Bedouins: the human face of the two-state solution

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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

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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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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

Al Hadidya: bulldozers razed this hamlet

By the Jordan Valley team,
This blog shares the recent history of a small Bedouin Hamlet, Al Hadidya, in the northern Jordan Valley. The majority of the Jordan Valley is in Area C, and the Israeli government has both civil and security authority over the 60,000 Palestinians living there. Al Hadidya is located near the illegal Israeli settlement of Ro’i and is built on land leased from the residents of Tamoun and Tubas. However, while Ro’i thrives, Al Hadidya’s residents struggles to meet even their most basic needs. The story of this village, like so many other Area C communities, is one of demolitions and displacement

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Video: ‘The Struggle to Save Susiya’

This video looks back on the summer months and gives a brief insight into ‘the struggle to save Susiya‘. It features interviews with Nasser Nawaja, a local peace activist and resident of Susiya.

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EAPPI around the world: Canada

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, the Presbyterian Church of Canada, one of our sending churches for EAs in Canada, shares why they participate in EAPPI.

A group of EAs from Canada join Palm Sunday celebrations in Jerusalem. Photo EAPPI.

A group of EAs from Canada join Palm Sunday celebrations in Jerusalem. Photo EAPPI.

How did you get involved with EAPPI?

The Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC) sent its first Ecumenical Accompanier (EA) to volunteer with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) in 2007, in response to the call from Heads of Churches in Jerusalem to stand in solidarity with the churches and people in Palestine.  To date, 6 volunteers from the PCC have served as EAs.

What’s your favorite thing about EAPPI?

EAs work in international teams providing witness and accompaniment.  As one of our EAs described:

“It felt as though the whole world met and worked together.”

The ecumenical nature of the program encourages unity of purpose.  In the field, EAs establish that human connection with local communities while working together for peace with Palestinians, Israelis and other organizations in the area.  Over the years, the EAPPI has been able to build its capacity especially in the production of advocacy resources for use by EAs for increased awareness.

What beliefs motivated you to get involved with EAPPI or the Palestinian/Israeli conflict?

The PCC’s fundamental belief is that all human beings are created equal in the image of God and that an injustice to one is an injustice to all.

After the 2nd Intifada, the PCC and other churches realized that if peace was to be achieved, the church had to exercise its prophetic voice, be an active participant in the search for a just peace and reconciliation and put a human face to the suffering in the West Bank.

“The Church believes that it is the right as much as duty of an occupied people to struggle against injustice in order to gain freedom, although it also believes that non-violent means of struggle remain stronger and far more efficient.”  ~WCC Central Committee 2001, Potsdam

Why do you support EAPPI as opposed to other organizations working in Israel/Palestine?

A Canadian EA listens as a farmer describes the destruction of his olive trees by Israeli settlers. Photo EAPPI/J. Fraser.

A Canadian EA listens as a farmer describes the destruction of his olive trees by Israeli settlers. Photo EAPPI/J. Fraser.

In its operations, the EAPPI emphasizes impartiality and cooperation in its recognition that there are both Palestinian and Israeli communities committed to justice, peace, and respect for human rights and that the marginalization of any of them will hinder its work.

As an organization and partner, the EAPPI has made great strides in achieving its objectives of ensuring an international presence in the occupied territories with cooperation from the countries that send EAs to the West Bank.

EAs monitor checkpoints many days per week to observe and gather data on incidences that threaten peace.  It is this constant presence and accompaniment that distinguishes the EAPPI from other organizations.  The EAPPI presents an incredible opportunity to EAs to monitor human rights abuses at the grassroots level.

EAs listen to many local stories from communities with an open mind; actively participate in their everyday routine like sharing meals while empathizing with their daily struggles.

What do you think needs to be done to end the occupation and achieve peace in Israel and Palestine?

More governments should show commitment to peace in Palestine & Israel through deliberate engagement with both Palestinians and Israelis in all aspects of their lives so that global collective actions may influence policies that reflect equality, tolerance, self-expression and co-existence.

In a sermon on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the EAPPI in November 2012, His Grace Bishop Dr. Munib Younan expressed his hope that one day both Palestinians and Israelis will recognize each others’ humanity and interdependence in order to achieve a just peace.

Why should a Canadian be involved with EAPPI or the Israeli/Palestinian conflict?

The PCC believes strongly that there can be no peace without justice.  The concept of protective presence is based upon the idea that an international person has more of ‘voice’ than the average Palestinian and that this ‘voice’ can help deter or minimize instances of human rights abuses.  Canadians can use their ‘voices’ and presence to accompany Palestinian brothers and sisters.  The message of just peace is more effective when it is based on eyewitness accounts and every little bit counts.

Thank you to Margaret Zondo, Program Administrator for International Ministries of The Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC) and EAPPI Coordinator within this denomination, as well as Jeanie, Jake, and Magan, former EAs, for contributing to this article!

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

EAPPI around the world: UK and Ireland

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.

EAPPI UK and Ireland shares about a new initiative whereby Israeli families and EAs get to meet together on a human level.

EAs and Israeli families enjoy a picnic together, as part of the Haifa initiative. March 2014. Photo EAPPI/K. Hodgson.

EAs and Israeli families enjoy a picnic together, as part of the Haifa initiative. March 2014. Photo EAPPI/K. Hodgson.

What is the Haifa Initiative?

EAPPI UK and Ireland has set up a pilot initiative whereby EAs and members of a synagogue in Haifa spend a weekend together. 28 EAs have taken part so far. They stay with an Israeli host family connected to a synagogue in Haifa. The aim is to meet on a human level and hear about each other’s lives and experiences.

The Israeli host families get a briefing paper in advance that explains that the programme works nonviolently to end the occupation and is underpinned by principles of international law and human rights law. The EAs get a briefing paper on the synagogue, the educational centre it’s part of, and the motivations of the families involved.  Here the UK/Ireland National Coordinator reflects on the initiative, which will be evaluated at the end of 2014.

Israeli families and EAs gain a deeper understanding

“When I see the look in an EA’s eyes, I have to believe what they tell me…..even if I don’t want to,” commented one Israeli Jewish woman who hosted an EA for a weekend in Haifa in 2013.

She was expressing her dilemma: should she believe what an EA was telling her about what they had seen in the West Bank?  It just didn’t fit with what she thought she knew.

Many Israelis find it hard to understand why some in the international community are critical of their government’s policies. Many Israelis have never been to the West Bank and are prevented from visiting by laws and the separation barrier. But when EAs become house guests for a weekend the Israeli hosts graciously put themselves out of their comfort zone to hear some of the realities of an EAs’ work.

EAs also say that meeting Israelis in Haifa on a human level has helped their understanding – of the pride Israelis have in their country; of the fear they experience in a way that is real to them; of the dilemmas facing parents as their children do their military service. Of course EAs also meet Israelis in the West Bank, but these are more commonly in agreement with EAPPI work, because they are likely to be members of Israeli peace and human rights organisations.

The power of meeting on a human level

In EAPPI UK and Ireland we have always been interested in finding ways for people to take seriously what EAs have experienced.  Our particular question to the Jewish community in the UK and Ireland has been “What helps you hear what we have to say?” and we have had some very helpful discussions. Our starting point, of course, is to give attention to listening to others, even when we don’t necessarily agree with them.  EAs report that telling UK Jewish audiences that they have spent time listening to ordinary families in Haifa makes it more likely that they will be given space to tell their stories about what’s happening in the West Bank.

It is no surprise that there is a huge range of views about the occupation in Israel. EAs are clear about the damage that it does to Palestinian society and they suggest that it damages Israeli society too. This is not easy for the hosts to hear, but both the families and the EAs each commit to hearing the perspective of the other.  This is demanding work. It is rare for each to agree with the perspective of the other, but mostly the synagogue members and the EAs agree that is it worthwhile to talk and meet on a human level.

EAs are learning that they can talk frankly and although they might be met with dismay, and sometimes disbelief, it seems that mostly their hosts prefer their speaking to their silence. Some of the most interesting feedback has come from young people about to join the Israeli army, who are very interested to hear about life in the West Bank.

The experience could be summed up in the words of one EA after her time in Haifa:

“We are all just people who have an interest in what is happening in Israel and Palestine – from whatever perspective. We need to talk to each other. What’s the worst that can happen?!”

Read the 1st post in this series: EAPPI around the world: Australia