Hello from Yanoun! This is my first post as a participant on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel; an international programme run by the World Council of Churches. For the next three months I will live here with a team of five colleagues from around the world (specifically Belgium, Brazil, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland) and hope that this blog will give some insight into the experience.
Founded in 2002 EAPPI advocates for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law and implementation of UN resolutions.
Yanoun is an agricultural village of around 80 residents split between its lower and upper parts, which are connected by a single road, sat in the North East of the occupied Palestinian territories. It is tranquil, pretty and fertile and reportedly home to the tomb of the biblical prophet Nun; the site of which is marked by a Mosque that sadly now sits in disrepair.
Until relatively recently the population was larger and its active life more lively. Life in Yanoun has become harder since hundreds of Israeli settlers annexed the hills that the local community claims ownership to and used to cultivate crops and graze cattle on. In 2002 Settlers, accompanied by the Israeli army, entered the village and drove out the majority of the population by force.
With international support, the people of Yanoun returned to their homes, however their numbers have dwindled in the face of repeated settler harassment and violence (up to and including attacks on villagers as they harvested olives this summer), as well as army restrictions on building and farming that strictly limits the access of to their land. Since 2003 EAPPI has maintained a constant presence in Yanoun in order to show solidarity with and support the vulnerable community here to resist the occupation.
So what is Ecumenical Accompaniment ? The World Council of Churches, who own the programme welcomes participation from people of all faiths and beliefs, including myself, and globally EAPPI is an interdenominational initiative between at least 65 denominations and a further 70 christian and peace agencies. Ecumenical Means ‘the whole inhabited earth’. Accompaniment is a component of peace work that entails deterring and monitoring Human Rights violations by providing an active physical presence of civilians, often international, expressing solidarity with local communities affected by conflict and reporting experiences back to the wider world to mobilise support for peace efforts.
EAPPI Group 46 Team Yanoun
In the EAPPI context this means living in a Palestinian community on the West Bank, (which, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, has been occupied by Israel since 1967), for three months, experiencing life under occupation. In my case I am stayin in Yanoun. We will support Palestinians and Israelis working for a just peace as well as bearing witness and sharing our experiences from the ground to inform others at home about the reality of occupation and what they can do to help end it.
The nearest large city to Yanoun is Nablus, and some of the our duties for our team will entail liaising with Churches and NGOs there, as well as the An Najah University. We also cover both the immediate spread of villages within the larger Nablus Governorate and the Jordan Valley, a rich and beautiful area that actually makes up around a third of the land within the West Bank, and which presents a whole other set of challenges and issues to tackle.
I look forward to sharing some stories from this time on this blog and most importantly, to highlighting the stories of individuals and communities living the day to day reality of this conflict and this occupation. At this time I am reminded of one of my favourite quotes, from the Mennonite Jean Paul Lederach in his text ‘the Moral Imagination’. These words will accompany me on this journey.
“Reach out to those you fear. Touch the heart of complexity. Imagine beyond what is seen. Risk vulnerability one step at a time.”