Observing

15 January 2014

The weather is almost springtime. Two colleagues and I go and fix 10 Wall posters near the Bethlehem-Jerusalem checkpoint, a hundred meters to the east. There is a small community of Benedictines and a beautiful church. The Wall converts here into barbed wire. This time the posters are sponsored by persons from the UK, the US and the Netherlands. We do the work without professional support.

I remember long ago to have fixed posters in the middle of the night on walls in the heart of Amsterdam, to announce demonstrations. Now we glue large, thin-metal posters, with Palestinian checkpoint and Wall stories, on the lower side of the Wall, just outside the view of a manned watchtower besides the car opening in the Wall. One story relates to a mother challenged to explain the Wall to her son.

The observers of the EAPPI come too, like at previous occasions. EAPPI stands for Ecumenical Accompaniment Program for Palestine and Israel. It is an initiative of the World Council of Churches, with participation of many countries. The observers, who come for three months, are distributed in teams across the West Bank and Jerusalem. In Bethlehem they observe early morning the checkpoint where the workers pass who go to Jerusalem. They also go to clashes when they hear about them, which is almost on daily base nowadays.

Today three of them come from Al-Khader, a village to the south of Bethlehem. Since the school exams are held there, daily clashes erupt between the boys and the settlers or soldiers, who shoot teargas. I remember years ago to have observed the bullet holes in the walls of a school in Al-Khader. The illegal Israeli Wall building draws youth like a magnet. A Polish EAPPIer tells how the main street in Al-Khader was closed today by the army.

They also tell that these last days daily clashes occur in Aida camp, not far away from where we stand. There are protests against a strike of UNRWA personnel (the UN organization faces a financial shortfall). The inhabitants of Aida also express solidarity with the refugees in the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk in Syria near Damascus, which is beleaguered by the government army and faces shortages in food, medicines, and other basic supplies.

Together with the Polish and Swiss participants we talk about the Wall Museum. The Polish lady is a video artist and interested how video art van be employed to support the posters. The Swiss is a teacher who is interested which method was used to have women and youth writing down the stories. They live very close to the place where we are. Nowadays they see on daily base army patrols passing – why these days, they don’t know. Yesterday the mobile of the Polish participant was confiscated by a soldier. After long talking, she got it back.

Each Friday, at 17:30, some of the EAPPIers join a silent walk and vigil along this location of the Wall, together with some clergy, residents of the area, and maybe a tourist group. This coming Friday we will join.

Toine van Teeffelen

 

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