SHEFFIELD resident and hill walking enthusiast Sue Beardon will be talking next week about her three months in Palestine working for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel.
The project entailed “protective presence” in a village under threat from illegal Israeli settlers, being a witness to human rights abuses, and advocacy.
”The people in Yanoun are still locked in a daily struggle to access their own land,” she says. “They are ringed by nearby Israeli settlements, deemed illegal under international humanitarian law. Even though they can prove ownership of the land all around, the Israeli army has shown them where they can and cannot walk or graze their sheep. There is so little grazing land available to them now that villagers buy in expensive fodder. Olive trees on the tops of the hills go untended, further reducing their income.”
Sue, who was living in the beautiful hills close to the Jordan Valley, also witnessed demolition of villages, schools, mosques and animal shelters. “Just as there are in the Peak District National Park, there are strict planning rules in Palestine’s occupied West Bank,” she says. “But unlike the Peak Park, whole villages that have existed for centuries, and now happen to be in designated Israeli military zones, suffer constant demolition.”
Christmas was spent in Nablus, the nearest large town, built like Sheffield on steep-sided hills, and home to both Christian and Moslems who live happily side by side. Sue recalls going for a walk up the highest hill on the morning of Christmas Eve and straying into the path of the Israeli army who questioned her for an hour as to what she was doing there and told her she was in danger from terrorists, escorting her off the hill to he nearest road. “I never met any terrorists,” says Sue, “just people shouting ‘You are welcome’.”
Sue says she never felt unsafe, even in the over-crowded refugee camps around Nablus.
Sue Beardon will be talking about her experience at Shirley House, Psalter Lane, Nether Edge, on Monday and the Quaker Meeting House on Tuesday next week and at Old Junior School, Sharrow, on February 28.