Annual Earthstewards Gathering 2005

Harry Troelstra from the Netherlands, one of the key organizers for the PeaceTrees/Gathering in Bethlehem has been keeping a diary since his arrival in Bethlehem. Here are those entries on a daily basis.

Thank you, Harry, for bringing this event home to so many of us who dearly wish we could be there physically, but for many reasons are not able to attend. You know our hearts and prayers are with you all.

July 22nd, 2005

Dear Friend,

What is it I would like to share with you about this day? Of course I want you to know that our second day of planting trees was successful. We planted many trees, watered them well and are really making that piece of road look far better than it did before. I am proud of us!

I need to set something straight. You know how bad I am with names. I hear them try all the pre-learned techniques to remember them and, hurray (!), a second later my mind goes blank. Of course, I have an excuse because the names around here are difficult to remember due to their unfamiliarity. Furthermore, I struggle with the pronunciation as the phonetics between Arabic and English are so different. Which is, by the way, beautiful the other way around. My name written in Arabic is like a piece of art. And it is only three letters long.

Why am I boring you with all this? Well one of the people whom I mentioned in a previous letter made it clear to me that I have used a name for him he didn't use anymore for eight years. Shame on me! And because there might actually be people out there amongst you who only know him by his current name, I feel I do have to clarify this.

Bear inn mind that when I spoke of Martin I was referring to Martin Dronsfield, the artist formerly known as Martin Kamman (grin, he is going to kill me for this!).

This brings me to a delicate topic: humour (for the USA: humor). We seem to be laughing about things here that are really bizarre. The war zone atmosphere of this place brings out the most wonderful sarcasm in people, namely myself. And it helps people to remember long forgotten jokes they have heard from others who have lived through tragedies.

So we laugh a lot. That is good therapy because it releases some tension at least. But I find it hard to tell you the jokes. Right now, as I sit here behind my computer (in a bit of a reflective state) I don't even know what was so funny about the Holocaust jokes I heard. Oh, and the irony of it all is that these joke are told by Jews. And other groups seem to have at least a similar morbid appetite. Earlier the birthday of one of our young Palestinians was celebrated. And I was told that the songs the group sang for him included images of all his family members being dead.

We finished our day with a silly ball game. It was the usual chaos and a lot of fun. And afterwards, while standing in a circle and talking about it one of us said: "We just had a workshop headed: 'Throwing Stones for Beginners'.

As one of the organisers of this event I'd like to share something else with you. We designed the whole thing wrong. We thought that the Peace Trees Project and the Earthstewards Gathering could be two parallel programmes and that participants would easily move from one to the other. And we thought that the organising team would be able to manage the whole thing.

But this isn't so. All the difficulties related to the Peace Trees Project seem to absorb all the energy. And we are doing fine. But after a day of planting and an excursion to another Peace organisation in Jerusalem we had a lousy Earthstewards meeting last night. And quite a few people were disappointed and would not like to be in a circle henceforth.

We spoke about this in the afternoon. And I feel we really got to what a Gathering is all about. We spoke about what it is that makes a Gathering so special that people are willing to travel half the world to be there. For most of us, it was about being connected to others. And the circle is an essential building block in the process of regaining this sense of connection. And those who come to the Gathering long to return home with this warm feeling. I think that Gatherings help us (in a modest and powerful way) on our path to find an answer to the existential question: Why…?

But OK, we screwed up last night. And people were feeling lost and disappointed. Some of them saying things like 'Earthstewards is nothing for me'. So we spoke and used all our creativity and we found the perfect remedy: we scheduled a circle for this evening. And it was decided that Dieuwke and I would facilitate it. So we sat together and talked about how to do it and we did it. And we did well! Our dear friend Ibrahim said it made his day!

Dear Friend, I realise you must be a bit surprised to hear Dieuwke and I did this together. But to me it is not so much surprising as well as reinforcing in knowing that the EarthStewards Gatherings are powerful and healing.

Greetings -with all my love-,

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