Friends Meeting in Ramallah and FICR newsletter
Thanks to each of you who has written to us in the past few months. We have treasured your recent visits to the Meeting, we have savored the many follow-up conversations and we have taken your suggestions about ways to move forward with gratitude. As the joint Ramallah Friends Meeting/ Friends International Center in Ramallah October 12 planning date comes closer, we hope you will be interested in the ideas that have come forward from members of the Ramallah community and many of you.
Some of the suggestions center around specific kinds of activities such as developing small group InterFaith conversations around specific topics; hosting Friends in Residence to support the Meeting; offering a range of programs that focus on nonviolent resistance, continuing the Alternatives to Violence programs, facilitating discussions centering on the spiritual and theological foundations of the peace testimony, and working with the community. On Sunday September 1st, the Ramallah Friends Meeting joined churches in Palestine and around the world in praying for Peace in the Middle East
All of the suggestions have wanted us to spend more time going deeply into fewer offerings rather than doing many programs across a wider range. What has been most helpful in these suggestions, whether they come by conversation or by email, has been an affirmation that the Meeting and FICR were not two organizations but the Friends Meeting and its ministry. The Meeting is able to continue its witness and ministry thanks to your solidarity and support. That sense of things, along with the abundance of generously given ideas, will be held in the Light during the October meeting.
Some of the challenges that were placed before us during this past winter have found a resolution and for others, we will find the way forward. The Meeting now has a bank account which can receive and disburse funds; visitors to the Meetinghouse and Annex are welcomed two days a week when Hekmat is working, and on other days with prior arrangements either through email or phone call. The Meetinghouse and Annex have enjoyed the generous attentions of our volunteer groups in simple housekeeping tasks when they have visited. In addition, major and minor repair work on insulation, the roof, some walls and the irrigation system have been completed this summer.
The visa uncertainties that can accompany engaging long-term “internationals” or non-Palestinian citizens for an “on the ground” appointment have opened us to opportunities that we hadn’t seen before. We expect this to be another core piece of the work before us in October.
We have had dozens of groups and programs during this summer, including the Inter Faith Peace Builders, with many already prepared for the coming months. We will give you a full report on all of this in our Fall newsletter
Because so many of you have also expressed concern about the AFSC presence in Ramallah, we are including an update (below) from Patricia Sellick, Director of the AFSC Middle East office so you can begin to see how all of the Quaker pieces will fit together as this coming year unfolds.
”The American friends Service Committee has also had a chance to reappraise its work as it came to the end of a three year funding cycle for its Palestine Youth Program. Fortunate to have even more resources for the future, AFSC has been able to transform the program and extend it to include Palestinian youth living in Israel as well as Palestinian youth in the occupied Palestinian territory. The Jerusalem and Gaza offices will continue.
AFSC has been confident that the Ramallah Quaker (Friends) Meeting, the Friends Schools and the Al Amari Play center all are testimony to the presence of Quakers in Ramallah and has therefore taken the step of moving away from direct implementation of the program through AFSC staff to working in partnership with the Palestinian NGO Palvision to reach out to Palestinian youth living in the West Bank. This is consistent with Palestinian calls for international organizations to support the development of Palestinian organizations. The AFSC offices at Qayqab gardens have been returned to the Friends Schools and two of the three Ramallah staff are going to be able to continue employment with AFSC.”
As we prepare for the work ahead, we encourage all of you who are able to join worship every First Day morning at the Ramallah Friends Meeting at 10:30 and stay for hospitality and fellowship afterward. You will be joined by many Friends and fellow travelers, some volunteering long-term in Palestine, some working short-term in Ramallah, some coming to Palestine and Israel on pilgrimage, some coming home to visit family or old friends. You are likely to have a chance to get to know the next generation of Ramallah Friends and to reconnect with Friends you met years ago at an international Quaker gathering!
The work of the Spirit is slow and steady and the fruits are abundant and generously given. We are living into patience, forbearance, kindness and generosity and with great hope.
Jean Zaru, Clerk, Ramallah Friends Meeting
Deborah First, Clerk, FICR Steering Committee
Patricia Sellick, Director, AFSC Middle East