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“All of our work is a struggle right now, but we continue; we never stop. We are equipped with hope, empowered by people like our friends who support Amos Trust, determined to do what is best for our people.” Zoughbi Zoughbi from Wi’am Conflict Resolution Centre speaks to Katie Hagley.
Stories of Hope
Doing Hope in... Bethlehem
Building Hope in the Shadow of the Wall
With all eyes on Gaza, life in the West Bank is becoming more and more difficult. Over 350 Palestinians have been killed since 7th October, including 91 children; over 4,000 people have been injured and over 5,800 have been arrested, many for their social media use. All of the Palestinian cities have been locked in by Israeli forces, with very little movement allowed between them. For Bethlehem, it also means high unemployment and despair as the city relies heavily on tourism.
Yet amongst all this, our partner Wi’am Conflict Reconciliation Centre is busy building hope in the shadow of the Separation Wall. In a defiant act of resistance, they are busy constructing a multi-purpose hall they have dreamed of for years, and we are delighted that we have contributed £20,000 to this important project thanks to your generosity.
“We decided to get on and build the hall as it is needed, and you know, we thought it is the best time because of what is happening in Gaza and the Occupied Territories. Israel is destroying houses; our response is we cannot stop them in other places, but we can build this hall as a sign of resilience.”
Wi’am Conflict Resolution Centre is one of Amos Trust’s oldest partners in Palestine. Its centre, on the old Jerusalem to Hebron road, is situated next to one of Israel’s primary military checkpoints and is dominated by the Separation Wall and a military watchtower.
“All of our work is a struggle right now, but we continue; we never stop. We are equipped with hope, empowered by people like our friends who support Amos Trust, determined to do what is best for our people.” Zoughbi Zoughbi
Wi’am works with the local community to address the impact of the ongoing Occupation and the multiple restrictions placed on Palestinians’ lives. It holds mediation sessions for families in dispute, runs children’s summer camps, carries out trauma’ coping’ work with children, parents and teachers and runs women’s empowerment sessions.
Activities take place both at Wi’am’s Centre and in the communities surrounding Bethlehem where Wi’am works, including Ramallah and Hebron. However, the rooms at the centre are quite small, so meetings often occur outside in their peace garden.
Wi’am has transformed the land next to the Wall into a beautiful community peace garden with a children’s playground. It is now where so many of their programmes happen and is a beautiful place for the community to use.
Building Hope: A local workman moves earth in the Wi’am garden ready for the new structure to be built.
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A few years ago, Amos supported Wi’am by hanging a canopy to provide their community groups shelter from rain and sun. However, as Zoughbi explains: “There are holes in it now from the tear gas canisters our neighbours like to send us. A sturdy, well-made structure provides a practical solution. At the same time, it is a symbol of our non-violent resistance. It says that we will remain; injustice will not have the final word.”
“We decided to get on and build the hall as it is needed, and you know, we thought it is the best time because of what is happening in Gaza and the Occupied Territories. Israel is destroying houses; our response is we cannot stop them in other places, but we can build this hall as a sign of resilience.” Zoughbi Zoughbi
Work began on the new multi-purpose hall on 1st December 2023 and is due to be finished mid-February. Local plumbers, builders and electricians have all been involved, with 60 people working on the 100m2 hall over the 3 months. Wi’am plans to hold training sessions, conferences, and community mediation work there while continuing outreach work within the surrounding areas. They will encourage local families and groups to use the hall for celebrations and gatherings, spilling out into the peace garden, which is always popular for family picnics.
As Zoughbi told us: “It means we can hold more activities but still enjoy the garden. Women and family picnics will be free, and we will fix the playground that needs some maintenance. It will be less scary regarding tear gas but will still act as a challenge to our neighbours.”
More activities: Concrete foundations being laid in the Wi’am garden in Bethlehem.
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Finally, Wi’am staff hope the hall will be a space for overseas visitors when tourism begins again. Amos Trust’s supporter visits to the West Bank often involve a trip to Wi’am for a barbecue or light lunch to hear about their work and visit the peace garden. I, for one, cannot wait to get back there as soon as possible. I look forward to seeing the hall in action, serving the local community and allowing Wi’am to grow their work and reach. But for now, I will leave you with a last message from Zoughbi.
“All of our work is a struggle right now, but we continue; we never stop. We are equipped with hope, empowered by people like our friends who support Amos Trust, determined to do what is best for our people. Please send our appreciation and gratitude. We appreciate your voices, your work and your solidarity. Together, we can make the future better. You provide a renewable source of hope and give us the message that we are not alone. Thank you.”
Read more about Wi’am.
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