YOUR September peace mail from the West Bank
I was recently stationed as an Ecumenical Accompanier (EA) with the EAPPI program in the West Bank, where I spent three months accompanying locals and monitoring and reporting human rights violations. During that time I saw some difficult things, but I also witnessed a new hope for the future. I am so grateful for your support which allowed me to be there, and I want to share some of my experiences with you.
On a winter afternoon on the hillsides south of Hebron, a cheerful and determined band of about a dozen West Bank residents – men, women and children - walked from their village to their agricultural allotment to plant a tree. A group of accompaniers, myself included, followed closely behind. When we reached the field, a few people tied banners of peace to the fencing while others began to dig a hole for the tree.
Standing a short distance off was a group of Israeli settlers from a nearby outpost close to a housing settlement. It is important to note that housing settlements and outposts in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal under international law. When the settlers saw our group, they called the Israeli army to the scene to intervene.
Six army jeeps, a police car and the civil administration vehicle arrived soon after in response to the settlers’ complaint of tree planting. The army reviewed the scene and did the only thing they could legally do - they declared the area a closed military zone. Soldiers briefly detained one Israeli man who was with us and sent the rest of us back home to the village.
Shortly after we returned home, a group of about thirty settlers came and stood on the porches of the resident’s houses. This retaliation from these settlers was very gentle, I think because so many international accompaniers were there, including those of us from EAPPI. Eventually the army encouraged the settlers to leave and return to their nearby homes. This is daily life in the West Bank.
Some weeks later, during my final day "in the field" I was at a much happier event - the opening of the new Community Centre in Hebron. There had previously been a community centre on the land but it was demolished by the army. The event was attended by community members and Jewish friends.
That day, as Palestinians and Jews bent down together to plant 1,000 trees it was a reminder that not all Israelis or Jewish people support the occupation in the West Bank, rather that there are many people on both sides of the ‘Green Line’ who look forward to a just peace for Israel and Palestine.
Now I am home in Sydney. I know things are pretty grim in the West Bank, but I have hope. While people continue to peacefully protests, resist, and rebuild - with the support of accompanying internationals - I believe things can change. As our stories of joint action against injustice, persistent gentle resistance and rebuilding reach more people, it will make it difficult for the Israeli government and its supporters to pretend that these things aren't happening.
Thank you for your prayers and support of the EAPPI program.
Since EAPPI first began in 2002, almost 1,800 EAs have served with the program. At any time there are 25-30 Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs), like Aletia, in the West Bank offering a protective presence and witness.
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The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) was created in 2002 by the World Council of Churches. The need came from local church leaders seeking to create an international presence in the West Bank to monitor human rights violations.
EAPPI's mission is to witness life under occupation, engage with local Palestinians and Israelis to pursue a just peace, and to change the international community’s involvement in the conflict by urging them to act against injustice in the region.
Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) offer a protective presence for vulnerable communities as they monitor and report human rights abuses. EAs join with Palestinians and Israelis who work in nonviolent ways for peace, as well as supporting local churches. When EAs return home, just like Aletia, they use their first-hand experiences to open the eyes of the world to the realities of the occupation in the West bank, and campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Your support is making a difference
- $4,200 can support a comprehensive training course in Melbourne for up to 10 potential EAs to prepare them for deployment to the West Bank.
- $13,942 – can pay for the living and working expenses and also the coordination fees for one EA.
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