Advent 2

To people seeking peace and a decent livelihood

In the north of Palestine’s West Bank the small village of Al Aqaba nestles in the hills of the Jordan valley. Surrounded by arable land, the residents cultivate less than a third of it. On the land they have access to, the villagers herd sheep and grow crops. At one time 1,000 people lived in the village. After the Israeli military began operations, many fled to a neighbouring village leaving only 300 residents in the village. Thanks to the determined villagers who have garnered international support, some 400 villagers have returned.

Living on the edge of conflict is no easy matter. For years residents stood up to Israeli efforts to force them from their homes. The Israel Defence Force has taken over much of the surrounding land for firing zone. A total of eight people have been killed over the years as a result of the exercises or from unexploded ordnance. Al Aqaba lies in land designated as Area C over which the Palestinian Authority has limited control. Israel has full control over planning, construction and security. In Area C it is almost impossible for Palestinians to get permits for building, water pumps or other services. At the same time, large scale settlements are being constructed for Jewish citizens on land taken from traditional owners.

Everyday farmers set out to take their sheep to its lush fields or to tend their lands. If the military pile large concrete blocks on the road, they could go no further. Instead they buy feed for their animals or watch tanks and soldiers crush their crops. The constant pressure of military activity and their difficulties gaining access to water and electricity made the villagers more determined to stay on their traditional land. They have learnt to work together for the whole community, building a kindergarten, medical centre, sewing factory, small cheese business, and now a tea-manufacturing enterprise.

One of the challenges is to earn an income. DSPR has been working to improve their resilience on this sharp edge of conflict. Thanks to the combined support of CWS and international donors, they have built eight plastic tunnel house with water tanks and irrigation systems. In the tunnel houses they have planted 39,000 seedlings, producing two tons of fresh herbs every 40 days. The herbs are dried in a storage room built with DSPR help. Once dry, a mixture of 12 herbs is blended and packaged for sale.
DSPR has built a strong relationship with the Rural Women’s Development Society who manage the tea manufacturing cooperative. Thanks to the donation of an old packaging machine, the small factory was working well. The high quality tea could be transported to market when the roads were open. However, now the machine is broken and they need help to buy another.
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Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees

DSPR of the Middle East Council of Churches grew from the work of clergy and lay people working together to assist some of the 726,000 Palestinians who fled or were pushed from their homes in 1948. Their prorgamme is organised through five regional committees: Galilee, Gaza, Jerusalem, Jordan and the West Bank. Each has its own history and in 1970 they formally joined together as the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees. The committees are highly respected for the work they do to improve the wellbeing of Palestinian and other refugees.

Last year over 90,000 people received healthcare – in Gaza DSPR operates primary healthcare clinics in three communities without which none would be available. DSPR runs education programmes for all ages including taking Syrian refugees back to Lebanon to sit their exams, something impossible otherwise. In the West Bank, much of the work has been focused on improving water supply and livelihoods. Achieving success is not straightforward. Permits are almost impossible to obtain, services can be cut off without notice, and conflict frequently erupts with the new settlers or military. Over the last two years, 317 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and 13 Israelis killed by Palestinians. Israeli security forces regularly enter Palestinian homes at any time of the day or night, and Palestinians are arrested on a daily basis. The situation for most continues to deteriorate.

Despite the occupation, DSPR holds on to the dream of a just peace between Israel and Palestine. They advocate for the right to self-determination and the securing of human rights. It is work they cannot give up.

SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

The 2018 Appeal puts the spotlight on our responsibilities to each other and the planet our home. In 2015, the United Nations agreed to a new agenda for sustainable development made up of 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 16 is a commitment to promote peace and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. This goal is a commitment to end violence and prevent the harm that can quickly unravel development achievements. From stopping human trafficking and conflict-related deaths to achieving more accountable government institutions and reducing corruption, achieving SDG 16 is far reaching in its ambition. While not directly addressing long standing conflicts, it aims to strengthen human rights protection including political representation and reduce illicit financial and arms flows. This goal encompasses a broad range of objectives that underpin the achievement of many of the other goals. To achieve this goal will boost achievements in the rest.

Join the Lifeline so all people have food, water, dignity and lives free of violence. Leave no one behind. Support the Christmas Appeal.

Mayor Sami Sadaq watches sheep cheese production at the small factory in Al Aqaba supported by DSPR. He was wounded by gunfire in 1971 but has proved a tenacious advocate for his village. Trish Murray visited the village in 2017. Rebuilding Alliance produced this clip in 2016.

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