United Methodist Missionary to Israel/Palestine, Janet Lahr Lewis, writes in her end-of-summer update that the various flu viruses and the state of the U.S. economy have "grounded" several Volunteers in Mission teams and other study groups that had planned October visits. All but one group has cancelled or postponed, she says - and notes that while it is disappointing for the prospective hosts, it also is understandable, given that the flu is on the rise in the Middle East, with 16 cases of H1N1 in Bethlehem alone.
On another front, though, there is reason for optimism.
"For almost a year," she writes, "I have been working on a community development project with a committee in a village outside of Bethlehem and another committee made up of folks from the Buena Vista United Methodist Church (BVUMC) in California. There was a lot of legwork and background information that needed to be done before we were able to get a 'go-ahead' for the project, but through the efforts of a dedicated group of people, we are all finally now seeing tangible progress.
"The project has been dubbed 'The Bee Hive Project.' Bee hives will be purchased, local people will be trained as beekeepers, and honey will be collected and sold so that needy families will get an income. Not only will the project bring hope to the local people and encourage poor Palestinian families to stay in their homes and not emigrate, but most importantly, the project will create a funnel for information about the illegal occupation, the Palestinian people, and the violations of international law, [and] non-compliance of U.N. resolutions," she writes.
Lahr Lewis hopes interest in the region will be generated and that it will, in time, enable advocacy actions which might not otherwise take place.
She says it is an example of how one congregation can advocate for justice while helping to bring hope and encouragement to those who are living under occupation.
"It is not enough to make the life inside the prison a little easier. We must also work to tear down the prison," she finishes.