This is my first post. As I sit here enjoying the holidays with family and friends, I am anticipating what my three month mission as an Ecumenical Accompanier (EA) with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (www.eappi.org) will be like. With the recent news regarding ongoing bombing in Gaza some have questioned my sanity, but I remain called to this work. I have traveled to Israel three times over the last few years, some for business, and lead a three week youth exchange trip to Palestine in 2005, so I am familiar with the territory. I have included a selection of picture from that trip in the slide show to the right. I feel I must share what I have seen. With my ongoing business relationships in Israel I hope to bring a somewhat unique prospective to my reporting of the conflict.
My hope is to provide you a window into the daily lives of the people of the Holy Land by sharing their hopes and dreams. This is the common thread we all share as human beings and a place we can always start to build relationships. I firmly believe that the solution to this mindless conflict is to be found in building person-to-person relationship, one at a time. As I have traveled the world I have found that I always have more in common with those I meet than differences. The same holds true in the Middle East.
I am honored to have been selected to participate in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program. Many people have asked me what specific tasks I will be engaged in while I am there. While the programme's mission is to accompany Palestinians and Israelis in non-violent actions and concerted advocacy efforts to end the occupation, some of its detailed objectives are to:
- Participate in the daily life and work of Palestinian and Israeli civil society, Churches and Christian communities.
- Be visibly present in vulnerable communities, locations or events, near Israeli settlements and the wall/fence, schools and homes, fields & orchards.
- Actively listen to local people's experiences and give voice to peoples' daily suffering under occupation and write or speak about
- these experiences in their reports and public speaking engagements
Monitor the conduct of Israeli soldiers (e.g. at checkpoints and other barriers and during demonstrations and other military actions) and contact relevant organizations and authorities to request intervention.
- Engage in non-violent ways with perpetrators of human rights abuses.
- Produce high quality, first-hand written materials, testimonies and analysis.
- Report on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that EA,s witness and document and use these reports to inform governments and intergovernmental bodies and press them to take action.
- Engage with the media locally, nationally and internationally.
- Be part of international advocacy and networking activities that highlight the human rights situation in Palestine.
Please plan to check back frequently as my intention is to post photos and comments from my daily experiences. This will be a first hand contemporaneous report on the daily lives of Palestinians and Israelis as they struggle to find peace.
In Closing I would like to profusely thank those who have allowed me to pursue this adventure, first and foremost my wife Julie who along with daughter Carrie will be holding down the home front while I am gone. With her job and other commitments, this will as challenging for her as for me. I greatly appreciate her sacrifice. I am also greatly appreciative for the financial support of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Southeast MI Synod. Thanks also go out to friends who have supported this effort financially and in prayer. Lastly I would like to thank my business partners who have allowed me to take a leave of absence. Thank you all !