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    ‘Unprecedented times of hopelessness’ in Holy Land

    ‘Unprecedented times of hopelessness’ in Holy Land

    DSPR's Ramzi Zananiri is worried. © WCC/Claus Grue

    11 July 2016

    By Claus Grue*

    For Ramzi Zananiri, executive director of Jerusalem and the West bank at the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR), which is part of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), the current situation in the Holy Land is "heart-breaking", and he says the Palestinians are "hostages" under troublesome realities.

    "Not only are we experiencing a standstill in the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, we also see a shift in attention from the international community towards Syria and Iraq," says Zananiri.

    "In the absence of political understanding between Israel and Palestine we see further Israeli settlements on the West bank, Israeli control of water resources and continued marginalization of our people."

    "We are simply going backwards rather than forwards and we can no longer expect support of our Arab brethren, since they are fully occupied with their own problems. In short, we are left alone and experiencing increasing turmoil," he explains.

    Zananiri, describes a sense of being forgotten and not on the agenda of world affairs anymore as a new and sad reality.

    Following the Arab Spring and the turmoil that has followed, particularly in Egypt and Syria, the Palestinian issue has lost priority in world politics.

    "It has serious implications to our services to Palestinian refugees, since we are dependent on international funding.

    “These have dropped in the past few years. All in all these are unprecedented times and a sense of hopelessness is spreading in Palestinian communities," says Zananiri.

    He is also worried about the future of Jerusalem, where he foresees changes in the demographic and geographical status of the city, which will cause an imbalance favouring Israel.

    A serious issue drawing a lot of media attention recently is the limited access to water on the West Bank, where Israel controls 85 percent of the water supplies.

    The World Council of Churches’ (WCC) Ecumenical Water Network’s (EWN) "Water for life" project has highlighted the injustices and suffering stemming from the Israeli control of water.

    "We've managed to successfully profile the water issue and how people suffer because of lack of access to a basic need.

    “The WCC general secretary was accused of a lot of things by the Israelis after he raised the issue publicly. This has caught global attention, which is good for us,” Zananiri says.

    Since its founding in 1949, the DSPR has gradually developed from a service organization supporting health care and education programmes to an organization that focuses on economic empowerment, agriculture and environment issues.

    While operating under different legal structures the five entities under the DSPR umbrella share common mission, vision and values.

    "Basically, we have a more developmental oriented approach, nowadays. However, we need to conceptualize our strengths towards our donors and convince them and others as well, about the added value that we offer.

    “We are experiencing donor fatigue, shrinking resources and tougher competition for funds," Zananiri asserts.

    DSPR’s current strategic plan, which was adopted in 2014, focuses on six priorities:

    1. Enhance the wellbeing of Palestinian mothers and children.
    2. Empower marginalized Palestinian youth to improve their own economic conditions.
    3. Support Palestinian communities to better manage and preserve available natural resources.
    4. Seek just and equal social economic rights for Palestinians.
    5. Alleviate the impact of emergency situations.
    6. Enhance a strong organization with a solid funding base capable of growth, development and change that faces up to future challenges.

    The day-to-day business at DSPR’s office in East Jerusalem focuses on these priorities and despite the problems and the sense of hopelessness the staff encounter, they haven’t lost hope.

    “We will persist and continue to make a difference in the lives of the people that we serve, no matter what,” says Zananiri.

    *Claus Grue is a communication consultant at the World Council of Churches.