A number of Greenbelters have at spent time in Palestine and Israel with the Quaker-run EAPPI project, observing, providing a presence, and helping Palestinians go about their daily life. Here, a long-time Greenbelt volunteer writes about their experience of being on the scheme and urges others to give time to it.
“Come and see…”; “please tell people back home…”; “no-one understands…”.
You get used to phrases like these in Palestine and Israel. While journalists do their best, it’s tough to get beyond the headlines. This beautiful place, this Holy Land, is filled with wonderful people, food, culture, scenery, music and much, much more besides. Yet there is a conflict and it is a harsh reality of daily life.
A good many years ago now, church leaders in Jerusalem called on the World Council of Churches to send observers from around the world to be a faithful presence in the West Bank and to stand alongside Palestinian and Israeli peace activists. The resulting programme – The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel – has been sending British and Irish volunteers to take part ever since.
Working in international teams with volunteers from across the world, the role is varied and interesting. At times it’s fun and exhilarating; at times it’s heartbreaking.
The role involves providing a ‘protective presence’ to school children, farmers and those trying to go about their daily lives in the midst of a conflict zone. With training provided both here in the UK and on arrival in Jerusalem, you’ll be ready to deal with what’s thrown at you. The aim is to provide protection by presence to vulnerable Palestinian communities, monitor human rights abuses, support Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, and advocate for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem
Almost more important is the role volunteers play on their arrival back to the UK. Engaging with local churches, journalists and politicians, the idea is to act on the words that so often get uttered by local people in Israel/Palestine: “tell people back home.” Reporting on the realities of life in the Middle East is an honour as well as a solemn duty. Telling the story of new friends to those thousands of miles away is a joy.
The EAPPI is a chance to spend three months in a place which will blow you away and probably steal part of your heart. It’s also a chance to put into action those values of solidarity, peace-making and bridge-building that we cherish each year as we come together at Greenbelt.
So, what’s the deal?
Well, the programme in the UK is run by our friends at The Quakers. And the closing date for this round of applications is 23 April 2019 to serve in the field in 2020. All expenses are covered. For more information and to download an application pack please see: quaker.org.uk/applyeappi
Applications are welcome from people of all faiths and none. This might just be the chance you’ve been waiting for to “go and see” for yourself.