Monday, November 5, 2012

For EAPPI's Tenth Anniversary, Ecumenical Accompaniers in the United States provided reflections for the Tenth Anniversary of EAPPI. They add specifics about their advocacy work to emphasize the importance of ongoing advocacy in the USA.

(Above, a glimpse of the anniversary greeting compiled by accompanier Loren McGrail and laid out to be an attractive  document. Below, the entire text of the reflections.)
Happy Tenth Anniversary EAPPI
Where was the Holy in the Holy Land?
Where was the Holy?
Did I touch it? Was it here?Was it chased out by the bombings?
By the bullets?  By the fear?
If we chased out all these people,
would the Holiness come back?Whats the sound of One God loving

when it seems no ones loving back?
I went to see and touch and smellall the Holy shrines and places.

But most Holy, to me, was the One who came
For simple, hurting faces.
The Holy is not just something far beyond or high above.
God’s Holiness is in the world

Where people find the courage to love.
To accompany, to walk beside, is to tread on sacred ground.
A Holy quest, one truly blessed, The most Holy land I’ve found.

To all my fellow accompaniers
Rev. Julie Rowe, 2003-2005
Blessings of peace and hope to everyone gathered for the anniversary event Nov. 3, 2012, our Palestinian and Israeli companions in country, and the EAPPI community around the world. Ecumenical Accompaniers in the United States, from the earliest to the most recent, respond to the Tenth Anniversary of EAPPI with individual reflections on their experiences as EAs. They add specifics about their advocacy work to emphasize the importance of ongoing advocacy in the USA.
 Our Experiences and Gratitude
Looking back over the ten years of US involvement in EAPPI, it is really encouraging to see how much the Program has grown and produced.   I feel very blessed to know some of you personally and admire all the things that you all have accomplished.    I know that we all have come away from Palestine and Israel deeply changed by the experience.  I carry daily the pain of separation from those I love in Palestine as I am sure you all do.  It is difficult being away, feeling a sense of helplessness and inability to alter their situation. Yet, we all know that there is much still to be done here at home in the US to help bring about peace and justice by educating and
advocating here with our churches and government.  We all have found our ways to work; I am awed and humbled by all of your work and witness, Accompaniers! 
 (Meg Kiekhaefer, Group 1)  

Probably the most significant comment that I heard was from a Jewish woman from the West Bank who shared, "We must move beyond the Holocaust.  The abuse and oppression of the Occupation is stripping the joy out of Judaism."…God's blessings to all who will attend the EAPPI 10 year Anniversary Celebration!  I am most grateful for the opportunity and privilege of being a part of this great organization (Lynne Rigg, Group 2).  

I bring what I learned about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through EAPPI into my lessons, hopefully opening the minds of about a 100 high school students every year who might otherwise simply believe the biased information they get from the U.S. media and, unfortunately, at times their parents.  For this I thank EAPPI and hope fervently that we will all live to the see the day when EAPPI will no longer be necessary.  In the meantime, we are thankful that it is still there (Larry Fata, Group 4).

I was dispatched to the village of Jayous, where the Wall had just been completed.  Working closely with volunteers from the International Solidarity Movement, we spent most of our time doing "gate watch" as the farmers of Jayous struggled daily with Israeli soldiers for access to their fields of olives and citrus.  Rammadan fell during the olive harvest in 2003, and many days we crossed through the Wall and accompanied families of Jayous to harvest their olives.  It was hot, exhausting work, and my Muslim friends brought water and food into the fields for me and my fellow accompaniers, laughing that "they needed another picker more than they needed another Muslim"…  I regard the privilege of having learned and served with EAPPI as one of the most transformative and profound experiences of my life.  It gives me great joy to congratulate the World Council of Churches on this bold initiative as EAPPI celebrates its 10th anniversary!  (Don Christensen, Group 4)

I’m grateful for the experiences I had in EAPPI, and have watched the great growth of the program and its awareness-raising.  God Bless all who go, and all of us in our continuing mission to tell the story that needs to be heard round the world! (Julie Rowe, Group 5)

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)

The village leaders in East Sawahreh, on the road between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem, had asked us to monitor the Bethlehem checkpoint in tandem with Machsom Watch and to help them draw attention to the construction of the separation wall, which was about to sever their connections with Jerusalem. We witnessed the way the wall tore through the property of the Passsionista Monestary in Bethany, damaging the ruins of a fourth century church--an act condemned by the Israeli Ministry of Antiquities. Our group produced a series of photographs about different aspects of the occupation, with captions taken from Bible verses and human rights reports. An article about my experiences, based on a journal I kept, was published by the Workmen's Circle, a Labor Zionist newsletter.
(Leila Richards, Group 5)

It was life changing for me. I, like you, have been compelled to remain engaged in advocacy here in the State, and leading others on trips to visit my friends in Palestine… Keep up the good work EAPPI and Happy Birthday! (Scott Thams, Group 30)

It's encouraging seeing how far EAPPI has grown and the impact it has on so many lives.   This direct, front line approach has been a valuable experience---in big and small ways.  I'm thankful for the opportunity and "plug it" every chance I can. “Happy Anniversary EAPPI!” Keep up the good work. In Just Peace, Kathy Preuss, Group 35

Thank you to the World Council of Churches and the EAPPI staff for developing and sustaining a program of accompaniment with the people of Palestine and Israel. Blessings on your continued efforts to support a just and peaceful resolution whereby two peoples and three faiths can live together.
(Faye and John Buttrick, Group 36).

Ruth and I served with EAPPI from December 2010 to March 2011. Ruth was in East Jerusalem and I was in Yanoun. In Jerusalem, the daily grind of monitoring the checkpoints getting up at 4:00 in the morning and the heartbreak of visiting with people whose homes had been demolished or were threatened to be demolished certainly stirred up my wife's heart of compassion. In Yanoun, we monitored the continual harassment of Palestinians from illegal settlers. While I was there a young shepherd from Iraq Burin was murdered by a Israeli settler some 5 kilometers from a settlement and visited Kerbit Tana three times following major demolitions to this small village clinging to their existence in the Jordan Valley. I have the highest regard for the EA program and recommend it to many. I wish there was a way to help underwrite the expenses for US participants so more could be involved. I greatly appreciate the staff in Jerusalem who trained us, deployed us and served us during the time we were in Israel Palestine. Pauline Nunu has done an excellent job of coordinating the program. Keep up the good work. (Wayne and Ruth Smith, Group 38)

It's actually impossible for me to put into words the impact this program has had on me, and I am certain that its impact on the Palestinian people is great (Chris Cowan, Group 41).

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. Tea at Abed’s shop, the families of Amnyr offering us tea after their homes were demolished, breakfast with Laila and Nawal after checkpoint duty – all of these memories I treasure as reminders of Palestinian resilience and life in the midst of hardship and loss. The people I met in Hebron remind not to give up hope that justice will come some day (Amy Kienzle, Group 39).

Thank you World Council of Churches and EAPPI Staff and the Global Missions Board of the United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ for supporting this important justice work and providing me such a profound experience of what it means to be both a critical and protective presence in the world. This experience has led me directly to applying for a position with my church to be a missionary in Israel and Palestine. I am a missionary candidate today because of EAPPI and thus hope to continue to serve and learn more about this land that all call holy. (Loren McGrail, Group 39).

It was the most remarkable experience I have had in my life. I learned a lot about Israeli/Palestinian conflict, religious traditions of other faiths and the daily struggles under occupation of the ordinary Palestinian lives with.  Much of my experience was heartbreaking as I witnessed Segregation (Aparthied) in the city of Hebron/Al Khalil being carried out in modern times. This was difficult to witness as an American with our history of Segregation, and feeling like I come from a place that has tried to heal itself (although not completely yet) from this oppressive behavior. At the same time, it was a magnificent experience to learn about the Palestinian culture and make new friends. Experiencing the day to day culture had the strongest impact on me and is what I emphasize in my advocacy talks here in the US. The kindness and overwhelming generosity of the Palestinian people was at times too much to comprehend. (Tammie Danielsen, Group 42).

The experience was certainly life changing. I will never forget being invited to a home in Tuq'a for dinner by the fully veiled mother of five sons who saw us at the school that morning and would not let us leave until we had spoken with her son to confirm the date. One of her sons had been killed by a settler's vehicle, who backed up over her son, then sped off. She expressed to us her deep gratitude that by our presence we were preventing this from happening again. Being that presence was a gift that I will carry forever. At the Bethlehem 300 Checkpoint I always beeped at the metal detector which always gave the soldiers a reason to slow the lines. Now when I purchase bras I am very conscious of the amount of metal they contain! (Mary Morris, Group 43

Our major job at Jayyous was monitoring agricultural gates and the Qalquilya Terminal, along with the more “pastoral” tasks of visiting families that had experienced raids and arrests, hearing the stories of people who’d been released from prison, learning and living with the rhythms of Ramadan and the natural schedule that revolves around an economy centered on agriculture. It is important to tell Americans that I lived in an entirely Muslim village and that religion was simply not an issue.  People did not expect the women in our group to cover our heads.  No one objected or frowned when we found we really needed a drink of water during Ramadan.  People’s faith was a resource of strength, solidarity and identity for them, not a criterion for judging others. I am surprised to discover that when EAs from ensuing groups write about their experiences, especially from Jayyous, I find myself incredibly angry and depressed that things are so much the same… or worse.  I don’t want the people of Jayyous to be endlessly “resilient survivors,” I want to see things change!  I know I will carry those contradictory feelings with me for the rest of my life – or for as long as the occupation lasts. Thank you, EAPPI, thank you World Council of Churches, thank you everyone who makes this program possible for enriching my life, for giving shape to my passion, for confronting me with the Gospel, for tinting my outrage with hope and vision. (Elice Higginbotham, Group 32)


After crossing Kalandya checkpoint for the first time, I called my wife to say that I would rather come home.  The experience brought back those fearful moments in the ‘60s, crossing from the White section of town into a totally Black neighborhood. I told her that I am just too old to go through this again. She reminded me that I was there by choice; I’d just have to stick it out and pray about it. I am glad I stayed.  Stationed in Ramallah, I came to experience city life under occupation, established genuine friendships with people of the Friends School and the Hope Lutheran Church as well as making friends in Jerusalem. I also was able to visit almost all the EAPPI placements and developed strong and lasting friendships with fellow EA's from Norway, Sweden and Denmark and Palestinian and Israeli friends. Participating in EAPPI became another transformative experience that has helped me live a live committed to peace and justice and to speaking the truth in love -- even if ignored, unheeded or rejected.  Martin Luther King, Jr., reminds us that "the arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice" and that "truth, crushed to the ground shall rise again.” As an Indonesian-American, I have experienced many American church folks who were either totally ignorant of, or reluctant to mention, the brutalities and human rights violations in Indonesia. Indonesia is now emerging into a new faze after the fall of president Suharto. And East Timor is now one of the newest countries on the world stage. The people of Palestine will also be free, thanks to the work of faithful people who struggle for peace and justice. (Max Surjadinata, Group 11)


Education and Advocacy

The following is a compilation of activities that EA’s have been doing since they have returned. As promised we have been busy educating our churches and the overall public through our writings and presentations and advocating for peace with our legislators. Many of us belong to denominations who have recently asked congress for conditional military aid for Israel so I imagine we will be busy working with this new direction. Others are beginning to put their support and energy behind various campaigns related to boycotting settler made products while others are investigating how we can have “positive investment” under occupation. We are all at different places but all are working hard for a just peace.

Elice Higginbotham
:  My own advocacy work since I returned has included: Editing/updating the EAPPI-US website; Continued speaking and preaching about Palestine at churches in an around New York; Serving on the New York planning committee for the Tree of Life Conference.  “Tree of Life” is a program that emerged six or seven years ago out of a UCC congregation in Connecticut.  Each year in the fall, Tree of Life brings resource people from Palestine for a series of half-day or one-day events in the northeastern US, featuring people involved in peacemaking activities in Palestine and Israel.  I help with the outreach and publicity, and we usually host one or more program presenters in our home.  The third New York Tree of Life Conference will be on November 11 this year, hosted by a Manhattan Episcopal congregation.          And, of course, signing untold numbers of petitions, writing letter after letter to Congress and the President, showing up at demonstration after demonstration.

Meg Kiekhaefer:  To be honest, I haven’t kept track of the talks given, letters written, and advocacy for peace since I have returned.  For my part, I have found a niche selling Palestinian olive oil and products to educate and to support the cause as much as possible.  There have been periods where I have been motivated to work hard and times when it has seemed overwhelming and hopeless.  I have helped to write a study guide for understanding the current situation as well as participating in an interfaith dialogue group.  I have presented several programs for our synod events and led study groups in our congregation.

Lynne Rigg: I've given over 110 presentations - - primarily to churches, Adult Ed programs, Synod Conference Meetings, Civic Groups, schools and private homes.

Don Christensen: I returned to the West Bank in 2005 and 2006 with interfaith delegations from Interfaith Peace Builders.  During one the these visits I was privileged to accompany Palestinian nonviolent activists as they trained villagers in the theory and practice of active nonviolence.  I continue to be active in education and advocacy for peace with justice in Palestine and Israel.

Esther Nelson: The experience equipped and continues to equip me for advocacy by providing 1) credibility and 2) inspiration. I returned to P/I as an ICAHD home-rebuilder and a fair trade intern, but it is my EA experience that continues to allow me to bear witness on a variety of issues and experiences. I am so grateful. 

Julie Rowe:  After EAPPI in 2003-4, I stayed in Jerusalem from 2004-8 working with Bishop Younan and his communications, speeches, statements, website, etc.  Since then I have been working on the Peace not Walls campaign at the church wide office and with synods who relate to the Middle East and Europe (Julie Rowe). Go to to learn more about our education and advocacy work.

Bob Traer:  The letters I wrote in the spring of 2005, with photos I took, continue to be available on my web site at And a book about my EAPPI experience entitled "Jerusalem Journal: Finding Hope" is available through

Scott Thams: I have taken three groups back and the experience was as amazing for them.  Everyone who visits for even two weeks is moved by the horror of the oppression that is everyday life for Palestinians and moved to engage in changing it. I will spend the rest of my life doing what I can to change it and bring sanity to our foreign policy. I long for the day that we no longer need EAPPI but until that day I am thankful we do.

Wayne Smith: These experiences certainly mobilized me to direct a great deal of my energy into advocacy work and currently serve as the Regional Coordinator for Washington and Oregon for Churches for Middle East Peace.

Amy Kienzle: I have continued to blog about the situation and am now also coordinating my denomination’s advocacy efforts under Peace Not Walls.

Loren McGrail:  Since returning in the Spring of 2011. I created worship resources and a sermon based on the theme “Refusing to Be Enemies” and have been doing presentations called “Time for A Just Peace in the Land They Call Holy: An Ecumenical Accompaniers Speaks out Against the Occupation and For Nonviolent Resistance.” I joined two groups here in Chicago: Chicago Faith Coalition for Middle East Peace and the Chicago Presbytery for Middle East Task Force. In addition I formed a Task Force at my home church. I have continued to blog about issues related to Palestine and Israel and also put up many articles on facebook page. As part of my blog, I have included posts specific for Advent and Lent and will do so again. I coordinated a Palestinian Solidarity Night for activists in the community and spoke at the American Muslims for Palestine national conference. I am investigating what “economic leverage” might mean for us in the UCC and how it might allow us to join with other denominations in their call for boycotts.

Chris Cowan: Since getting back in January I've done just under 20 varied presentations, and I've written letters too numerous to count, just as all of you have. A reply from President Carter yesterday in response to my description of Area C conditions began, "These situations are heartbreaking." So true. There is so much left to do! 

Tammie Danielsen:  Advocacy since I've been back in the US has included presentations in Minnesota, Austin (Texas) and Chicago; Representing the ELCA’s Peace Not Walls at a regional conference; Participating in efforts of Interfaith Community of Palestinian Rights in Austin. I have visited with Senators and Congressman with information such as copies of Human Rights reports that I sent weekly to the US Consulate's office while I was in Hebron/Al Khalil; 7.) Now I am in beginning to plan an "Open Shuhada Street Campaign" in my local community. I continue to post articles of interest from other organizations on my blog and to post advocacy alerts and info on Facebook and Twitter. And I share my story as an EA with individuals everywhere I go!

David Lindberg: After my return to the U.S. from Bethlehem, I did 50 presentations, mostly in churches, from 2005 to 2007.  I urged my listeners to go to the Holy Land and see the situation for themselves.  I now live in Newport Beach, California, where there is an active interfaith group in which I participate. 

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