Just arrived in Bethlehem to begin a three months stint as a human rights observer with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (www.eappi.org). The Bethlehem team is made up of five Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) from Poland, Switzerland, Norway, Canada and Britain. We are one of eight teams, totalling 36 internationals spread across the West Bank. After a week of orientation in Jerusalem and a few days handover from the Team 49 we are flying solo! So today began at 3.30am with observer duties at Israeli Checkpoint 300 (More of which later).
This is my fourth time in this troubled region, having first visited Israel in 1983 as a new graduate on a university travel scholarship, hosted by a Tel Aviv research institute and a kibbutz in the Lower Galilee. I thought I had come to study agriculture, but found that life has its own ideas for what it will teach us. I returned in 2011 and 2012 to pick olives as part of group providing Protective Presence to Palestinian Farmers in a group of West Bank villages living under occupation and in the shadow of two Illegal Israel settlements – ironically, both settlements were founded at the time of my first visit in1983.