I’m going to get busy on this blog over the next few weeks as a few people have asked that I write updates on how my trip to Israel/Palestine unfolds. My flight is booked for next Sunday 19th January, I return on the 1st Feburary, and my main base will be at St George’s Guest house in Jerusalem.
Why am I going? It was an idea that sprang out of last summer’s Greenbelt festival. Some Zionists staged a flag-waving protest outside the gates, including my brother-in-law, because they were upset none of their group had been invited to speak at Greenbelt, whereas there were some pro-Palestinian speakers. They were worried this would turn festival goers into Israel-bashing Nazis, they cried, ‘not fair, where’s the balance?’. But Greenbelt isn’t like a news story in the balance sense, no one goes around getting all the sides of every issue. And the speakers, like Sami from the Holy Land Trust, spoke with such grace, humility and compassion that I was cut to the heart. These are people who have suffered so much, and yet hold no hatred. Such a contrast the the angry flag-wavers outside.
So I thought I’d like to go to meet these wonderful people and hear their story myself, and see what life is really like there on both sides of the wall. Perhaps some of their spirit of courage and compassion will rub off on me. When my friend Jane Henson said I could come to stay with her and her husband at St George’s while they are on a six-month placement there, I jumped at the opportunity.
I’m planning to visit Wi’am in Bethlehem to do three days’ volunteer work, also the Holy Land Trust, and Nazareth for three days to promote a schools and churches partnership. Today I’m meeting headteachers at two schools here in Mansfield: St Peter’s Primary and the Queen Elizabeth Academy, to discuss how I can promote the partnership and for them to pass on gifts and some DVD messages they have made. I’ll keep updating this blog as things unfold.