Two volunteers recall their adventures in Jerusalem

 

Since 1988, Derek and Mary Heaton have given their time and support to spreading the word about our work. They were the first volunteers to showcase our work through film shows across England, Scotland, Wales and even the far flung shores of Greece! Over the years they have raised over £20,000. 
 
Mary recalls some of their adventures working in the Middle East:
 
"In 1992, 1994 and 1995 we worked independently at the Helen Keller School. This was as a result of a life-changing pilgrimage in 1988 led by Rev Leonard Barnett and his wife May. 
 
On one of our days off duty from the Helen Keller School, we departed very early to drive down to the Dead Sea Nature Reserve. We were there for when it opened at 8am, because temperatures could reach 100 degrees. We had been told to take swimwear with us so that we could stand under the cascading waterfalls. This unspoilt landscape had at its entrance an avenue of date palms all netted in black to stop birds from eating the ripening fruit. We had also been advised to be out of the area by 4pm as leopards woke up then and prowled around freely, hunting rock badgers, wild goats and unsuspecting tourists!
 
We stayed in an old army camp, which had been converted into a holiday kibbutz, high up in the mountains that ring the Dead Sea. During our evening meal Derek suddenly shouted 'Don't move!' at me across the table. A few inches from where I was sitting there was a gigantic sandy coloured spider, about the size of an outspread hand. I was reliably informed by a BBC cameraman that we were very fortunate to have seen the rare Desert Spider."
 
Derek remembers two frightening incidents that illustrate the ever-tense living conditions. 
 
"Yasser Arafat, the PLO leader, visited Jerusalem for peace talks with the Israeli Government. We were in a school hall for an award ceremony with all the parents, teachers, dignitaries and young ladies dressed in their traditional, vibrant Palestinian clothing. As one young lady from the Helen Keller School read her thanks from a Braille notepad, a riot started in the street below. Looking out of the window, we could see hundreds of people carrying banners reading 'Death to the house of the orient' and 'Terrorists go to hell'. The Police Chief insisted we leave the area immediately, and we were escorted by police through the angry gun-touting Israeli demonstrators. Much damage was caused to Palestine properties and Christian sites.
 
We were invited to a Muslim wedding in a tiny village outside Ramallah. At the reception, music started and the ladies began to dance together, as did the men in their separate group. It was then we heard rumours that cars with Israeli number plates could be targeted by stone-throwing youngsters. En route back to the Helen Keller School, a youth hurled a stone at the car, hitting the laminated windscreen. Shards of glass were sent all over Mary's face, nack, arms and legs. Once back at the school, she had a powerful shower (on the medic's advice) and smothered the floor with what looked like tiny diamonds (but all glass). She survived the incident with no major injury, just shock and many scratches. 
 
These are just a few of our experiences, all of which we were truly grateful to have experienced, both the good and the bad."