Salaam Shalom Peace

Right to water

Here is a 2011 video created by the Jerusalem Youth Parliament regarding Palestinians’ Right to Water. Click here.

Thirsty for Peace?

Is anyone thirsty?

How do you know?

Why are you thirsty?

What makes us thirsty? What is thirsty?

Looking at this photo that I took in December 2010 down the hill from East Jerusalem makes me feel thirsty.

A dry wadi/valley - East of East Jerusalem - 17 Dec. 2010 - Photo: Sherry Ann

Where do you go when you’re thirsty?

Some people like to go to the ocean or to the sea. I did that this winter when I was feeling really uptight and I wanted to relax. I was thirsty in a heart kind of way.

What is the sea? Or the ocean?

Here’s what three teenage girls said when they were asked this question in April 2011. They live just outside of East Jerusalem. They said:

One Girl:

The sea means the quiet, calm and great.

Deep, very nice, large and sea means to me beauty.

Her Friend:

The sea is deep

The sea is nice

The sea is wide

Their Friend:

The sea is nice, all people come to it to relax and don’t have noise and the sound of waves … For example: the Mediterranean Sea. The colors are formed I think by the color of sky.

Mediterranean Sea - Seen from Tel Aviv - 30 Dec. 2010 - Photo: Sherry Ann

In this story, four boys dreamed of going to the sea. Click here to watch the video and to see what happened.

What do you think? Does the sea in the story look like you expected? Were you surprised? Those boys live in the West Bank and are not allowed to go to the sea because the Israeli government is controlling the land and the water.

Here’s a video (click here) of the writing workshop near East Jerusalem with the three girls, their friends, and a few Ecumenical Accompaniers – dreaming about water and the sea.

Let’s imagine that the Israeli government will change its policies so that the young people who want to go to the sea will be able to go to the sea. Let’s pretend that we’re holding dandelion flowers and that when we blow on them our wish will come true, if not today, then soon…that all who are thirsty for peace (in that heart kind of way) will be able to drink that ‘peace’ soon.

Sensing peace

Dear Members of our Primary Learning Circle at SMSUC,

Thank you so much for sharing your art!! Your explorations about colours and images that help you to feel peaceful are heart-warming. As I have looked at the photos of your art in the SMSUC Peace Gallery, I have felt a great sense of peace.

Sensing peace…can we use our five senses to know peace? What does it sound like, look like, taste like, smell like, feel like…? What does it mean for people to try to create peace together…? How does peace feel in your own “space bubble”?

Jean Zaru is a Palestinian Quaker. She is thinking about these kinds of questions, too. Here is one thought that she has shared in her book:

“…each of us finds ourselves engaged in the work for peace and justice because something is sacred to us – so sacred that it means more than convenience or comfort” (2008, p. 7).

Sometimes, while I have been here in Palestine and Israel, I have not been comfortable. I have cried when I saw people, like that small family at Qalandiya Checkpoint, going through that ugly place. I have been confused sometimes. I have felt surprised when I realized that people didn’t seem to understand who I was. I have worried about people arguing about their different ideas about what is right and what is wrong.

I have tried creating my own “space bubble”, too, sometimes to be patient and stay peaceful. Here are some photos of moments in which I have sensed peace…

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Zaru, Jean. (2008). Occupied with nonviolence: A Palestinian woman speaks. Foreword by Rosemary Radford Ruether. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

A month ago, I described a small family who passed through Qalandiya Checkpoint one morning. Today, I’d like to tell you about kids who travel through checkpoints all by themselves, without an adult.

Children, Zaytoun Checkpoint into East Jerusalem - 7 Feb. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

The checkpoint that I’ll describe is called Zaytoun. This word, zaytoun, means olive in Arabic. In English, this would be the Olive Checkpoint. It is in the part of the Separation Wall that crosses the side of the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem. This is a very famous mountain in Jerusalem and in the Bible. Olive trees like to grow in this part of the world. 

Olive trees, Yanoun - 16 Jan. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

Two villages, Al Azaria and Abu Dis, used to be considered East-Jerusalem communities. Many students and teachers used to attend and work in East-Jerusalem schools. However, since the Separation Wall was completed in this area, fewer students and teachers commute.

For people living in Al Azaria and Abu Dis, they must have certain papers that describe that they still need access to Jerusalem. For people who are 16 years and older, they have blue Jerusalem identification (I.D.) cards or green West Bank ID cards. People who are younger than 16 years of age show their birth certificates to pass through Zaytoun Checkpoint. A child’s birth certificate is a very, very important piece of paper. When a person turns 16 years old, she or he will apply for either a blue ID card or a green ID card. If a child accidently loses his or her birth certificate, parents have to apply for a new certificate. That process may take two or three weeks. Without a birth certificate, a child may not be allowed to pass through Zaytoun Checkpoint. This would mean that he or she would not be able to visit family or go to school.

Zaytoun Checkpoint, West-Bank side - 7 Feb. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

In the past, the soldiers at Zaytoun Checkpoint did not ask children to show their birth certificates. The children only had to put their coats, bags, and sometimes shoes or boots on a conveyor belt for the x-ray machines. Then, they walked through a metal-detector doorway. If the detector buzzed, they had to turn around and walk back through the doorway. If they were wearing belts for their clothes or had keys in their pockets, the machine might have buzzed. They put those metal objects on the conveyor belt and walked through the detector doorway again.

Instructions at Zaytoun Checkpoint - 7 Feb. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

For the past year, however, the soldiers have been asking children more and more often to show their birth certificates in addition to having their bags and clothes checked.

Many children who arrive at Zaytoun Checkpoint cross without adult family members. Their parents may work in other parts of Jerusalem or elsewhere and must arrange for the children to cross on their own. If children do not have their birth certificates, they may not be allowed to cross the checkpoint. If no adult is able to ensure the crossing, such children may find themselves alone at the checkpoint and may not know how to return home. Today, one girl was turned back from the checkpoint because she did not have her birth certificate. She was sad. She was old enough to know how to go home. Another boy was also turned back because he did not have his birth certificate. He had a cell phone and called his older brother who brought the birth certificate to the checkpoint.

Entering Zaytoun Checkpoint - 7 Feb. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

 

Many families are asking why young children must show their birth certificates. This is an example of how the Israeli government is making life hard for people to go about their daily routines, like going to school. If Palestinian and Israeli children are not allowed to live and go to school together in the same city, Jerusalem, how will they ever get to know each other’s names, languages, favourite foods, games, and more? How will they ever be able to help build peace in this part of the world?

Qalandiya Checkpoint

A week has passed since I met a beautiful family: a mom, a dad, a little girl, and a baby. They arrived at Qalandiya / Qalandia checkpoint where my Ecumenical Accompanier (EA) teammates and I spend three mornings of every week. At this Israeli checkpoint, people move from the occupied West Bank to occupied East Jerusalem. We watch the checkpoint and the people passing through it; we try to help by reporting how long people have to wait in line and by phoning different checkpoint staff when problems arise.

Mother and baby - Qalandiya Checkpoint - 6 Jan. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

The word occupation describes how the Israeli government is controlling the land against the wishes of the Palestinian people. This has been the case since 1967, the year before I was born. For 43 years, Palestinian people have been living in the Occupation.

One of the ways that the Israeli government controls the occupied land is with the recently built, Separation Wall. The Israeli government decides who can or cannot go through a few gates in the Wall. (In some places in the West Bank, a high fence is used instead of a concrete wall.)

Separation Wall - East Jerusalem - 10 Dec. 2010 - Photo: Sherry Ann

At Qalandiya, the gate is a checkpoint which is like a small airport terminal. People have to walk through long, narrow cages and then pass through revolving gates or turnstiles.

Lining up at Qalandiya - 10 Dec. 2010 - Photo: Sherry Ann

Some people have lived in Jerusalem all of their lives but the Separation Wall means that they cannot go to school or to work without going through Qalandiya checkpoint. The Wall was built in the middle of some of the neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem. For people and for their communities that are on the outside of the Wall from East Jerusalem, they are described as “dislocated” (see a full report here, pp. 13-14).

For dislocated families, they need to have certain papers that describe that they still need access to Jerusalem. If they have these papers, then these families travel through Qalandiya daily for school, work, and family visits (e.g., to see grandparents).

Second line-up area - Qalandiya Checkpoint - 4 Jan. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

People of all ages have to line up and wait for Qalandiya’s turnstiles to open. Sometimes the turnstiles open frequently, for example, every ten minutes; sometimes, they open only once in a half hour. After the turnstiles, people line up again to wait for their turn in the x-ray machines. They put their coats, bags, and sometimes shoes or boots on a conveyor belt for the x-ray machines. Then, they walk through a metal-detector doorway. If the detector buzzes when they walk through, they have to turn around and walk back through the doorway. If they are wearing belts for their clothes or have keys in their pockets, the machine may have buzzed. They put those metal objects on the conveyor belt and walk through the detector doorway again. Afterward, they show their papers to the guards in a booth behind a glass window. The guards decide if those papers are up to date. People also have to swipe magnetic ID cards. If the papers and the magnetic cards are accepted, guards may also ask people to put their hands on another machine so that their fingerprints can be scanned and read. If the fingerprint scan matches the computer’s file for that person, then the person is given permission to collect his or her clothes and other objects from the conveyor belt. After people put on their coats and shoes or boots and collected their bags, they move through another turnstile. Then, they walk down another hallway and walk through one final turnstile. They have arrived in East Jerusalem.

Occasionally, this whole process may take just 10 minutes. Other times, two hours may pass before a person has permission to leave. Sometimes, the first line is so long that people may be waiting for a few hours before they even move through the first turnstile. To try to get to work on time, some men get up at 2 am or 3 am to stand in line.

Humanitarian Gate - Qalandiya Checkpoint - 4 Jan. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

The family in these pictures arrived at 7:45 am last week at Qalandiya. They had a stroller that could carry both the baby and the little girl. They asked if they might use the Humanitarian Gate instead of the first turnstile. The Humanitarian Gate is used for people using wheelchairs. It is also used during very busy times for school children, older adults, and sick people. As an Ecumenical Accompanier, I phoned the guards to ask if they would open the Humanitarian Gate for this family and their stroller. I was told, “That is not possible.” Instead, the family had to collapse the stroller. The mom carried the baby and held the little girl’s hand so that they squeezed through the first turnstile together. The dad squeezed through the turnstile with the stroller.

Little girl and stroller - Qalandiya Checkpoint - 6 Jan. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

I felt sad watching this beautiful family move into this ugly checkpoint. I asked if I could take their photo before they went through. I wondered what their plans were for the day. I wished that people didn’t have to live on one side or the other of the Wall and that they didn’t have to spend so much of their lives waiting in lines at checkpoints.

Family in the second line-up - Qalandiya Checkpoint - 6 Jan. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

The mom’s smile was like sunshine on that morning, in the dim light of Qalandiya checkpoint. Like the first rays of sun on a new day…

Happy New Year!!

We live in a small world, really… Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s such a  small world”?

Today, Ruth, one of my Ecumenical Accompaniment team mates in Jerusalem, and I went to church. Our team is trying to meet some of the 9,000 Christians that live in Jerusalem. While that number may seem big, it is actually small considering that Jerusalem has over 750,00 people. People around the world are worried about how few Christians remain in Palestine and Israel.

We joined the congregation of the Greek Catholic Patriarchate near Jaffa Gate in the Old City. Have a look at this map . Look for the Jaffa Gate on the left side of the map. (We, in the Jerusalem team, live north of the Damascus Gate, near the top of the map.)

Click here to see the inside of the church.

As the mass was just about to start, two children walked quickly up the side aisle of the church into the area beyond the altar. They reappeared shortly afterward dressed in yellow vestments worn by altar boys and girls like the yellow vestment at this website . One of the children was a girl about 8 years old; the other child was a boy about 10 years old. They helped the adults (including priests, religious sisters, and lay members) conduct the mass.

After the mass, Ruth and I joined members of the congregation for coffee. We started chatting with a woman nearby. She was excited to hear that I am from Alberta, Canada because one of her sons lives in Calgary! She knows about EAPPI, the program that Ruth and I are in as Ecumenical Accompaniers. To our surprise, she lives right across the narrow street from the EAPPI office. I asked if she has a balcony, thinking about a photo that I took about two weeks ago of a girl who was blowing bubbles from a balcony above the street. Guess what?!!!!!!!! That same girl is this woman’s granddaughter…and…the altar girl in today’s mass!!!!

Emily blowing bubbles in the Old City - 16 Dec. 2010

Emily blowing bubbles in the Old City - 16 Dec. 2010

Her name is Emily and this is her brother!!

Look at those bubbles!!

Look at those bubbles!!

 

Emily and her brother at church - 2 Jan. 2011

Emily and her brother at church - 2 Jan. 2011

The woman’s name is Georgette and we plan to meet for coffee soon. She asked if I would take a photo of the church’s baptismal font because she was baptized in that font and in that church…in this very old place, the Old City of Jerusalem!!

Georgette and me - Greek Catholic Patriarchate, Jerusalem - 2 Jan. 2011

Georgette and me - Greek Catholic Patriarchate, Jerusalem - 2 Jan. 2011

What a small and amazing world this is…

Happy New Year!!

On the road to Bethlehem

What do you think of when you hear the word, Christmas? Might you think about twinkling lights on a Christmas tree? About colourful packages tucked beneath that tree? About the yummy smell and taste of gingerbread cookies? About the feeling of being tucked in for “a long winter’s nap” on Christmas Eve?

What do you think about if the Baby Jesus comes to mind? Might you picture a stable? About a baby lying in a manger (an open box or trough from which animals eat)? In Bethlehem?

Where IS Bethlehem? It is in the West Bank, in the occupied Palestinian territory. The distance from Jerusalem, where I am living, is 9.6 km or 6 miles. How long would that take to walk? Maybe 2.5 or 3 hours? If you were able to drive there, without traffic, it might take about 20 minutes.

Last week, I travelled to Bethlehem with other Ecumenical Accompaniers from around the world. We caught the bus near the Old City of Jerusalem and arrived at the Israeli government’s Checkpoint on the north side of Bethlehem about 25 minutes later.

We had to get off the bus and walk through the Checkpoint showing our passports. Everyone wishing to go to and from Bethlehem and Jerusalem has to show their identity papers to the army guards at the Checkpoint. If you wish to travel from Bethlehem, the lines can be very long. Sometimes, the guards don’t let people through the Checkpoint. Going to Bethlehem is easier than going to Jerusalem because you are leaving Israel and going to the occupied Palestinian territory. Israel and Palestine have been talking about peace for many years.  Until peace is made, children in Bethlehem and children in Jerusalem live on opposite sides of the wall that you see in these pictures.

What is life like for the children in Bethlehem? A new friend, Ann Farr from England, created this PowerPoint presentation with her friends. Click here . A new browser window will open. Scroll down almost to the end of the webpage. Click on the picture titled, “Bethlehem… a living city”. This is a photo story about living in Bethlehem today.

When you think about Christmas in Bethlehem, what do you think about…?

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