EAPPI around the world: Austria

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, Simone, an EA in 2013 from Austria shares 4 Reasons why she became an EA.

EAs enjoy a break during a long day of harvesting olives.  These everyday encounters are what EAs often remember most. Photo EAPPI/M. Schaffluetzel, 2012.

EAs enjoy a break during a long day of harvesting olives. These everyday encounters are what EAs often remember most. Photo EAPPI/M. Schaffluetzel, 2012.

The thought of leaving a familiar environment and saying ‘good-bye’ to family and friends for a long time probably does not seem attractive to many people. And if – even to this fact – the journey ends up in a country that is usually only known by less positive headlines from the news, the idea of staying there seems almost lunatic.

On the other hand there are people whose faces light up thinking of such a journey, who feel the zest for action and who spare no effort to set out and leave their familiar environment for a certain time.

I belong to the latter group and the decision being an EA and going to Palestine and Israel was decided quickly. Here are 4 reasons I decided to join:

1. Knowledge is not to be equated with understanding.

I studied the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I read many books and articles and attended many lectures. But it’s hard to understand how everyday life in the Holy Land is like. Living in Palestine, to accompany people on their way to work, and listening to them over a cup of tea brings reality a significant step closer. My conclusion after 3 months as an EA: I do not only know more, but I understand a lot more than before. Yet, I still do not comprehend everything.

2. Unique encounters.

In Jerusalem or at the Dead Sea it’s almost impossible not to collide with a group of pilgrims. Huge crowds running back and forth behind a guide with an umbrella or any symbol of recognition from the Western Wall to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to Al Aqsa Mosque. Of course I too visited all these sights and enjoyed the atmosphere of the Souq (Arabic for market) in the old city of Jerusalem. But the very special, unique and unforgettable moments I experienced far off the beaten paths. Drinking tea with Bedouins in the desert, sharing bread and cheese under an olive tree after a hard day picking olives, baking bread with a Palestinian housewife, experiencing the endless hospitality of the Palestinian people and being a small part of their everyday life for a short time.

3. Being part of a change!

The aim of EAPPI is not to offer an exciting time in Israel and Palestine to foreign volunteers, but to accompany locals on greater mission: to support the Palestinians and Israelis in their effort to end the Israeli military occupation, to document human rights violation, to support nonviolent resistance and provide partner-organizations with reliable data concerning the occupation and its effects for the people. All this efforts target one big thing: To achieve a change in a long-lasting, deadlocked situation and to contribute a sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

4. Giving people hope who gave up hope!

Some changes can happen overnight. Some changes take time. I witnessed how quickly it can happen that buildings are destroyed, olive trees are uprooted and with it the livelihoods of many families may be at risk. I also have seen how long the procedure takes for Palestinians to obtain a work- or building permit and how long cases can take in Israeli courts. Even if I’m not in the position to have a direct influence in the ad hoc situation, I noticed that our presence as EAs gives people hope. We listen to them, we tell their stories at home and bring the situation to the attention of people in our home country. Many people opened their door for us and gave us their confidence in the hope that their stories are heard and ultimately lead to change.

These are some of the reasons why I committed myself as an EA in Palestine and Israel. 3 months away from home – separated from family and friends – I found a new home, a new family and new friends. I experienced situations that brought me to my limits and let my personality grow. I had wonderful and unique moments that made my life richer. The memories I have from this three months as an EA give me motivation again and again: Be the change you wish to see in the world!

Do you want to know what EAPPI is doing around the world? Read more from SwedenAustralia, the UK & Ireland, and Canada.

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