Maureen Jack serving for three months as an Ecumenical Accompanier (EA) in Jayyus with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

Our group arrived in Jerusalem on Saturday 17 November 2012.  We were travelling and arriving right in the middle of the recent Gaza conflict.  I think all of us had friends or family concerned that we were still going.  As I waited in Edinburgh airport on the Friday I saw a TV report of a rocket from Gaza landing on the Israeli settlement bloc, Gush Etzion, just south of Jerusalem.  And then one of the group we are replacing was on the beach in Tel Aviv on break on 21 November 2012, the day of the bus explosion there.  Meantime, EAs in the south Hebron hills could hear the Israeli bombardment of Gaza as they sat drinking tea with Palestinians in their tent homes.

2012-11-27 handover ceremony

I know that people at home have been concerned for my safety and I really appreciate that.  I know, for instance, that prayers were said in the church where I am an Elder, St Leonard’s, St Andrews.  But I have been absolutely fine and we receive good care and security advice from EAPPI.

I am placed in the Palestinian village of Jayyus in the northern West Bank, to the west of Nablus, the latest in a long line of Church of Scotland EAs there.  After arriving we had a day of training in Jerusalem and then spent a few days in our placements for a handover period with the outgoing group.  This was followed by further training in Jerusalem and then we returned here to Jayyus on Wednesday 28 November 2012.

Before leaving Jerusalem we had a moving handover ceremony in the chapel of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem’s Old City.  This photo shows the outgoing (in front) and incoming Jayyus teams (behind) just before the ceremony.  Local clergy were there, including Rev George Shand from St Andrew’s Church, Jerusalem.  We came out in teams, the outgoing team for a placement and the incoming one.  As did the others, the outgoing Jayyus team lit tapers from candles and, as we stood opposite them, they lit our tapers, passing on the light.  They said together, ‘I pass onto you the calling to walk in the light with the people of Jayyus.  May you walk with kindness, hope, patience and love, so that you are blessed and are a blessing to all.’

This rather emotional moment was followed by a time of passing the peace.  Sixty-odd people milling around and hugging with lit tapers is something of a recipe for disaster, and soon there was the smell of singed hair in the air!
Four of us are now the Jayyus team: Luiz from Brazil, Per Ako from Sweden, Tin from the Philippines, and me from Scotland. We are somewhat in awe of the amount of work in front of us…but will do our best to face it ‘with kindness, hope, patience and love.’  Please pray that we will be given the strength to do what needs to be done, and the grace and wisdom to do it well.

Salaam, shalom, peace.