Thursday, 10 November 2011

Bringing you up-to-date

The summer was eventful in other ways. Sadly we lost one of our really good staff members, Nesreen, who passed away at a relatively young age after a heart operation. Nesreen was an Arab Christian from Nazareth and had worked for many years at the Hotel, and for her, it was more than a job. She was so much part of the place, that I would never have imagined her leaving of her own choice. She was very much a woman of faith, and that makes such a difference. I found her incredibly supportive, and we are all quite devastated by her death.

On a happier note, I moved house during the summer. I had lived in a very nice, modern, open-plan apartment with lots of space. Many would have loved to live there, but it wasn’t ‘me’, and I never really felt at home there. I think I have been too used to living in manses with their ‘decaying grandeur’. Anyway, the Church owns a building nearer to the church and hotel, which has now been renovated, and I have moved into the flat on the upper floor, which has ‘character’, views and a wonderful balcony – what more could one ask for. I had happy memories of Yakfie (the name of the house) from my time as a volunteer, so am absolutely thrilled to be living there. My previous flat had been in a commercial area, surrounded by roads and alarms (which rang continually through the night). Here, I have neighbours and also peace and quiet (apart from the occasional noise of a party on the beach) and even a large garden. I had better discover some green fingers soon! Though there is a scheme in Tiberias where ex-prisoners learn gardening, and we are hoping to employ them.

I am in Scotland (from the end of October) for just under six weeks. However, the Moderator will be visiting Israel and Palestine later in December, so I will need to be back in time to prepare for that!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


In the summer I visited Gaza, albeit only for a day. I had gone with lots of preconceptions, thinking that I would be entering a war-zone with destroyed buildings all around. There may very well be evidence of destruction, but not where we went in Gaza City. In fact, it just seemed like a normal, rather dilapidated town. What did strike me was that there were people everywhere, and Gaza is the most densely populated place on earth. Sadly it probably has the highest unemployment rate of anywhere on earth as well, as it has little industry. One person commented that most people are at university, because there is nothing else to do!

We had gone to visit several projects supported by Church of Scotland, including ante-natal clinics run by the Near East Council of Churches and a hospital run by the Anglican Church. The Christian population of Gaza is very small, so these institutions are very much run for the needs of those who are unconnected with the church.

Photo from

We finished our day, by visiting the Atfaluna School for Deaf Children, which is housed in a beautiful building paid for by German partners, and we were amazed by the high standard of all the furnishings and education materials. Because of the dire employment prospects in Gaza, especially for those who have a disability, Atfaluna employ former pupils to make furniture, carpets and crafts, which are then sold (including, I believe, in the Hadeel shop in Edinburgh).

All in all, it was an interesting visit, not least to be made aware of the sufferings of those living in Gaza with the regular disruption of electricity and food supplies, all of which are delivered through Israel.