PYM’s Travel and Witness Granting Group makes grants to support active service and witness by individuals following leadings of the Spirit. Recent grants help illustrate the types of travel and projects that bear witness to the overall granting mission of the Travel and Witness Granting Group. We write about one particular grant recipient today – to Elom Tettey-Tamaklo. Elom has been awarded two travel grants to visit the Isreal – Palestine region.
It was the summer following Elom Tettey-Tamaklo’s 2019 graduation from Haverford College that he was first awarded a grant to travel to the Ramallah Friends School in Ramallah, Palestine. The purpose of the trip was to participate in the summer program, “I Know I Can” (IKIC) Summer Teaching Academy. He then received a follow-up grant again in 2020, so that he could return to Palestine, this time with the Eyewitness Palestine Delegation.
During Elom’s first visit in 2019, the summer program’s objective was to provide “rigorous, culturally responsive, and joyful English and college prep” to Palestinian students. From June 29th until August 5th, 2019, Elom served as a teaching assistant (TA), tutoring 10th graders in English and Writing composition. Apart from the academic component of the program, he and his cohort had the opportunity to explore Palestinian-Israeli history, culture, and conflict through a series of tours, museum visits, and talks. He said that the students and teachers connected by sharing their stories and discussing the effects of colonialism. The fellowship and connection among the group was strong, and as Elom says–
“The ability to create community and fellowship with people, no matter how different and diverse is a miracle I am eternally grateful for.”
For Elom, the journey wasn’t just about teaching; he developed profound connections through his sense of faith and the people he met. He also had the opportunity to engage with his other interests – youth work in post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding. During his travels, he met with both activists and ambassadors. He was able to interview Jean Zaru, a Quaker peace activist in Palestine, and talk with her about her 2008 book, Occupied with Non-Violence. He visited The Carter Center and The Western Wall. And he met with a renowned Palestinian activist, Fayrouz Sharqawi, and the South African Ambassador to Palestine.
Elom went to the Aida Refugee Camp, a small village called Susiya, and a town in Hebron. The picture above is the town in Hebron, which shows a metal awning and mesh separating the houses on top from those at the bottom. The homes at the top are Israeli settlements, and those at the bottom are Palestinian settlements. The wire mesh is meant to prevent the Israeli settlers from throwing undesirable materials on the Palestinians below.
Faith was an integral part of this journey for Elom, he visited the Western Wall, the last standing wall of Solomon’s temple and other historic sites. He said, “My trip to Palestine would not be complete without discussing the role of faith in everything I did. Right from the beginning, I was so excited about heading to the birthplace of the Lord and walking in places he actually walked.”
However, the harsh realities of Palestine set in when he visited places like Aida, a refugee camp –
“My joy … was extinguished, and my fire dimmed when I eventually entered these spaces. One particular experience comes to mind…. After the first round of tours, we went to Aida – a refugee camp just a few meters from where the Lord was born. Suddenly my spirit began to feel very restless, and it was only until we finished that tour that I understood why. So much blood had been shed in that camp by IDF soldiers (Isreal Defense Forces). Unthinkable atrocities had been committed and so many tears had flowed on account of the injustice that had taken place. It was a spatial paradox.”
Aida’s entrance is marked by a giant key that is symbolic of the right for Palestinian refugees to return to lands they once owned.
Elom has plans to return to Palestine as part of the Eyewitness Palestine Delegation, which aims to gain a deeper understanding of the socio-political dynamics of the Israel – Palestine region. Their work is focused through the lenses of race, class, and money. Elom and the other participants will be given the opportunity to hear from Israeli and Palestinian peacebuilders from both sides of the divide, and to learn more about the multidisciplinary approaches and pathways.
Following his teaching work at the Ramallah Friends School last summer, Elom’s second visit will allow him to deeply explore the interdependent political, social, and economic issues within the Isreal-Palestine region.
As a young peacebuilder, Elom feels he’s deepened his knowledge and done meaningful work in the region. His time in the Middle East also sparked a desire to learn Arabic and broaden his expertise and maintain important relationships. He said, “This land received me, embraced me, gave me beautiful memories, and blessed me with wonderful individuals I now call my siblings.”
The Travel and Witness Granting Group (TWGG) provides grants to support active service and witness by individuals following leadings of the Spirit. Funds are available to members of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting traveling within the U.S. or abroad; to individuals traveling abroad from the United States on Friends concerns; and to international travelers coming to the United States on Friends Concerns; and, in some cases, to organizations arranging or providing such travel. The group also supports PYM Young Adult Friends in ministry, service, witness, and Quaker study. The next deadline to apply for a ‘TWGG’ grant is September 1. For further information or if you are interested in applying, contact email@example.com.