Friends International Center in Ramallah December 2009 Newsletter

Friends International Center in Ramallah December 2009 Newsletter

As the situation in the West Bank and Gaza continues to deteriorate, we look for constructive ways to contribute to this worsening local situation. Some become involved in the distribution of food to those that food and other essentials of life that have none due to the Israeli imposed embargo on Gaza and the deteriorating situation in general. Others choose the way of development and education. The Friends Center continues its presence as a place where people can meet and exchange ideas and challenge each other to new ways of thinking, being, and acting.

From the Program Coordinator

As the situation in the West Bank and Gaza continues to deteriorate, we look for constructive ways to contribute to this worsening local situation.  Some become involved in the distribution of food to those that food and other essentials of life that have none due to the Israeli imposed embargo on Gaza and the deteriorating situation in general.  Others choose the way of development and education.  The Friends Center continues its presence as a place where people can meet and exchange ideas and challenge each other to new ways of thinking, being, and acting.    

This past weekend, November 27-30, Muslims around the world celebrated Eid al-Adha (the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice).  In Gaza, many celebrated in the cold and without much food and glitter due to the destruction of the war on Gaza (Operation Cast Lead) in December 2008/January 2009 and the continuing Israeli embargo.  

Most of the destruction caused by Operation Cast Lead had not been rebuilt.  Many are still living in the shadow of their destroyed homes, which is becoming more and more difficult as the heart of winter approaches.  The continuing destruction of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem is causing hardships for all who are affected.  Land confiscation, the destruction of Palestinian homes, especially in Jerusalem, and the continuing building of illegal settlements in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, are only a few of the reminders of Israel’s ongoing military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  

The past weeks President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have been engaged in a tug-of-war concerning Israel’s building of new settlements on land confiscated from Palestinians.  President Obama has compromised on some of his previous demands.   

Click here to read an article by Zvi Bar’el in Ha’aretz
Click here to read an article by Nir Hasson
Click here to read what some EU diplomats are saying.

November 29 marked the UN Partition of Palestine, Click here to read The Human Rights Newsletter by Mazin Qumsiyeh about the UN Partition Day
The first weekend in November, I attended a European and Middle East Section (EMES) of FWCC (Friends World Committee on Consultation) Peace and Service Consultation in Brussels organized by the General Secretary of EMES.  It was a time of sharing our work with others and looking into the future of what Quakers can do in Europe and elsewhere.  The Ramallah Friends Meeting is one of two Quaker Meetings in the Middle East, the other being in Brumana, Lebanon.  Both Quaker Meetings are part of EMES.       

From the Friends International Center in Ramallah

The Friends Center has been a busy place during the month of November.  More and more individuals are visiting the Center.  We want Quakers from around the world and others to feel welcome at the Friends Center and that it is their home away from home.  However, it is important to call or e-mail ahead of time because the gate to the Meetinghouse is always locked when there is no public event.  You can find the phone number, e-mail address and directions to the Meetinghouse and Friends Center on the website.

During the month of November, we hosted three concerts at the Meetinghouse.  All were very well attended.  The Meetinghouse was filled to its capacity — 100 persons sitting on benches plus 30 on chairs, that we moved in for each concert.  

On November 10 we hosted Autumn Winds, a chamber music concert preformed by four teachers of the Barenboim-Said Foundation. 


 Ilia Karadjov, Flute
 Anna Bardeli, Clarinet
Ben Greenberg, French Horn
Barbara Ann Schmutzler, Bassoon  

On November 12, David Kadouch gave an extraordinary piano concert.  


On November 22, we hosted the 42-student orchestra of the Kamandjati Center.  


 The Kamandjati Youth Orchestra 

We hosted a number of groups, including the Swedish Theological Institute International pastors and church workers group, as well as the Friends of Sabeel Witness group.  


The Swedish Theological Institute in Jerusalem brings the group of international pastors and church workers to FICR to hear Jean Zaru and others give lectures. 

Many of you know the Israeli organization New Profile.  Click here to read an update from New Profile

From the Ramallah Friends Meeting

Ramallah Friends are beginning to prepare for Christmas. Already we began the Christmas season by marking the First Advent on November 29.  Young Friends met on Saturday to decorate the Conference Hall, adjacent to the Ramallah Friends Meetinghouse.  To have a decorated Christmas tree helps us to get into the spirit of Christmas and to remember the central message of Christmas:  Peace on Earth: Goodwill to All.  We hope that this Christmas season and the Christmas celebrations will be a time of hope and renewal for all religious traditions.    


Rauda Khouriya working with Young Friends as they decorate the Christmas tree. 

Ramallah Friends are continuing to prepare for the Centennial of the Ramallah Friends Meetinghouse. March 6, 1910 was the dedication of the Ramallah Friends Meetinghouse, although there had been a Quaker community in Ramallah for sometime prior to that.  On March 6, 2005 the Meetinghouse was rededicated after it and the Annex were renovated due to a lengthy time of non-use of the property due to it having fallen into disrepair.  The Centennial will remember to work and witness of Quakers in Palestine and look ahead for opportunities the next one hundred years.  Many of you have expressed interest in coming here during the week of March 5-14 or at some other time during 2010.  We look forward to you being with us at some point next year and trust that it will be a time of inspiration while you are here and an opportunity to learn more about Quaker work in Palestine as well as the joys and challenges we face in this land, so you can take this information back to people in your Meeting and community.  

Some events have already been scheduled: 

Friday, March 5 at 3:00pm – A walking tour to learning about the architecture of the Ramallah Friends Meetinghouse and other old buildings in the old city of Ramallah
Saturday, March 6 at 7:00pm – A concert in the Ramallah Friends Meetinghouse
Sunday, March 7 at 10:30am – Meeting for Worship in the Meetinghouse
Wednesday, March 10 at 6:00pm – A presentation and discussion of Quaker work in Palestine

We will keep you informed of additional events that will be planned in 2010 in future FICR newsletters or you can e-mail Sonia for information:

We very much enjoyed the visit of Arlene Kelly. Arlene is the Treasurer of the FICR Steering Committee.  She is also the newly appointed Clerk of the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee) Board of Directors.  We appreciate all the time and effort Arlene is putting in for the Friends Center.


Jean Zaru puts up the Charter for Compassion in Arabic and English in the Ramallah Friends Meetinghouse. 

Jean Zaru, Clerk of Ramallah Friends Meeting was invited by Karin Armstrong to be one of the Twelve Counselors to meet in Geneva and write the Charter for Compassion.  You can read more about the Charter for Compassion – how it came about and how the use of it is being encouraged by going to the website:

(Click here to read about the Charter for Compassion)
November 15 was chosen as the date to unveil the Charter for Compassion.  Sites where the Charter for Compassion is displayed are chosen very carefully by a committee.  In Ramallah, the Charter for Compassion is displayed at the Ramallah Friends Meetinghouse, the Friends International Center in Ramallah, and the Ramallah Friends Schools.  Other institutions have requested to display it, but have not received the permission to do so.      


Sabeel Board and Assembly meeting held at FICR.  Rev. Naim Ateek, founder and director of Sabeel is at the right center side of the table.  Zaru Zaru, a founding member of Sabeel and one of the Vice-Presidents of its board is at the end of the table.

From the Occupation: Monthly Action Focus:

The Right to Enter (RTE) Campaign continues its focus on the responsibility of third states concerning the matter of Right to Enter/Re-Enter the oPt (occupied Palestinian territory) via one of the entry ports Israel controls.  The Campaign continues to call on third states to assume their responsibility in enforcing human rights and international law in a situation of military occupation.  
The Campaign continues to collect the names of persons – Palestinians and Internationals who have been denied entry at one of the ports Israel controls (Ben Gurion airport or one of the bridges across the Jordan River from Amman).  If you are a person who has been denied entry or know of someone who has been denied entry, please contact Anita Abdullah at  

Due to the fact that there is no clear policy for denial of entry, a person is allowed to enter via one of the ports controlled by Israel at the discretion of the Israeli immigration official.  The denial of entry is random.  People continue to be given a one-week visa, a new trend and alternative to being denied entry completely.  
For more information on “Right to Enter/Re-enter” go to

NOTE:  In the FICR Newsletter Archive on the website, previous newsletters are all available.  

Kathy Bergen
Program Coordinator