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 16th, 2005

Dear Friend,

Now the opening of the Gathering is only one day ahead and the things that need to be done seem to become more practical. And a sense of urgency is getting hold of the group. The result of this was that we engaged in a large cleaning activity. The main meeting hall, which is located on the fourth floor story, was the centre of all activities to begin with. A large number of plastic chairs were cleaned, the floor was scrubbed and the windows were cleaned until they were shining as bright as the Sun. We really put Cinderella to shame! And when all of that was done, the activities moved towards the staircases. The staircases turned into a wild streaming river turning into waterfalls as the water cascaded down.

To cut it short: it was playtime!

We had a second meeting with representatives of the Al Khader Municipality to talk about where and how the trees should be planted along The Median Strip; the strip that divides the road in question. I don't know if I have mentioned this previously, but the Mayor has already decided that, regardless of previous agreements, he would rather have decorative trees than the olive trees that have already been purchased. This time, workers from the Municipality have come up with a few other ideas and requests:

  •  To water the plants they would like to have water tanks and irrigation pipes installed;
  •  And, giving the area a second look, they came to the conclusion that the soil should be removed and replaced by fresh new soil.

What we weren't expecting of course is that they expect us to cover the costs and organise all of it!

It will take us time and a lot of patience to convince them that some things just can't be done (new soil can be achieved unless a miracle happens) and that simple solutions for the watering of the new plants have to be found. For these problems, we may have suggestions for solutions; that would mean involving all schools in the area and asking the parents of schoolchildren to take responsibility, etc.

We will be making a visit to the Governor of the area tomorrow and see what he can do for us.

Now that we are getting closer to the start of this programme, more and more people have started to show up (about half of the expected group of internationals are in) which means that it is time to start the registering of participants and collecting fees. Because we try to keep the costs for the participants as low as possible, this whole fee issue is always a somewhat hazardous issue. We decided to charge a daily fee and charge for workshops and trainings separately. So people only have to pay for the days they actually are here and for the thing they really participate in.

The participants come from all over the World (we already have Americans, someone from New Zealand, and Europeans from at least 5 countries). So we have to deal with Euros, Dollars, Pound Sterling and of course, New Israeli Shekels.

The only constant factor in this whole thing is the Opening Day (and even that won't ring true all the time because some people will arrive after the Opening).

Though I don't want to use this phrase again, I would say it is quite a challenge to deal with it all, especially with all the technicalities.

The real problem always is that some people come to the gathering misinformed. People think that the costs will be about half of what they really are. (We charge $32.50 a day for full board) and they just don't seem to have more money to spare. The budget for the whole project is somewhat tight; we cannot afford to be complacent in terms of money even if it involves a relatively small amount of money. I am convinced that a solution will come up; we still have a whole Sunday ahead of us before the party begins!


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