Former Sibford educator is Palestine bound

Retired Sibford School head teacher Michael Goodwin with current head Toby Spence
Retired Sibford School head teacher Michael Goodwin with current head Toby Spence

Former Sibford School head, Michael Goodwin, will be visiting Israel and occupied Palestine to act as a human rights monitor for three months.

Michael, who was head at the Sibford School from 2004 until he retired in 2016, will be working alongside other international human rights monitors observing the daily life of Palestinians and Israelis in the troubled Israeli occupied West Bank from April this year.

Michael Goodwin

Michael Goodwin

The monitors, known as Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs), work alongside local peace groups to provide a protective presence against intimidation and harassment, and report violations of human rights, in the hope of promoting longer term peace and an end to the occupation.

Mr Goodwin said: "I was determined to make an active contribution to peace building once I retired and while I am still strong enough. It would have been all too easy just to join campaign groups or write letters to MPs, but I feel strongly that I should try to work to make a difference, hence my decision to apply to be a human rights monitor.”

The role of an EA might include escorting Palestinian children across Israeli checkpoints on their way to school, or being with farmers as they care for their olive trees or tend their flocks under threat of violence.

EAs have also been present to support locals when homes and schools are demolished by the authorities and to provide a protective witness against such acts, which are illegal under international law.

Michael first heard about the programme 15 years ago when a returning EA spoke with passion at the local Quaker Meeting he attended.

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) is an international programme set up by the World Council of Churches in 2002. It is administered in the UK and Ireland by Quakers in Britain.

The programme strives to find a peaceful end to the conflict on the basis of International Law where Israelis and Palestinians can negotiate a settlement and live in peaceful co-existence.

An important part of EAPPI’s work is that returning EAs are encouraged to share their experience, to help raise awareness of the issues and to put pressure on governments to seek creative solutions.

Michael plans to make presentations to schools on his return and would also be delighted to hear from other groups who would like to learn more about his experiences and what he witnesses.