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 17th, 2005

Dear Friend,

WE DID IT! We actually made it happen: the Gathering and Peace Trees Project in Palestine opened last night. We had our first circle with 24 participants from around the World (it helps to have someone from New Zealand here as it makes the previous sentence sound far more true!).

I realise that I haven't had the chance to tell you much about myself and what they have meant to me in the last couple of days and now's my chance. We, the team organising all of this, have worked very, very hard. And the temperature has been high (even for local standards) which makes it hard for me to get a proper night's sleep. And of course we had a few setbacks (which seem to an integral part of a gathering). As a result of this I can say that I've been tired for a good number of days now; I'm beyond tired.

However, it has to be said that I also feel so very, very happy that we have done all this with great results.

Let me tell you a bit more about the problems and setbacks we are facing. Ibrahim had asked someone to be our cook for the gathering. He even negotiated about the fee despite the price ending up to be higher then we had budgeted for. As if to add to our problems, the caterer said he wouldn't be able to do it after all. The genius also known as Ibrahim managed to find someone else within 24-hours. But all this takes up so much energy unnecessarily!

I think I already spoke to you about our, undoubtedly, supportive Mayor and the change of plans about the trees to be planted along the Median Strip in Al Khader. Bear in mind that if we are going to use other trees we either have to negotiate about the already ordered olive trees with the seller. This would mean receiving less olive trees and a couple of other tress (for the Strip) or just buying the additional decorative trees, which would mean that our budget would suffer a blow due to the extra expenditure. To give you a rough idea, let me quote some numbers: Our total budget is about $23,000, of which 25% has been spent on the purchase of the olive trees. And yes, we did think about the fact that minor changes would occur. But spending another 2 thousand dollars from the budget, just for the trees, is not even an option and never has been! Then, we have the little problem of participants under the impression that the fee for the gathering was something other then it is (why is it always an amount les the actual fee?).

Oh, and yeah, you are right. I did say several times in the past that I wouldn't be involved in organising any gatherings anymore. And now that I have contradicted myself by choosing to be part of the group of organisers again, I really shouldn't be complaining. It doesn't help to complain anyways.

The Opening Ceremony takes place tomorrow morning at ten. All the officials will be here and they will be involved in planting several tress we. In preparation for that, Robert, a fellow volunteer, and myself, dug nine holes in the garden of the school.

This resulted in me having my first blister of this project. And this is surely the first blister of many yet to come! We are really on our way here!


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