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A Teamer's Experience (MPT's January 2012 Annual Letter)

Greeting MPT Veterans,

I am sitting in the MPT House in Huwwara (West Bank) during our the last Peace Team to the West Bank of 2011.    I just got an email from Nicole asking if I would write a note to MPT’s returned team members.   Today, the team rode with a farmer and got pulled over at a flying check point.  The Israeli commanding officer’s parting words to the farmer were, “Tell those two not to start any trouble today.”   I was a bit offended at first.  Then I thought: Spreading the truth about the occupation is trouble from his point of view.  If we’re “speaking truth to power,” his reply is a sign our work is successful!  Many of you have had similar experiences on MPT Teams.   I would like to share very briefly about my journey.  Perhaps you will feel led to reflect on your journey and decide how to best remain involved with this important work.

My first trip to Palestine was with the 2009 MPT Fall Team.  I was eager to do my bit.  I was a beginner at this kind of activism and really just beginning to really learn the history of the Israeli/Palestinian struggle.   Fortunately, my three teammates were experienced, knowledgeable and supportive as I slowly got up to speed.    I stayed six weeks and headed home very tired--but eager to learn more.   I wondered: What difference had I made?  I felt that my best role might be at home studying the issues and encouraging others to do the same.  After all impacting public opinion is a major goal for MPT.   A return trip seemed unlikely, and being the anchor was out of the question.

Back home I read a variety of books about Israel/Palestine, learned a lot, did some presentations, and then I began to “slide back into my same old used to be” – as the old song goes.  The end result for me was a need and a desire to return and renew my commitment.  So I contacted Nicole and said “I want to go again and my window of opportunity is Oct/Nov of 2011.”   Gradually five persons showed serious interest.  We were going to have a team.   But I was the only returnee and therefore the only one eligible to serve as the anchor.   This caused me a high level of internal conflict.  I really wanted to return, and I really did not want to be the anchor at first.   Long story short …. of the five applicants, only two of us were left at the end of the application, screening, and commitment process.   I sit here tonight as the anchor of a team of two.  In the end, we’re a strong and cohesive team team; perhaps being smaller is even an advantage sometimes.  Fortunately, my teammate speaks Arabic, and is a quick learn and an eager participant.  

My fears of being a Team Anchor were unfounded.  The anchor is not the leader.  The anchor is the experienced person charged with helping the team with the process and understanding MPT policies and procedures.  Decisions are still by consensus.  And the difficult work is shared equally or unequally if tapping into the strengths of certain team members is deemed appropriate.   

I have been married for 40 years and have no desire to find out if indeed love is “sweeter the second time around”.   But it is true of my second trip to Palestine.  I recognized the road to Qaryut (where MPT took part in actions to remove a road block) as our service pasted on the initial trip to Huwwara.  I had a calming sense of being home when reentering our Huwwara home.   We are really getting known in Huwwara.   “Our” little grocery store at the bottom of the hill refused payment on our first stop.  “You come to help us; first time free.”    Our first taxi cab driver did not charge us.  A man on a service heard me ask for Huwarra and said, “I had a friend named Martha ….” …connection made … He paid my fare.   I walk into the produce shop by the south mosque and the man always says “Michigan!”  A young man in Deir Istiya said something like “They steal our land; they steal our olives; we only have left the air we breathe. Thank you for coming; you give us hope.”    As of today we have been invited home for supper 11 times.   Our efforts are appreciated.   
Am I the only one who sort of wishes for the big stuff to happen so we can have a “better” story to tell, when the real story is the daily indignities and harassments?    Big events do happen, but the daily stuff can really wear a person down.   I have come to understand just how important our “you give us hope” role is.   
And speaking of hope, I find myself gaining hope also when I see so many young adults giving of their time and finances to be here as activists with the various organizations and/or volunteers with NGOs and such.   I am tired tonight; I am tired of being away from home; I am tired of the occupation; and I am tired of not knowing how to be most effective.  But I am so happy that I decided to come again.  It has revitalized me and given me that good feeling about myself that comes from standing up for your convictions and giving of yourself for a worthy cause.  
I hope this sharing will encourage you to rethink your involvement.  Maybe working stateside is the best role for you.   Maybe the revitalization that a return trip can give is just what you need.  And certainly your involvement with either of the above is part what MPT needs; we need vetearn teamers to volunteer to go back, if MPT is going to send Peace Teams to the West Bank to support our friends there in 2012.

special shukran to Abby, Lois, and Martha for nurturing me into the process and to my fellow Team member Gaby for ‘having my back” in so many ways.     
longing for peace,   
Fred Elmore 
MPT Palestine Team Anchor  Fall 2011
MPT Palestine Team Member Fall 2009 

Respond to Fred's Letter by contacting us!
How to get Involved:

  • Sign Up or Get More Info about being an Anchor in 2011/12 and let MPT help cover the costs for another deployment (scholarships may be available, ask for details).
  • Sign up for one of our upcoming Step Two retreat sessions to deepen nonviolence skills and learn more about what's going on with MPT right now!  See the right hand "Coming Events" bar for more information -- there's an event this weekend Feb 10-12th and registration is still open.
  • Support International Teams from here at home: Join us Feb 4th 2012 to find out how. Contact Nicole to register, and have fun with us at this support volunteer training event!
  • Become an MPT Nonviolence Trainer (ask about the hands-on training program)
  • Interview new team applicants (anyone can do this, we give you a guide!)—great for busy folks, this takes as little as one hour every few months over the phone or Skype.

Or, contact us to volunteer in the way that suits you.
To take advantage of any of these opportunities to stay involved and help with our critical mission, please contact Nicole Rohrkemper, International Teams Coordinator, at 586-419-1070 or NicoleR.MPT@gmail.com.

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