Saturday, June 22, 2013

Walking the Psalms

A Placement Visit

EAPPI gives us the chance to visit two other placements while we are on assignment.  On June 18, 19 and 20 I visited the South Hebron Hills team whose apartment is in Yatta (a city of 100,000) but their work is in the surrounding, mostly shepherding, villages. 

Living the Psalms

My time in this placement visit was a welcomed change from peeping horns of Bethlehem Taxis.  Being in this open country, seeing people live like I have imagined people in the Bible living caused some insightful pondering as I walked the hills.

Jesus talked about the door of a sheep pen

Water and Life

Baking Bread in the ground in a cave

Standing in Solidarity with Shepherds

One of the important tasks of the South Hebron Hills team is providing protective presence for the shepherds.  Settlements, illegal under international law, continue to be built in many places even when newscasts indicate they are not.  Shepherds experience violence from settlers.  There are many reports available on settler violence.  It is terrible for Palestinians to live in fear of their lives at every turn. 
These ideological settlers state that God gave all the land to them.  They act in many ways to intimidate, injure and force the residents off their farms and lands.  Settlers are always armed and the army accompanies and supports all their actions.  It appears they have no laws.  Their actions would be crimes if committed in the United States.

Access to Grazing Land

Our first assignment each morning was to meet shepherds and walk with them.  The grass is better in the valley, but the settlers have claimed part of the land.  Settlers attack the shepherd on their own land if in the settler’s opinion they are getting too close to the settlement.  When internationals walk with the shepherd and sheep, the settlers are less likely to cause harm.  Our presence allowed the sheep to walk safely this close to a settlement.

In this very hot hilly area, sheep walk greater distances for grazing because of settler violence.


Up and Down These Hills is NOT an Easy Walk

A Toilet and an Arrest

With the help of an international aid organization, a shepherd had a new toilet placed on his property, there are no sewer options for these Palestinians.  A member of a nearby settlement decided it was an eyesore to their neighborhood, and called the authorities.  Before it was over, the toilet was confiscated and the shepherd arrested.

The day we visited, he had just returned after three days in jail.  He had been convicted, but I am not sure what the charges stated.  Even though he had not done anything wrong, he had to pay a fine.  The shepherd’s English speaking son said it is all so sad, but he used the term “hilarious” that a toilet on one’s personal property caused so much trouble.  He said he would be crying all the time if he could not look at it as hilarious and ridiculous.

What he finds distressing is that the children have seen and will see again, demolitions of their homes.  Many homes in this village are under demolition orders.  As settlements expand, the land nearby is confiscated via demolition orders.

Access to Education

In South Hebron Hills, one of the areas requires a UN Jeep to get the children safely through Israeli areas in order for them to get their education.

Pray for Safety for the Shepherds, 

Their Children and the Sheep!

Worship Prayer and Resistance

EAPPI Standing in Solidarity with the

 Christian Community in Palestine

It is my joy to continue to worship and stand in solidarity with Palestinian Christians.  After receiving good directions from the pastor via email, I walked less than 25 minutes and found the Baraka Presbyterian Bible Church of Bethlehem. 

I knew I would like this place when I saw their guard turtle yard decoration.  I collect turtles and I too have a guard turtle at my house. 

As we worshiped together, the singing was in Arabic, but an English-speaking person translated the sermon as I listened via an earpiece.  I now understand the joy of hearing the Scripture in my “mother tongue.” 

The congregation was welcoming.  In a conversation, I discovered that the brother and sister in law of the pastor work at Hope College in Holland Michigan.  It is a small world; God’s family is everywhere!

What a privileges God has allowed me to experience during my weeks here.  Worshiping with many different congregations is a weekly highlight. 

We have stood with others in hope as we celebrating mass, resisting the confiscation of church property taken in order to build the wall.

We end each busy week on Friday with a walk and prayer at the wall.  The memory of the faithful walking and praying at the wall will always be with me. 

Pray for a JUST peace in the Middle East!