Updates from MNO Bishop Elaine Sauer

January 12, 2009

Olive Tree a Symbol of Hope

Today was another emotional day. We saw a Palestinian home that is completely surrounded by the Israeli security fence with a six foot area around three sides. On the other side are Israeli settlers. Settlements are illegal under article 4 of the Geneva Convention but there they are.
We went to the Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah. What an amazing group of students. We had conversation with Grade 10’s in our group. They are articulate, bright politically savvy youth, Muslim and Christians/ male and female studying together. It was a great story of hope being with them.
We experienced two checkpoints complete with soldiers carrying machine guns coming on board our bus to check passports. It was very unnerving.
This afternoon we planted olive trees right along a part of the Israeli security fence near Bedo. It was a symbol of our hope for the future and our solidarity with the Palestinian people who are unable to cross the wall to get to their farms.


Where is God? Where is my neighbour?

Yesterday we had a tour of Augusta Victoria Hospital, an LWF hospital and were inspired by the work they do. We also saw the geriatric ward that is being paid for by CLWR and CIDA. The director was most appreciative of our Canadian contributions. There is a plaque with a Canadian flag on the wall in this area.
We had a very tense day today. We travelled to Hebron which is a highly conflicted area. There are about 400 Israeli settlers in a mainly Palestinian community. The army is everywhere, with plenty of checkpoints. There were some anxious moments when we had to go single file through some of those checkpoints, just as every day, most Palestinians have to do. A member of the world council of churches EAPPI team had to accompany us everywhere we went as well. We are housed in Beit Jala, right next to Bethlehem, at a place called Abraham’s House.
Tonight we had a wonderful meal with ecumenical leaders in Bethlehem. Tomorrow we are off to the Church of the Reformation. We will attend worship then have a meal with a local family. It has been difficult to have much conversation with local people. We are kept tightly ordered in our groups and no one is encouraged to separate from the group. It will feel like freedom.
We also had a tour of a mosque in Hebron today. In 1992, 29 people were killed by an Israeli during worship. This is a very honoured place for the local people and we were honoured to be in their place of worship. We saw the tomb of Abraham and Isaac within the mosque as well.
Please continue to pray for us as we travel and learn with our Israeli, Palestinian and American colleagues. Two questions are often asked here- Where is God? and Who is my neighbour? These are questions for all of us, so it is a wonderful experience to be in this context and talk about such things together.
Thanks for your prayers. We’d love to hear from all of your too.
Peace to all.
Elaine and Rick


A Quieter Day

Today was a quieter day. We walked to worship at Church of the Reformation in Beit Jala. The congregation is small but full of children. They sang during the offering, a very familiar song, Seek Ye First. What a wonderful sound in Arabic. We followed with the singing of the Lord’s Prayer in Arabic. It is amazing to be in a different time and place and feel so close to our own worship.
After worship we were invited to family’s homes for lunch. The Palestinians expect you to stay all day and often invite you for the night. A short visit of three hours was not enough for them but that was all we could manage with the schedule set up for us. We heard of how it takes 18 checkpoints to get to Jordan from here and we heard it takes 5 for a worker to get to Jerusalem for work each day (up to three hours each way).
We found that women here are highly educated but are low on the totem pole in terms of advancement and salaries. The family we visited has 8 daughters, seven have masters or PhD degrees but most are in low paying jobs. They are often disappointed at lack of employment and at least three of them are working overseas. They wish they could work here though.
We spent a brief time in Bethlehem Square, next to the Church of the Nativity, taking in the local scenery. Elaine bought, guess what, a nativity set. Then we arrived at a Palestinian Tourism reception and each of us received one more as a gift. Now we have three to bring home. The reception was to build and encourage us to support tourism in Palestine as well as Israel. For every dollar we spend in the Holy Land, only 5% ends up in Palestine. Even though some countries’ travel websites discourage people from staying in the West Bank, Bethlehem and Jericho are safe sites and are certainly worth the visit. Many countries, not including Canada, now acknowledge this.
Part of our itinerary tomorrow is to visit Lutheran Schools, plant olive trees next to the security wall and meet with the Canadian Consulate officials. It should be an opportunity to express our concerns about the situation and Canada’s response to it.
Elaine and Rick

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