The Old City of Jerusalem and its holy sites are symbols of peace and reconciliation but ever increasing travel restrictions make it almost impossible for Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories (East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza Strip) to enter the Old City. They say, ‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace.” (Jer.6:14) In 2009, MCC marked its 60th anniversary of work in Palestine and Israel.
Malake Mohammed, 5, and Nimer Mohammed, 3, fill containers with water under the supervision of Samir Nimer (left), Samar Nimer (rear), and Samira Nimer (right). They are among 4,500 residents in Aida Camp, a Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem inundated with water shortages and water management conflicts. The Lajee Center, a MCC partner organization, provides a variety of activities for children and youth living in Aida Camp.
Palestinian livelihoods continue to be devastated as more land is being expropriated for the construction of a 700-kilometre (430-mile) separation wall between Israel and the Occupied Territories. The wall “has turned our towns and villages into prisons, separating them from one another, making them dispersed and divided cantons,” said Palestinian church leaders in a document issued in early December 2009.
Ruwayd Azzah, 11, a participant in MCC-supported summer workshops for children and youth, stands by the graffiti covered Israeli separation wall that was built in 2004 next to Aida Camp, a Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem. More than 50 percent of the 4,500 residents in Aida Camp are under the age of 18. The summer workshops, organized by the Lajee Center, provide recreational outlets for children and youth between the ages of eight and 15.
“If we can rebuild houses together, we can also rebuild a country together,” said Salim Shawamreh whose house in the West Bank has been demolished four times by Israeli authorities and rebuilt each time by a MCC partner organization, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. The house that is under constant threat of demolitions has been developed into the Beit Arabiya Peace Center, a central meeting place for Israelis, Palestinians and international peace builders.
From November 2008 until April 2009, Fawzia Al-Kurd lived in a tent 150 metres (490 feet) from her house in East Jerusalem as a form of non-violent resistance to a court ruling that gave ownership of her house to Israeli settlers. Al-Kurd has documents to prove ownership of the house since 1956. Following an Israeli court decision in August 2009, Al-Kurd was evicted from the tent and now lives with family members. “If we don’t oppose injustices then what is the point of saying that we support justice?” asked Jeff Halper, founder of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, a MCC partner organization that supports non-violent resistance to Israel’s housing policies.
Israeli-born Amaya Galili recently developed an education curriculum to help Israeli teachers talk about the Nakba (catastrophe)—the destruction of Palestinian villages in 1948. “I want to be part of something that builds a better future for me, for us as Israelis,” said Galili, the education coordinator at Zochrot (Remembering), a MCC partner organization based in Tel Aviv that works for reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis through raising awareness of the Nakba among Israelis.
Bassem Aramin is a founding member of Combatants for Peace, an organization that brings together Palestinians and Israelis who have been involved in violent combat and now share a commitment to building and practicing peace through non violence. “If we as fighters can sit down and talk, then everyone can talk,” said Aramin, who has participated in peacebuilding activities and programs offered by Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, a MCC partner organization.
Safia Hasan Shubaita shares vivid memories of growing up in the village of Miska—a village of 1,061 people during the 1945 census—a village destroyed in 1948. Zochrot (Remembering), a MCC partner organization in Tel Aviv, organizes tours of Miska and other historic villages to promote discussion within Israeli society of how the 1948 war that led to the founding of the State of Israel affected their Palestinian neighbors.
Naseef Mu'allem, director general of the Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy (PCPD), (back to camera) is surrounded by young people who support the goals of the 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence, a document that promotes peaceful means to establish two states for two peoples based on the 1967 borders and sets the foundation for democracy in Palestine. MCC supports conflict resolution trainings organized by PCPD.
A cemetery restoration project in the West Bank town of Jifnah brings together young people from different Christian church denominations. In 1967, Palestinian Christians accounted for 10 percent of the country’s population. Their numbers have declined to less than 2 percent. The cemetery restoration project was organized by the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, a MCC partner organization that works with clergy, women and youth.
Majid Shqaeir, Wadia Musleh and Nasri Awwad (left to right) participate in a cemetery restoration project in the West Bank town of Jifnah. The project was organized by the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, a MCC partner organization in East Jerusalem.