim Ateek - Sabeel - 23Dec10 - Credit: J. Graham, KAIROS

On Thursday, Rev. Ateek invited us into conversation about what is righteous in a time of Occupation and how people might rise above unjust laws. He invited us to remember the meaning of the name given to Jesus, Emmanuel: “God with us”. We are not alone.

In searching online for information about Sabeel, I found this video (Oct. 2009) which concludes with this thought: “Keep the energy; keep the fire burning. I hope some of you will get together and begin working on a strategy because many of us cannot listen anymore to analysis. We must move beyond that to effecting change. And I think we can do it.”

It is happening again. Apartheid. Separation.

I heard the word, apartheid, in late April 2009 in Bethlehem. The Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb used it during a conversation that he had with a group of 22 of us from Canada. One of us had asked him for his opinion about the conflict. I remember him saying that in the immediacy of the Lutheran ministry in Bethlehem, he was encouraged for the tremendous international support for the ministry. We were meeting in the beautiful space of the International Center of Bethlehem, Dar Annadwa Addawliyya ( دار الندوة الدولية‎). But he said, in terms of the bigger picture, ‘we are on our way to fully formed apartheid’.

I remember that moment as though I did a physical, mental, and emotional double-take. What? On the last day of that trip, the experience at the Qalandia checkpoint on the north side of East Jerusalem with Machsom Watch was a second shock to the system. A few of us witnessed the cattle-like processing of Palestinians through cages as they attempted to move from the West Bank to work, to school, and to hospitals in East Jerusalem.

Upon returning home in May 2009, I was moved to apply to EAPPI. And so, here I am. I’ve been here for ten days.

Angela Godfrey-Goldstein

Angela Godfrey-Goldstein - 17 Dec. 2010

Today, on a tour with Angela Godfrey-Goldstein from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), my mind and soul shuddered awake again… She explained that the word, apartheid, is Afrikaans for “separation” or “apartness”.

Bedouin women crossing below settler-only road

Bedouin women crossing below settler-only road - 17 Dec. 2010

Illegal settlement east of Jerusalem

Illegal settlement east of Jerusalem - 17 Dec. 2010

“Of course!!” my mind, soul, and body cries. Of course! This is what I’m seeing…in the blatant differences in municipal infrastructure on one side of Road No. 1 (the municipal name for the Green Line) – the West-Jerusalem side is spacious and bright – the East-Jerusalem side is crammed and crumbling. This is what I’m seeing as three types of armed personnel stand and roam the streets of the Old City with assault rifles. This is what I’m seeing when Israelis use only the Egged Busses and Palestinians use the ‘Green and Blue’ buses. This is what I’m seeing on the Ministry of Tourism map of The Old City of Jerusalem – that shows only Israeli parts of the Old City and sketches in parts to be built after evictions and demolitions (e.g., the Old City of David where the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan actually exists). This is what I see in the incomprehensible differences between (1) Bedouin villages on scraps of land being taken over by the settler-only access roads and municipal garbage dumps and (2) illegal settlements. This is what I see in the Separation Wall. This is what I see in the need for the Kairos Palestine document as comparable to the Kairos document published by black South African theologians in 1985 regarding South African Apartheid.

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, Dr. Khouloud Daibes, & Ms. Dame Mary Tanner

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, Dr. Khouloud Daibes, & Ms. Dame Mary Tanner - 16 Dec. 2010

Also, this week, the members of EAPPI Group 38 were invited to Bethlehem to join an international delegation of women and local Heads of Church  to mark the one-year anniversary of the release of the Kairos Palestine document. People spoke in hope, in faith, and in love that next year, on the second anniversary, we will be closer to peace. Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, one of the authors of the document, moderated the panel discussion.

And so the circle comes around. Apartheid. Separation.

Now, I find myself here with 24 other EAs from around the world, to offer protective presence to vulnerable communities, to monitor and report human rights abuses, and to support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace. Now and when we return home, we will campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law, and implementation of UN resolutions. Angela Godfrey-Goldstein began her tour with these words about this apartheid state: “It will change only when ordinary people understand what is going on.” Our political leaders need to hear from us.

I will write more on all of this in the coming weeks and months…from the City of Peace.

Fullness of life here – Bedouin village visit

We’ve been in ‘learning mode’ with our mentors from Group 37, bunking in with them since Thursday evening. Today, Monday, we’ve returned to the hotel with the 21 other members of Group 38 for training through the end of this week. Through email and now in person, we are starting to hear about the experiences of the other teams (e.g., in Yanoun).

Here is an example of the fullness of our days:

11 Dec 2010: Slept in a bit – Catching up on the jet lag!!  

Morning – Read the Handover report (from Group 37 to 38) and one of the UNOCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) reports – polished the WallArt4Peace blog – did a little emailing.

Afternoon – Went with two of our EA mentors (both women) to Jahalin Bedouin village in Al Ezariya and spent the afternoon with our host, her sisters, little nieces and a nephew, and the English class for 15-16 year old girls. – Back home for a joint Jerusalem Team 37-38 meeting to discuss the Handover report. – Out to the Educational Bookstores – at one, I bought a notebook and 2 pencils and at the other, I bought the recently arrived Against the Wall book.  (See my WallArt4Peace blog for more info.) Then bought a slice of pizza for a late supper and crashed.

Today, after a 6-hour stretch of sleep, we were up at 4:23 am (leaping out as our two EA mentors walked by our sleeping quarters) to meet the 4:40 am taxi for Qalandia checkpoint. What a windy and relatively cold morning…I’ll write more about checkpoint duty in the future.

The time with the women and girls at the Jahalin Bedouin village was enjoyable and enlightening. We laughed and had great fun with our host’s little people

and with the teens in their caravan community centre (2nd pic)! (See my KidsStories4Peace blog for more info.)

Our host graciously described the Jahalin story. In the mid-to-late 1970s, members of the extended Jahalin family were forced to leave their traditional way of life and the lands in which they used to live in the Negev desert near Beersheba. They moved north and then north again, living initially east of Jerusalem. However, with the establishment of the illegal Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, they were moved to the top of a nearby hill, near Al Ezariya (also known as Bethany and the place where Lazarus was raised from the dead). They had erected corrugated metal shelters as homes. On a day like we had on 11 Dec. 2010, with the winter wind howling and dust flying, that would have been a hard, desperate life.

After a number of years, they were granted permission to build permanent structures. Even then, however, those permits are good for only 40 years and the village is downwind from the municipal garbage dump where garbage is burned. On a fair weather day, the air quality is questionable; on the day that we visited, severe winds were scouring the hilltop.

Once they moved into these new homes, circumstances demanded further change of the Jahalin. Bedouin traditional life of the past was a nomadic life, as they moved their camels, sheep, and goat herds according to the seasons and the availability of water. Regular movement was healthy for the land (to avoid over-use) and for their interdependence with the land.

Our host remembered her father’s skepticism of their move into permanent, enclosed buildings as homes. For him, the prospect of living inside a building was not a healthy one. For example, he worried that electric light would damage their eyes. She rememers how their eyesight used to be acute and well-adjusted to the night sky.

Note: If you’re interested in learning more about the Jahalin family’s experiences, see the recent Separate and Unequal publication (p. 120) from Human Rights Watch. I’ve found this page which is very consistent with what we heard first-hand on 11 Dec. 2010. http://www.badil.org/en/al-majdal/item/1219-israel-continues-to-evict-jahalin-bedouin-from-west-bank-%5C  And, here is a contemporary (1996) news report: http://www.wrmea.com/backissues/0796/9607065.htm .

Here is an independent documentary film about the marginalization of the Bedouin in the context of the State of Israeli as of March 2005. (Note: This film was produced prior to the withdrawal of Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005.)

Finding our way

We, the members of EAPPI Group 38, started arriving in Jerusalem on 7 Dec. 2010, from around the world. We’ve begun to meet members of Group 37. Between these two groups (and more EAs are yet to arrive), we represent: Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Palestine, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Members of Group 37 introduced us to key spots in East and West Jerusalem yesterday and today and we were given our EA vests!!

Over the next few days, Group 38 will be learning from Group 37 about our work in Jerusalem. We will be watching checkpoints (in which Palestinians must move from one type of zone of the West Bank to another and/or into East Jerusalem); standing with the Women in Black; providing an international presence in villages in East Jerusalem with eviction and demolition orders, and more.

Place…ment: Jerusalem

I have learned that I will be one of four Ecumenical Accompaniers in Jerusalem for the winter. What is this place? I think that it means so much to so many, and has done so for so long. How do I begin to write about this place…

“Talking about place, where we belong, is a constant subject for many of us. We want to know if it is possible to live on the earth peacefully. Is it possible to sustain life? Can we embrace an ethos of sustainability that is not solely about the appropriate care of the world’s resources, but is also about the creation of meaning – the making of lives that we feel are worth living.” -bell hooks. (2009). Belonging: A culture of place. New York: Routledge, p. 1.

Perhaps, I’ll start by listening…