A young woman from Greysteel is in the Middle East living and working in one of the most conflict ridden places on the planet.
Orla Devine has been posted to the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian territory to work as a ‘human rights observer’. On her first day on the job, she met with a man in front of the rubble of his demolished family home - a home where his children had been sleeping even as the bulldozers and Israeli authorities arrived. She has travelled with a farmer who requires permission from the Israeli authorities to tend his land. She has had to flee after coming under attack from Israeli settlers.
The Greysteel woman is in the Holy Land to monitor and report on human rights violations, to help Israelis and Palestinians working for peace, and to support the communities suffering under the military occupation of the West Bank. Orla explains: “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the greatest running stories in the world today. In the face of this it is easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless – but there is something that each of us can do about it. Despite the gravity of the conflict, the presence of EAPPI makes a practical difference helping ordinary people to feel safer and know that they are not alone, for example, through accompanying farmers to access their land or vulnerable Palestinian children in getting to school. It also provides a vital service in monitoring and reporting on human rights violations.”
She added: “I have been working here for six weeks now and the consequences of human rights and humanitarian law violations are already very apparent. My team and I have already observed and monitored the demolition of a whole Palestinian community, attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians, confiscation of Palestinian land, destruction of water and hygiene facilities, obstruction by the military of the delivery of humanitarian aid and the arrest and harassment of school children”
Orla maintains a blog to recount her experiences of life in the West Bank. She has written about coming under attack from Israeli settlers whilst accompanying a Palestinian farmer - under military escort - to his land. “We walked for about fifteen minutes from the village to his land and therefore also close to the Bracha settlement. My colleague alerted me to the fact that a group of settlers were walking towards us. My first thought was not one of fear but of concern in relation to the challenging dialogue I thought I was about to have. Instead, however, I suddenly found myself turning on my heels and running as fast as I could back towards the village with the sound of rocks landing beside my feet.”
She said that the Israeli soldiers claimed not to have witnessed the attack, and that the farmer had ‘no one to turn to’ to report the intimidation. Orla said that this was simply one of the many of examples of how difficult life could be .