CPT Delegation Israel and Palestine August 2017


When people with direct experience of the struggle against the Israeli occupation speak, the challenge to do something in response can be overwhelming. I was unprepared for every story I heard but I understand that we grow when we thrust ourselves into the unknown. Some experiences just don’t leave you alone, attaching themselves to you, like a recurring loop in your consciousness. Here, I share some of the truths I experienced as a participant on a CPT delegation. I hope this inspires and challenges you to go and take a look for yourself.

This delegation was well structured and led by Amy from the German Mennonite Church in Pennsylvania. The days were long, hot and tiring both emotionally and physically. Each member took it in turns to share their reflection at the end of each day, we also had a mind, body and soul check in. This was a very helpful time as emotions ran high and we supported one another.
The first half of the delegation was based at a hostel in the Arab quarter of the old city in Jerusalem and the second half at the CPT apartment in Hebron.

The delegation was arranged so that we heard from different perspectives on the Israel/Palestine situation. Israeli Jews, Palestinian Christians and Muslims provided us with hospitality. And we visited a mosque and attended both a Christian service as well as a Jewish Shabbat service.

Visiting Sabeel, a Christian Liberation Theology Centre, we met Cedar, born in Haifa in 1935. She recalled how people of different ethnicities and faiths, lived together until the human Nakba (catastrophe) in 1948. Her family were amongst 700,000 – 900,000 Palestinians who were forcibly expelled or fled in fear, from their homes, in the areas that became the state of Israel. From Haifa, people fled to Lebanon on boats and others to Nazareth whilst the Zionist militia shot at their backs. This, she described as an Identity Nakba.

She explained how, once the conflict began, she and many other Palestinian Christians began to experience a theological Nakba, losing their Christian identity. She returned to her faith once she realised how skewed the western theology brought by the missionaries had been, whereby the Palestinians had no part in the promised land.

We also heard from Military Court Watch who monitor the treatment of children in Israeli military detention. It is barbaric that children as young as seven are handcuffed and blindfolded and sometimes held for weeks, accused of throwing stones, without access to parents or a lawyer.

Tamar, a Jewish tour guide and history scholar took us to Lifta, a village in Jerusalem, abandoned when people were driven out and feared for their lives, during the Nakba. We saw many derelict houses where people had once lived in peace. Tamar read an incredibly powerful first person account from the book; ‘One Country’ about life in Lifta before the Nakba. I could imagine people inhabiting the place, living with mutual respect towards their neighbours and this made the terror of the Nakba all the more disturbing.

Tamar guided us through the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in West Jerusalem. She was incredibly knowledgable and explained in detail the horrific plight of the Jewish people in Europe in the 1930s and 40s as the Nazi regime sought to remove the Jewish people from the land through violence and terror. I can see parallels between this sad history and what the Israeli regime is now doing towards the Palestinians.

Amos, our Jewish tour guide, took us to meet his friend, Sheikh Sayah Al Tur, an Israeli citizen and elder of the the village of Al-Araqib. We listened intently, sitting on the floor of a large Bedouin tent whilst the Sheikh passionately shared his stories. The Bedouin are a persecuted minority and their way of life has been destroyed by the occupation, their lands confiscated, despite documentation from the Ottoman era. Demolition of unrecognised Bedouin villages is a central Israeli policy aimed at removing the indigenous Palestinian population from the Negev and transferring them to townships to make room for the expansion of Jewish Israeli settlements. This village has been demolished 122 times.

Since our visit, the Sheikh has been imprisoned, found guilty of trespassing on his own land

Israel is a wealthy, resource rich state and yet the Bedouin are forced to live in developing world conditions, denied access to electricity, water, gas and yet expected to contribute both their labour and taxes. The inequality is a scandal.

Being struck by the resilience of the people and the local champions we met, I wondered about the people we didn’t meet, those that struggle to find any purpose to their existence. I found this day disturbing.

We visited Aida Refugee Camp and watched a film, ‘We Have a Dream to Live Safe’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUi3bxsCwUE, I reflected on the difference between my children’s life and life for the young people in the camp. There is no comparison between what these young people have to endure on a daily basis and the lifestyle of my children’s upbringing and yet the children looked just like mine did at that age. Then again, the 18 year old Israeli soldiers also bear a strong resemblance to my sons. None of this makes any sense.

The experience of settlers on segways, armed and aggressive towards our Palestinian guide Fairuz from Grassroots, made me feel angry and I don’t know how she remained so calm.

Separate road systems, water in plenty, walls, check points, hostility, apartheid. Children throwing stones, parents feeling helpless, oppression everywhere and yet, there are some who deny its existence.

We had so many experiences and visited many more places. For the full trip report please read separate blog Here

The world is well prepared to win the war, but not well prepared to win the peace (Marie Dennis)


Encountering a Retreat at The Northumbria Community

Motivational Gifts Retreat – February 2016

Curious to encounter the Northumbria Community and a desire to understand myself more deeply, I booked onto the motivational gifts retreat. A time for reconnection and reflection.
Reading the book Given for Life, A guide to motivational gifts by Andy Raine in preparation for the retreat was really helpful and the content of the retreat made a lot more sense.
Having wandered for a few years I had begun to feel drawn back, to take a fresh look at what I’d previously thought I had known. I had no idea who would be leading the retreat and upon arrival I was delighted to see Andy Raine. This resonated with my desire to look back and reflect.
I had met Andy several times in 1981/2 in Darlington when I was 15 years old and although he couldn’t remember me, I certainly remembered him. At that time, my life had been significantly impacted by the testimonies of Michael Cullen and Roddy Geoghan. That evening, drawn from the basket of member’s names to be prayed for, were Michael and Annette Cullen!
But who am I and what have I been given with which to give? How can I use what’s been given to me if I’m all jumbled up on the inside? Who am I when everyone else has gone home? This retreat was the starting point of a new journey of personal understanding. This wasn’t about nostalgia, but rather, a serious reflection and sense making of the past in order to look to the future.
Andy’s eclectic style of delivery and his use of retro props to explain the seven motivational gifts were both engaging and clear. Whilst I didn’t always understand all that Andy brought (and he brought a lot), it didn’t seem to matter. What mattered was stepping into the unknown and taking a closer look at myself and what motivates me to do stuff. Holding difficult and courageous conversations with myself and identifying the things I am afraid to believe about myself.
It’s not about being categorised, labelled or put in a box. It’s about questioning and unearthing who you are and why you are drawn to do what you do. And so, I’ve settled on ‘Mercy/Server’ for the moment anyway. This helped me to begin to question and understand who I am and what I stand for. Having some insights into my motivations and embracing my gifts I can be more effective in what I have been called to do. Understanding my calling, well that’s a whole other matter but it is beginning to make some sense. The retreat was also a time to appreciate our differences and gifts and to know that we can all belong.
Andy followed up the retreat by passing on some prayers and commentary from ‘Celtic Benediction’ and ‘The Book of Creation’ by John Philip Newell, inspired by John Scotus, Eriugena’s essay on the seven days in Genesis.
Since the retreat, I have felt a push from the past and a draw to the future.



On Delegation in Palestine

Embarking on a CPT delegation was a decision made following two previous trips to Palestine. This visit was about trying to get an even closer look, together with getting a feel for the work of CPT and asking myself if I could imagine being part of a CPT team full-time.

A well-organised and thoughtful itinerary was led by Amy Yoder McLoughlin from Pennsylvania. We were a group of 13: mostly American, with one Canadian, and my partner Owen and I from the UK. The age range was 20-76.

The first half of the delegation was based at a hostel in the Arab quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem. The delegation began gently as we attempted to acclimatise to the heat, and got busier- we had a very full itinerary visiting many organisations and communities including Sabeel, Aida refugee camp and several Bedouin villages.

Every person and community was different, but certain traits linked them all: hospitality, openness and sumud (steadfast perseverance).. Everywhere we went, security and oppression continually curbed freedom and dissent. Being particularly apparent in Hebron, the location for the second week, where citizens are constantly monitored by soldiers from the rooftops as well as by many street patrols and at check points. We visited homes and heard difficult stories about the reality of life under occupation.

The walls, barriers and check points seem to be there, not for security, but to control and make the lives of the Palestinian people as difficult as possible so that they no longer want to live there. The apartheid state is visible, providing settlers with privilege and protection by the Israeli military, whereas the Palestinians are subjected to conscious cruelty, control and victimisation.

We accompanied the CPT team on check point monitoring, as children pass through them to make their way to school each morning. We assisted with mosque watch, counting people as they go to the mosque for Friday prayers, observing as Palestinians are subjected to dehumanising, aggressive bag and body searches. The team aims to witness and document as much as possible in CPT’s role as international observer.

There is nothing normal about the level of control inflicted upon the Palestinians, nor is there anything normal in the international indifference towards that suffering. We need more support for CPT and other peacemaking groups who want to make a difference there.

The days were long, very hot and exhausting, but we always had an end of day body, mind and soul check-in, and we took turns with a closing reflection. We volunteered for daily tasks, note-taking, photography, cooking, group care. Sometimes, I felt angry and confused as I tried to make sense of the dehumanising, oppressive regime that people are subjected to. There is no sense to be made of this degradation.


The Recent Cycle


Israel and PalestineTour 22nd December 2016 – 8th January 2017 Motivated by the dual desire for an adventurous time away and to be less ignorant about the history and political/humanitarian situation in Israel/Palestine, we embarked upon an 18 day trip over the Christmas and New Year of 2016-2017 that involved a 10 day cycle through Israel and […]

via Cycling Palestine 2017 by Louise and Owen — My Own Private Medicine by Owen Dempsey