Building from Education and Twinning
We are delighted to have hosted two successful conferences in 2017. Our first in Hounslow showed the vibrant nature of twinning in Britain and the growing number of groups that share the belief that working together in friendship building strong links between communities is the way build a stable and sustainable future. The second in Birzeit University, demonstrating the interest and diversity of our partners in Palestine. Groups representing many areas of Palestine came together to discuss ways in which benefits are accrued from investment in linking and twinning. Building understanding from the basis of personal understanding and compassion.
We spent 2016 focusing on education links. Highlighting the opportunities for official links between schools, facilitated by the British Council's Connecting Classrooms initiative. As well as the increasing links between institutes of higher education that allow mature students from Palestine to study for a year in British Institutes of higher education. We also acknowledge the many diverse and challenging projects that our members under take in informal education links. Bringing volunteers and youth together, linking community organisations to share knowledge and skills, professionals of all dimension meeting and learning from each other
2017 is a significant year in Palestinian history. Marking 100 years since the Balfour declaration. 50 years since the Six Day War, which saw the establishment of the occupation still in place today. The challenges faced by Palestinians in their daily lives require that we examine this history to foster true understanding and cooperation in our work. For 2017 we are looking at the issues of Palestinians held in detention under Israeli Military Law and how this impacts family and social life. Detainees include children and adults, many of whom do not have information about the length of their incarceration.
We hope that our network continues to grow and deepen its commitment to realising lasting bonds of friendship between many levels of our societies. We look froward to an autumn launch of a DVD to promote our groups' work and a 2018 conference in Liverpool.
Andree Ryan considers some ways that we can make peaceful links of friendship with partners in Palestine:
British voluntary organisations, in churches, towns and villages across the United Kingdom, have created links of friendship or established formal twinning ties with a partner in Palestine.
Exchanges benefit both partners: think of art, culture, craft and cooking. There are so many diverse ways to create mutual support and mutual respect. People who participate in twining schemes make lots of friends, perhaps visit their twin and receive visitors in turn, learn new skills and find that lots of people in their community are ready and willing to support them. The scope of activities can be huge, depending on individual choice, what matters to the group.
The Britain Palestine Friendship and Twinning Network (BPFTN) is an organisation with links to Quakers that offers support to new groups here in the UK. It has a list of prospective places/organisations in Palestine seeking friendly contact with British potential partners. In my area we have had for 5 years a friendship link with the village of Sabastiya in the Northern West Bank (www.hafsa.org)
Why build friendship with Palestine? Palestinians have been living under Israeli military occupation for forty-eight years. They feel isolated – that is one of the many effects of occupation - and welcome contact with the outside world. Such a link helps to give them the moral and practical support they need to survive and look ahead.
The UK has a tradition of supporting the oppressed. Friendship and Twinning Associations are a two-way street – we form lasting friendships and learn all about resilience in the face of adversity. Palestinians gain practical and visible support benefiting people on the ground, including those suffering the greatest hardship. Our activities stay away from rhetoric and “politics” to address everyday concerns, sharing experiences, breaking that artificial isolation.
If you decide to take part in a twinning project, the choice of focus for cooperation is yours. Some groups have sent volunteers to Palestine to teach English or other skills, others have concentrated on helping communities to become economically self-sufficient (such as promoting tourism from the UK, buying chickens, or beehives, or organising training). Some have invited Palestinian artists and theatre groups to perform in the UK; others have sent football coaches. Some have offered advocacy on how to obtain support in Palestine and have lobbied our own government on practical issues affecting their Palestinian twin - often with good results. What matters is what works, for you and for your Palestinian partners.
Andree is a member of Hanwell Friends of Sebastiya
Jean Fitzpatrick (BPFTN Treasurer and Joint Membership Secretary) accompanied a group from the Camarthen area of Wales on a visit to Palestine exploring history, culture and potential links.
Arriving in Jerusalem on May 11th the group spent time exploring Jerusalem and Bethlehem. In Bethlehem they visited Aida Refugee Camp and Wi’am Centre for Reconciliation. In Wi’am they found an “oasis of calm", close to a check point and hard up against the wall the group learnt about the women’s and children’s groups activities.
Moving north the group headed to Sebastiya and a beautiful guest house. From there they visited four villages actively seeking friendship links and others who wanted to share stories of life under occupation. In Taybeh they visted schools.
In Rummameh - north west of Jenin – they again came close to the wall. At this stage the wall becomes an electrified fence, dividing families and separating people from their land.
In Burqin they gained an insight into the history of the land and peoples. Visiting a church founded in the 4th Century C.E.
While all the while gaining an understanding of the difficulties which are part of everyday life. Over a week the tour touched upon some of the issues that twinning seeks to understand.
First-time visitors were impressed and moved by everyone we have met and talked to.
We have also widened our network of Palestinian friends and really feel the network can grow with their commitment and support.
Contact us for more details or to start talking about tours and visits email@example.com
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