EAPPI is a world-wide network. Our EAPPI national coordination offices in 26 countries work hard to recruit EAPPI human rights monitors and coordinate their advocacy when they return home. Today, we continue our series in which we get to hear from these dedicated supporters of EAPPI all over the world.
Today, Sofie, one of our Swedish National Coordinators and a former EA shares her motivation to work for EAPPI.
“Welcome to my Hebron!”
The words come from an old midwife, wearing the traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, living in an area called wadi al-Hussain outside the city center of Hebron.
Her daughters serve us in EAPPI team 35 sweet tea with mint, telling us the family stories, showing us pictures of weddings and family occasions, and, finally and with another tone of voice, describing to us newcomers the difficulties of living in the area situated close by the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba.
It is an early evening in March 2010, and I have just arrived to Palestine. The stories of the challenging everyday life of Wadi al Hussein, the harassment from the neighboring settlement, the road blocks closing up the area and the struggle of the families’ right to their land, as well as the generosity and the kindness of the old midwife and her family, are touching and eye-opening.
How did you first get involved in EAPPI?
I first got involved in EAPPI in late 2009 when I found information about the programme in the Swedish EAPPI website and applied to become an Ecumenical Accompanier (EA). I had been studying political science and international humanitarian law, and was at the time working as a journalist focused on international news reporting, but wanted to gain more practical experience from field work.
I grew up in a Pentecostal Church environment where the views on the Israeli Palestinian conflict tended to take on a religious perspective only, focusing on the classical Biblical stories and of the Old Testament description of the Holy land as promised for the Jewish people. But as a teenager, I grew interested in global issues and as a university student; I understood that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is not only religious, but has several layers of ethnicity, economy, regional politics and world politics. I became aware of the Christian Arab minority and of the injustices made towards the Palestinian people.
When applying to become an accompanier, my intention was to get to know the situation from a grassroots perspective. I wanted to see the conflict with my own eyes, and to talk to people in both Israel and Palestine. I wanted to make up my opinion as a journalist and a political scientist, but also from a perspective of my personal beliefs.
What has surprised you most about working with EAPPI?
I got accepted and was placed in Hebron and later also in Yanoun for the summer cover team. As I had hoped for, I had the chance to meet and talk to people with many different backgrounds and experiences of the conflict, and to see the situation in various places in the West bank, as well as in Israel. I got positively surprised by the professionalism of the program and of the local support for the EAs work. I came home with many first hand stories, (as those from the midwife´s family) a strong belief that the occupation has to end, and many good international friends.
What is you personal philosophy on what should be done to end the Israeli occupation and achieve peace?
From what I have learned from my experience is that when people meet on equal basis, look each other in the eyes and talk, a mutual understanding will grow between them. What I find most challenging about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is that these important meetings seldom take place. When they do, on initiatives from the Israeli and the Palestinian peace movement, the result is fruitful. If we don’t understand the other side’s perspective, peace is hard to build.
What would you tell someone who is thinking of joining EAPPI?
Today I am working as one of three Swedish coordinators for the programme. I would advise anyone with an interest in peace building and nonviolence, and with a humble heart and an open mind to apply to become an EA. And if you are accepted and placed in Hebron, my advice would be to start with a visit to the old midwife in Wadi al Hussein!