In March, the World Mission Council coordinated a ‘Behind the Wall Study Tour to Israel and Palestine’. Led by the Very Rev Andrew McLellan with Maureen Jack, the tour offered opportunities for participants to meet Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians, groups and individuals. The tour did not include visits to the holy sites but was designed to engage with grassroots projects and people, listening to their stories and seeking to understand the conflict. As part of their reflections on returning home some members of the group have written blog pieces that we will be sharing over the next few weeks.


On the recent Behind the Wall Study Tour in Israel and Palestine we met many people, both Israeli and Palestinian, involved in peace-making. These amazing people are impressive in what they do and so too are the more dispassionate international observers who are involved in monitoring the situation on the ground. I am still haunted by our meetings with them and the information they provide to governments and all who need to know.

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A presentation at OCHA, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, showed the worsening treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government in terms of use of weapons and entitlement to water, electricity and land. I now receive updates by email from OCHA. In Gaza they speak of ‘escalations of hostilities’ ( in the last year 199 Palestinians, including 43 children, were killed by Israeli forces and nearly 30,300 Palestinians injured, including 25 per cent wounded by live ammunition), ‘trauma injuries’ and high levels of psychological distress ( an estimated 10,420 people will have severe mental health problems). It is chilling to read that in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, the demolition of residential, livelihood and basic service infrastructure, on the grounds of a lack of Israeli-issued permits, continued in the first quarter of 2019 at a higher rate than in the previous two years. In 2019, OCHA has recorded 104 incidents where illegal Israeli settlers killed or injured Palestinians or damaged Palestinian property, including over 2,500 trees. This marks a 53 per cent increase in the number of incidents compared with 2018.

We were horrified at what we heard from staff of Military Court Watch who tell of the way children and teenagers are forcibly taken from their homes in the middle of the night, often blindfolded, cuffed, abused and subjected to extreme methods of interrogation. The way this is carried out is designed to traumatise families and to build suspicion of collaborators in the Palestinian community. The most recent report states that ‘The traumas that Palestinian teenagers and children experience in Israeli jails can cause lifelong scars, for them and their communities alike.’

At the British Consulate in Jerusalem we heard the same concerns and the mission statement on the wall as we entered the building was clearly for a peaceful future with justice for the Palestinian people

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