Archives for posts with tag: Al Lubban

A significant piece of what we do as Ecumenical Accompaniers is to provide a “protective presence” and accompany people in times of vulnerability.

Yes, we fill out incident reports when some threat, or action against persons or property has occurred; and those reports are shared with a number agencies, including the I.C.R.C. (Red Cross-Red Crescent) and the United Nations.  But much of our ministry is simply being with people and offering “a protective presence.”

In Yanoun, where I am based (for less that one more week), our team of four maintains one person here at all times as a protective presence.  Saturdays we all try to be in residence, as that is the day when area Israeli settlers are most likely to attack or harass folk in this village or its outlying fields. 

The theory is that our presence either reduces the incidents of violence, or the severity of those incidents.  If there is any violence, we are independent witnesses with cameras, video, pens and computers.  (Though the settlers act rather lawless — and with impunity — despite all the reporting that goes on.)

In this blog, I want to share a couple of experiences of providing protective presence.

A couple weeks ago, I visited for two days with our team in the South Hebron Hills.  I got to Susiya. 

Two of us were invited to spent the night with one of the farmers who lives on the edge of the decentrailized Susiya village.  His family was away for a few days, and he wanted some other people there for his security.

We also planned to go shepherding with him the next morning. 

We were wakened before 6 a.m. and greeted by the news that the night before the Israeli army had demolished a settlement vineyard that was on disputed land (There are some ongoing court cases), or in the “no man’s land” buffer area between a settlement and a village. 

For the army to do this is rather rare, but not unheard of.   There are occasional — rare — moments of justice for the Palestinians.

But the problem is that such moments have most often resulted in push back or “price tag” actions against Palestinian property or persons, by disgruntled settlers.

We started shepherding with our host for the night, but later switched, given the situation, to accompany a grandmother and granddaughter shepherding team.

We joined them for three hours.  It was a glorious morning!

It was fun to watch the grandmother have some fiesty exchanges with an army officer, when she took her sheep to graze too close to the military outpost.  (Sheep are such a threat!)

Afterwards, we were blessed with a wonderful Palestinian breakfast on our return to the village!

Then, because of the vineyard incident, we provided protective presence at the village well, a short distance from Susiya.  The village cistern was dry, and that meant over 20 tanker trips to refill the cistern. 

We did this because there was concern about a little “pay back” happening at the well.  So, we did this for several hours.  Other Ecumenical Accompaniers relieved us for the second half of the water runs.  Nothing happened untoward.

Then, about a week ago, we were with a family near Al Lubban ash Sharqiya,  who are desperately trying to hold onto their land and a building on the land, against aggressive and persistent settlers who come from three area settlements. 

While most days something happens on their property, the Sabbath evening is when the most number of settlers and army arrive. 

Parts of the exchange was like a 1960’s American style sit-in, with guitar playing and some Israeli men stripping to their boxer shorts to wade in the cistern next to the spring.

It was very surreal “dance” or movement of parties with the guitar playing, singing, periodic attempts to get into the family home, and the army, settlers, police and Palestinians all milling around with no one able to intervene unless the Palestinians crossed a line in terms of violence.

One stettler was clearly armed. 

My team-mate did document an army officer taking pictures, inside the family home, on behalf of the settlers.  That’s no surprise, as some of the army live in the settlements.

Eventually, everyone went home.  And we had a traditional Palestinian meal with the family.  They were most grateful for how we had spent our afternoon and evening.

I like to think that the Incarnation — God coming in Jesus the Christ — was a divine act of accompaniment with humanity. 

Further, Jesus of Nazareth was not just witness to God’s grace and mercy and love, but he was also a witness to the ugly side of a previous occupation of Palestine — the Roman occupation of Palestine.

He was a witness — a vulnerable One — a friend to victims of that Occupation. 

He was himself a victim of that occupation — the Shepherd who was Love Incarnate!

Grace and peace!

Jim

I have been sent by the United Church of Canada to participate in the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).  Should you wish to re-post or publicize any of this content, I welcome your direct request, via the comments section of this blog.  Thank you!

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Last week I drank from Jacob’s Well in Nablus.

I had been looking forward to this, given that the community where I am living for three months is only a few kilometres from Nablus.

In the Christian tradition, we know Jacob’s Well as the well of Sychar, where Jesus had the lengthy conversation with the Samaritan woman.  (John 4:4-42.)

It was wonderful to taste the water, and live into the story, and the promise and the gift of “living water” in Christ.

Built over and around the well is Jacob’s Well Orthodox Church.  Next door is Jacob’s Well Orthodox Monastery.  Actually, the church is dedicated to St. Photina the Samaritan. 

(Photina is the name traditionally given to the woman at the well. )  For centuries there has been a church of some kind on the site.

Jacob’s Well church is extraordinarily beautiful.  It is rare for services to be held there, as the Orthodox community also has a very beautiful church in Rafidia, the Christian sector of Nablus.  Last Sunday we worshipped at Jacob’s Well with a couple of bus loads of Greek pilgrims.

(Two weeks ago in the Rafidia church, I enjoyed one of the most beautiful inter-generational services, I have ever experienced in my life.  There was outstanding antiphonal choral work — all in Arabic  — by mostly men singing in the two transepts.  The half domes of the transcepts above them, caused the music to fill the sanctuary magnificently!) 

As near as I can tell from available reports, there has not been a worship service at Jacob’s Well for a couple of years — in part, I understand, because of a tragedy that occurred there in 1979.  This is what makes a visit so bitter sweet.

One of the priests, Father Archimandrite Philoumenis, the abbott of the monastery, was brutally murdered in the church by an axe-wielding  Zionist.   Apparently a “cross” was cut in his face, his eyes plucked out, and the four fingers and thumb or his right hand cut off.   The church was also desecrated. 

All this came a week after a Zionist group had claimed the church as a holy site and demanded the removal of the crosses and icons. No one has been arrested or charged with the muder.

Now there is an icon in the church, commemorating the martyrdom of the priest. And Father Philoumenis is buried just outside the entrance to the church.  His grave is hard to miss on the way inside. 

The resident Orthodox priest told me about his continued harassment from Israeli settlers around Nablus.  They would like to drive him away.

While it seems like an extreme story, it is not an isolated story, with settler violence unleaseashed against Palestinians, occasionally with a view to reclaiming major and minor holy sites.  Sometimes a holy site is the excuse to take a piece of land for a new settlement.

Our team is in regular conversation with a family which is under daily harrassment or attack from Israeli settlers — from the Eli, Shilo and Ma’ale Levona settlements — on their land near the village of Al Luban as Sharqiya.  The 85-year-old grandfather has “tabo” — which is undisputed legal title from the days of the Ottoman Empire. 

The settlers want his land, the water spring on the land, and an old building, used as a jail by the Jordanian police when Palestine was part of Jordan. 

Why reference this situation? Because the settlers latest excuse for continued harassment and wanting to take-over the site, is: “Moses swam in the spring here!” 

When I heard this, I burst out laughing; as did a Nablus priest, I shared this information with.  We laughed, because scripture and tradition has it that Moses did not reach the Promised Land.  (As well, there are many Jews and Christians who understand Moses as a mythological figure.)

Jesus words to the Samaritan woman, over which mountain was the true place to worship God (Mt. Gerizim, or Jerusalem), is somehow quite prophetic in this situation:

“Believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem… God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

It isn’t about mountains — which one is more sacred — or about buildings — or even holy sites!  (As helpful as they may be to our worship, and the illumination of the sacred stories.)  God is Spirit — above and beyond — who can be worshipped anywhere — anytime —- and will not be contained or limited by, or in, our holy sites!

Ironically, Orthodox tradition has it that St. Photina was a martyr who was tortured and died by being thrown down a well by Emperor Nero.

I keep returning in my mind and heart, to the testimony of Palestinian Christians who remember a day before 1947 when Jews,  Palestinian Muslims and Palestinains Christians lived side by side peacefully.  They knew each others traditions and were cooperative neighbours who worked together for the commonwealth of their communities.

I fear that memory is fading as an older generation dies off.   We need that memory and vision kept alive!  It is strangely closer to the vision Jesus gave at the well that day. 

“A time is coming…” says Jesus. 

May it keep coming!  May we discover it anew!

“Phontina” means “the enlightened one.” 

Then, let there be Light, that we may be enlightened! 

Grace and peace,

Jim

I have been sent by the United Church of Canada to participate in the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).  Should you wish to re-postr or publicize any of this content, I welcome your direct request, via the comments section in this blog.  Thank you!