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 25th, 2005

This Monday was really just a regular Peace Trees Bethlehem day. We planted along the road in Al Khader and in the afternoon we had a workshop on gender issues. Looking back, it all seemed like a dream! Imagine young Palestinians working so hard, digging holes, planting trees and watering them. And it would be great if the television crew who filmed us would share it with the World (but we all know that the chances of that are pretty slim). It would be just show that young Palestinians are capable, and even more important, willing to put their energy in something very constructive. And most importantly it would help cease any misconceptions that the media has so effortlessly spread.

So we finished this strip of land in the middle of the road. The strip of land has been restored to its former glory in terms of trees; the previous ones destroyed by tanks and bulldozers. Yes, this war even includes the destruction of plants of no economic value. And tomorrow we will move further down the road towards Bethlehem. There are many more kilometres that could do with some green plants and we can do about two hundred metres a day.

In the afternoon a 'Gender' programme was scheduled in which elements of Essential Peacemaking were integrated to create a programme specially aimed at the young Palestinian participants. But older internationals were allowed in as well.

After a few opening exercises we split up in gender (man and woman) groups. The assignment was to talk about men and women working together (what it means, what the effect is on the male or female role).

We spoke for about an hour in two separate groups. After, we came together again to continue the sharing within the gender groups. The males and the females took it in turns to speak while the other listened and vice versa. Remember that I said this was a Gender programme for the young Palestinians. So we were in a room with people whose ages ranged from13 to 65. We were in one room with Muslims, Christians and others. We had people of cultures from all around the world. Some had been in EP-like settings on many occasions but others had never spoken about certain issues and certainly not with the opposite sex in the same room.

And then it just happened: everyone spoke his or her truth. Pain, frustration, longings; it was all shared. There were young women who were demanding a far more open and worldly position. And the men agreeing and disagreeing. A lot of listening took place. It was said and it was listened to.

To me it became very clear that, while so much violence and aggression is going on, another major shift is taking place here. It was very clearly expressed by one of the young men. He said: 'Things are changing. Be aware that we are here in this workshop because our fathers allowed us to be here'.

I spent my evening talking to Ursel. I needed her advice on something personal. She was a great help!

And I read my e-mails, which are mostly from you my Dear Friends. Thank you for your support!

And yes, I wish you were here to share these special events with me.


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