YOUR November peace mail from Palestine
Last year I went to Palestine to serve with EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel) for three months. EAPPI brings together volunteers from around the world to live alongside communities under military occupation in Palestine and Israel, and to document human rights abuses. I want to tell you a little about my experience and share how your support is helping.
Every day many Palestinians work, go to school or have medical appointments in Jerusalem, and they need to pass through a series of checkpoints with Israeli officials and soldiers. As Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs), we work in pairs monitoring this process. Checkpoints to Jerusalem usually have two stages: the first involves a soldier in a booth checking a person’s permit to enter Jerusalem; the next step is to pass through a metal detector.
The checkpoint I monitored had lines for three booths, one of which was a humanitarian line for the elderly, children and pregnant women. Sadly, it can take between one to six hours to get through a checkpoint each day. It is frustrating and the result is people can’t get to work or appointments and children miss out on school.
One morning, only a single line was open and moving very slowly, and the humanitarian line was closed. I saw a sick, elderly man who had taken a seat on a garbage bin as the wait was too much for him. Others kept his place as they waited. I spoke with him and he explained that he had a specialist medical appointment and had a medical permit so he could pass through to meet the doctor on time. But it was of no use because he was stuck at the checkpoint. If he missed the appointment it would be many months before he could see the specialist. He looked frail and I wanted to help him.
As EAs, we have access to a phone number for a humanitarian hotline. You can call a soldier in the checkpoint and say that there is someone who needs to get through. I called and spoke with the soldiers and I explained the situation. I asked for the humanitarian line to open for this gentleman. At first it didn’t help, then I tried again, and finally on the third attempt a soldier came an opened the gate for this one man to pass through.
The gentleman was so grateful, he kept telling me “thank you, thank you, thank you.” I was glad I could help. I fear he may not have gotten through if we weren’t there to monitor the checkpoint. It was a good day.
Part of the job of an EA is to keep a record for the UN of how many people pass through the checkpoint and how many are rejected each day. We speak to those who are turned back and record the reason they were given. This is part of monitoring human rights. Some days you wouldn’t know if you were making a difference but people would often tell us that just being there meant the system would work better. Since we were watching, soldiers wouldn’t overstep their duties.
It takes a lot to keep Palestinians safe and your support of EAPPI and the medical care and job training programs in Gaza are a great help to the people living under occupation.
Isabella¹ (Ecumenical Accompanier)
¹Isabella's name has been changed to protect her identity
Download this Peace Mail in pdf
Your Support is making a difference:
$100 can go towards the cost of staff for recruitment, training and deploying Ecumenical Accompaniers to Palestine/Israel.
Appalled by the pain and injustice they were witnessing in their communities, local church leaders in Palestine and Israel came together to take action, and in 2002 established the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). Their vision was a just peace, where all people in Palestine and Israel could live with freedom, dignity and security based on international law and human rights.
Since the program was established, more than 1,800 international volunteers from 20+ countries have served as Ecumenical Accompaniers. EAPPI has more human rights monitors on the ground than any other organisation in Palestine and Israel.
EAPPI seeks to bring change through engaging individuals and groups through non-violence, to create a true and lasting solution to conflict.
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