Grandma Jane’s Middle East peace mission

October 31 2014

A BISHOPSTON grandmother has flown out to volunteer in the West Bank for three months - in a bid to promote peace between Israel and Palestine.

A BISHOPSTON grandmother has flown out to volunteer in the West Bank for three months - in a bid to promote peace between Israel and Palestine.

Jane Wheelock, 70, will be working as a human rights monitor on an international project called the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

Duties could include observing a military checkpoint, which Palestinians must cross to work in Israel, accompanying Palestinian children walking to and from school, or acting as a protective presence for Palestinian farmers as they harvest their land.

The West Bank is home to 2.5 million Palestinians.

The EAPPI - set up more than 10 years ago to support those affected by the conflict in Israel and Palestine - assigns volunteers to report violations of human rights to the United Nations and other international groups, and to work with communities at risk of violence.

Jane told the Bishopston Voice before she left: "We have been informed that the situation is less tense than it was for the group that immediately preceded us, but that there remains a higher than usual level of arrests of Palestinians, raids on homes and demolitions of houses.

"There is a strict code of conduct to ensure our safety. We work in pairs and are issued with local mobile phones to contact the Jerusalem EAPPI office in an emergency."

British and Irish Volunteers for EAPPI are recruited and trained by Quakers - the Religious Society of Friends - but volunteers join the programme from across the world.

Each new group receives a local induction, and at their allocated placement, the outgoing group works alongside the new group for a few days.

Jane - who worked as a volunteer overseas during the sixties, teaching science at a girls' secondary school in Malawi - came across EAPPI one Sunday after a Horfield Quaker meeting, which she has been attending for two years.

She added: "Now retired with six grandchildren, I want to contribute something different from teaching and research. I have a maternal ancestor who, as the Anglican Bishop, kept the peace between the British, French and Irish during the French landings at Killala in County Mayo, Ireland, in 1798. His example of non-violent mediation has been carried down the generations, and I want to contribute in my small way.”

One of her grandchildren, Saski Watson from Sefton Park School, said: "I am proud that Grandma will be talking to my schooL about what she has done when she gets back."

To find out more about EAPPI, visit: www.eappi.org/eng

Jane Wheelock with her grandchildren