Report on Inter-agency convocation

May 20, 2008

in News

Convocation at Karim Bishara, Kilo Sabatasch Rd., Nahalin, Palestine

Saturday, May 17, 2008, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.


Dear Friends,

It was thrilling to me, given the responsibility of gathering representatives of the Bethlehem-area peacebuilding agencies on the land of Tent of Nations 5/17, to see people from several area peacebuilding groups, together in the warm sun of Karim Bishara last Saturday.

Since private conversation and consultation is the essence of such gatherings, it was a joy to open with a peace-song with guitar (“I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free”) to start our deliberations.

Daoud Nassar welcomed the group, expressing the hope that this meeting would be followed by others, regularly, so that peacebuilding in the Bethlehem area might become more cooperative and harmonious—so that we might “live” our message.

Self-introductions showed that we were a group from all over the world, some from Bethlehem, some from the villages, some from other countries, but all of us moved (a few to the point of tears) by the 60 years of suffering by the Palestinian people.  Stories of personal experience of having one’s home demolished, inability to get a dying child through a check-point to the hospital, having one’s summer camp destroyed because the children were having “too much fun”, illustrated the extremes of “man’s inhumanity to man.”

In a “go-around” on the joys and frustrations of working in the current situation, a certain delight was expressed that so many Palestinians still hope and believe in non-violence, that they welcome internationals, that “being here” makes up for the lack of media coverage of Palestinian suffering, and that some local peacebuilders have learned to find contentment even in the midst of pain.  Among the frustrations, high on the list were (1) the number of Palestinians who resign themselves to “numbness,” or emigrate abroad, or react with violence; (2) the aggressive settlement-building, along with policies which starve/strangle/suffocate the Palestinian people, and (3) lack of global awareness and advocacy for the plight of Palestinians.  A German peace-worker reminded us that “walls fall,” a South African that “apartheid ended,” and Daoud urged “acting for the future.”

After a tasty lunch and a second peace-song (“I Believe That We Will See This Through”), an afternoon session explored “beliefs we share in common.”

Foundational to this was the declaration, “There are people in every country who commit themselves for peace.”  The question was how to get them together in dialogue and concerted action for the benefit of all.  The Tent of Nations land was obviously one resource––but so were the activities of all the agencies present, and those who were not in attendance, as well.  The conclusion: to have any hope of resolving the situation, we must as peacebuilders continue to gather for consultation, coordination, and cooperation—overcoming our tribal tendency to compete.  Examples of potential mutual support were given.  Possible places for a next meeting were explored, and possible members of an ongoing “steering committee.”

We ended with a peace-circle and brief tour of the land.

I return to the U.S.A. (Amherst, Massachusetts, near Boston) exhilarated by contact with all of you, and buoyed by fresh ideas and hopes for “a new birth of compassion” emanating from Bethlehem and vicinity.  If a new world is coming, why should it not begin here, in the “city of hope”?

Salaam —peace and love to all, Dr. Rick

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