St Albans social worker helping in occupied Palestine

Judith Watts in Palestine with EAPPI

Judith Watts in Palestine with EAPPI - Credit: Archant

A bold St Albans woman is spending three months in conflict-ridden Israel and Palestine, watching over people in the occupied territories and making sure their human rights are not violated.

Judith Watt, 63, a former social worker who has lived in the district for about 35 years, is a ecumenical accompanier for the World Council of Churches’ ecumenical accompaniment programme, managed by Quaker Peace and Social Witness.

As an accompanier, Judith and her colleagues provide a protective presence to communities which experience the worst of the war, watching and noting any human rights abuses.

They stand watch at crucial points, report any wrongdoing, collect data for agencies - including the United Nations, and monitor Checkpoint 300.

That is the gate into Israel where Palestinians with work permits can cross the border.

For example, sometimes the humanitarian lane through Checkpoint 300 is not open as it should – which is unpleasant for woman, children, and elderly people who use that gate.

Her team is international, with an American, a Norwegian, and a Finn, working alongside her.

Most Read

She said: “I have come because I wanted to learn about what the reality on the ground is. There seems to have been a breakdown in empathy and trust in the two communities, there’s been a lot of fear on both sides and a lack of understanding.”

She said the volunteers are very well-prepared, trained, and supported for the alien situation of occupied lands.

She added: “I have certainly not regretted coming, I have been met with a tremendous amount of warmth and hospitality, and I have been inspired by their resilience and generosity.

“Of course I miss my family, my son, and my dog, and two cats, but I have no regrets.”

Judith, who is originally from Aberdeen, was recommended the programme by her sister in Glasgow - she flew out on February 2 and will return on April 26.

The programme was set up in 2002 after the Churches in Jerusalem called for a protective international presence in occupied Palestinian territories.