Hope in Jerusalem

Freelance photographer David Snyder is traveling throughout the Middle East to see the many CRS projects helping people throughout the region. David is blogging about what he sees along the way.

Just finishing up four days here in the West Bank with Catholic Relief Services. As always it’s been a fascinating trip. I’ve been to Jerusalem three or four times now and each time I come back I’m reminded of how complex this place is – a complexity layered with centuries of ancient history and decades of modern history.

One of the most interesting projects I’ve seen in awhile was the one we started our week with here. Through what is called the Visual Impact Project, CRS provides support to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization documenting human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza by Israeli settlers and security forces. By providing video cameras to 200 volunteers, B’Tselem has gathered more than 3,000 hours of video footage, which it provides free of charge to Israeli and international media to try to bring about accountability for abuses that occur in the Occupied Territories.

And if the stories from some of those volunteers were frustrating, harkening decades of violence and frustration in the West Bank, another project I visited in a town called Aboud gave me hope for the future here. Through the Youth Voices for Community Action project, I met young men and women from the West Bank who are volunteering to strengthen their communities through civic action. I accompanied them as they went out, a mixed group of Christians and Muslims in a community of religious tension, and painted a local bus stop together. It was a small gesture – but one you learn to appreciate in an area as polarized as the West Bank can be.

Finally – the Urban Voucher Program. In short, it’s an effort by CRS to help mitigate the impact of the global food crisis. Through the program, West Bank families in need can receive a card, similar to a credit card, that is credited automatically each week with a set amount of funds. They can use those funds to purchase groceries at local stores – thereby helping their own families while also stimulating the local economy all the way up to the manufacturers who produce staples like milk and cheese. It was a nice ending to a busy week.

Off to Jordan now for some more CRS project visits.

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