Barbara Walshe’s grown up children feared for her life when she told them that she was signing up for a three-month term as a human rights observer in the West Bank.
They imagined her on the frontline in the Arab-Israeli conflict. However, Barbara’s main role as a volunteer with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) was to observe and report on the movement of Palestinians under occupation between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
Her first-hand account of conditions at Checkpoint 300 and her encounters with Palestinians and Israelis on both sides of the 8 metre wall separating these biblical cities features.
“It wasn’t a pleasant place to be. Usually when you’d arrive there in the morning there would be perhaps 800 men lining up, mainly construction workers from the villages around Bethlehem going to work in Jerusalem. They’d be lining up. Some of them would already have gone into what looked like a cattle crush on the outside that would bring them nearer the exit point when the terminal opened at 5am. It was a very grim sight. Its dirty, untidy, noisy and humiliating”.
Witness at Checkpoint 300 documents Barbara’s three month term in the West Bank in 2009. It contains fa ascinating insight into the work of Israeli non-governmental organisations in support of Palestinian civilians.
In the documentary, she explores her motivation for going, the impact on her family and her reflections on how this work in civilian protection supports ordinary people who live day-in day-out amidst violence and conflict. Galway-based mother of 5, Barbara (57) is a student of reconciliation studies at Trinity College Dublin’s campus in Belfast.
Since 2002, hundreds of Ecumenical Accompaniers from 14 countries including Ireland have served in Israel-Palestine. The programme is co-ordinated in Britain and Ireland by the Quakers under the auspices of the World Council of Churches. For more information on the programme see www.quaker.org.uk/eappi
Produced by Mary Owens of Well Said Productions
Sound Supervision by Mark Dwyer
Production Supervision by Liam O'Brien