Suffering in the Holy Land
In March this year, Synod General Secretary the Rev. Dr Andrew Williams joined a church leaders delegation to the Holy Land.
The trip was primarily intended as an act of solidarity with the Christian community and to better inform the prayers and advocacy for peace of member churches.
The delegation was confronted with daily impacts of the occupation on the lives of Palestinians.
“Our sisters and brothers in Palestine shared with us their intolerable situation of dispossession and occupation,” said Dr Williams. “But what was most difficult to hear was their lack of hope that anything would be done about it.”
On their return the delegation reported about the Palestinians’ ongoing loss of land and security caused by the illegal Israeli settlements (International Committee of the Red Cross, “What does the law say about the establishment of settlements in Occupied Territories?”) in the West Bank, which now are home to 500,000 settlers.
The delegation also reported Palestinians continuing to loose land from the route of the separation wall and various complex administrative decisions of Israel.
“We met with communities separated from their traditional farming lands by the wall, and families divided. The wall often prevents access to traditional sources of water for farming and general living,” said Dr Williams.
Despite the route of the wall being declared illegal by the International Court of Justice ( “International court of Justice finds Israeli barrier in Palestinian territory is illegal” , UN News Centre), its construction has gone on unabated, with grave consequences for Palestinians accessing employment, land, education and medical facilities.
The delegation was also confronted with stories of house demolitions and the difficulties of life caused by roadblocks and checkpoints.
The delegation reported that, despite the challenges, they were inspired by the resilience of the families and communities they met. Many people they met resisted the ways of violence and called for justice and peace — Israeli, Palestinian and internationals.
The delegation was guided through Hebron by Miriam Pellicano, an Australian volunteer with the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). Miriam has now returned to Australia and has been sharing her experiences with churches around Australia.
What you can do?
- Ensure you include time with Palestinians on your pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
- Consider joining an EAPPI team or hearing from a returned volunteer about their experiences;
- Be in touch with Rick Smith, a current Australian EAPPI volunteer, or Twitter: @cleverick
- Sign a petition asking for Australia to support Palestine at the United Nations