About EAPPI

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) is an international accompaniment programme coordinated by the World Council of Churches. The views contained on this blog are personal to EAPPI volunteers and do not necessarily represent the position of the World Council of Churches. If you would like to republish any material from this blog, please email eappi.communications@gmail.com for permission. Thank you.

Khan Al Ahmar Bedouin community strives for justice amid grave daily challenges

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2 040718.AbuNwar.EA homeDemoWitness.wcc-eappi_MVogt

Khan Al Ahmar-2018 Photo by:EA

Ecumenical Accompaniers from the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (WCC-EAPPI) report that residents, international non-governmental organizations, media, politicians have joined local Palestinian and Israeli peace activists in nonviolence resistance, protesting demolition actions by Israeli forces in the Khan al Ahmar Bedouin community.

Khan al Ahmar is a Bedouin community located in East Jerusalem, in the E1 area. It is home to 32 families, 173 people, including 92 children and youths. The community has a mosque and a school, which was built in 2009 and serves more than 150 children between the ages of six and fifteen, from Khan al Ahmar and other nearby communities. On 24 May the Israel High Court approved the Israeli Defense Minister’s order to demolish Khan Al-Ahmar village.

The High Court has now issued a temporary restraining order freezing the demolition and ordered the state to respond to the Palestinians’ claims by 11 July. After the state submits its response, the High Court will either decide to reject the petition and allow the state to resume the demolition process, or conduct deliberations that could delay or prevent the demolitions.

The Khan Al Ahmar community has a history of being forced from their homes. The Bedouin village is home to a few dozen families from the Jahalin tribe, which was expelled from its home in the Negev to the West Bank in the 1950s.

A spokesperson from Khan Al Ahmar community, Abu Khamis, believes there is a hidden agenda behind demolition orders. “Now it starts with us; later it will effect all Bedouin communities in West Bank in favor of illegal Israeli settlement expansion”, said Khamis.

Abu Khamis expressed his hope saying” I hope that the international community understands the responsibility they hold here, knowing that these actions and threats jeopardize the achievement of a just peace in occupied Palestinian territories”.

 A large majority of its population is Palestinian refugees from 1948, who have very few sources of income left; they suffer a serious lack of health and welfare services. They live without basic infrastructure such as an electricity network, a sewage system or proper roads. Demolishing their homes and school would deprive them of all they have left.”

EAPPI was created in 2002 by the WCC based on a letter and an appeal from local church leaders to create an international presence in the country.

Read the statement by the WCC general secretary 13 July, 2018

 

Ecumenical accompaniers share observations with EU

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EAs escort schoolchildren to Cordoba school on Shuhada street in Hebron

“Walking children to school was anything but humdrum…” Photo: M. Knoblauch/WCC-EAPPI

As an “ecumenical accompanier,” Prokop’s role description might include: “walks children to school,” and “shares what he sees.”

In many communities, these tasks are daily – even mundane – parts of life. But for Prokop, who has served with the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (WCC-EAPPI), walking children to school was anything but humdrum.

In fact, Prokop came to think of the walk to school as “a repetitive roulette.” Serving in Hebron and Bethlehem, he walked children of all ages to school. “One day everything went fine, another day they were searched by soldiers, their teachers were stopped, settlers harassed them or school was simply closed by the military,” Prokop said. “I saw children frightened to go to school and afraid of what would happen that day while they were in school.”

Violence, tear gas and riots near the schools are an everyday occurrence, he said. “Not one of us would sympathize with the policy of occupation if this were our children going to these schools,” he said.

Prokop and other ecumenical accompaniers – or EAs – shared their first-hand observations with representatives in the European Union during an advocacy week in Brussels held 22-25 January. Nine EAs from Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the UK met with members of the European Parliament and other government officials to report what they have seen “on the ground” and present recommendations.

The EAs relayed how the lack of peace in Palestine and Israel reduced children’s access to education.

One EA, Lottie, said she saw children from the settlements being escorted in and out of their homes by security guards. “It broke my heart to see these two communities living side by side, but with a total lack of harmony,” she said.

One of the goals of WCC-EAPPI is to ensure safe access to schools under occupation, explained Rev. Dr Owe Boersma, WCC-EAPPI international program coordinator. “In occupied Palestine, the obstacles to receiving an education are numerous. Large numbers of Palestinian children living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem experience serious harassment and hurdles on their way to and from school, as well as in school yards and classrooms.”

Since April 2012, EAPPI – in cooperation with UNICEF – has monitored access to education for children in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, said Boersma. “In 2018, Ecumenical Accompaniers are providing a protective presence to some 4,400 students and 300 teachers by monitoring nine schools, as well as six checkpoints that children pass through on a daily basis,” he said. “The presence of EAs deters soldiers and settlers from harassing children on their way to and from school.”

Children walking to school have reported they feel afraid of settlers and scared of soldiers who are pointing guns at them, stamping their feet, or driving very fast.

The EAs spoke to EU officials about how they worked to create conditions for a just peace.

“As I spoke of the experience in Brussels I felt grateful and humbled to be able to share the stories and to play my part in ensuring that this conflict will not be ignored or forgotten while EAPPI stands as a protective presence for those who continue to ask for it,” said EA Lesley, who added that the EAs support the work of both Palestinian and Israeli peacemakers.

Another EA, Lise, said she hopes that EU leaders understand that they should play a bigger role in the peace process.

“At least, I hope that more people understood the degree of suffering and in general how bad the situation actually is in Israel and Palestine,” she said.

Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace

WCC-EAPPI

Jerusalem: “May all our lives be beacons of justice, peace, love and hope”

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Jerusalem_EAPPI_2017

Photo: Marianne Ejdersten/WCC

There is a warm buzz in the church. Happy reunions. Friends and colleagues reunited. It is a time for goodbyes for some. It is a time of being welcomed for others. Nearly 150 people gathered in St Anne’s Basilica in East Jerusalem to pray for a just peace, for an end to the 50 years of occupation and for the solidarity to be able to live side-by-side in Palestine and Israel. It is time for the ecumenical accompaniers in group 67 to hand over to those in group 68.

The prayer begins with words of welcome from Josef Buholzer, the new superior of the White Fathers  and the local coordinator of the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (WCC-EAPPI) Zoughbi Al Zoughbi, as well as a recorded greeting from Bishop Munib Younan from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land: “Accompaniment is an instrument and tool of the holy communion through which we are compassioned to be God’s witnesses for justice, peace and reconciliation.”

In his welcome, Younan added, “Witnesses of hope in a hopeless situation. Witnesses of love in a world that ignores God. Witnesses of truth in a world of propaganda and lies”.

Zoughbi said in his introduction that it is an important moment to gather in the church and pray and thank those who have been accompaniers for three months and welcome the new people who are taking over. Zoughbi addressed the accompaniers by saying, “Thus you are our oxygen in life that keeps our hope alive, enhances our sanity, baptizes our commitment , empowers our walk, clarifies our talk, contextualizes our faith and incarnates our vision and mission. Being an accompanier involves devoting a period of one’s life to living in a large global family. Coming, seeing, reflecting and acting.”

A special mission as accompanier

Marianne Ejdersten, WCC director of Communications, provided a greeting from the WCC leadership. She said, “We are all peacemakers. Our task is to work for a just peace in the Holy Land. Peace without justice is not a sustainable peace. The World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel was started 15 years ago and will continue until we have achieved the goal of creating a just peace, with Israelis and Palestinians living side-by-side on equal terms.”

Ejdersten highlighted the bravery of the accompaniers. “You who choose to leave your home, your families and friends, and your normal job to act as accompaniers for three months are brave people. You are good role models. You are posted here to listen, talk and report, to live side-by-side, building bridges and using non-violent methods.”

Ejdersten concluded, “Working with human rights involves being vulnerable, and sometimes it is difficult to carry out the task. It is important not to give up despite all the difficulties, and also to seek new solutions and have the courage to continue even though the darkness of hopelessness can take over. The presence is important for the local people, for Palestinians and for Israelis.”

Local handover

A special thanks was given in the prayer to the World Council of Churches and the accompaniers from the local churches and to the local religious representatives Hamed Qawasmeh from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rabin Yehiel Grenimann from Rabbis for Human Rights, and local priest Ashraf K Tannous from the Lutheran Church. The global partners were represented by Hania Kassicieh from the Swedish Study Center, Fr Aris Shirvanian from the Armenian Orthodox  Church, Nora Carmi from the Orthodox Community, Rev. Paraic Reamonn from St Andrew Church, Jessica Lindberg from the Church of Sweden and Angleena Keizer from the Methodist Church in the USA.

Group 67 and group 68 alternately read out a text for the mission: “A time to plant and time to reap. A time to let go and a time to keep….May all our lives be beacons of justice, peace, love and hope. Let it be so. Amen. Inshallah”.

The final prayer and the blessing were led by the local representatives Josef Buholzer, Nora Camri, Loren McGrail, Fr Emmanuel from the Armenian Orthodox Church and Archimandrite Meletuis Basel from the Greek Orthodox Church.

The members of group 67 return home to their countries and continue their work by sharing stories about life in the Holy Land. Group 68 resumes work in the local communities. The work will continue until a just peace has been achieved in Palestine and Israel. The WCC Executive Committee processed in the end of November a plan for just peace in Palestine and Israel 2018-2021.

It is the fifteenth year of the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (WCC-EAPPI). Nearly  1,800 volunteers from more than 30 countries have been posted for three months each to live in local communities and monitor human rights violations. The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme is led by the World Council of Churches (WCC), on behalf of local churches and together with 120 partners from around the world. The mission element itself is an important part of the task: being sent on a mission by the local churches, the various religious representatives, to act locally as accompaniers. They  live together in various communities. They take part in everyday local life. They worship together. They create a safer life for many people, according to a study conducted in the past year.

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme has 120 partners from around the world. These include both Israeli and Palestinian partner organizations at the local level. The local reference group has representatives from three religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace

WCC-EAPPI

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…

Continue reading

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.