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Palestine accompanied, not alone

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


BPFTN: twinning in 2015


The BPFTN continues to be active promoting links between Palestine and Britain.

We welcome Vincet Fean as our first patron and hope to have a statement in time for our AGM in November.

Please contact us for further details about our ongoing campaign for visa justice.


BPFTN: Tour of Palestine, 2015


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.

By the Wall at Wi'am The Garden at Wi'am At the entrance to Aida Refugee Camp

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.

Kindergarten in Taybeh The group being welcomed in Rummameh

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.

Burqin Church which dates from the 4th century C.E.

In Burqin they gained an insight into the history of the land and peoples. Visiting a church founded in the 4th Century C.E.


Commemorating the Nakba (15 May) in Sabastiya

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.

COME TO PALESTINE, VISIT US AND SEE WITH YOUR OWN EYES.

Contact us for more details or to start talking about tours for 2016 palestinetwinning@yahoo.com