Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Sabeel International Conference Moves to Taybeh

The conference participants moved from Bethlehem to Taybeh, a Christian Palestinian village close to Ramallah in the West Bank. Taybeh is well known for opening the first micro brewery in the Occupied Territories. Watch the brewery's story below.

However, the participants weren't relaxing having a beer during their stay in Taybeh. They volunteered to do various kinds of work for the local population. For eight hours they worked on painting, cleaning, and fixing houses in the village.

After a long day of hard work, the participants went back to the Taybeh Guesthouse and enjoyed an evening of Palestinian music and watched a reenactment of a traditional Palestinian wedding.

Take a look at a couple pictures we've uploaded below of the conference:

Below is a picture of a participant, Elizabeth walking through a checkpoint.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Weekend in the West Bank: The Sabeel International Young Adult Conference Continues

On Saturday, the participants visited the largest city in the West Bank, Hebron. Hebron is the only Palestinian city to have a settlement inside of it. Because of the presence of these settlers, movement of Palestinians is greatly restricted in the name of the settlers' security. Certain major roads are specified for use by Israelis only. The Temporary International Presence in Hebron counted 113 checkpoints, roadblocks, and closures inside of the city. Because of these restrictions, the Palestinian economy in Hebron has become strangled. Watch this short introductory video below.

One participant from the United States, Alexandra writes:

The city is not being protected, the soldiers are plainly there for inconvenience. Blocking exists down the shops hallways, closing stores, allowing settlements to throw trash and bricks at the people below, taking homes, all in the name of security!

I do not see security, I see the basic needs of life stripped and I see prisoners in their own town. I see children living in filth much worst than third living world countries.

To learn more about Hebron, browse through BTselem's publications regarding the city.

On Sunday, the participants attended church Beit Sahour, close to Bethlehem. After services, they had the opportunity to speak to local Christian families about the challenges they face living under occupation. One topic that was raised concerned water.

The scarcity of water is a major issue for Palestinians in the West Bank, particularly during the summer. Israeli citizens (those inside of Israel AND settlers in the West Bank) benefit from unlimited access to running water all year round consuming, on average, 280 liters a day. Palestinians, on the other hand, are able to utilize only 60 liters per a day. The World Health Organization recommends 100 liters per a day as the minimum quantity for basic consumption.

Israel has strong control over the area's water sources even though two of the major sources of Israel's water lie largely in the West Bank, the Mountain Aquifer and the Jordan River. Palestinians have a right to this natural resource and Israel has a responsibility as an occupying force to ensure that Palestinians receive it.

BTselem states:

The water shortage violates the basic human rights of Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories such as the right to health, to adequate housing, to equality, and to benefit from their natural resources. This harm results from Israeli policy, in effect since 1967, based on an unfair division of resources shared by Israel and the Palestinians.

Next the participants toured Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity. They enjoyed shopping and listening to a story of a collective act of nonviolent resistance demonstrated by the local population during the first Intifada. In response to the Israeli authorities' increase in taxes imposed on the people and the lack of services provided, the local population refused to pay and disposed of their blue identity cards issued by the Israeli government. In reaction, the Israeli government took all of the possessions of the protesters in lieu of their tax money. However, those who took part are still proud of this nonviolent act.

Tomorrow, the participants will be in Taybeh.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Update on the Conference! Watch videos and check out the organizations that participants are visiting!

The participants are still in Jerusalem and had the opportunity to listen to four very different Jewish Israeli organizations working for peace and justice.

The first organization, Rabbis for Human Rights, views their commitment to protecting the human rights of minorities and Palestinians as a religious one. They have called themselves "the rabbinic voice of conscience in Israel". The organization seeks to give voice to the Jewish tradition's concern for the 'stranger' and others vulnerable within society, and are bound by a Jewish responsibility to defy silent complicity. Check out what they do in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Participants also met with BTselem. Known for their accuracy, BTselem documents human rights abuses committed in the West Bank and Gaza and petition the Supreme Court to take action. BTselem is also known for their Camera Distribution Project which effectively gives Palestinians living under occupation a voice by providing them with cameras to document their lives. Check out some footage below!

After lunch, the participants stood in protest against the Israeli occupation with Women in Black. These brave Jewish Israeli women stand in silent protest in a public square every Friday at 1:00 pm with signs held high that call for the end of the occupation. Despite all kinds of insults hurled their way, they have maintained this tradition for over 20 years!

At the end of the day, the participants went on an ICAHD Tour. ICAHD stands for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. ICAHD opposes and resists a practice that Hillary Clinton understatedly described as "unhelpful" to the peace process which is the Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes in occupied territory. Check out this link about ICAHD's alternative tours.

Finally, the participants moved to Bethlehem for the night and will be going to a Palestinian city heavily impacted by the occupation, Hebron. It is the only Palestinian city with settlements INSIDE of its boundaries. Therefore, there is a strong if not suffocating Israeli military presence and Palestinian movement is greatly restricted within their own city limits.

Keep reading for reflections from participants about their trip to Hebron!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Update: The Second Day of the Sabeel International Young Adult Conference and a Message from a Participant!

The second full day of the Sabeel International Young Adult Conference began with a briefing regarding access and movement in the West Bank and Gaza by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). There are over 602 checkpoints and barriers restricting the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank.

After the briefing, the participants visited Ein Kerem, the home village of John the Baptist, at which a Bible study was led by Father Rafiq Khoury illustrating the relevance of John the Baptist’s life to Palestinian Christians’ lives today.

Next the participants took part in a Sabeel tradition, walking the Contemporary Way of the Cross, with Sabeel staff member Nora Carmi. The Contemporary Way of the Cross draws a parallel between the suffering of Christ and the suffering of the Palestinians living under restrictive Israeli measures. The first station was the site of a Palestinian village depopulated during the Nakba (1948). 480 Palestinian towns and villages were depopulated in 1948 and resulted in the dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

The following stations consisted of examples of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank: a checkpoint, settlements, and the Separation Wall. The last station was the tent of a woman, Um Kamel, who was pushed out of her home by Jewish settlers with the aid of Israeli soldiers in East Jerusalem. She was a refugee of 1948 and was made homeless again in November 2008. UNRWA had bought the land for her house to be built in 1956 from Jordan before the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem. Yet, the Israeli authorities somehow still found reason to throw her out of her home claiming legal authority.

Watch Um Kamel tell her story:

A Message from Hannah Carter:

Hi everyone,

Thanks for following us on the blog! It is just the end of the second full day here and it feels like we’ve been here for weeks. We have seen so much already, and heard so many stories…to summarize it all when I get back will be difficult. We began the week with a worship service in the Garden of Gethsemane and then walked the Stations of the Cross here in Jerusalem. Today we met with the UN, took our first trip into the West Bank, met with a refugee family and also visited the town where John the Baptist was born.

Needless to say it’s been an incredible experience so far and I can’t wait for the rest of it.

- Hannah

Check out the links to learn about what your friends and family members are seeing and keep messaging us!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Update: The First Full Day of the Sabeel International Conference

The first full day of the conference began with an opening worship held in the Garden of Gethsemane. Following the service, Bishop Munib Younan, the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land introduced the subject of the challenges facing Palestinian Christians today. He began with a short introduction regarding who the Palestinian Christians are and moved on to address three major concerns regarding this population.

The first concern discussed was the mass emigration of Palestinian Christians to Europe and the United States due to the economic hardships that the Israeli Occupation imposes on them.

The second concern regards the current unemployment rate of this population. Over 40% of Palestinian Christians are unemployed (a major reason for emigration).

The last issue addressed was the intensification of racism in Jerusalem.

After the lecture, the group went on a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem. The participants walked the Via Dolorosa stopping at the stations of the cross and ended their tour with a walk through the Armenian Quarter. Then the participants were given free time to wander the historic streets in smaller groups.

The day concluded with a movie, "East Side Story" directed by Muhammad Elattar. The movie documents the history of Jerusalem pre-1948 until today by beginning with the War of 1948 or the Palestinian Nakba and loss of Palestinian homes in West Jerusalem. The movie then proceeds to draw a parallel between the Nakba and the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967. Following the occupation, the Israeli authorities have made efforts to push the Palestinian population out of these areas and to create a strong Jewish presence there. These Jewish settlements and restrictions imposed on Palestinians are in contravention to International Law and the 4th Geneva Convention which stipulates that it is forbidden for an occupying force to transfer its own citizens into occupied territory or to confiscate or destroy the occupied peoples' private property. These Israeli actions constitute a second or ongoing Nakba for the Palestinians.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The 4th International Sabeel Young Adult Conference Begins Today!

This evening 38 young adult conference members arrived at the Knight's Palace in the Old City of Jerusalem for Orientation. Our participants include 8 local Palestinian Christians and 30 internationals from the United States, Canada, South Korea, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands.

For the next 10 days, these participants will be traveling around Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Galilee in order to learn about the Palestinian Christian population of these areas and the challenges they face under Israeli Occupation in the West Bank or as a marginalized people in Israel.

This blog will be updated daily with summaries of the conference day and reflections on the day from participants.

To keep in touch with Sabeel staff and participants during their journey, feel free to leave a comment on the blog!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More Home Demolitions in East Jerusalem

Yesterday, Israeli authorities demolished 3 Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is considered occupied land by the United States and Europe. The Fourth Geneva Convention clearly prohibits ANY destruction of personal property by the Occupying Power, yet according to an Israeli organization, over 24,145 Palestinian homes in all of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (Gaza, West Bank, and East Jerusalem) have been demolished since the beginning of the occupation in 1967.

These demolitions coincided with the International Day of Action Against Home Evictions and House Demolitions. A press conference was held at the protest tent in East Jerusalem in an attempt to raise international awareness regarding this issue.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), a Jewish Israeli organization, is also fighting against home demolitions. Watch this video below in which the head of ICAHD speaks about the work of his organization and the fundamental human right to shelter.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Watch this clip from Peace Now about their project, "Settlement Watch"

This clip reporting on Peace Now's work documenting settlement construction in the West Bank was aired on TV in Israel. Members of the group experience difficulty on the job when a settler reacts violently. Take a look.

Peace Now is the oldest Israeli peace movement founded in 1978. Peace Now's project called, "Settlement Watch" monitors and creates awareness regarding settlement construction and the implications of the construction. The organization views the settlements as an obstacle to peace and as detrimental to the moral fabric of Israeli society because the construction of settlements necessitates violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people.