BETHANY a village in need
In January, The Very Revd Geoffrey Marshall, Dean of Brecon Cathedral (and Vice Chair of the McCabe Trust) joined our sponsored walk in Jerusalem and with seventy other McCabe supporters raised over £50,000 to aid Christian projects in the Jerusalem and Bethlehem area. During our visit to the Jeel al Amal Boys Home in Bethany, Geoffrey met the town’s only paramedic, working from Bethany’s only ambulance and responded to his appeal to help them buy a defibrillator. This is Geoffrey’s story in his own words.
Geoffrey writes: “I first visited Israel/Palestine in 1967; I first led a pilgrimage party there in 1981 and have done so more than 30 times since then. We usually visit the New Testament village of Bethany (in Arabic , al-Eizariya – the village of Lazarus, Martha and Mary) located on the south-eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, less than two miles from Jerusalem.
Until 1967 Bethany and East Jerusalem were part of Jordan, then after the Six Days War, Bethany was occupied by Israel, and its cultivated land to the east declared a closed military zone. Here, the Jewish settlement of Ma’ale Adumim was later established. Today Bethany is overcrowded due to rapid population growth and a lack of town planning. Much of the agricultural land that produced lentils, wheat, figs, almonds and olives has been confiscated or absorbed into the expanding built-up area of the town.
Many of the pre-1967 inhabitants are now refugees living in Jordan, the United States and the Persian Gulf. At the Taba Summit in 2001, Bethany was included in Area B of the West Bank, and since the Oslo Accords the place has been administered by the Palestinian National Authority, while security is in Israel’s hands.
In 2004 the Israeli separation fence was built across the community’s main road, curtailing the lively commerce in the strip of shops along the road, which used to draw both Arab and Jewish customers. Now behind the wall, Bethany’s 30,000 citizens are not allowed to travel to nearby Jerusalem, nor can they easily get to any other part of the Occupied territories. Even tourists and pilgrims have to drive half an hour or more to make the journey that used to be done in a fifteen minute walk.
Every time I go to Bethany I meet Yazid Hamdan, whose family keep the souvenir shop opposite the Tomb of Lazarus.
Yazid, although from a Muslim family, was a student at the Anglican School in Jerusalem, just two miles from his home. When he grew up he became a dentist. For many years now, I have been taking him dental equipment which he can’t get in the West Bank or from Israel. I can remember both Yazid’s father and one of his sisters not being allowed through Israeli checkpoints to get to their cancer clinics (they both died) and I can remember Yazid’s wife unable to get to maternity care; they now have five children.
Before Christmas I had a long email from my old friend, now a member of the town council. He reminded me that:
“Bethany is perhaps the place which was most badly affected by the building of the wall, separating it from Jerusalem. The people here are suffering from a big problem – which is that we don’t have a hospital now. The only Palestinian hospitals are found in Jericho, Bethlehem and Ramallah and they are very difficult to reach. Bethany people used to go to the Mount of Olives hospital which is only five minutes away; now because of the wall we can’t reach it.”
We do have an ambulance which was donated to us 13 years ago and in this ambulance we have saved many lives.
He goes on to tell me that this solitary elderly ambulance doesn’t even have a defibrillator – what in his Arabic/English he called a ‘heart monitor with shocks’.
He writes, “Our friend, Father Geoffrey, do you know of anyone who can help with this? Please and many pleases from the people of Bethany.”
“I am pleased to say that The McCabe Educational Trust has agreed to co-ordinate a fund-raising appeal to help the medical team in Bethany. In faith, a top quality defibrillator has been purchased and shipping arranged. It will be installed in the ambulance very shortly.”
This is an example of how The McCabe Educational Trust engages with the extra-ordinary people that we meet on pilgrimage.
A special thank you to McCabe pilgrims who helped us raise £25,334 during March, making a total of £93,124 raised so far this year. For more information about our work, do have a look at the Trust pages on the McCabe website.