Next week I am leaving for Palestine to work for three months on peace building and promoting human rights in this troubled region. I will be living in the city of Hebron in the West Bank as part of a team of internationals experiencing and reporting on the conditions of everyday life under occupation.
I am taking part in a programme run by the World Council of Churches involving people from eleven countries, mostly European. It is called the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) and we will be monitoring checkpoints in the separation barrier, trying to prevent human rights abuses, providing protection by presence and supporting the activities of both Israeli and Palestinian peace activists.
Our approach is neutral between Israelis and Palestinians but to stand up for justice and the human rights of all the region’s inhabitants. It is a fascinating though very difficult and tragic part of the world and I feel both excited and privileged to be going.
A large part of the role is to raise awareness internationally of the issues and to press for more action to be taken by Western governments to find a solution. I will be sending regular reports to politicians such as my local MP, Vincent Cable, and several London MEPs, plus church leaders and a long list of friends and contacts.
I will also be writing a blog about my experiences on the Daily Mirror’s website, www.mirror.co.uk. I will be back just in time for Christmas and early next year I will be holding a series of public meetings where I will talk about what I witnessed, show photographs and answer questions.
I am a former news reporter and feature writer on the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror and Daily Express under my maiden name of Gill Swain, now working freelance as a journalist and biographer. I am also known locally under my married name of Gill Clay-Jones, widow of landscape gardener Richard Clay-Jones who was the son of Clay Jones, the late chairman of Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time.
If anyone is interested in receiving my newsletters from Palestine, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will gladly add you to my list. Also, if anyone would like to host one of my talks, please get in touch. More information about the programme can be found at www.eappi.org
– from Gill Swain