June 5, 2017 marked the 50th year of Israel’s military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. More than two generations of Palestinians have known no other reality than Israeli military occupation. Staff in the United Church’s Church in Mission Unit recently visited Palestine-Israel, where they were hosted by Wi’am: The Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center.

Opening in 1994, Wi’am works to resolve disputes in the Palestinian community, support reconciliation, and address the psychological and physiological consequences of long-term conflict and occupation. Located just inside the separation walls surrounding Bethlehem, Wi’am literally faces the occupation—one quarter of its property is lost to the eight-metres-high Israeli separation wall, and an Israeli security tower overlooks its outdoor space.

In spite of the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week surveillance, Wi’am is committed to providing programs, empowering Palestinian youth, children, men, and women. One of its programs is a community garden. Even such simple projects face big challenges. At the height of summer, running water is denied to Bethlehem residents to maintain uninterrupted service to Israeli settlements. And the nearby Israeli military base directs its sewage run into the garden. In spite of these obstacles, Wi’am was proud to offer United Church staff a tour of its small garden and share a harvest of fresh pea pods, snapped off and enjoyed in the last rays of sunshine on a warm evening. Mission & Service works with our partners striving for justice and peace in Palestine-Israel.

If Mission & Service giving is already a regular part of your life, thank you so much! If you have not given, please join me in making Mission & Service giving a regular part of your life of faith. Loving our neighbour is at the heart of our Mission & Service.

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