The incoming Bethlehem Team 45 and the outgoing Bethlehem Team 44 have spent the last 3 days in an intense time of living and learning together. Our “mentors” in Team 44 are from Finland, Norway and Switzerland. Team 45 added 5 more countries to the mix: Sweden, England, Canada, South Africa, and the United States. What richness! Our Bethlehem days and nights were packed full: early morning checkpoint watch (more on this in another post), village visits to families with demolition orders on their homes, offering protective presence to school children, visiting refugee camps, attending meetings with local NGOs, supporting non-violent demonstrations, enjoying local hospitality, and participating in a “walking wall prayer” with the Catholic sisters. It has felt more like 3 weeks instead of 3 days. We have heard heart wrenching stories and been amazed by the resilience and open hearted generosity of the people we have met.
Our entire Group 45 consisting of 33 people from 17 countries is now back in Jerusalem for 5 more days of training. Next Thursday, September 13, we will gather for the official handover ceremony ~ a passing of the torch ~ at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral in East Jerusalem. Our teams will then disperse to our various placements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank (Tulkarm, Jayyous, Yanoun, Bethlehem, Hebron, South Hebron Hills). We begin our work on Friday, September 14. A Palestinian Christian man from Bethlehem said to us this week that our presence gives him hope. For him we are salt, light, and yeast. As we take up this work of accompaniment, may it be so in so many ways.