In this issue:
- New Group of Ecumenical Accompaniers start their three month term
- Second edition of ChainReaction Magazine published
- Remembering Bethlehem this Christmas
A new group of Ecumenical Accompaniers arrived in town at the beginning of December. Having received their induction training, they have now moved to their placements. There are 25 accompaniers in the 15th group, with five staying on for a second term of three months. The group are from Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, South Africa, Ireland and the UK. If you would like to find out more about who they are, please visit our website: www.eappi.org and click on Accompaniers Reports.
Publications this month
The second edition of the EAPPI magazine, ChainReaction came out at the beginning of the month. The focus of this edition is on the events which occurred ‘while the world was watching Gaza’. To view the latest edition, please go to: www.eappi.org and click on ‘documents’ where you can download the first and second editions. To order any of our publications, please contact Gemma Abbs on: email@example.com.
Articles this month
Three new articles have been added to the website this month:
‘All things are possible’ by Jan Sutch-Pickard (UK)
‘Tale of a teacher in Hebron’ by Tess Woodcraft (UK)
‘Health care under occupation in Hebron’ by Tess Woodcraft
To view the above articles, please go to the Accompaniers Reports section of the website.
Remember Bethlehem this Christmas
Friends, as you sing this year of the ‘little town of Bethlehem’, please say a prayer for the residents of Bethlehem. The reflection below has been written by Ecumenical Accompanier, Marisa Johnson.
Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie…. In 2005 approaching Bethlehem from Jerusalem we cannot see the town at all – only the wall, the watchtower, and the brand new “terminal”. Many liken this to a border crossing or an airport terminal. Border crossings have two sets of guards, one for each of the countries either side of the border, and airports are places where people mostly mill around, and queue only at one point to be screened for security. When I went through “Bethlehem 300” for the first time last night I was strongly reminded of a modern prison I visited in my role as a Magistrate back home. No human being is in sight, and we have to pass, one by one, through a number of tall steel turnstiles – red light: wait – green light: pass. A disembodied voice barks instructions in a foreign language through a loudhailer. Corridor after corridor of whitewashed walls and glaring lights – scanners and metal detectors – all doing their automated work. Rooms with closed doors along the corridors where people can be taken for searches and questioning. Nowhere for the kind Israeli mothers and grandmothers who volunteer for Machsom (Checkpoint) Watch or international peace workers to observe what is happening to people.
How would Mary and Joseph fare if they were trying to get to Bethlehem today? Well, they were Jewish, so they would probably have Israeli citizenship, and therefore their own government would not allow them to go into a town that is under the administrative control of the Palestinian Authority, as this would be too dangerous for them. On the other hand they were local people living under occupation, so perhaps they were Palestinian, in which case their access to the town would depend on the colour of their identity card: blue – yes, can go in, but don’t stay too long, or you might find you’ve lost your entitlement to live in Jerusalem; green – you can go in, but it will be very hard to come out again if you don’t have a permit to travel outside of the town, even if you need urgent health care. Perhaps Jesus would be one of the 36 babies Roni Hammermann, founder member of Machsom Watch, told us were born at checkpoints since September 2000. I hope he was one of the 70% who survived.
On Christmas morning, at dawn, I will join an inter-faith Peace Prayer Pilgrimage. We shall meet at 6am and form a circle outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Then we will walk to Jerusalem, by the Western Wall, to the Al Aqsa Mosque, where we will once again form a circle and offer prayers for true peace and justice to be born in this land at last. Please join us in thought and prayer, light candles of hope for those who are trying to bring about change, and for those who are too angry, damaged, hurt and frightened to see that peace cannot come from violence and force, but only from forgiveness and healing.
For more information on the EAPPI and photos: www.eappi.org
For more information on the WCC: www.wcc-coe.org
The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) supports Palestinians and Israelis working for peace by monitoring and reporting violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, offering protection by accompanying local communities in daily activities, and by advocating with churches for a peaceful end to the Occupation. The programme, which began in 2002, is coordinated by the World Council of Churches (WCC). The WCC is a fellowship of 347 churches, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. Its office is in Geneva, Switzerland.