This post comes from Maureen Jack…

On one of our last days in Jayyus we travelled to visit our landlord, Abu Azzam and his wife, Siham, on their land. All of their land is on the opposite side of the separation barrier from their home in Jayyus. This area of Palestinian land between the separation barrier and the Green Line is referred to as the ‘seam zone.’ Palestinians need permits to go there through an agricultural gate, which the Israeli military open for three hours a day.

Abu Azzam’s land is a beautiful place, with groves of olive and citrus trees. Hanging on tightly, we rattled along the rough roads on a trailer behind his tractor. We went to what Abu Azzam calls his ‘shed,’ but which is really a simple second home. We had a great meal of chicken and vegetables, which Abu Azzam and Siham had cooked in a pit.

Abu Azzam and Siham cooking lunch

Abu Azzam and Siham cooking lunch. Photo: Per Ake Skagersten

The others went off exploring with Abu Azzam, but I wanted some time by myself, really to take my leave of this place that had been home for three months. The previous few days had been difficult. A couple of weeks before, the villagers had been optimistic on two counts. After campaigning for a decade, they had received permission from the Israeli authorities to run a water pipe from the seam zone (where all the village’s water wells are) up to the village. In addition, it looked as if work had finally started on re-routing the separation barrier. In 2009 the Israeli supreme court had decided that the barrier should be moved, which would have returned over 600 acres to the Jayyus side of the barrier; this would be extremely helpful to a number of landowners.

This optimism was short-lived, however. Just a few days before our visit to Abu Azzam’s land, Israeli settlers had installed six new caravans in the seam zone. The location was difficult for two reasons: it put at risk the re-routing of the barrier, and it was on the planned route of the water pipe. As we took photos of the new caravans that day, an armed Israeli settler came to see what we were doing. He showed us a plan, from which it was clear that the settlers intended to build about forty houses there.

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Maureen with armed settler. Photo: Per Ake Skagersten

As I sat in the sun thinking about all this, Siham came out and said that she was going to pray. Because she had a sore back, she brought out a chair. She began to pray quietly. I prayed, silently, thinking of the friends I had made and the very worrying situation that was confronting them.

My attention wandered, and I wondered what my Muslim friend was praying. Then I heard clearly one whispered word: ‘Shukran’ (‘Thank you.’) In the midst of all her anxiety, Siham’s prayer was one of thanksgiving. For her, the most natural thing. For me, another lesson in faith.

Peace, salaam, shalom.

I work for Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) as an ecumenical accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer (QPSW) or the World Council of Churches. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting it on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact the QPSW Programme Manager for I-oPt teresap@quaker.org.uk for permission.