Preparing to bear witness

31 July 2018

Topics: "Link 2018" "nonviolent action" Palestine settler volunteer

An eye-opening week of training made Joana* more determined than ever to help families living under occupation in the West Bank. She spoke to us about why she joined the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), and the difference she hopes to make.

 
“Once I became aware of the situation in Palestine, and the human rights violations and injustices that were happening, I couldn’t turn a blind eye. I applied for this program because I believe as human beings, we all have an obligation to care for each other. I wanted to do something to care for those who are living under a heartbreaking and unjust occupation.

The first week of training was a huge eye-opener. To simulate the conditions we’d be living in as Ecumenical Accompaniers, we stayed in a remote area of country Victoria with six of us in a room.

We learnt about the historical context of the occupation, how to communicate in a team, how to handle conflict and how to move around in a hostile environment.

The most confronting and valuable part of the training was a day-long role-play. From the time we woke up we were on placement, interacting with the ‘Israeli Defence Force’, ‘Israeli settlers’ and ‘local Palestinians’. I found it very intimidating being confronted by soldiers, and heartbreaking seeing the conditions Palestinians live under and the harassment they face.

After this, I wondered if I could cope emotionally with the role. But I quickly realised that there was no way I could NOT go. I felt surer than ever that this was something I needed to be a part of.
When people feel abandoned, exhausted, hurt and scared, they can lose hope. As Ecumenical Accompaniers, we can help restore hope and build peace by showing those who are suffering under the occupation that they are not forgotten.
Our presence also helps to protect Palestinians from persecution in many situations, diffusing tension and forestalling violence.

Video:
“The most surprising and confronting part of the training to become an Ecumenical Accompanier was the role play, where I had to support the community through violent confrontations, care for traumatised children and witness a tear gas attack. These scenarios were emotionally challenging, but after I felt surer than ever that this is something need to be a part of.” Credit: Ben Littlejohn/Act for Peace
My partner, friends, family, colleagues and church community have all been incredibly supportive of my decision. Many came to the fundraising dinner I organised and donated items for the raffle and silent auction – helping to make the night a huge success.

The best part of the dinner was having a former Accompanier speak about her experiences and the reality of life in Palestine. Through the dinner, I raised awareness of the conflict with people who have since pledged to support me on my journey.

I don’t start my three-month placement until November, but already it’s been a wonderful experience.
I’ve realised just how kind people are and how much they are willing to give to help others. I think being an Accompanier will be an incredible learning experience and unbelievably humbling.
 

Video:
“The settlers take a big part of the land and water… We feel scared and afraid in our land.” Yasser, 70, South Hebron Hills. Credit: Ben Littlejohn/Act for Peace

Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel

Every day, persecution and human rights abuses destroy people’s lives and fuel conflict in the Holy Land. By taking part in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), dedicated volunteers spend three months being a protective presence for families living under occupation.

Their life-changing work includes monitoring checkpoints, accompanying children to and from school, reporting any violence or harassment and supporting acts of nonviolent resistance alongside Palestinians and Israelis.

Bear witness. Keep watch. Build peace. 

Are you a passionate and caring person who is committed to protecting people’s rights? To learn more about how your presence can help prevent injustice in the Holy Land, please visit www.actforpeace.org.au/EAPPI, email us at eappi@ncca.org.au or call us toll-free on 1800 025 101.
 

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