Ecumenical Accompaniers  work in small multi-national teams placed in a variety of locations and are linked to local Palestinian and Israeli communities and/or organisations,

 I have two Friends who have recently spent 3 months as Accompaniers in Palestine working in small communities ‘Protecting by their Presence’.

In Yanoun, a very small Palestinian village in the West Bank, one Friend was part of a small group providing a protective presence to villagers who have been suffering severe intimidation and attacks by Israeli settlers from the nearby settlement Itamar.

The other Friend was in Jayyous, a village in the West Bank where the separation barrier has cut off the best agricultural land and most of the wells from the village. She stood at the barrier’s gates to witness whether Jayyous farmers could get to their fields each  morning and evening. Often the gates were not opened at all or only after many hours of waiting in the heat of the midday sun; sometimes the farmers arrived at the stated time only to find that the soldiers were just locking up having ‘forgotten’ to tell the them that the times had changed. As this was the only source of work, water, food the farmers had to endure in the face of taunting andverbal (mostly) aggression from teenagers wielding machine guns. Mt Freind felt that had she not been there, the situation may have become even more ugly.

One incident involved the removal of a 12 year old at 2 one morning by soldiers (not that much older than him) bursting into a house, taking the boy away (despite the best efforts of his formidable great grandmother beating the soldiers with an umbrella) and leaving him miles from home a couple of hours later.

The propaganda within Israel is shocking too. A colouring book for Israeli pre-schoolers features pictures of tanks, good looking soldiers with machine guns, shadowy robed figures – all glorified or vilified for very small children to absorb.

A magazine advertised some sort of tranquilising drug available from the doctor for those mothers whose sons are in the army. The drug ‘dispells anxiety’ and makes you ‘calm’; stops you worrying about the possible mutilation or death of your child for the good of the nation. By God, if my sons were involved in such arbitrary and senseless warfare against innocent people, I would wish to scream from the rooftops, not be anaesthetised: This Is Wrong!

Brave New World indeed.

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