Friday, October 9, 2015

Despair and resilience

Friends, the news from the West Bank and especially Jerusalem is very grim right now. I hope a few of these resources will provide a glimpse of both the despair and the resilience among the people there. 

It's the Occupation
A 90-second video is circulating that is pretty helpful for folks who tell you that the situation in Palestine and Israel is just too complicated and hopeless. It's called "Violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories: It's the Occupation." 

The video looks at the question: "When you think of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, you probably think of clashes, rockets, checkpoints and Gaza – but what's really at the heart of the violence in Israel and Palestine?" Check it out and share it with your family, friends and church members. You'll find it at this link: It's the Occupation.

Jerusalem: the Cost of Despair
The Foundation for Middle East Peace has published important analysis from Mitchell Plitnick and Matthew Duss. 

"When you think of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, you probably think of clashes, rockets, checkpoints and Gaza – but what's really at the heart of the violence in Israel and Palestine?

"In recent weeks, an upsurge in violence in Jerusalem has brought the embattled city back into the headlines. According to Danny Seidemann, founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem and one of the leading experts on the city, this violence, boiling at a level unseen in Jerusalem since 1967, actually began over a year ago, and it is not just another spoke in the `cycle of violence.'

"`Usually there’s a tendency to overstate the instability of Jerusalem,' Seidemann said at a meeting of journalists and analysts in Washington this week. `But Jerusalem is normally a far more stable city than its reputation. What we are seeing now are significant developments that go well beyond tomorrow’s headlines.'

"Seidemann described a dangerous confluence of factors, with the political stalemate creating an atmosphere of despair in which the conflict, which has always been political, will finally become the religious conflict that many have believed, until now incorrectly, that it is. The current conflict centered on the Temple Mount is only the tip of the iceberg. According to Seidemann, 'The entire fabric of this conflict has changed.'”

There is more. Please give this piece your attention. Find the link here to Jerusalem: the Cost of Despair. Mitchell Plitnick is Program Director at the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Previously, he was Director of the US Office of B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Matt Duss is the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. 

Palestinians Are Fighting for Their Lives; Israel Is Fighting for the Occupation
I don't like to send you to the Ha'aretz website because it's so cluttered with ads and difficult to read. However, this week's op ed by Amira Hass is very clear and important. I oppose violence yet Hass provides excellent insight into violence occurring in Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank.

Hass writes, for starters, "That we notice there’s a war on only when Jews are murdered does not cancel out the fact that Palestinians are being killed all the time."

And, "The war did not start last Thursday, it does not start with the Jewish victims and does not end when no Jews are murdered. The Palestinians are fighting for their life, in the full sense of the word. We Israeli Jews are fighting for our privilege as a nation of masters, in the full ugliness of the term."

And, "Young Palestinians do not go out to murder Jews because they are Jews, but because we are their occupiers, their torturers, their jailers, the thieves of their land and water, their exilers, the demolishers of their homes, the blockers of their horizon. Young Palestinians, vengeful and desperate, are willing to lose their lives and cause their families great pain because the enemy they face proves every day that its malice has no limits." Please read the entire piece at this link: Palestinians Are Fighting for Their Lives.

Now for some resilience and hope.  A number of short videos are available from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. In one Bishop Munib Younan explains the importance of ministry with children and youth through the schools and congregations of the church: "We believe the priority is to give our children education...education that molds their identity, that helps them understand the other, and to help them live with the other who is different - by religion, by thought, by ideology, by race, by color. Or to learn how to use the muscles of the brain and not the muscle of the arm in dealing with conflict resolution." Find it at this link: The ELCJHL's Work With Youth and Children.

If You Could Tell People About Palestinians
In the second wonderful video teenage students of the Lutheran schools tell us what they want people to know about their lives as Palestinians. They are so articulate and winsome. Show this in your congregation as a good discussion starter. It's at this link: If You Could Tell People About Palestinians... 

Bright Stars Blog
Finally, three young Bright Stars of Bethlehem interns, Julianna, Hannah and Eva, enjoyed working side-by-side with people in Palestine this summer. A delightful blog that chronicles some of their experiences is at this link: Bubbles and Blondie go to Bethlehem. For more about Bright Stars, see the website.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

World Week for Peace and ELCA bishop's statement

World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel
The 2015 World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel is underway (Sept. 20-26) with the theme "God has broken down the dividing walls." The special week is organized by the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the World Council of Churches. Member churches, faith-based communities, and civil society organizations around the world have been encouraged to join together this year for a week of advocacy and action in support of an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine and a just peace for all in Palestine and Israel. Congregations and individuals around the globe who share the hope of justice have been uniting during this  week to take peaceful actions - together - to create a common international public witness. Click this link for information and resources. It's not too late to join this effort. 

ELCA presiding bishop calls for end to incursions onto Palestinian land, demolition of Palestinian property
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has urged chairs and ranking members U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees to call upon the Israeli government to halt the ongoing incursions onto Palestinian land and demolition of Palestinian property.

In a Sept. 10 letter to U.S. officials, Eaton wrote to express her distress about actions of the Israeli government that make prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians "more difficult in the short- and medium-term and threaten further the realization of a just two-state solution which so many of us seek."

As ELCA presiding bishop, Eaton said that she follows closely the situation in Israel and Palestine, "because the events there directly affect the situation and ministries of our companion church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, and the lives, livelihoods and security of Israelis and Palestinians."


"We join our sisters and brothers of the Roman Catholic tradition in expressing in the strongest possible terms our outrage over the resumption of construction of the separation wall in the Cremisan Valley in the West Bank," wrote Eaton, who visited the Cremisan Valley this year. "I could see the existing and then-potential threats that the planned path of the wall would have on the Palestinian communities there," she wrote. The Most Rev. Oscar Cantu, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, urging the Israeli authorities to stop work on the separation wall in the Cremisan Valley. Lutherans and Catholics in the United States have been in dialogue for the past 50 years.
Read the full news release at this link.

A petition seeking to `Stop the illegal Separation Barrier!'
Recently the shocking situation in the Cremisan valley and Bir Ouna has come to the attention of the world. Israeli forces have been uprooting hundreds of olive trees in order to clear space for a new section of the Separation Barrier. This new effort to annex occupied Palestinian territory directly affects Palestinian wellbeing. These developments have been distressing for the entire Palestinian community. It has a direct impact especially on Palestinian Christians, who are made more vulnerable by these actions from the Government of Israel. This is a clear violation of international law.


The construction of the wall on occupied land is a breach of international law – the Cremisan Valley is only the latest victim. Local Palestinian Christian communities urge you to put pressure on Israel to:
- immediately stop the illegal construction of the Separation Barrier on occupied land,
 - dismantle the sections already constructed on all occupied territory, and
 - replant the uprooted olive trees and compensate farmers who have lost their trees.

Sign the petition at this link and please share it with others.

ELCJHL provides resources for worship
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land now provides a web page featuring worship resources to share with US congregation.  All resources, liturgies, prayers and hymns, are in transliterated English unless otherwise noted. Hymns are available for listening! This page will be updated periodically.  Check back frequently for new resources.
Link to worship resources here.


Uh oh Jerusalem 
Here's a blog post by Emanuel Shahaf. His analysis of the injustice and turmoil in Jerusalem is an Israeli's perspective: "...the Palestinian parts of Jerusalem have been systematically neglected over many years, their infrastructure has deteriorated (or not been built), the supply of basic utilities is not assured at all times of the day and thousands of students remain without adequate space, being taught in poorly equipped school buildings.

"In addition, the construction of the security wall to separate the West Bank from Jerusalem, a Jerusalem united in words only, has severely affected the life of Palestinian Jerusalemites who have been separated from easy and direct access to the eastern suburbs of the city. They need to travel an inordinate amount of time to travel even short distances since the security wall has only a few passages placed for security considerations, not convenience of the local inhabitants.

"At the same time, the rightwing coalition forming Israel’s government is under considerable pressure to change the rules on the Temple Mount to permit Jews to pray there, in contravention of the status quo. Indeed it’s not easy to explain why Jews should not be allowed to pray on the mount while Muslims are, but as long as the conflict with the Palestinians is not settled, this issue is unlikely to be resolved. The Palestinians are scared that permission to pray is only the first step on the path to change the rules on the Mount in favor of the Jews even further, a fear that cannot easily be discounted when listening to the voices in the government."

I don't agree with everything Shahaf says in this column, but I think it's worth a look. Read the Shahaf blog post at this link. 

Folks Art Mavens products on sale now
My friend Jan Hayden runs Folk Art Mavens, and she's having a sale right now. Jan writes, "Get your glass and ceramics now. First for the bad news: Folk Art Mavens decided that it was not feasible to reorder glass and ceramics this year.  We hate to disappoint our customers, so we're letting you know to encourage you to order the glass and ceramics that remain before the pre-Christmas rush. It's going fast!

Now for the good news:  We have been busy replenishing our embroidery, cards, and olive wood, have added beautiful wheat and olive branch baskets to our line-up, and now offer three traditional Palestinian foods.

Check out Folk Art Mavens at the website. Here's a link. 


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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Advocate for U.S. funding for Augusta Victoria Hospital

Ask Congress to meet an urgent humanitarian need of the Palestinian people for Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH).  Encourage the U.S. government to support Augusta Victoria Hospital by helping to cover the cancer treatment costs of Palestinian patients from the West Bank and Gaza treated at AVH. And, ask your U.S. Representative to visit Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem.


Earlier this spring, the message from congressional staffs to the ELCA was clear:  The voices of ELCA members are being heard on this issue and are making a difference!

Nonetheless, the costs for patients referred to Augusta Victoria Hospital continue to mount at the rate of between $2 million and $2.5 million per month and another U.S. Agency for International Development payment is needed in 2015. Toward the end of 2015, it is hoped that USAID will make a large payment to the Palestinian Authority benefiting the hospital, at least $12 million to cover nearly the first six months of 2015. 


Therefore, advocacy in Congress is needed now just as much as before, maybe more, to ensure that the U.S. government through USAID releases that large payment. The funding is crucial to avoid any interruption of treatment for West Bank and Gaza cancer patients and other patients served at AVH and other East Jerusalem hospitals.

Click this link for more details and advocacy how-tos.


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World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel, Sept. 20-26
There is still time to get involved in World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel Sept. 20-26.

We will join together for a week of advocacy and action in support of an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine and a just peace for all in Palestine and Israel.

Congregations and individuals around the globe who share the hope of justice shall unite during the week to take peaceful actions, together, to create a common international public witness. World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel is sponsored by the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the World Council of Churches.

The theme for World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel is: "God has broken down the dividing walls." Congregations and individuals around the globe who share the hope of justice will unite during the week to take peaceful actions to create a common international public witness.

Lots of information is at this link: World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel.


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Israel’s Civil Administration steps up efforts to expel Area C Palestinian communities

B'Tselem reports that in August Israel demolished the homes of 228 people, 124 of them minors, leaving them with no shelter.

The Civil Administration and the military went on a demolition rampage in 29 villages and communities throughout Area C. Israeli authorities demolished 101 structures in these communities, including 50 residential structures which were home to 228 people, 124 of them minors. Many of these demolitions were carried out in small shepherding and farming communities where residents are constantly subject to threats and ongoing Israeli attempts to drive them out of their homes and also remove them from Area C, as part of the Israeli policy aimed at minimizing Palestinian presence in Area C. 

B'Tselem is the premiere Israeli human rights organization.

Click this link for an important report.


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Hope for Peace?
Rabbi Amy Eilberg, Rabbi, Peacebuilder, Writer


A Review of: Ronald Kronish (ed.), Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel: Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (NY: Paulist Press, 2015)
In my work as a religious peace activist, I am often asked how I can possibly continue to hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Over the years, I have often returned to the answer that my colleague Rabbi Ron Kronish gives to this question. On the level of diplomatic efforts, things seem quite hopeless. However, hope -- and a vision for the future -- is to be found in the work of grassroots peacebuilders who labor every day on the ground in Israel and in Palestine to build more peaceful, just and democratic societies, and especially, to build a web of relationship between religious and political "others."  Read the entire review at the Huffington Post.


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Monday, August 31, 2015

World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel, Sept. 20-26

World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel Sept. 20-26
Everyone is invited to join together for a week of advocacy and action in 2015 in support of an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine and a just peace for all in Palestine and Israel. Congregations and individuals around the globe who share the hope of justice shall unite during the week to take peaceful actions, together, to create a common international public witness. World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel is sponsored by the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the World Council of Churches.

The theme for World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel is: "God has broken down the dividing walls." Congregations and individuals around the globe who share the hope of justice will unite during the week to take peaceful actions to create a common international public witness.

Lots of information is at this link:
World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel.

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+972 GIVES YOU THE STORY
Two recent articles in +972 magazine prompt me to share this important resource with you.  Find +972 at this link.
The devastating effects of night raids on Palestinian families
"IDF night raids, an everyday occurrence in the occupied territories, ensure that Palestinians cannot feels safe in the one place where safety should be assured.

"In a sample of 100 instances of night raids conducted since 2014, the one common thread mentioned by the women who provided testimonies ...  was a sense of terror. The raids usually begin at around 2.00 a.m. with aggressive banging at the door or simply an explosion to blow it in. Masked soldiers storm the house as the family tries to comprehend what is happening. Sometimes a family member will be arrested, other times not. Sometimes there is violence, sometimes not. The house will be searched with reports of damaged furniture; wardrobes emptied with contents thrown to the floor, while soldiers leave muddy boot marks throughout the house.

"Perhaps the most devastating impact these raids have is on the children. Mothers report that their children have problems sleeping after experiencing a night raid. Some children become aggressive, others wet their beds. No one feels safe in the one place where safety should be assured."  Please read more at this link: The devastating effects of night raids on Palestinian families

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Settlers take over East Jerusalem home in the dead of night accompanied by armed soldiers
"In the latest of a number of home takeovers in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, settlers took up residence in a home they said belonged to Jews before the establishment of the state of Israel.

"The group of at least 20 belongs to the Ateret Cohanim settler organization, which purchases properties in neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and has taken legal action in order to evict the Palestinian owners of those buildings. (...)

"Silwan is currently home to several hundred Jewish settlers and some 50,000 Palestinians. It is an impoverished area just on the outskirts of the Old City of Jerusalem, and it has been the target of the Ateret Cohanim organization in recent months.


"Palestinians have frequently resisted the eviction orders in court, where they say the Jewish Israelis are almost always given preference.

"Many of the takeovers of Palestinian homes have taken place in the dead of night, in the efforts to “avoid unnecessary friction with some of the local Arabs during the day,” according to a statement released by Ateret Cohanim.

"The settlers, holding just as many bags as they could carry, as they quietly made their way through the alleys, were accompanied by armed soldiers–a move that critics say only further exacerbates the tensions."

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A gift from the Church of the Brethren:
On Earth Peace
I was doing some exploring and reading about On Earth Peace, A Community of Practice for Justice & Peace. It's a peace mission with roots in the Church of the Brethren.

These folks can be outstanding partners for us.
Read about their history here and explore their website for information about active nonviolence, reconciliation, workshops and resources.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Action Alert, Palestine for Tourists, and Prayer Vigil

Peace Not Walls Action Alert

Use this link to tell your elected officials: Don't punish the Palestinians for signing international treaties and conventions, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. 

Following the defeat of a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have set parameters and a timeline for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed a number of international treaties and conventions, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), paving the way for Palestine to join the ICC. Palestine’s membership in the ICC is scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2015.


Israel responded by freezing $127.6 million in tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians in accordance with the (Paris) Protocol on Economic Relations of 1994. The U.S. State Department expressed their opposition to freezing the funds, calling it an action that raised tensions. At the same time, the State Department spokesperson called the Palestinian move to join the ICC “counterproductive,” saying, “We’re deeply troubled by the Palestinian action regarding the ICC.”


Some in Congress are already calling for immediate punitive measures. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced a bill that would stop U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until the Palestinians withdraw their ICC bid. Rather than punish the Palestinians for moves to sign treaties and conventions, including those leading to Palestinian membership in the ICC, the United States should support such non-violent means of pursuing justice in accordance with international law. It also should be recognized that in joining the ICC, the door will be open to investigations of both Israeli and Palestinian actions.  


Call on Congress and the president to:


•Refrain from punishing the Palestinians for joining international treaties and conventions and placing themselves and the conflict under the scrutiny of international law.


•Urge Israel to release tax revenues belonging to the Palestinians.


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Palestine for Tourists


Dee Poujade writes: "I recently found myself engaged in an e-mail conversation with the editor of a travel magazine (which, for the present, shall remain nameless!) about whether Palestine is a “travel destination” worthy of listing in his magazine.  Without going into the historical and political background that he and I have been discussing, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the reasons that I gave him as to why Palestine should be included in the “list of destinations” that his publication lists on its website and, more importantly, to address reasons that one should consider Palestine as a tourist destination."  See her wonderful blog post here, and I urge you to explore Dee's other good posts at her blog: A Walk Through the Valley. Dee served as an ecumenical accompanier in Tulkarm in the occupied West Bank.


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Prayer Vigil


On this day, we will pray again with and for our sisters and brothers in Palestine and Israel who have called for an ecumenical prayer vigil across the globe on the 24th of every month. Let's find ways that we can use these prayers in our own congregations and organizations in the month to come.


ACT Palestine Forum
Prayer Vigil for Peace in the Middle East
24th of every month


Prayer Petitions for Justice in Accordance with International Law
Saturday, 24 January 2015


On this day, we will pray again with and for our sisters and brothers in Palestine and Israel who have called for an ecumenical prayer vigil across the globe on the 24th of every month.


Our prayers this month focus on the promotion and protection of human rights and the importance of non-violent means of pursuing justice in accordance with international law. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Presbyterian Church (USA), among others in the U.S. and elsewhere are encouraging their governments not to punish the Palestinian move to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) by withholding financial support.


During the month of February 2015, the ACT Palestine Forum will focus its awareness-building and advocacy efforts on seeking justice in accordance with international law. As we move into a new year, we will continue to pray for Israelis and Palestinians and advocate for non-violent means of pursuing justice. We invite you to prepare and send prayer petitions, which will be shared during the APF prayer vigil for the 24th of February.


APF encourages its friends and partners to visit the APF website and APF Facebook page often to find and also contribute updates, photos, stories, advocacy ideas and special prayers.


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PRAYERS
For peace in the church, among nations, in our homes, and in our hearts, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.


For those whose lives have been torn apart by conflict in Palestine and Israel, we remember those who have died, those who are grieving, and those who have been injured. We remember this day especially those with limited access to food, shelter, electricity, heating fuel, and medical supplies in Gaza. Let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.


For those who work for peace, justice, healing, and protection under the law, and for those who promote respect for the rule of law and for one another as created equally in God’s image, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.


For Palestinians and Israelis, let their eyes and the eyes of the world be opened to see that the security and freedom of one people is dependent on the security and freedom of the other. Let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.


For leaders, politicians and elected officials, may they realize that the security and peace we all long for will not come through violence and the force of arms. Strengthen those who tirelessly seek truth and reconciliation and empower those who embrace non-violent means of pursuing justice in accordance with international law. Let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.


For judges, juries, human rights workers and lawyers, guard them from retribution and from corruption. Give them the spirit of wisdom so that they may perceive the truth and administer the law impartially as instruments of your divine will. Let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.


May your holy and life-giving Spirit move every human heart, may the barriers that divide us crumble, suspicions disappear, and all oppression cease. Let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.


For freedom from hatred, bitterness, and the denial of fundamental rights, fill us with love, truth, and justice, so that we can recognize and respect the dignity and the rights of all people. Let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.


God of all, with wonderful diversity of languages and cultures you created all people in your image. Free us from prejudice and fear, that we may see your face in the faces of people next door and around the world. Let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.


O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, and through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel 2014


This message from the John Calhoun and Ranjan Solomon of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the World Council of Churches.

Greetings and peace to you all.  During 21-27 September 2014, congregations, community groups, and individuals committed to justice and human rights are invited to participate in World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel (WWPPI).

This year, the theme of the World Week is “Let my people go” (Exodus 9:1).  In response to the request of church leaders and laity in Palestine, the World Week international working group has chosen to focus attention in 2014 on the critical issue of political prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails:  Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and annexed East Jerusalem; administrative detainees; child prisoners; prisoners suffering harsh conditions; and Israeli conscientious objectors.

Over the last months, the World Week working group, along with partners worldwide, have been preparing resources for use in worship services, educational forums, and other events during the Week.  These resources include:

•The Jerusalem Prayer from Palestinian Christian church leaders in Jerusalem
•The worship liturgy "Let My People Go," written by Palestinian Christian laity and clergy for Sunday 21 September
•A booklet guide for observing WWPPI 2014, created by our international working group and Palestinian partners, with information, theological reflections, and advocacy suggestions for each day of the Week

•A dossier entitled, "Palestinian Prisoners: A Question of Conscience," focusing on the issue of prisoners held by the Israeli occupation forces, authored by human rights' and prisoners' organizations in Palestine and Israel; the dossier is a remarkable collection of statistics, analysis, and personal stories that should serve as a valuable resource for advocacy
•An online petition that will be circulated for signature in the days leading up to the World Week.

These and other resources can be found on the Resources page of the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel website, at http://pief.oikoumene.org/en/world-week-for-peace/resources

Please continue to refer to this site for additional updates through the end of the Week.


Lastly, I invite you to email us a description of the WWPPI events that you may be planning, or in which you will participate.  We are compiling a database of information regarding activities taking place during the Week, and would like to add your activities to our list.


Many thanks for your participation in World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel 2014.


http://pief.oikoumene.org
www.facebook.com/groups/335983429786866/


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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dina and Medical Staff in Gaza - Day Four

Dina Nasser is a Registered Nurse now working in Gaza with a medical team from Augusta Victoria Hospital  in Jerusalem (Lutheran World Federation).   She is the daughter of my friend Samia Khoury. 
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From Gaza
Dina Nasser
August 5, 2014
 
Today was day four in Gaza . The first two days were like limbo. We felt we were in Gaza but not yet feeling what was happening around. We live in the hospital compound: eat in the compound, work in the compound, sleep in the compound. We see the injured, hear the ambulances, see the bodies and people strewn around everywhere - still it does not sink in. Yesterday evening things started to get real when I saw a child sleeping with his father in the open air on a piece of cardboard. He was there in the morning, there in the evening, and again this morning and this evening. I wonder where is his mother, where is his family? The stories one hears about entire families being annihilated, completely erased from the national registers of citizenship makes your hair stand on end! But still, it does not sink in. Perhaps because I am in the operation room and used to seeing people injured. Then reality hits when the shelling in Jabalia starts. At ten in the evening we receive a lady in her sixties. She is full of dust, full of earth and full of holes throughout her body. Head lacerated, thighs lacerated, leg crushed. I think of where she could have been sitting, what were her thoughts when the shell hit… I thought of mom, I thought of all the older women I know.
When the bombing started this morning, it was children. Our first patient was a little boy around six years old. He had massive lacerations to his groin, abdomen, face and head. He had burns all over his body as well. We were able to manage him in the theatre. I wait to see how he is doing. Then comes Haneen. She is an eight year old; my colleague from the emergency room, Dr. Haytham informed me that a child is coming up with her hand hanging on her side. I went up to Haneen who was waiting calmly in the holding bay. Her eyes were closed. She had a bandage across her head; her eyes were closed because of the swelling from the oedema and the burns to her face. I approached her and held her, and greeted her, and informed her of my name. I held her little hand on the injured side. I told her that I will be with her - she held my fingers. She informed me that her hand hurts. I told her that it was injured and that we will try and fix it. She then asked me about her father and two sisters. I told her that her father was waiting for her. I could not tell her that her sister had died. I still could not tell her that later that evening, her other sister was brought in dead from under the rubble…they were both less than four years old.
I saw Haneen in the ICU later. She was awake and extubated. I greeted her and told her that I was Dina. One eye was now open. She asked me if I had a daughter, I said yes. She asked me what is her name. I said Haya. She said that is a pretty name.
It was a tough day that ended with hopeful news. The plane up above, called zanana (drone) keeps buzzing all around. My colleagues from Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem arrived today with supplies. I felt proud to greet them. The Hospital had done an excellent job sending supplies and individual packs to each of us. They were greeted and their support appreciated. Being there is all that matters. On a personal level, I feel responsible for a big group now. It is very nice to have Dr. Haytham here; he is a wonderful professional colleague. My other colleagues are in Nasser Hospital in Rafah (South of Gaza), treating the injured and witnessing the toll of martyrs. One other colleague is at Al Aqsa Hospital working in surgery.
The smell of blood and death is around the young and the old. Each day we are greeted with the car coming to take the martyrs. Our room is close to the mortuary. You look at the faces of people here - they are all stunned. A nurse on duty looks deeply sad - her son comes with her to work. My friend Bassam from Gaza came to visit me and brought me a lot of goodies to eat. I distributed them among our team and colleagues. I was worried when I looked into his eyes and saw how red they were. The strain on his face was apparent. His son had a close call, and his nephew has ben injured. They are children. They were playing in the street and had just stepped into the house….
The nursing director had to take a deep breath as he recalled all the children that he had seen. We will need time to heal she said, the pain will take time. The stories are overwhelming and the loss has not yet stopped.


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