PHOTO CREDIT: MIRAL AAMA
Dear friends and supporters of Holy Land Trust,
It has been a while since we sent you an update from Bethlehem. We decided to honor and respect each of you for the process that you are engaged in to take care of yourself and loved ones and not to overwhelm you. The situation with COVID-19 has hit all of us in similar and different ways and we pray and hope you are well and safe in these times.
We still remain under strict emergency measures in the Palestinian Authority areas but not as strict as the first fifty days. We can now move between towns in the Bethlehem "A" area; Bethlehem, Beit-Jala, Beit Sahour, the refugee camps, and a couple of towns. Some non-essential stores have opened but no one is buying. Ramadan is halfway through and the families are not gathering to break the fast and celebrate together.
People are more withdrawn and somber, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. It seems that everyone is waiting for some collapse or disaster. The Palestinian Authority has made it clear that foreign aid is the only means to survive. Israeli policy of land confiscation, settlement building, and annexation of more West Bank territory into Israel is in full motion. So these are somber times.
In all this, we still believe that these times are opportunities for personal and collective transformation, a time for new visions of peace and justice to emerge in the Holy Land and the world that go beyond political solutions and diplomatic treaties. It is a time when we as humans begin to truly see that we are all equal and one; no one is better than anyone else for any reason, especially race, religion, nationality, or gender. It is time that we see what we have become like humans in our destructive behavior towards earth and nature and seek healing and reconciliation with this beautiful planet.
At Holy Land Trust we are moving in this direction. We have moved as many programs as we can to online platforms, including much of our new Environmental Justice program, (From Dialogue to Action) funded by the European Union and in working with the Dead Sea & Arava Science Center, to create a movement of Palestinian and Israeli activists that will address the occupation through the lens of the environmental damage it causes. We have also held some of our leadership training online and are looking more into doing similar workshops for the collective trauma healing work. Our engagement globally has also grown through working with friends all across the world, one particular network we are proud to be in is the Defend the Sacred Alliance, a global movement of sacred activists exploring new patterns of connection to each other and to the earth and seeking to address the continuous violence between us humans, particularly drawing from the wisdom of indigenous communities.
We are also preparing new programs, itineraries, and experiences for internationals who will come to the Holy Land when possible and we are looking forward to offering you these new programs soon.
Our small team is working hard from home or now we can, we gather for a few hours a day at the office to ensure co-operation and effective strategic development. We know that we have depleted much of the funds we have and we are cutting salaries and might go into a time with no money, but it is not hindering our resolve because this time has actually made us more committed to our vision and call than any time before.
We realized that we do not want to depend on aid from our international friends for survival but we continue to extend to you the invitation to be partners with us through your gifts and contributions. For example, while the EU funded much of the program, we are still required to cover 20% of the cost, not a small sum for a three-year project (130,000 US$). We need (10.000 US$) to cover basic salaries for a month as well as the money we need to invest in new programs.
The work we do is both local and global and we see you as partners with us in the journey to bring peace, justice, and equality to the Holy Land and the globe and would love to explore this more with you through communicating with you directly when possible. So feel free to send us a note with your ideas in partnership with us. We look forward to hearing from you and hope you feel able to support us in whatever way you can as we seek to push ahead with the vital work of transformation in this time of global crisis.
Elias Deis - Executive Director
Holy Land Trust’s E.D., Elias Deis has worked for over a decade at Holy Land Trust. He was formally the Travel & Encounter Program Director and serves on the Beit Sahour City Council.