American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem

The American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (AFEDJ)
is an independent organization of Episcopalians and some other people (e.g., other Christians, Jews, and non-religious people) who see the AFEDJ as a way to help the people of a diocese that includes the West Bank, Gaza, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. That is, the diocese of Archbishop, Suheil Dawani, who supervises these projects.
 
Understanding the situation in the Palestinian “West Bank” today requires that we know how the West Bank came to be.
 
The Palestinian “West Bank” is demarked by the armistice line (AKA “The Green Line”) at the end of the 1948-1949 war between the Israel and Jordan. It includes the parts of Judea and Samaria east of the Green Line to the Jordan River, and the eastern part of Jerusalem.
 
In 1950, Jordan annexed this land, which it then turned over to the people who lived there, who are known now as the Palestinians.
 
In the 1967 war between Israel and the neighboring Arab nations, Israel conquered the West Bank and has had it under Israeli military occupation ever since.
 
International opinion holds that the Green Line is the official border between Israel and Palestine, at least until a peace agreement is reached between Israel and Palestine. Any land swaps would come only after a peace agreement and by mutual agreement of both Israel and Palestine.
 
During the past several decades, Israel has allowed and subsequently aided Jewish settlers in building over 125 permanent settlements of varying size all over the inhabitable land in the West Bank. (International law prohibits the use of a military occupation to move civilian settlers onto the conquered land.)
 
There are now about 212,000 Israeli Jewish citizens living in Palestinian East Jerusalem and about another 371,000 in other settlements scattered throughout the rest of the West Bank. The Palestinian population is about 2,785,000 people, who are crowded on into the areas between settlements. Most settlements were created by destroying the Palestinian homes and forcibly evicting Palestinians from the land they had occupied.
 
Israel has also built a network of roads connecting many of its settlements to Israel and to each other. Palestinians are not allowed to use these roads, nor to cross them except at checkpoints.
 
This limits Palestinian travel to secondary roads with military checkpoints, which often have long lines waiting for permission to cross over. I saw a line of Palestinian cars over a mile long waiting to cross, while our bus was waved through. Commerce is very difficult and much of the arable land is for settlement use only. Life is very difficult in the West Bank.
 
Unlike the Hamas government in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has worked more closely with Israel to ensure safety for the citizens of both countries.
 
Within the West Bank, the AFEDJ provides funds for the Penman Clinic, that is located in the undercroft of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Zababdeh, St. Luke’s hospital in Nablus, and a clinic in Ramallah for treating diabetes, a widespread health problem in Palestine. These facilities provide medical help to anyone in need, regardless of their religion. I have visited the first two facilities and was quite impressed by their dedicated staffs.
 
Assistance is also provided to West Bank schools in Ramallah, including: the Arab Evangelical Episcopal School (grades K-12); and the Episcopal Technological and Vocational Training Center with its Technology Program and its hotel vocational school. I visited all three and was very impressed by what I saw.
 
The teachers seemed to be very dedicated and the older students seemed to appreciate what they are getting. I spoke at length with a high school girl, who looked like she could be the twin sister of one of my granddaughters. She spoke very highly about how much the school meant to her.
 
There are five Episcopal parishes in the West Bank and 24 more in other parts of the diocese. There are about 7,000 Arab Episcopalian members in the diocese, some of whom claim ancestry as long ago as the Byzantine era.
 
The web site for AFEDJ is afedj.org and their email address is jlent@afedj.org   Their telephone number is 1-203-655-3575

Dana Grubb