A party of twelve people from the Ripon Deanery have just returned after experiencing life first-hand in the occupied West Bank of Palestine, staying in the town of Beit Sahour, Bethlehem.
The group, led by Revd Alison Askew, Incumbent of Kirby-on-the-Moor, Cundall w Norton-le-Clay & Skelton-cum-Newby, visited the main pilgrimage sites, walking the Via Dolorosa and sharing in worship and fellowship at the Forefathers’ Orthodox Church.
But they also took time to see first-hand what life was like for Palestinians. They say they experienced check-point delays and visited shops close to the twenty foot high concrete separation wall. (Pictured lower right is Clare Anastas whose house and shop is surrounded on 3 sides by the 20 foot high separation wall. She is virtually cut off.)
“Through our visits and conversations with local people we gained a real insight into the daily struggles and privations faced by the Palestinian people”, said Alison. “Many of the discriminatory and punitive actions taken by the Israeli government against the indigenous population are in complete contravention of UN resolutions.
“We were deeply shocked and saddened by much of what we saw and yet were equally encouraged by some amazing projects that we visited.”
Christians in the Holy Land now number less than 1% of the total population. Life is so difficult for them that many decide they can no longer stay in their own land.
The group took gifts to Jeel al Amal boys home in Bethany. They also sponsored four olive trees through the Olive Tree Campaign giving hope to farmers whose land and livelihoods are at risk.
In addition, they learned about and gave a donation to The Tent of Nations, a farm and project working for peace and reconciliation.
“Daoud, the farmer, who has suffered the destruction of his trees, the blockading of the road leading to his farm and numerous challenges to his rightful ownership as well as physical beatings states ‘We refuse to be enemies’, “ Alison added.
It is hoped to run a similar trip next year to strengthen links and show support for Palestinian Christians.