I am grateful to the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem for calling other Christians to “come and see” the situation on the ground in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and to the World Council of Churches for responding to the call by forming the EAPPI… Being an EA made me more alert to systemic injustice, which, of course, has made my life less comfortable and thus, a little closer to most people’s lives in the world. I think that is what accompaniment is. Thanks be to God, who keeps us connected (Carolyn Schneider, Group 14).
In my three months as an EA in Hebron I learned about hospitality as resistance. On our very first day on the ground we went visiting. At the Jaber family’s house we sat out on the cement patio and were offered a drink as is customary, but lemon drink with mint instead of the usual tea and coffee. We gladly accepted and watched as a group of small children were put to work plucking lemons from the family’s own tree. They marched into the house and returned a minute later to pluck more lemons. They handed us each a lemon as a gift. I still have the lemon; it is dried now, but it still has that faint citrus smell. It reminds me of the perseverance of the families in Hebron and their refusal to give in to the occupation. The people I met in Hebron remind not to give up hope that justice will come someday (Amy Kienzle, Group 39).
I came to further appreciate the blessing of community during my EA experience. Abu Tariq is a shepherd who resides in the South Hebron Hills region. He is a soft-spoken, gentle man who enjoys talking about his children and grandchildren. Even though he has suffered physical and verbal abuse from neighboring Israeli settlers, Abu Tariq dwells on the simple pleasures of a rural family lifestyle. Our interactions were both personally refreshing and inspiring. Abu Tariq is one of a number of Palestinians who are living joyous lives in the midst of occupation. Through these experiences, I’ve come to realize that taking part in community activities isn’t primarily a duty I need to fulfill. Rather, it is a gift which produces well-being and joy. For those considering the EA experience, you will be blessed by various relationships during your field assignment. (Michael Connor, Group 65).
My three months as an EA were some of the most impactful of my life and I will carry the memories of the people I met in Palestine for as long as memory lasts. The Palestinian people that I met there, my fellow EAs from around the world, and the Jerusalem staff all feel like faraway family. My EA experience was physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually challenging. It broadened both my understanding of this burdened land, with all its complexities, and my awareness of my own role, as an American citizen, in advocating for a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis. I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as an EA and to continue advocacy work here at home. (Susan Brogden, Group 69)