Time for fresh water and prayer – ‘Ilhamdilla’

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By EA Lesley, Southern West Bank.

Each day, while watering his flock after grazing, Abu Ahmed repeats his thanks to God as he pulls a bucket out of the well. Giving thanks for another day of grazing for his sheep and goats. Giving thanks that today there was no incident with the settlers who overlook the grazing pasture. Giving thanks for the presence of Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs), who have answered his request for protective presence.

Abu Ahmed is the first person we accompany as we take over as rookie EAs in the South Hebron Hills (in the south of the occupied West Bank). On our first night he called to ask us to be present as he grazed his sheep on the common pasture in the valley. The other shepherds have stopped grazing there for fear of harassment. Abu Ahmed does not proclaim fear. He just wants to shepherd his flock on the land that he and his forefathers have shepherded for generations. He understands the value of having “internationals” as witnesses to the circumstances in which he now lives.

Time for fresh water and prayer – ‘Ilhamdilla’. © EAPPI/Lesley

He greets us as we approach his home, just before sunrise. His trust and welcome are part of his culture. A stranger will be welcomed and given hospitality for three nights before being asked why they have come. But we are not strangers. EAPPI is well known to Abu Ahmed and previous EAs have walked this land with him. As the sun rises we sit and share taboon bread, hot from the oven, made by his daughter Hadeel. We wash it down with black tea infused with sage and sugar.

Now it is time for work. We follow Abu Ahmed and his flock as they walk down the pasture towards the valley. Walking silently behind I watch the master shepherd with wonder and delight. He interacts with his flock in an elegant and organic way. I am reminded of Jesus’s words in the Gospel of John: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me”.

At pasture under a settlement outpost. © EAPPI/Lesley

Abu Ahmed is also watchful. But not for the predators that kept his father alert. He looks continuously to the ridge of the valley, conscious of the possibility of anger or demand.

This morning that possibility became a reality. A settler – one of 380,000 Israelis living in the occupied West Bank, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention – called down the valley to Abu Ahmed. Within five minutes an armed Israeli soldier had arrived. Abu Ahmed continued to graze his flock. An Israeli military vehicle arrived and five more armed soldiers emerged. Three made their way towards Abu Ahmed and ordered him to leave the pasture. Under protest, Abu Ahmed moved his flock back down the valley and began to water his animals from the cistern. The soldiers ran forward again and insisted that he stop watering the animals and leave straight away.

An EA standing in protective presence as soldiers order a shepherd from land. © EAPPI/Lesley

As I walked back up the valley behind Abu Ahmed I wondered how he was feeling. What is it like to be ordered off the land that you have worked on all of your life? I wondered how the young armed men in uniforms were feeling about giving orders to a clearly unarmed elderly civilian. I wondered about the possibility of creating hope in this Holy Land.

The dusty way home. © EAPPI/Lesley

As an EA my role is not to make sense of it all. I am here to be an impartial presence. I am here to give witness and report incidents of injustice. I am here to listen and notice and look for hope.

One word which says it all

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EAs visiting Khan Al Ahmar

Ecumenical Accompaniers visiting local communities in Palestine and Israel, April 2017- © L.Ranarison/WCC-EAPPI

After spending several weeks with local communities, our Ecumenical Accompaniers go back home with many memories and feelings. We have asked four of them to choose one word to describe their experience.

Chris from England

Photo of Chris, WCC Ecumenical Accompanier in Palestine and Israel“Haunting”
So many experiences, images and encounters that stay with me and keep coming back to me. Such as children playing, shepards and sheep on the move, and all the people I’ve met. The joy they show and the deep sadness behind it, which is the reason why we are here.

Geoff from Ireland

Photo of Geoff, WCC Ecumenical Accompanier in Palestine and Israel“Challenging”
Both on a personal and professional level.
On a personal level, it has been challenging since it made me reflect on why I was here and what I wanted to achieve.
On a professional level, it has been challenging to be in a conflict situation, dealing with security forces and trying to calm down tense situations, where mediating at agricultural gates is one example. All in all, being an EA has been a very meaningful experience.

Gilvan from Brazil

Photo of Gilvan, WCC Ecumenical Accompanier in Palestine and Israel”Self-knowledge”
Dealing with the daily struggles of the Palestinian community helped me to better reconnect my inner self with my daily life in general. I feel I know more about myself now. Before the experience, I did not realise exactly what I could do there, but I felt quite comfortable in being present, in giving and receiving. It’s a kind of a plenitude sensation.

Natasha from the United States of America (USA)

”Emotionally rewarding”
Being an Ecumenical Accompanier allowed me to understand a really complex situation. I have learnt a lot about myself in this difficult environment. This work was part of a healing process, and these emotions were very beneficial.

 

How to become an Ecumenical Accompanier?
If you are a passionate and caring individual dedicated to human rights, justice and peace, we are looking for you.

Hope can create miracles, reflects WCC-EAPPI coordinator in Holy Land

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WCC-EAPPI programme coordinator Zoughbi Zoughbi. © Claus Grue/WCC

By Claus Grue*

“You can use either name,” he jokes when introducing himself. A cheerful man with a strong passion for dialogue, peace and reconciliation, Zoughbi Zoughbi sees his job as a “way of living – or a commitment, rather than a task”, as he puts it.

That’s the way it has been ever since his volunteer days at a grassroots level.

“I easily fall in love with my responsibilities and I’ve always been committed to the ecumenical movement”, he explains…

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Leaving the Holy Land with unforgettable experiences

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Photo: Sean Hawkey/WCC

© Sean Hawkey/WCC

The Ecumenical Accompaniment group 63 gathered in Jerusalem last week to wrap up their three-month stay in the Holy land with a debriefing and handover ceremony to the incoming team, group 64.

An experience of a lifetime came to an end and now the advocacy work back home for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine begins. WCC Weekly asked five departing EA’s to briefly share:

  1. What made you sign up for the programme?
  2. In three words, how was it?
  3. The most important experience you bring back home?

Edna from Sao Paulo, Brazil:edna-furuizi

  1. I wanted to learn more by being closer to the Palestinian people, rather than just reading about them.
  2. Challenging, a turning point in my life and that there are multiple truths in this conflict.
  3. The Palestinians’ resistance and their belief in a peaceful future.

Margriet from The Hague in the Netherlands:

ea-margriet-quarks-van-ufford

  1. To pursue peace in a different setting than my church at home.
  2. Confusing, impressive and hope versus despair.
  3. Meeting children and gaining their trust.

 

Malin from Gothenburg, Sweden: 

  1. malin-o%cc%88sterbergI am a human rights worker who believe in international presence, and I wanted field experience.
  2. Educational, engaging and frustrating.
  3. To meet people with different backgrounds and to feel that you are in the middle of a rich history.

Dave from Skipton, Yorkshire, UK

dave-stannard

  1. Came two years ago, and learned a lot about the situation. So, I wanted to come back for a longer stay this time and try to contribute to make things better.
  2. Humbling, moving and anger-inducing.
  3. The humility, generosity, kindness and dignity that the Palestinian people show.

 

 

Lanny from Minnesota, USA

lanny-kuester

  1. Have dealt with conflict resolution for the past 20 years, especially within churches. Trying to understand why this conflict isn’t solved.
  2. Intense, challenging and hopeful.
  3. The resilience of the human spirit and dignity.

Bring peace, love and respect – beyond the barriers

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by Marianne Ejdersten, director of communication for the World Council of Churches

rs117179_christmas2016_1_flipped_250kb

I have visited the Holy Land six times during the past year. Probably 20 times the last 20 years. I came back from my latest visit last week. I wonder; how could we bring just peace to the Holy Land? Is it possible? They are losing hope. You could really see and feel the hopelessness the last year. Even young people are losing their hope.

For decades the Holy Land has been a land of war, oppression, injustice and death. All the world’s Christians trace their faith’s roots to the Holy Land: it is the spiritual homeland for all Christians in the world. Therefore, Christians everywhere are called to prayer and action for healing in the Holy Land. They are called to act for justice and peace in the Holy Land. Peace with justice requires ending the long conflict, occupation, injustice and all acts of violence and terrorism and bringing back the land we call Holy to wholeness, peace, redemption and reconciliation for all of its inhabitants.

Look back on the last 10-15 years with ever-increasing settlements and a growing separation barrier. The deadlocked peace. I could both see and feel the hopelessness.

But there is hope – of course, we have to keep the hope – who else would do that?!

But how?

I met with the first Palestinian Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah in October. He is 84 years old and living in the monastery in Jerusalem. He told me, “We have to try harder. We have to do the unexpected. We have to build bridges of love, respect and understanding.”

I asked Patriarch Sabbah; what could we do as the WCC? He looked at me and smiled: You have already started in 1948, you are listening to others, you are praying, you are visiting, you are sharing stories of hope – please, do the unexpected from your side. Don’t give up. Please, continue. Please, invite the unexpected to your table, build unexpected bridges.

He said: A separation barrier is done by stones. Human beings are living stones. Focus on the living stones – beyond the barriers, beyond the fear, beyond the words.

My feeling is that we need to do more work to develop this spirituality of peace, love and respect in the way we work and live. In the small settings, in our daily life, in our families and in the wider fellowship.

One big hope is the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), created in 2002 by the World Council of Churches (WCC) based on a letter and an appeal from local church leaders to create an international presence in the country. At the WCC Executive Committee meeting in China in November, results were presented for a wide-ranging evaluation of EAPPI. Now, 15 years later, more than 1,800 accompaniers have taken part in the project. The evaluation indicates that 98% take the view that the programme is still relevant and delivers results, that manifestations of violence decrease when EAs are clearly visible; parents feel that there is security for their children on their way to school, etc. As a result, the programme is one of the biggest initiatives in Palestine and Israel in the humanitarian sector.

WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit commented: “We learned a great deal from this report about what is needed to redefine the original purpose and profile of this very significant programme for the WCC, as an ecumenical initiative under the WCC, called for by local churches and pursued in close cooperation with member churches and other ecumenical partners. I believe this report and the follow-up will strengthen the programme.”

The communication strategies should be revised, that’s very clear in the evaluation report. We will start now, the week before Christmas! We will explore the communication work together the next six months. We will focus on storytelling, share glimpses of local life, the reality in for example Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Hebron. We will focus on social media and the web.

I believe communication belongs at the heart of the work and being on a pilgrimage of justice and peace together. We cannot give account of the reality around us, or articulate our hope if we are not communicating this to one another and to the world. To share is to inform, but also to bring a challenge and a motivation into different contexts and reflect on the role of communication in building just and peaceful communities. Communication for peace creates chances for people to consider and value nonviolent responses to potential and actual conflict.

Communication for justice and peace reveals backgrounds and contexts, listens to all sides, exposes hidden agendas and highlights peace initiatives, regardless of religion, sex and gender – no matter their origin.

For me the prophetic communication opens alternative horizons not limited to the perspectives imposed by the dominant culture, and empowers individuals and communities to tell their own stories and to craft their images and gestures. Communication is also a peace-building tool.

Communication is also vital in confronting threats to life. It affirms life by promoting truth-telling, fairness, participation, security issues, dialogue, openness and inclusion. Communication that threatens life is characterized by censorship, misinformation, hate-speech, lies and exclusion.

Communications from the World Council of Churches must have participation and hope at their core. Specifically, our task is to provide hope for a different world in which human dignity is strengthened. The equal value of all people is at the heart of its culture.

As a closing, I’ll use the words by Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear… That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind… The time is always right to do the right thing… Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”

The World Council of Churches is to inspire and invite its member churches and ecumenical partners to work together, actively lending weight to the churches’ common voice – for a world with peace and justice at its heart. Its communication should reflect this. I try to summarize my experience in three words – peace, love and respect – three small words or 16 letters – but they are able to change the world! Sometimes, could words become the real barriers in the world?

God of life, lead us to justice and peace in the Holy Land.

Peace,
Marianne

WCC Christmas Message 2016

WCC Christmas Video 2016

WCC statement on Israel and Palestine 28 June, 2016

The Rubber Tyre School fears demolition

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By the Yanoun team. 

We have all heard about what is going on in Susiya lately. Demolitions, demolitions and demolitions. But we have not heard from Khan al Ahmar. In Khan Al Ahmar, a small mixed primary school made out of used rubber tyres is being threatened with demolition by the Israeli Civil Administration.

 Khan Al Ahmar. Thirteen year old Nasreen a student from the school and wants to be a teacher.Photo EAPPI 11.08.16

Khan Al Ahmar. Thirteen year old Nasreen a student from the school that wants to be a teacher. Photo EAPPI 11.08.16

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“Susiya, it’s finished!”

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By the South Hebron Hills team.

Before us about 20 tents mostly made out of black or white tarpaulin sheets are nestled into the rugged landscape. The only sounds that can be heard are the faint sound of a television in one of the furthest tents, sometimes the bleat of a sheep, our footsteps, and the wind lifting up the dust earth beneath us; it barely alleviates the stifling summer heat. A number of small water cisterns are scattered amongst the tents. It looks like a makeshift camp even though it has been here for decades. We are in the Palestinian village of Susiya, in the south of the West Bank. Here there is no proper infrastructure, no running water or electricity supply. It stands in stark contrast to the Israeli settlement nearby, which looks like your average 21st century housing estate (settlements are fully integrated into Israel’s national power grid, water and telecommunication systems).

Susiya village with settlement in the background. Photo EAPPI/ L.l. Pianezza 28.6.2015 -

Palestinian village of Susiya in the foreground and the Israeli settlement of Susya in the background. Photo EAPPI/ L.l. Pianezza 28.06.2015

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Visualising Access to Education under military occupation

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School is in recess for the summer months. For many children living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, this break from school means more than just a break from school work and exams.

Paths to schools and obstacles to education. Continue reading

A family blinded by injustice

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by EAs Siphiwe and Johanna, Jerusalem team, 

Nureddin Amro’s home was one of 531 Palestinian houses to be demolished by Israeli forces last year. But Nur and his family aren’t just statistics. Like every other family who experience demolitions they have their own unique story, and are still living with the consequences today; more than a year later.   Continue reading

The right to pray does not have an age limit

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by EA Ebba, Yanoun team,

“Teargas burns in my throat and nose. My eyes sting. I lift up the scarf over my nose and I start to breathe through the blue velvet fabric. Around me, people are fleeing in all directions. Smoke from teargas-canisters settles like a fog over the crowd, of men women and children. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! It sounds as if weapons are being fired, but the sound comes from sound bombs thrown into the crowd.”  

Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) monitor access to holy sites for Palestinians of all faiths across occupied Palestine. During Ramadan our EAs monitor the checkpoints every Friday to ensure that those with permits are able to go to Jerusalem and report on any human rights abuses that occur during crossing. Continue reading

Neutralising threats: the human cost of military occupation

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By EA Emily, Hebron team, 

The scars of Hebron’s local community are easy to miss at first glance but lie only just below the surface. I first arrived in the aftermath of a wave of violence from October 2015-March 2016 [1]. Within moments of meeting, locals in the city’s Israeli-controlled H2 area would tell me about a Palestinian killed by Israeli forces just meters away. It was clearly fresh and painful. Continue reading

A day in Yatta: The effect of the roadblocks around the town.

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by EAs Maria and Siphiwe, South Hebron Hills team, 

Today is almost certainly the last day of Ramadan – hopefully the new moon will be seen tonight and celebrations of Eid-al-Fitr will go ahead tomorrow. The holy month of daily fasts will be over.

While Ramadan is drawing to a close, there is less certainty about when life in Yatta will return to any kind of normality. As of the 5th of July, the towns of Yatta, As Samu’ and Bani Na’im are under indefinite closure. Mid-afternoon on Friday 1st July, there was a dreadful drive-by shooting of an Israeli family on Route 60, just west of Yatta, killing the father (Michael Mark) and seriously injuring his wife and two children (15 and 13 years old). The unidentified assailant/s escaped. [1] [2] Following the attack, the Israeli authorities closed the roads around Yatta and the surrounding villages. These villages were blockaded because they were suspected to be the place of residence of the perpetrators.

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The road that blocks other roads

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by the Tulkarm Qalqiliya team. 

In the North-West area of West Bank, in the Governorate of Salfit, lies Deir Istiya, a Palestinian village which has about 4000 inhabitants. The village is located in close proximity to seven Israeli settlements. This community’s livelihoods are being undermined due to access restrictions and land confiscations imposed by the Government of Israel. [1] [2] [3]

In November 2015, Israeli authorities started constructions works to broaden Road 55 located next to the village. While the broadening of the road has improved the connectivity of settlements in the area, the freedom of movement of the residents of the Deir Istiya have been severely curtailed. When the authorities broadened the highway they closed all of the agricultural roads previously used by farmers. As a result residents of Deir Istiya have been cut off from about two thirds of the village’s farming lands on the other side of the road. Crossing this busy road, with tractors and livestock, is now almost impossible. The only way that farmers can access their land is through a rain water tunnel, roughly five feet high,that runs under the main road.

10.3.16, Abu Abdullah shows EAs the new access for residents of Deir Istiya under the main road. EAPPI A.Dunne_

10.3.16, Abu Abdullah shows EAs the new access for residents of Deir Istiya under the main road. EAPPI/A.Dunne

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South Susiya: before and after the demolition

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by EA Siphiwe, South Hebron Hills team.

Three weeks ago, EAs visited a village called Wadi J’Hesh which is also know as south Susiya, in the Hebron governorate. This village is located between the Palestinian village of Susiya and the illegal Israeli settlement Susya. During the visit we learned that, thanks to the intervention of local and international humanitarian NGOs, living conditions have been improving for residents. Wadi J’Hesh now has access to clean, safe drinking water and electricity. Despite these small improvements in living standards, the Israeli authorities have not yet recognised their village and the community still lives with the constant threat of demolition. At the time of our visit forty three structures in the village had pending demolition orders. Although they await a major court case on the 1st of August that will decide the fate of these structures, they know that demolitions can happen at any time. Continue reading

Video blog: Farmers access farmland for the first time in 16 years!

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By EA Maria, South Hebron Hills team. 

On the 13th of May 2016, Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) responded to a request for protective presence from Palestinian farmers living in Al Simeri, Shi’b al Butum in the hills south of Hebron. Mahmood Yosif Jabareen, his brothers – Hamad, Ali, Khalil and Yosif – and two nephews were planning to plough one of their fields. However, the 13th of May was no ordinary day in the fields for the Jabareen family. The 13th of May was the first time in sixteen years that the Israeli courts granted them unhindered access to their land.

Hamad told us: “this story is very good for me, because we come to the land…” 

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The Tent of Nations centenary: “We refuse to be enemies”

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by the Bethlehem team.  

On the 12th of May 2016, the Nassar family supported by visitors from around the Globe, congregated on a scenic hilltop farm on the outskirts of Nahlin village to celebrate their family’s connection to the land which stretches back in time to over 100 years.

People came from all over the world to participate in four days of activities that included workshops and group discussions as part of the 100 Years Celebration

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This is the face of the occupation

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By EA Johanna, Jerusalem team.

When we arrive at Areef Tootanji’s house in Wad al-Joz, at 5 in the morning the bulldozers are still tearing through his house. Areef is beside himself shouting at the military who are blocking both the family and us from getting to the house. For a moment we are at a loss for words, what can you say to someone who’s house is being demolished in front of us? What can you say to someone who was woken up at 4AM in the morning by soldiers, who with no prior warning, and given five minutes to leave their house? Areef points at his slippers and tell us he didn’t even have time to put on his shoes. Later we find the family’s ID cards in the rubble of what was once their home.

18.05.16 Wadi Joz. Areef Tootanji in front of remains of his house. Photo EAPPI/ J. Svanelind

18.05.16 Wadi Joz. Areef Tootanji in front of remains of his house. Photo EAPPI/ J. Svanelind

According to UNOCHA, 613 Palestinian houses have been demolished so far in 2016, and 887 people have been displaced due to house demolitions. This is already more than in total 2015 when there was 531 demolitions and 688 people were displaced. In Jerusalem alone we’ve had 72 demolitions, with an average of 3 demolitions per week. [1] Continue reading

The opening of Hebron’s Closed Military Zone: Fact or Fiction?

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By EAs Emily, Daniel and Per, Hebron Team,

The Hebron EAPPI team sat around an open fire with a group of 30 Palestinians and international human rights workers eating warm kanafe. We huddled under ancient olive trees at the top of Tel Rumeida in Hebron and celebrated the opening of the closed military zone (CMZ) in H2, an area completely controlled by Israel. This community has been living under occupation since 1967 but what does this “opening” actually mean? And how will it impact Palestinians whose freedom of movement has been denied and whose lives have been disrupted since the 1st November 2015 last year?

23.05.16, Tel Rumeda, Kanafe, EAPPI/ D. Romero

23.05.16, Tel Rumeda, Kanafe is a traditional Arabic cheese pastry with a shredded wheat top crust drenched in sugar syrup. Photo EAPPI

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Demolished Hope

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By the Yanoun team. 

This is not an earthquake, it’s an apartment demolished at night by the Israeli military. Note the demolition markings in spray paint on the remaining walls.

1.02.05.16.demolitionareaA.EAPPi_B.Hellstrom

02.05.16. Nablus, home demolition in Area A. Photo EAPPI/B. Hellstrom

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Stop work orders in Susiya; the first step towards demolitions

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By the South Hebron Hills team. 

On the 10th of May 2016, the Israeli army’s Civil Administration District Coordination Office, accompanied by Israeli soldiers, issued four stop work orders on tents in Susiya in the Massafer Yatta area of Hebron.

This video shows the DCO official, accompanied by two soldiers, issuing a stop work order on a residential tent belonged to the Nawaja family. The family was not home at the time so the inspector leaves the stop work order under a rock next to the entrance of the tent. He then takes a photo of the order pinned under the rock as evidence that the notice of the order was executed lawfully. This tent is home to a family of seven, including five children. Jihad Nawaja, the head Susiya Village Council, talks with the inspector.

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Punitive residency revocation: a new tool for forcible transfer

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by EA Anna, Jerusalem team.

The Palestinians of East Jerusalem have something called a permanent residency status, [1] granted by Israel after the illegal annexation [2] of East Jerusalem in 1967. More than 300 000 Palestinians are therefore treated as immigrants, whose entry into Jerusalem is a revocable privilege and not an inherent right. Indeed, there is nothing permanent in the permanent residency status. Continue reading

Visualising: The daily struggle to access water

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By the Jordan Valley Team, 

19.04.2016. Al Hadidiya dry and settlement of Roi green

19.04.2016. Palestinian village of Al Hadidiya dry and Israeli settlement of Roi green with trees and vineyards

Al-Hadidiya is a Palestinian village located in the Northern Jordan Valley, right next to the illegal Israeli settlement of Roi. For the residents of Roi, clean safe drinking water is accessed by turning on a tap but for the residents of al-Hadidya the story is very different. This photo blog shows images of al-Hadidya’s daily struggle to access water and shows something of the human impact of the Government of Israel’s discriminatory water allocation policies in Area C of the West Bank. Continue reading

He knows neither the place nor the time

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By EA Katherine, Bethlehem Team.

Among the group of teachers sitting in the sun before lessons start, Khalid Zboun is clearly the head teacher. All the teachers are drinking tea, the fuel of teaching, but Khalid is drinking his from a pint mug that wouldn’t look out of place in a British pub.  He needs to drink tea in such quantities because being head teacher of Al Khadr Boys’ Secondary School, near Bethlehem, is a tough job. He knows neither the time nor the place that the Israel military will come.

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A Timeline: How the Separation Barrier came to the Cremisan Valley

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by EA Katherine, Bethlehem team,

The 2nd of April 2015 seemed like a good day for Palestinians and for Christians in the Holy Land after a two-year court battle reached a resolution. The Israeli Supreme Court ordered the defence ministry to reconsider the route of the Barrier. This ruling halted the Israeli militaries plans to take 75% of a convent’s land in the Cremisan Valley, surround it on three sides by a 12 meter high separation barrier, divide it from the neighbouring monastery, deprive 58 Palestinian Christians of their land and prevent over 400 families from accessing their land without a permit.

Media around the world were quick to highlight this rare victory in a case that had been supported by Churches around the world and in which the Pope had taken a close interest.

But the Separation Barrier was still built. These photographs chart how it happened. Continue reading

‘Our clothes are too clean’: Humiliation at Deir Al Ghusun

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by Tulkarm/Qalqiliya team, 

It was dark when we left. The 5am alarm sounded and the placement house began its usual morning splutter to life. Cameras. Notepads. Jackets. We tipped the lights and set out to monitor access to livelihood at the Deir Al Ghusun agricultural gate, just north of the Palestinian city of Tulkarm.

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Without history, without future

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by EA Petra, Bethlehem team, 

In 2002 , following a series of suicide attacks the Israeli military devised a plan to secure its people [1]. A wall was built separating people from people. In 2008, the suicide attacks had ceased but construction of the Barrier, whose objective is to separate the entire West Bank from Israel, continued.

Today is 11 April 2016. I stand and watch as the bulldozers dig among olive groves and cranes slowly place concrete blocks next to each other. I stand next to Issa on the land that had once been his, now confiscated by the Israeli military to divide the Cremisan Valley from Beit Jala for security reasons. Issa’s eyes are empty and he shrugs his shoulders at the sight of what is happening in front of us. His entire olive grove is destroyed, and with it his family’s history and future. Issa is one of 58 families whose olive groves were torn up to build the Separation Barrier. In the end, the wall around Cremisan Valley will restrict between about 400 and 500 families from accessing their land. With the wall slowly being built in front of us, I ask Issa whether he still has hope:

“There’s always hope. The Berlin Wall fell, and even this wall will fall.”

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An economic heart of stone

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By the Bethlehem team.

Today should be a good day in Beit Fajjar. The temporary checkpoint restricting who can leave the village has gone. The rehabilitation centre for children with disabilities is full of life, its students skilfully manoeuvring their wheelchairs around. The quarries are once again accessible and the factories stand ready to process its stone. On the surface, the blockade that began 12 days ago is finally over. But dig deeper, and a different story emerges.

29.03.16 Beit Fajjar Stone awaiting delivery to the Gulf EAPPI/K. Fox

29.03.16 Beit Fajjar Stone awaiting delivery to the Gulf EAPPI/K. Fox

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“I hope they’ll go to school and study”

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by EA Maria, Jordan Valley team,

Now back in Sweden, Maria spent much of her recent service as an EA with EAPPI in  in the Jordan Valley, in the east of the occupied Palestine. In this blog Maria writes about her meeting with Bisam, a 14 year old who left school to work in an agricultural settlement in the Jordan Valley.  20- 04 -2015

15.04.15 Jordan Valley Fasayil al Fauq. Minor who works in an Israeli settlement. Photo EAPPI/Stake

15.04.15 Jordan Valley, Fasayil al Fauq. Bisam who works in an Israeli settlement. Photo EAPPI/M. Stake

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An ordinary day in Hebron

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By the Hebron team, 

 Saturday, 5 March 2016:

05.03.16, Hebron. 1Soldiers threatening Abu Jabari. EAPPI/A. Kaiser

05.03.16, Hebron. Soldiers threatening Abu Jabari. EAPPI/A. Kaiser

It is a sunny spring morning and Mr Jabari is bringing his sheep and goats out to graze on his property on the outskirts of Hebron. He tries to do this every day but on many days, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, he is forced to leave. On this particular Saturday, Israeli soldiers from the nearby checkpoint approach and threaten to shoot his animals if he does not leave immediately. Continue reading

Photo Essay: Holy Week under Military Occupation

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By the Jerusalem team,

2016’s Holy Week in Jerusalem was one full of contradictions. The week before brought the exciting news that 850 Christians from Gaza had been granted permits from the Israeli authorities to come and worship. However, a last minute travel ban between Wednesday and Saturday meant that even for those with permits, getting past checkpoints into the city became extremely difficult. A glorious Palm Sunday Procession down the Mount of Olives into the Old City was followed by a week where the realities of the occupation did not abate: house demolitions, arrests, and even the “apparent extrajudicial execution” of a Palestinian in Hebron (so called by Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov) marred the commemoration of Holy Week. Continue reading

Good Friday in Bethlehem: Waiting for Resurrection

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By EAs’ Thor, Elaine and Katherine,

Friday 25 March 2016 was a particularly holy day in the Holy Land. Purim, celebrating the events in the book of Esther, was just finishing. Christians were commemorating Good Friday in the place where Jesus was crucified. Muslims were preparing to pray at the third holiest place in Sunni Islam. EAs’ Thor, Elaine and Katherine write from Bethlehem:

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Arrest in green pastures

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by the South Hebron Hills Team, 

The South Hebron Hills, located in the south of the West Bank in Palestine, is a beautiful area, especially in spring. The soft rolling hills are covered with fresh green grass, carpets of yellow flowers and sprinkled with limestone. At this time of year after a long winter, the shepherds bring their flocks of sheep and goats out from their farms to graze on their lands. This seemingly idyllic setting is stunning but does not paint the whole picture because it is also scattered with illegal Israeli settlements, outposts and military bases. Continue reading

Al Hamra: A Fatal Crossing

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By P. Longden, Jordan Valley team.

Israel has militarily occupied Palestine since 1967. The military operates a system of fixed military checkpoints, surprise flying checkpoints, as well as other physical obstructions inside the occupied West Bank. These restrictions, which include the separation barrier and prohibited roads, enable the Israeli military to control Palestinian movement throughout the West Bank breaching an entire population’s right to freedom of movement. Continue reading

‘Where do I go now’? Questions asked in the wake of demolitions

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By the Yanoun team.

March 2nd, 2016: At 6:30 in the morning, fifteen Israeli soldiers and three bulldozers entered THE VILLAGE OF KHIRBET TANA in the east of Palestine. When they left two and a half hours later, most of the village, including the internationally funded school, was left in ruins.

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I raise up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh the danger…

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By EAs M. Mowe and G. Kerr-Sheppard, Yanoun Team.

EAPPI HAS MAINTAINED A ROUND-THE-CLOCK PRESENCE IN YANOUN SINCE EARLY 2003. THE PRESENCE OF ‘INTERNATIONALS’ AS WITNESSES TO  DOCUMENT AND RECORD INCIDENTS HAS HELPED TO DETER SETTLER ATTACKS BUT THE SITUATION REMAINS VOLATILE.

Our regular evening walks are one of the Yanoun teams most pleasant tasks. We gladly undertake this hour and a half long trip, it is a delight to ramble down the old road between Upper and Lower Yanoun and then to turn East towards overlooking the Jordan Valley. Continue reading

Visualizing Check Point 300: A Photo Essay

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by EA P. Morgan, Bethlehem team. 

“The checkpoint takes all that man has, all his efforts, all his time, all his nerve… The checkpoint is the chaos and the order, it is within the law and outside of it, operating by rationality and idiosyncrasy through order and disorder.” Azmi Bishara, ‘Checkpoints: Fragments of a Story’ (2006)

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‘Nowhere else to go’: Bedouin homes demolished in Ein ar Rashash

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TWO WEEKS AGO WE WROTE ABOUT THE  THREAT OF IMMINENT DEMOLITION FACING THE BEDOUIN COMMUNITY LIVING IN EIN AR RASHASH IN SOUTH NABLUS AND CALLED FOR INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT AND ADVOCACY TO PREVENT FORCED DISPLACEMENT OF 112 RESIDENTS. TODAY WE REPORT ON DEMOLITIONS AND THE TRAGIC CONSEQUENCE OF THE GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL’S  DISCRIMINATORY PLANNING AND CONSTRUCTION POLICIES IN AREA C.  

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Qalandia Checkpoint: “another brick in the wall”

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 by EAs’ Mayara and Katarzyna, Jerusalem team.  

Jerusalem is different to any other city in the world. It is a place of worship for three major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) and moreover it’s a city that has a special international status (corpus separatum). According to the International Law (UN General Assembly Resolution 181, 1947), it can’t belong to a specific nationality and it has to be accessible for all peoples. For these reasons it is important that Jerusalem is an open, inclusive and shared city.

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Children, Friendship and Humanity

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by EA M. Botelho, Hebron Team.

“We won’t give up”, said Jamal a shopkeeper in the old city. He is always very proud of his history, his family, especially his father. He runs a shop that was his father`s in the old souk. The old souk is not only an `Arabic market` but it has its own history as all the city of Al Khalil. Al Khalil or Hevron is the city of Abraham or Ibrahim who is considered the friend of God. In Hebrew the city is called Hevron and in Arabic it is called Khalil in both languages the meaning is “friend”.

Everything in this city has a meaning, a history and a memory. This city is one of the most important cities of the West Bank, al-Khalil has even become one of the fourth sacred cities of Islam. Why would a Palestinian who lives in the city known as the “friend,” talk about giving up?

14.12.15_Hebron_People shaking hands over razor wire close to Cordoba school_EAPPI_S.Villpponen

14.12.15. Hebron, Palestinian men reach to shake hands over razor wire in Israeli controlled H2 EAPPI/S. Villpponen

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Visualising the olive harvest in occupied Palestine

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Every year Ecumenical Accompaniers provide protective presence to Palestinian farmers during the olive harvest in occupied Palestine. Our protective presence helps farmers access lands near settlements or in areas cut off by the wall and also helps deter acts of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians and their olive trees. THIS BLOG SHARES SCENES FROM the 2015 OLIVE HARVEST and A REFLECTION from THE BETHLEHEM TEAM.

24.10.15, Bethlehem, Husan, Protective Presence wihle olive picking, Barbara

24.10.15, Bethlehem, Husan, Protective Presence while olive picking, Photo EAPPI/B.

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“The sky will be my blanket and the earth my bed”; what Bedouins’ face

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  by EA Alex, Yanoun team. 

“I have nowhere else to go. says Ali Z, 39 year old father and resident of Ein Ar Rashash “If my home is demolished the sky will be my blanket and the earth my bed.  I must stay” 

Ein ar Rashash is a Bedouin village in Nablus in the northern West Bank. This community faces imminent demolition after a decision made by the Israeli Military court on Thursday (28th January), which gave the community until 6am on the first of February to demolish their homes and evacuate the area. The first of February just passed and the residents of the village did not carry out self-demolitions nor did the evacuate the area. They do however live with the knowledge that their homes and livelihoods could be destroyed at any moment. 

29.1.16, Imminent Bedouin demolition threat at Ein Ar Rashash Bedouin Community, Photo EAPPI/A. Dunne

29.1.16, Imminent Bedouin demolition threat at Ein Ar Rashash Bedouin Community, Photo EAPPI/A. Dunne

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Through a woman’s eyes: life under military occupation

By EA Carolina, Bethlehem team.

I arrived in Duheisha Refugee Camp, in Bethlehem, at dawn and I knocked an unknown door. I was looking for Samira*, all I knew about her was that she is a well known and respected member of the Duheisha community and that she would be able to tell me her story in reasonably good English.

“All the words on the dictionary couldn’t explain about our feelings, our suffering.” Said Samira, when we eventually settled down to talk.

08-11-2016 Ad-Duheisha Camp, Bethlehem. Inside the camp, the walls tell us stories. The graffiti in the left shows Handala's family, a well known Palestinian character. EAPPI Elina.jpg

08-11-2016 Ad-Duheisha Camp, Bethlehem. 08-11-2016 Ad-Duheisha Camp, Bethlehem. Inside the camp, the graffiti on the walls tell their stories. EAPPI/Elina.

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