Saturday, April 27, 2013

Handover Ceremony

The handover from team 47 to us, team 48, was held at the St George's Anglican Cathedral.

 It was a beautiful and meaningful experience.

 Part of it was receiving the light via candles from team 47.

Followed by the reading, “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bushel.  Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before all people, that they may see your good deeds and praise God.”  Matthew 5:14-16.

 Rev. Kristen L Brown, General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church was one of the officiating clergy.  She is Methodist Liaison in Palestine and Israel.

I am praising God that I get to be here and be involved with EAPPI; working for a just peace between Palestine and Israel 
Front from left Kristin Brown, Tina, Dee is in the back between Tina and me.  The others are Methodists from UK.

After the ceremony, a group picture was taken of all the Methodists.  Tina Whitehead, Janet Lahr Lewis, Rev Kristin Brown and Dee Poujade are the United Methodist in this photo.  The names of the others will be added when I obtain them.

What added joy to have these servants of God be a part of my three months with EAPPI.

Peace Based on Law and Non-violence

One segment of our training was on International Humanitarian Law.  International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Law and the Geneva Convention are just some of the laws that are being violated by the abuses Palestinians are suffering.  That is why we need to continue to pray for a just peace based on law and nonviolence.

A good website for information on International Humanitarian Law is

Bedouin Community

Angela Godfrey, an Israeli peace activist and member of EAPPI’s local reference group, took us on a bus tour around Jerusalem and then to a Bedouin Community

Using United Nations maps produced by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs she showed us the places where Israel has created illegal cities, know as settlements or colonies.  The settlements and land confiscation is illegal according to UN resolutions and the Geneva Convention.  Israel changed boundaries and created several types of zones with many restrictions.  It makes life very difficult for those living in this region.

You can get a fact sheet with a wonderful map at  The name of the page is, Bedouin Relocation:  Threat of Displacement in the Jerusalem Periphery, September 2011.  

The threatened Bedouin communities, most of whom are already refugees, pursue a traditional life-style of herding and have suffered a serious decline in living conditions for several years.

Around 2300 Bedouin reside in 20 communities in the hills to the east of Jerusalem.  More than 80 percent of them are refugees.  

The communities have lost access to much of the land due to settlement expansion.  Most have demolition orders pending.  None has access to the electric network.  Only half are allowed connection to the water.

We spent part of our afternoon at a Bedouin village.  They showed us hospitality, served us tea as we sat in their tent and listened to their story.  

The men of the village built a school because of the dangers of their children traveling so far for the schools.  This school was built using old tires and dirt.

Over 200 families were relocated from the area in the 1990, some by force.  Of these, 85 percent report that have had to abandon their traditional livelihoods.  Meanwhile, more than 500000 Israeli civilians have moved into the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

According to international law Palestinian communities should be allowed to make a free and informed decision about their place of residence.  International law prohibits the force transfer of civilians, regardless of the motive or means used, unless temporarily required for their own security or military necessity. 

The intentional destruction or confiscation of private civilian property, including homes, as well as the transfer of settlers into occupied territory, is similarly prohibited. 

As an Occupying power, under law Israel has an obligation to protect the Palestinian civilian population and to administer the territory for the benefit of that population.  Any voluntary move or transfer of civilians must meet international standards, including relating to a free informed choice. 

It is so sad to see violations of law daily by the Israeli occupiers.  Palestinians have been devastated, not benefited.  

Over 2/3 of the Bedouin are children. 

 I was sad saying good bye.

Israelis Helping Palestinians

Machsom Watch

During our training, a presentation was made by Hanna Barag.  She is an Israeli working with Machsom Watch.  This group consists of Israeli volunteers that monitor the checkpoints. 

They help Palestinians with the permit system, issues with the Israeli rules and regulations on the checkpoints.  They also help with other issues related to the government and military.  They understand the “red tape” and have taken it on themselves be of help as Palestinians need to work through the “system.”  More information about this group is available at

Breaking the Silence

Avner Gvaryahu also put on a presentation during our training.  He is part of an organization of combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada.  This group named Breaking the Silence, has taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. 

He shared the many human right violations that he committed while under orders.  More information about this group can be obtained at
They also have information on YouTube.  They will soon come to the states on tour.  Perhaps some of you will be able to organize a presentation near you. 

Blessing and Inspiration

Blessings from Heads of Churches in Jerusalem were given to the team by His Grace Bishop Munib Younan, Bishop of the Lutheran Evangelical Church in the Holy Land and Jordon.  He is also The President of the Lutheran World Federation and the Chair of EAPPI Local Reference Group.

The Bishop's talk was inspiring and insightful regarding all that is before us as we serve with EAPPI.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Training in Jerusalem

Training in Jerusalem is very helpful.  We are learning the paperwork aspects of the job.

After training and in the evenings, we all head to the lobby because the internet does not work in our rooms.

I am trying to catch up, but the lack of desk space leaves something to be desired.

Visits to Tent of Nations and Aida Refugee Camp

Saturday April 20

Tent of Nations:

Tent of Nations is a fulfilled dream of Bishara Nassar, the Palestinian Christian who lived all his life with his brother Nayef on the land itself.  Note illegal settlements in the background.

The family is carrying on their vision. 

The family farm is the land where the Tent of Nations is located.  The Tent of Nations desires to prepare young people for a positive contribution to their future and culture by bring values of understanding and tolerance into their life experiences and to teach them the true belonging to their country. 

The older brother Daher lives on the farm and the rest of the family lives in Beit Jala.  Daher gave us a good tour of the Tent of Nations.  The family lived in caves on the property.  Now volunteers from all over the world live in tents here as they participate in many programs.

The younger brother, Daoud, is very articulate in both English and German and gave us an over view of their legal struggle and the restrictions imposed. 
In 1991, the Israeli government declared the whole area, including the Nassar’s, an Israeli state Property.  The Nassar family has all the original land papers from the Ottoman period and hand done a lot of work on the land through the times of Ottoman, British, Jordanian and Israeli governance.  After a struggle of more than 21 years, they are still struggling to win the case of the land.  
In May/June 2010, the family was given nine demolition orders that they are fighting through the Israeli courts.
During spring 2012, Tent of Nations received orders to cease cultivation and to vacate the land.

We will be a presence of support for this family, including their Women Empowerment Program that offers English, computer, agriculture and other classes for the women of the village.

Their response to the injustice they are experiencing is not with violence, not with being a victim and not by running away, but by facing it in a non-violent way with the Tent of nations.  It is done by channeling their pain to be a constructive power that leads to a better future under the slogan:  We Refuse to be Enemies.

I am grieved every time I see this sign.  All places where going from Area C into Area A or B this warning sign is shown.  No wonder so many hearts are filled with fear.  Yet I can walk around, even at night, in the West Bank assured of safety because the Palestinian's hearts of hospitality.

Aida Refugee Camp


We were given a tour of the camp where many people live VERY close together.  Military raids happen often during the night.  The guide told us tear gas was released into the camp a few nights before our tour.

The Lajee Centre (Lajee “refugee" in Arabic)
Lajee centre offers many different activities for children and youth living in ‘Aida Camp. Their aim is to give children and youth some good experiences, and offer them support as they are regularly traumatized by military might and violence as well as poverty. They have recently compiled some interesting books with photos of villages their relatives were forced to leave in 1948. Debke (traditional Palestinian dance) and other classes provide opportunities to learn many new skills. Lajee receives regularly foreign volunteers coming to the centre to help with activities.

We will be working with in this camp on a regular basis; English conversation class is one way we will participate.  We will continue monitoring and recording ongoing clashes, excessive use of force by the military, and night incursions. Searches and arrests are occurring almost every night.
In January 2013, a teenager was shot and killed in the camp.
In February 2013, two teenagers were shot by the military; both remain in the hospital as of March, one in a critical condition.  We will continue to monitor this camp and record human right abuse. 

Israel has denied the Right of Return given under international law.  Many of the villages and homes have been bulldozed.  The just peace we are working toward will need to deal with this major issue from 1948. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bethlehem Activities on My First Friday

Friday Checkpoint Check

Friday is not a workday so the lines at the checkpoints have a very different look.  The only people allowed to go to Jerusalem are the men over 50 and the women over 46.  This woman is heading toward the second turnstile; the total walk would be about two blocks.

When we arrived, the line was moving smoothly.  We simply pass through timing ourselves for our report.
We entered the ramp, through the first turnstile; pass through the first passport point, across an open area, down another ramp, through a turnstile to the area of another check and on to the metal detectors.  Neither of us set off the alarm so we gathered our vests from the trays and walked to the next booth to show our passports and walk onto the Israeli side. 

That is when we found out what the private police do.  They escorted us, potential terrorists, back to the metal detectors.  We had to go back and though again.  All the time that we were being escorted back while asking, “WHY?” the checkpoint line stopped.  This second check turned up no illegal items in our vests; we were cleared to travel into Jerusalem.  

Meanwhile, Palestinians heading to catch the bus, hoping to get to their worship services were delayed. 

Further delay is experienced as they help each other replace the clothing items that had to be removed in order to go through the metal detector. 

It seems to me a violation of human dignity for this elder man to have to put his belt and other garments back on in public. 

My prayer is that all humans have unobstructed access to their places of worship.  


An important aspects of what we do is complete incident reports when there has been a demolition.  We went to an area where there had been two the day before. 
First, we met with a woman who had her restaurant demolished for the second time.  After the first demolition, she received no financial help.  She and her family took out a loan and rebuilt.  They went through a lawyer who assured her all was in order.  The day before this picture was taken, without warning, the Israeli army came with their large machines giving her only one-hour notice to remove what they could.  She was devastated!  She is holding a 300,000 NIS note that needs to be repaid. 

 Picture taken from a poster. 

Below, as it now appears.

The huge machine that left these tire marks was made in USA.  

An EA from the prior team saw spent canisters of munitions stamped USA.

Prayers are important!

I am asking God to help me as I learn more about our government's foreign policy.  Seeking wisdom to find out what needs to change so USA policy will be just according to God's word.  

Let's pray for discernment since we will answer for what we say, do and do not do.

"Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers."

We also processed an incident report on the neighboring home that is owned by an elderly man. We processed an incident report.

 He also was devastated emotionally and financially by this destruction.  This was the third time that his home wash demolished.  He pointed out the previous foundations.

Please notice the proximity to settlements.  The problem from settlements continues; more on that as I gain knowledge.

Examples of Demonstration Attended on Friday

Non-Violent Demonstration at Al Ma'sara

Each Friday we go to the village to provide presence for non-violent protest.  At Al Ma'sara they try to make different presentations or new ways to demonstrate every time. The demonstration could last from one to two and a half hours.  We will generally meet demonstrators at the cultural centre in the village and walk behind them through the village to the crossroads where the demonstration culminates. 

However, this week we were told to wait at the top of the hill, near the crossroads.  We monitor this demonstration; we do not participate.  EA's always stand at the back, and this role is appreciated by the organizers in the village. We take note of the number of demonstrators, soldiers, police and army vehicles, as well as recording the narrative in the weekly log. We take photographs of the demonstration and any incidents.  

The theme of this weeks demonstration were issues related to prisoners.   

A group of youth chained themselves together as they walked to the demonstration. 

During the demonstration a child of about 10 was blindfolded and chained symbolizing the many preteen and young children that are being arrested.  I did not get a good picture, but he is on the ground in front of the "chained" youth in a red jacket.

The leader of this ongoing protest met with us after and explained the grass-root efforts to developing non-violent networks for education and peaceful just peace activities. 

Flare Up Event

On the way back to our apartment we came across an incident that was happening up a hill from the road we were on.  We stopped, but tear gas was already being used.  Our dedication is to nonviolent resolution so we did not remain at this site.


I also had the privilege to attend a mass that takes place every Friday.  It is led by Roman Catholic priests with the seminarians from Beit Jala.  It takes place on a hill under olive trees on the way from Beit Jala to Al-Walaja, and it is a protest against land confiscation for the separation barrier and for the settlement.

I found this service very touching. As the Priest holds up the bread and the cup, the settlements of “greater Jerusalem” are visible in the background.

There are different proposed paths for this enormous wall that is being built through the church's property.  One proposal separates the convent from the school, another proposes a path that will keep the priests from their agricultural pursuits.  I am not sure of the other, but according to international law, both the settlements and the wall are illegal. 

Wall Prayer Walk Every Friday

This demonstration takes the form of a prayer walk along the separation wall led by the Franciscan Nuns from the Caritas Baby Hospital and the La Salle Brothers from Bethlehem University.

 It was my joy to walk and pray with those who gathered for this non-violent demonstration against the wall and the occupation.. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

First Day in Bethlehem

Monitor Checkpoint 300

The first day in Bethlehem started very early.  Only a very small percent of Palestinian people get ID that allows them to go to Jerusalem.  The workers start their journey to Jerusalem very early because they cannot be sure how long it will take; they want to be sure to get to work on time.  By 4: AM when we arrive the line is often backed up. 

If The Palestinian workers could walk, it would take less than an hour.  However, the soldiers who run the checkpoints hold up the checkpoint line and there are times that it takes more than an hour to get through the checkpoint.  Even if the line remains open, if there is only one of the four metal detectors running, the times are greatly increased. 

Part of my responsibility will be to record how long it takes to pass through, how many pass through each hour during “rush hour” and notify a hot line when the check point stops for no apparent reason.  The flow at these very busy times is 600 plus people every half hour.

The army staffs the metal detectors that everyone has to go through.  The police according to one of the EA’s on team 47 seem to be those who make some of the decisions on certain situations at the checkpoints. 

Friday I found out what the private police do, more about that on Friday’s note.  I am finally getting a chance for some computer time, using Sunday in Jerusalem to write this information about Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 

Not being able to travel freely in their country, not being able to plan their schedules because their time to and from depends on what the occupiers decide is a very frustrating part of how the occupation is being handled.

As checkpoint duty ended, I was introduced to Ray; he is a volunteer from Pennsylvania.  He and his wife are volunteering with Bethlehem Bible College.  He does such things as make runs into Jerusalem for the mail. 
Ray and his wife will be leaving soon, but might come back.  However new rules imposed on those who are helping Palestinians will limit him to life only in the West Bank, no more going to Jerusalem to pick up the college’s mail.  This American like the Palestinians would not be able to visit the Holy Sites in Jerusalem.  If fact if he became ill, he would need to obtain a special permit to go into the hospital in Jerusalem.

Walk to Manger Square

Team 48 did some bonding and we walked to Manger Square.  Pictured here standing in front of the Church of the Nativity.

We had lunch on the square at Afteem Restaurant.  The poster tells the story of Mr. Saliba Salamelt.  In 1948 during the takeover over 800,000 Palestinians were forced from their home.  Several went to neighboring countries but some, like this man were displaced, from their home cities, but were able to stay in Palestine.  Mr. Salamelt started a small bakery and named it after his eldest son

We had lunch on the square at Afteem Restaurant.  The poster tells the story of Mr. Saliba Salamelt.  In 1948 during the takeover over 800,000 Palestinians were forced from their home.  Several went to neighboring countries but some, like this man were displaced, from their home cities, but were able to stay in Palestine.  Mr. Salamelt started a small bakery and named it after his eldest son

Afteem.  It is now a very good restaurant on Manger Square.

The frying is done outside.  George, on the right, is the grandson of Afteem.

We had a wonderful meal, many traditional types of food.  I will update you with the names of the various dishes in the photo, but not now because there is just too much to learn!  They were all delicious.

Monitor School Dismissal

Being a protective presence at schools is a huge part of what we do.  The United Nations has a special program just starting now, Access to Education. 

At the times the children leave school, the military always shows up so that the children must pass them on their way home.  This area is very near a settlement.  I will send more information about the background and issues of Settlements another time.  EAPPI talks with military explaining the purpose of our presence.

It was so fun to see the students and I had a wonderful conversation with some of their teachers as they waited for their transportation home.  

The students in very clear English asked, “What is your name.”  We interacted with many children, what a joy! 

It was sad to see them have to cross and walk along such a busy road.

Shortly after the students came out of school, a problem started from across the street.  A tire started burning in a field across from the school. 

I for one was very glad to see the last of the children getting into their very crowded transportation.

Our official presence assignment was now over. 

Meanwhile across the street, we more military arrive.  The decision was made to leave.  Because we had another appointment, to visit Battir, did not stay.  It did appear that an incident was about to erupt.






We visited Battir a village in our Bethlehem area.  They face many problems and I will update you later, because I have decided to take one of my days off as soon as the guesthouse is opened.  We spent three hours hiking around this area.  The natural spring has been running providing water for the farmers in this area.  The guide told us much of the amazing history of this area and the current rebuilding going on even in spite of the many restrictions imposed.

The Palestinian people have cleared debris of years and in this photo a recent landslide.  Notice the lemon tree.

This village was on a rail line and was considered the vegetable basket Jerusalem until 1948 when Palestinians were no longer allowed to ride the train.  The story of the train and its involvement in the history of the village has many chapters for another note.

There is a lot of water from the local spring with ancient ways of getting it to their land.  Including ancient ways, some evidence of roman aqueduct ruins.  

I drank where the Romans drank.

We walked through this area for about three hours through all kinds of agriculture.

The farmers are allowed to use the water for their crops; five percent is used for their crops.  The other 95 percent goes to Israel.  The local Palestinians are required buy back the water for their personal use.

It was not easy walking, but an amazing experience

Please pray for a just peace in Israel and Palestine.