Thursday, 23 August 2007

Wall of Hostility reflection

A delegate from the conference has just published a reflection on his local peace fellowship's website. He tells yet more personal stories of how the occupation is affecting people's lives - including a lady he met at Qalandiya checkpoint who was from Imwas (Emmaus).

Monday, 20 August 2007

Palestinian footballers denied entry

On September 8th England will play Israel in a football friendly at Wembley. At the same time, the Palestinian U19 team was meant to be touring the country. However, I've just heard today that the Foreign Office have refused them entry visas to the UK.

It looks like the reason may be because the current situation in Gaza might prompt the footballers to claim asylum in the UK. Or, that Israel will make it difficult for them to re-enter the country (it was already making it hard for them to leave in the first place) and they would be stuck as refugees here, or somewhere else. You can find more information here.

The British government needs to wake up on this issue. The whole point of the tour was to demonstrate that Palestinians actually exist (something that many Brits won't be aware of) and also to enable the team to get some training and fixtures that they can't have in their own country thanks to Israeli policies.

Israel's match is of course still going ahead. Me and another Sabeel delegate are planning to take part in a vigil near Wembley a couple of hours before the match. Further information about that is here.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

A report and a video

Just found out that Sabeel's report on the conference is now online. Brings back a lot of memories!

Also, this video's been posted on youtube by the Free Palestine movement. As well as looking at the images, listen to the words of the song too - it tells the story.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Hebron evictions

Lots of news in the press today about the Hebron evictions - like this article on Haaretz (an Israeli news source) - weird to think that it's only 2 weeks since we were there. On the BBC site, there's a slideshow of images from the eviction. Looking through them I was struck by this photo because the woman bears an uncanny resemblance to the settler woman who attacked us. I've no idea if it is her, but I suppose the vindictive side of me wishes that it was - just so she could have a taste of what it's like to be arrested. That's not very Christian of me I suppose!

Sunday, 5 August 2007


One of the speakers at Fun in the Sun spoke on Tuesday evening about compassion, based on Matt 9:35-36
"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."

He began by emphasing "all the towns and villages" - making the point that in real-life Israel this would be quite a mission, and the text doesn't do it justice. His mention of Israel caught my attention, as he's American and I wasn't sure what his viewpoint was. But then he went on to speak about the word 'compassion' and the fact that it was a new word, coined by the writers of the gospels. It means an intense emotion - a desperation for God to come and change things - and that genuine compassion occurs rarely in our lives.

I don't know about other people who took part in the conference, but this is the exact feeling I've come home with. A compassion for the Palestinian people, for a country that's broken and whose population is divided. The really difficult thing (and the thing I'm struggling most with) is what to do with this feeling and being the most effective. It's a massive challenge.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

The other side

I wasn't entirely sure if going on a Church holiday within 12hours of getting back from the conference was a good idea. It certainly didn't seem like it when I was saying goodbye to those in the team who were heading off to Galilee once the conference was over. But, now that I'm actually home properly, it seems like it was a good plan - for a variety of reasons.

Those that know me know that I have a tendancy to talk, ad nauseum, about any topic that's caught my attention. Also, to quote my year 3 primary school teacher "Elizabeth is not always aware that she has lost the attention of her audience". So actually having a captive audience of 500 people who I could talk to in rotation was a good thing. I pity the people who sat with me at meals on the first couple of days, because I was still rather raw and probably came across as a bit of a nutter! But having the space to worship, pray and reflect was really good - I hadn't realised how much I would need to process.

Two women had returned from Israel just the day before me, and I was naturally keen to catch up with them and share experiences. They'd been studying at an intensive Biblical Hebrew camp - at a kibbutz outside Jerusalem. So they were officially "on the other side". But what was interesting was that they felt that they were only seeing half the story. They were there for 6 weeks, and although the went into the city, that was as far as their experience of Arab culture got. Also, many of the others studying with them were American, mostly seminarians and Christian zionists. Hearing the zionist views made them feel uncomfortable. In Britain, we rarely come into contact with zionists - unless you happen to move in those circles. Our press is relatively unbiased (at least compared to the US press) and certainly left-wing papers like the Guardian and Independent promote the Palestinian cause regularly.

Other positive things included talking to people within the leadership of the church about some of my experiences and having a chat with some friends who make documentary films who are already keen on making one in Palestine. It's just so difficult knowing what things to say when, and how much to share. The last thing I want to do is lose my audience before I've had a chance to make a difference!