Saturday, May 11, 2013

Still Praying for Justice





EAPPI Stands in Solidarity with All Who are Praying for Justice


Cremisan Monastery


In a prior blog entry titled, Cremisan Valley, the story of the struggle to keep the land open for the church’s use was explained.  The Israeli court ruled in favor of the confiscation of land and division of church property by the wall. 

The first step came this week with the closure of the road from Beit Jala.



The villagers of Beit Jala gathered after prayer on Friday to demonstrate, showing their displeasure in this violation of their right of access.  This closure will add about 25 minute to the time of each trip to Bethlehem.

Some of the EAPPI team went to stand in solidarity with this village.  The nonviolent protest turned violent with tear gas.


Even in this “setback” celebrating mass and praying under the olive trees each Friday continues. 
The church community continues to pray for a JUST peace.


Wall Prayer

EAPPI gathers with those who walk and pray along the wall each Friday.  I am thankful that EAPPI has the privilege of serving in Bethlehem and being involved at this prayer walk.


Kairos Palestine


KAIROS PALESTINE

A MOMENT OF TRUTH 


A document has been written that is the Christian Palestinians’ word to the world about what is happening in Palestine.  Written in 2009, when Palestinian Christians wanted to see the glory of the grace of God in their land and in the suffering of its people.  It is a call to stand by the Palestinian people who have faced oppression, displacement, suffering and clear apartheid for more than six decades.  Their word is a cry of hope with love, prayer and faith in God.  It is addressed to themselves, to all the churches and Christians in the world.

Through this document, the Palestinian Christians declare that the military occupation of their land is a sin against God and humanity, and that any theology that legitimizes the occupation is far from Christian teachings because true Christian theology is a theology of love and solidarity with the oppressed, a call to justice and equality among peoples.

A group of United Methodists, my faith tradition, has organized in response.  Their web site is www.kairosresponse.org.  The site includes many resources dealing with Peace in the Middle East and includes a link to the complete Kairos Palestine document.

Below are a few of many photos from the United Methodist Kairos Response web site.  The wall and the huge "settlements" that are really cities show how the land in the West Bank is changed by this occupation.





When I get back to the states and take off my EAPPI vest, I will continue to advocate for a JUST peace in the Middle East.  I look forward to your invitations to speak at your churches and civic meetings about the realities on the ground that I am experiencing.  I plan to have small group activities that look into Faith, Hope and Love as offered in the Kairos Palestine document. 

I am in the process of booking opportunities to speak about these issues in Michigan during August, September and October.  Reach me for scheduling via email randie.clawson@gmail.com.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

NAKBA


Nakba


I had the privilege of attending the Woman’s Story Group at the Arab Educational Institute.  The topic of the day was the Nakab, facilitated one of the leaders at the institute. 


Nakba means disaster; it is how Palestinians refer to what happened to their country and lives in 1948.  

One of the first books I read in trying to understand the background of this area was a biography of a Palestinian whose family lived through this disaster.  The book is Blood Brothers, by Elias Chacour.  I recommend reading this for an overview and understand of the events of 1948.



You can obtain more information on the historic event of the Nakba by going to the Alternative Information Centre’s web www.alternativenews.org  Search on this site “Nakba” and you will see a lot of information including activities I will be a part of. There is a video to watch there too.  The date of the Nakba is May 15.

At the Woman’s Story Group, we watched a video about the history of the Nakba.  Many women told their family’s story of the Nakba.  I was very glad that one woman retold each story to me in English as the others talked.  I felt Love shared in this group as women come together from different faith traditions to tell their stories. 
Women given a voice!



Praise God with me that I get to be with these courageous women, whose families are still suffering the results of the Nakba.  They continue to suffer from the many human right violations and international law violations connected to the illegal conditions under occupation.



This organization is also giving young people a voice.  See the story posted on the wall.






Pray for a JUST Peace in the Middle East


Wi'an


EAPPI Standing in Solidarity with NGO’s and other Organizations/Projects

Wi’am Palestinian Conflict Resolution Centre


Another EA and I had a very insightful meeting with Zoughbi, the founder of this organization and Usama, a coordinator of some programs.  Wi’am is a grassroots organization established in Bethlehem in 1995. Wi’am aims to improve the quality of relationships and to promote peace and reconciliation in the community. It joins other organizations and strives to build a society based on democratic norms and values.  It is a place for conflict transformation, restorative justice and mediation.

Wi’am is also a community center for peace building, sustainable development, empowerment and hope.  The view from the yard reflects the culture; visible are the wall, a masque, church and in the far right settlements.



Knowing that peacemaking in human relationships is a spiritual effort.  Wi’am asks for your active prayer support for peace and justice in your families, during your own personal reflection time or in your worshipping communities. 

Wi’am does not charge for their services and depends on donors for all their projects.  Sulha, their brochure says, is the traditional Arabic form of mediation.  As a conflict emerges, mediators respond by going to the scene of the conflict and listen to both parties.  Their mission is to bring the conflicting parties together while saving face, to redress the wrong, and to restore relationship.  Drinking coffee is the crowning of the ceremony where both parties will drink together, and shake hands after bridging the relationship.  The more conflicts they resolve, the more coffee they drink.  I think I could like working in this kind of conflict resolution. 

The EA who visited when I did has training in conflict resolution and plans are under way for a presentation to the staff or participants.  The center has an active women’s group and I will be involved with them in gender equality issues.

The center states, we do not want you to be pro-Palestinian or Pro-Israeli, we need you to be pro-justice and work for the liberation of all people!  To find out how you can help this organization, go to: www.alaslah.org.

Join Wi’am in Active Prayer for a JUST Peace

Connecting US and Palestinian Christians


Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation


The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation is a USA 501C (3) organization committed to improving the lives of the Christians of the Holy Land by developing bonds of solidarity between them and Christians in the United States. 




Anthony Habash, regional director updated EA’s on the programs that are operating here to benefit Christians in the holy land.  






This organization works on such things as home rehabilitation, job creation, child sponsorship program, holy land gift program, tours and the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation Inn. 











Close to my heart is their work with the senior community.





Another program that I found particularly interesting was their Know Thy Heritage program.  Through this program, young people from families with Palestinian roots, return to Palestine for a visit.  They explore the culture, tour museums and see the beauty of Palestine.
  
More information about this organization is available from their website.  www.hcef.org.

Pray for a JUST Peace in Palestine!

Evangelical Lutheran School, Community and Occupation


EAPPI Standing in Solidarity with Church Related Organizations/Projects

Evangelical Lutheran School of Beit Sahour


The village of Beit Sahour is widely agreed to be the site where the angels appeared to the Shepherds who were watching over their flocks the night of Jesus’ birth. 

Beit Sahour Evangelical Lutheran School is one of four Lutheran schools in Palestine; a German missionary started this school in 1901.  The day we visited, the children were not available, but we learned a lot about the school.  The annual tuition cost per student is $650.  The school continues to work with individuals and institutions both here in Palestine and abroad seeking support for a scholarship program for needy students.

This school has an atmosphere of friendship and cooperation between teachers, students, and townspeople.  Their peace education program shares values such as democracy, non-violent conflict resolution and human rights education. 



The school administrators shared some of the problems they have from the rules of occupation when they plan to take students on a field trips.  Everyone needs a permit from the Israeli government.  Often they do not receive the permits requested.

There is an ongoing problem of three teachers who do not getting permits at all.  We EA’s will follow up with Machsom Watch, an organization of Israeli women who are active against the occupation and work for human rights in the Occupied Territories.



Co-Curricular activities including, vocational education, arts and science exhibitions, music, drama sports teams and a folklore dance group, “Dabkeh.” 


.
At this school, English is taught from grade one and German from grade three.  My teammate and EA from Germany, also a teacher, will be participating in some of the German classes. 

Recently a group of volunteers had painted one of the walls of the schoolyard.  Shawki Hawwash, the principal and Salim Jaber, the assistant principal, are pictured by this colorful wall.



If you want to be involved with the Beit Sahour Evangelical Lutheran School, information may be obtained on their website: www.bs-lutheranschool.com.

Pray for a JUST Peace in the Middle East

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


EAPPI Stands in Solidarity with 

Non-Government Organizations

Alternative Information Centre

Located in Old Town Beit Sahur, the Alternative Information Centre is an Israeli-Palestinian Non-Government Organization that combines a political activist focus with research and analysis in order to give an alternative version of the conflict. 

Their programs involve Palestinians and Israelis working together.  They produce a number of books and pamphlets and a newsletter as well as a very good news site with videos. 

One project of interest is their Bridges Instead of Walls: International Political Camp in Palestine and Israel.  It is a one-week field seminar that provides participates with a deep understanding of the Palestinian and Israeli context and societies thus enabling more powerful advocacy on behalf of a just peace in the region.  It creates a space in which the Palestinian people themselves explain their struggle and give direct witness to their life under occupation.  This is a necessary step in understanding the factors in the present situation.



Our team plans to attend  movie screenings and lectures here as our schedules allows.

For more information check out their web site,  www.alternativenews.org.

Pray for a Just Peace in the Middle East

Trigger Finger


EAPPI Providing Protective Presence for School Children in Tuqu


EAPPI started providing a protective presence for this school because of repeated incidents.  The school is a mixed primary school (400 students) a girls secondary school (260) student and a boys secondary school (520 students.)
Four students from this school have been killed, the last one in 2008.  

The soldiers were threatening children and forcing them to show the contents of their bags.  Several boys were arrested and detained including a 4th grade child. 


Since 2011 EAPPI has been involved in a protective presence at this school.  .  In September 2012, EAPPI Joined with UNICEF in a program to monitor access to education. The “school run” as we refer to it is shared between team members.  


We place ourselves where we can see the children and the soldiers. 


For some unknown reason, on Tuesday, the soldiers did not like where we were standing.  
He came up to me and asked what I was doing there.  He did not like my answer, “Providing a protective presence for the school children.”  

He said I had to move back by the sign and pointed up the road.   He is the person with his finger on the trigger so I moved up the road a bit.

Personally I wanted to say, “Who do you think you are talking to.  My country provides your country with over $500,000,000,000 each year.  If it were not for my tax dollars, your country and this situtation would be very different.  Obviously, I did not say, anything like that since EAPPI is neutral in the conflict, but not neutral about human right violations.  The truth is, USA sends billions of our tax dollars each year to Israel.   

The soldier asked to see the pictures on my camera and I obliged.  We are not to take photos of military unless they are committing human rights violations so my camera did not incriminate me.  However, in my heart of hearts, this whole occupation is a human right violation.  

The occupation is illegal under international law.

As the children walk to school, they have to walk past military personnel with assault rifles, fingers always on the triggers.



Should children have to walk past assault rifles coming and going to elementary school? 

I think busy roads should be the only danger children need to face.

The soldier also went down to my teammate and told her this area was now a military zone and she would have to leave.

Our cab driver took my teammate to the other side of the hill where she could still see what was happening.

The soldier came back to me and asked, “What sign do you think I meant?”  Oops guess I was not down the road far enough for him.  I am not one to argue with a trigger finger, I moved on down.  
Tomorrow we will be doing another school run.  This soldier saga, to be continued….

Pray for a JUST Peace in the Middle East!

Bind Us Together with Love


My day off continued on Sunday morning, I met up with an EA from the Jerusalem team and we found our way to East Jerusalem Baptist Church.  


After finding the church, Chery, an EA from the Philippines and I enjoyed the beautiful church grounds.  

Yes, there was even a cat to enjoy.





The church was not large, but it felt line church 

The service was meaningful, and in English! 



Rev. Alex Awad pastors this church and his wife, Brenda, is involved with the children’s ministry, (see Bethlehem Bible College blog entry.)



After the service during the hospitality hour, Pastor Alex told us of the international flavor of the congregation.  Some of the international workers from the various holy sites worship here as well as other internationals that now live in Palestine and of course native Palestinians, such as Pastor Alex.


The first person we introduced ourselves to happened to be an artist from New Zeeland.  She indicated she is a volunteer working at the House of Hope in Bethlehem (see prior blog entry about House of Hope.)  In a later conversation after church, we discovered that she was a missionary with Service in Missions in Ethiopia at the same time as my sister, Donna.

I also recognized two of the workers from the Bethlehem House of Hope (see previous blof entry.)  They came to Jerusalem to worship.  They are volunteers from the Bruderhof Community in New York.  You can find out about their sending community at www.bruderhof.com.  The Bruderhof is an international communal movement of families and single men and women who seek to put into action Christ’s command to love God and neighbor. 
Pray that these willing servants of God will not have Israeli visa problems,there are many stories of denials. 

Blessings are flowing my way; from Michigan to Bethlehem to Jerusalem, I had dinner with new friends from Philippines, New Zeeland, and New York. 

On Tuesday morning, the circle of Love extended.  Our Muslim taxi driver saw a nun walking; he stopped and picked her up  As it turned out, she was one of the caregivers from the Home of Peace (see prior blog entry.)  We dropped her off at Manger Square to worship and we went on to complete our busy schedule.

I see steadfastness, kindness and love flowing through The West Bank even as everyone suffers from the occupation. 

God continues to answer this song:
Bind us together, lord,
Bind us together with cords that cannot be broken.
Bind us together, lord,
Bind us together,
Bind us together with love.

Our Ecumenical God is alive and working here!

Pray for a Just Peace for Palestine and Israel


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Demonstrations via Prayer Continue Each Friday at the Wall


EAPPI continues to stand in solidarity each Friday at the Prayers by the Wall Demonstration. 


It is my privilege to demonstrate by way of praying with the Franciscan Nuns from the Caritas Baby Hospital and the La Salle Brothers from Bethlehem University. 

This past Friday pilgrims from Germany joined us.  Hearing praises and prayers in other languages makes me think of heaven where all nations will sing praises to our God!  




video

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Personal Note, My First Day Off


Alternative Lodging

My first day off since arriving in Jerusalem/Bethlehem April 16 was May 4.  My EA experience here has included many happenings outside my comfort zone.  The activities of my first day off continued the stretch.  I had found the information about alternative tours and lodging on the web. 

I took the bus to Jerusalem, found a taxi driver willing to call the family where I would be staying and willing to bring me to the location. 
Because of the rules of the occupation, a couple of the first drivers I asked were unwilling to take me.

The location of the Mashni family home is in Shu’fat, East Jerusalem.  You can download wonderful maps from United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to track my travels.

I enjoyed the yard and flowers.  Seeing the care given to the flowers reminded me of my mother's garden in Muskegon, MI.










When I arrived, a “guard cat” was on duty at the top of the stairs.  





Once inside this shaded screened in porch and while drinking tea, we began conversations to get to know each other.  The parents in this family are both teachers and both their grown daughters are employed.  The daughters still live at home as is traditional in Muslim families.






I would love to be able to copy the decor of their coffee, and side tables.  Like me, this family identifies themselves as avid readers and it shows in their choice of tables.







More conversations and then together we ate wonderful dinner of traditional Palestinian food.  The main dish was Maqluba.  If I have it correct, its meaning is upside down and refers to the process of serving.  








The family carefully explained the rest of the food.


 It was the BEST food I have had so far!


After dinner, we gathered in a back room and continued out conversation.  The tradition of this family is to gather here and have after dinner coffee.

I now know how to make and serve Middle East coffee. 

The froth is very important!












Sorry about how bad my hair looks, call it my new sun hat hair style.









My living quarters were beyond my needs, spacious and equipped.  I will be glad to share contact information.










Breakfast eggs toast and the trimmings were delicious.  I found a new favorite food, Labaneth.  It is a white cheese spread with just the right amount of pepper pieces in it.







After breakfast and back on the screened porch, more dialogue on religion and the political realities in the area.

Upon leaving, I walked about two blocks, found the bus stop and rode back to Jerusalem near the old city where I had started my journey to the home stay.