November 29 ~ EAPPI Group 45 has gathered in East Jerusalem for our final debriefing days before returning to our various countries. It is a historic day. Israelis in support of the Palestinian bid are rallying in Tel Aviv in front of Independence Hall where Israel announced its own independence 65 years ago. Yet on this particular night, the city streets of East Jerusalem are relatively quiet given the numerous celebrations that are taking place across the West Bank. Many of us are glued to the TV in the lobby of the Capitol Hotel. Seeing the celebrations live on the screen, our Bethlehem Team is longing to be “back home” in Bethlehem rather than sitting in a hotel lobby ~ When the result of the vote is announced a little past midnight, an explosion of fireworks in the eastern part of the city is joined by a loud cheer from our hotel. We rush outside to see a few cars driving past, flags flying and horns honking.
Wanting to celebrate this historic moment, we grab our coats and walk/run to the Damascus Gate of the Old City. But everything is quiet ~ unusually so. Why? Are the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem weighing the “cost” of Israel’s potential response to their desire to celebrate their new status in the global community? We walk home soberly ~ wondering …
It is November 30 ~ Yesterday, a large majority of the world’s countries agreed that Palestine should be a state with observer status. In the end, all the US/Israeli lobbying could not convince otherwise. But this morning Haaretz, the mainstream Israeli newspaper, writes that Netanyahu has announced the building of 3,000 new housing units in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. And legislation is about to be introduced in the US that seeks to withhold Palestinian aid. Israel is also threatening to withhold Palestinian taxes and tariffs.
Are these appropriate responses to a non-violent Palestinian request for global recognition? Are these the things that make for peace? What are we so afraid of? Does the recognition of my rights diminish yours? ~ It appears that life on the ground goes on as usual ~ settlement expansion, checkpoints, restriction of movement, permit system, house evictions, demolitions. Some feel that the vote changes nothing ~ Yet something is different. A spark of hope. A light in the dark. A sense of dignity. A pregnant pause. A deep breath ~ Could this possibly be the beginning of something new?
December 1 ~ Beginnings are difficult. So are endings. Three months ago, 33 of us arrived from 17 countries, eager and ready to embrace our task of accompaniment. And now 3 months later the last EAs in Group 45 prepare to take their leave. The torch has been passed to Group 46, and the previous week has been one goodbye after another ~ There is a Palestinian saying that after 40 days of being together, you become family. It is true ~ There is our Bethlehem family ~ those who cannot leave ~ who do not have the freedom to travel or the means to do so. They have nowhere to go. This is their home. They are our family and we have to say goodbye ~ There is our EAPPI family ~ those with whom we have shared so much over these past 3 months. These moments will never again be recreated. We have been changed by what we have lived and experienced together. They are our family and we have to say goodbye.
But each ending also holds the possibility of a new beginning ~ Neither is easy ~ As EAPPI Group 45 leaves for home, we go with full hearts ~ with gratitude for all that has been ~ with hope for all that might be ~ Our deepest hope is that in the wake of the events of November 29, there might emerge the will to let go of the old so that the new might come to birth ~ Could it be that an end to the cycle of violence might birth the beginning of mutual respect? Could it be that an end to the scarcity myth might birth a reality of abundance? Could it be that an end to the concern for “me and mine” might birth a concern for the common good of all who share this land? ~ Isn’t it past time for an end to the old and a birth of the new? ~ The gate is ajar. May all concerned have the courage to walk through and embrace the possibilities that await on the other side of the wall.