Time for fresh water and prayer – ‘Ilhamdilla’

Featured

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.

In the darkness of Yanoun reality changes on the hilltops

By the Yanoun team, 

My watch tells me it is just after 2am as I lie awake listening to the unmistakable sound of a digger moving rock after rock, being the only noise breaking the silence in the early hours of this September morning. Every once in a while, the sound of the digger is overpowered by the sound of barking dogs, brought down from the hilltop by the wind. With the darkness as shelter, the invisible work on the hilltop continues. It is impossible, after sunset, to know for sure what is happening amidst the houses and barns little more than a stone’s throw away from my bedroom. What will be changed when the first sunbeams strike the olive trees?

12.10.2016 Pictures for blog, Palestine EAPPI-RW (8 of 10).jpg

12.10.2016 The first beams from the sun hit the olive trees in Yanoun. EAs show their presence by morning and evening walks around the village. EAPPI/R.W

Continue reading

A tale of a house with walls the colour of the sky

By the Jerusalem team, 

Once upon a time, there was a house. Its outsides were red, the colour of bricks, and its inside walls were blue and white like the sky.

25.10.16, Beit Hanina, bricks of the wall of the house, Photo EAPPI, Agustina G..jpg

25.10.16, Beit Hanina, blue bricks of the wall of the house, Photo EAPPI/Agustina G.

Continue reading

A shepherd’s story: “Life has become as small as a ring”

By the South Hebron Hills team.

Jibrin sits with quiet dignity and explains the effects of the occupation: ‘Life has become as small as a ring’, he says.

26-09-2016-south-hebron-hills-qawawis-jibrin-moussa-haram-at-home-in-qawawis-eappi-v-steen

Qawawis Jibrin Moussa Haram at home in Qawawis. EAPPI V. Steen 26.09.16

Jibrin was born in Qawawis, a community of shepherds in the South Hebron Hills. His family had fields of wheat and barley, sheep and olive trees. Then, in the mid-1980s, the Susya settlement, illegal under international law, was established by the Israeli government on Palestinian land just across the road. Things started to change. The settlers let their animals into the Palestinian fields and damaged the crops. They threw stones at the shepherds. Jibrin’s family moved nearer to the village for protection.

 

Continue reading

Between a gate and the wall; Palestinians receive medical care in the seam zone

By Line and the Tulkarm-Qalqiliya team.

29-09-16-pmrs-in-qalqiliya-suhad-is-showing-noirin-the-seam-zone-on-a-map-eappil-jensen

Suhad of PMRS showing EA the seam zone on a map. EAPPI/L. Jensen

An ambulance is driving down an empty street in Qalqiliya, in the northwest of Palestine. It’s still early and the city has not yet begun to buzz with street vendors and people on their way to work. The ambulance has big round logos on the side that say PMRS – Palestinian Medical Relief Society. PMRS is an NGO that offers medical services for the most vulnerable people in Palestinian society including those living in the seam zone. Inside are the doctor, two public health nurses and a lab technician, all having fun and laughing. The gynaecologist is not at work today – so there is room for me and my fellow EA to accompany the team. We are very excited and a little anxious, truth be told, because we are going into the seam zone.  Continue reading

Dismantling Barriers

by returned EA John.

“God has broken the dividing walls (Ephesians 2:14)”

The reading from Ephesians 2:11-22 is concerned with building a new community where Jews and Gentiles are united in peace. There are no longer insiders and outsiders, rather God’s grace extends to all. Christ is the cornerstone of a new temple (or community) marked by unity and reconciliation.

A

Northern West Bank. 2016 Photo EAPPI

Continue reading

Bedouins: the human face of the two-state solution

By EAs Emily and Johanna, 

“We didn’t have time to pack everything; lots of our things were destroyed that day in front of my eyes…along with the house”. Maryam, a bright young bedouin woman, animatedly recalled the stormy February day in 1997 when her home was demolished and entire community uprooted by the Israeli forces [1]That was when she and her eight siblings were forcibly transported, along with a small container full of their possessions, to al-Jabal, where they were left homeless. She has lived there ever since, in what has now evolved into a township.

11.06.16 Jerusalem-District Mother plays with child in Khan-Al-Ahmar Bedouin Community EAPPI/Emily

11.06.16 Jerusalem district Mother plays with child in Khan Al Ahmar Bedouin Community Photo EAPPI/Emily

Continue reading