Destruction at Tent of Nations

Destruction at Tent of Nations
Fruit trees (left) at Tent of Nations); on right the same field after Israeli forces bulldozed the area.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Israeli occupation grinds on, but Palestinians find unity

Abbas swears in Palestinian unity government
President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday swore in a Palestinian unity government, taking a major step toward ending a crippling territorial and political split among the Palestinians but also setting the stage for new friction with Israel.

The brief ceremony at Abbas’ West Bank headquarters was preceded by last-minute haggling over the makeup of the 17-member Cabinet of technocrats, signaling the continued tensions between the long-time rivals.  Read the full article here.

ELCA Peace Not Walls blog: “Peace Process” or not, Israeli Occupation Grinds On
During the past two weeks, two events have caught the attention of the international community: the shooting deaths of two teenage protesters in Beitunia and the destruction of thousands of fruit trees on a farm south of Bethlehem.

The Nasser family has endured years of harassment by Israeli authorities and set up a retreat center known as Tent of Nations. For Christians affiliated with Lutheran churches throughout the world, these two incidents were heaped on top of the financial crisis facing Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH), an institution of the Lutheran World Federation on the Mt. of Olives providing Palestinians with regular cancer and dialysis care. Read the full blog post here.

Dancing in Bethlehem
For many young girls, ballet class is just another in a long list of after-school activities. But for girls in the West Bank, learning ballet isn’t just about learning to dance.

Sarah Bolick had studied dance as an undergraduate before signing on as an ELCA young adult volunteer in the Holy Land.

Supported in part by the gifts of members and congregations to ELCA Vision for Mission, Sarah’s work included helping teach English to students in kindergarten through eighth grade at Dar Al-Kalima School in Bethlehem, one of four Lutheran schools run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. While she loved interacting with the kids at the school, Sarah was also excited to be able to put her skills to use teaching dance in an after-school program -- something that is pretty rare in Palestine. See more at Living Lutheran.

"Before Their Diaspora"
Throughout the centuries of Arab and Muslim rule in Palestine, Jews had free access to the Wailing Wall. Access became an issue only after the 1948 War and the resultant Palestinian diaspora. "Jewish women praying at the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem" and other photos appear in Before Their Diaspora, A photographic history of the Palestinians, 1876-1948, by Walid Khalidi. See more photographs from Before Their Diaspora.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Israeli forces destroy 1,500 fruit trees at Tent of Nations near Bethlehem

Word has reached me of the recent destruction of many, many fruit trees at the Tent of Nations, the Nassar family farm near Bethlehem.  Our traveling group visited Daher Nassar at the Tent of Nations in February, and it was a highlight of our tour.

Friends of Tent of Nations North America has provided information and updates from the Nassar family and their legal team.  They plan to post an update tonight with any actions requested. This is the published ALERT.

For background on the recent demolitions, see Ben White's article
"Israeli forces destroyed an estimated 1,500 fruit trees belonging to the Tent of Nations farm outside Nahalin village, in the Bethlehem region of the occupied West Bank yesterday morning.
"Owned by the Nassar family, the farm lies just below Neve Daniel, an Israeli settlement, located in “the Gush Etzion bloc”. The property has long been targeted by Israeli occupation authorities seeking to confiscate the land and remove an obstacle to settlement expansion.
"According to the family, soldiers arrived at their land early in the morning, and in a couple of hours uprooted some 1,500 apricot and apple trees, burying them under piles of soil."  Read the full article at 
Electronic Intifada

Friends of Tent of Nations is preparing a comprehensive update which they will post on their website tonight. Click here for that update.
The Tent of Nations Facebook page has photos and timely updates.

The destruction at Tent of Nations comes in the context of Israeli policies of land confiscation and displacement in the West Bank, and the control of Palestinian agricultural production.  For more information on the impact of these policies, IFPB recommends the following resources:
• UN-OCHA Monthly Humanitarian Bulletins
• Farming Injustice briefing from the BDS National Committee.

For more background, see this World Council of Churches feature story

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

A look back at Evangelicals' meeting at the checkpoint

People certainly got riled up over this year's Christ at the Checkpoint conference.

Christ at the Checkpoint: Call to Action
Under the title "Your Kingdom Come" over six hundred followers of Christ representing more than twenty nationalities met at the third biennial "Christ at the Checkpoint" conference in Bethlehem from the 10th to the 14th of March 2014 to pray, worship, learn and discuss together the responsibility and role of the church in helping resolve the conflict and bringing peace, justice and equality to the Holy Land through following the teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God. 
   Participants were urged to sign on to the "Checkpoint Manifesto." 
Click to read the full Call to Action
   The conference got the attention of Dale Coulter who wrote the article below for First Things magazine.

Why Evangelical Support for Israel is Waning - and How it can Find a Firmer Foundation
     First Things published this article this month.  "The recent Christ at the Checkpoint Conference has a number of evangelical groups concerned about waning support for the nation of Israel among Evangelicals (see Religion News Service and Juicy Ecumenism). David Brog of Christians United for Israel even wonders whether the end of evangelical support for Israel has come .
     "While there is no doubt a push for greater recognition of Palestinian Christians among certain evangelical groups, a key issue that has yet to be addressed is the role of dispensationalism and its view of the End. When John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, is a prominent advocate of a rapture theology, one can be sure dispensationalism is in the background. There is a theological issue at stake in this debate, and Evangelicals who want greater support for Israel ignore it at their peril."
Read the full article here.

Thanks to Kate Taber who wrote a very good piece on the same conference for The Presbyterian Outlook: Evangelicals ask, "What would Jesus do at the Checkpoint?"   
    Kate writes: "Conference participants were also given a glimpse of what daily life is like for Palestinians under military occupation. They had the opportunity to visit the checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, a fifteen-minute walk from the conference venue, where an estimated 2,500 Palestinian workers pass every day, many arriving in the middle of the night to take their place in line and await the 5 a.m. opening time in order to reach their jobs in Israel, often just a few miles away in Jerusalem. These workers are the coveted few who receive permits, and even they are not allowed to drive their cars to work, instead having to wait unpredictable lengths of time at the checkpoint while they risk losing their day jobs if they are late. Conference participants also toured East Jerusalem, annexed to Israel in 1967, and Hebron, occupied by Israel in 1967. In Jerusalem, participants learned how difficult it is to maintain Jerusalem residency as a Palestinian, as they face a severe lack of municipal services, the invasion of Israeli settlements in the middle of their neighborhoods, frequent child arrests, lack of building permits and ongoing home demolitions, the inability to be united with family members or spouses who do not have Jerusalem residency, and the continuous need to prove their center of life is in Jerusalem, from their taxes to school attendance to workplace. In Hebron, participants learned about the consequences local Palestinians face due to the Israeli settlement in the middle of the old city, restricting their travel, making their main business district a ghost town and subjecting both children and adults to harassment and physical attacks from ideological settlers. Participants were also invited to join in a Catholic mass that takes place weekly as a form of nonviolent protest against the threat posed by the Israeli separation barrier to divide the Cremisan monastery and its olive groves from the rest of West Bank town Beit Jala."  Please read the full article at this link.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

The miracle of Christmas

Advent blessings of peace and grace, dear readers.

I didn't notice the outstanding Advent resource distributed by Kairos Palestine. I wish I had notified you of it earlier. But it is not too late to share Hind Khoury's introduction, which could stand alone as the most profound Christmas message from Palestine.

The miracle of Christmas makes us whole and fully human
It never ceases to amaze me how, every year, and as we get closer to Christmas, my burdened heart lightens up with joy and hope, as if through a miracle. I take heart from my fellow Bethlehemites, who over the ages, and through many a war and an occupation, have never failed to celebrate Christmas and to honor the newborn prince of peace and love.
   My heart lightens in the shadow of the Apartheid Wall, at my doorstep in Bethlehem. The wall is a dark reminder of Israel’s occupation, an occupation that strangulates our lives, devours our land, and denies us the freedom to move and visit friends and family.
   It reminds me that we simply aspire to live normal lives amidst the abnormality of colonization. We are submitted to this injustice, and to add insult to injury, our resistance is promoted as terrorism, and our victimhood as aggression.
   This transformation is incomprehensible. How can the heart lighten up when our political prisoners linger in Israeli jails many of whom without legal process? How can it be lifted when our refugees wait in their camps only to be met with more frustration, denial, and further expulsion? More still, what light is there in a region that is seeing millions of new refugees, and that is being divided by wars?
   As I renew my hopes with another upcoming Christmas, and as my heart is filled with the joy of giving and caring, I turn to my fellow human beings with a greater belief in their good will. Life looks promising and worth every bit of struggle and hard work, and I am reminded that I cannot live without Christmas.
   Through this modest birth in Bethlehem, humanity is saved. The simple message of Christmas is the secret of life, meaningful and vital to our very existence. Once the simple truth is revealed to us, we know that we are in this world to contribute so that we have life and have it abundantly.
   My prayer this Christmas is for many of us to capture this miracle of Christmas and to think of the poor, the homeless and the oppressed.
   My prayer this Christmas is for thousands of hearts to commit to work diligently for a better world where justice has some respect and where efforts are invested to relieve pain and suffering rather than banal interests and power mongering.
   My prayer this Christmas is for people to seek their true genuine calling. With so many old and new refugees in our dear Middle East, including the Palestinian refugees who simply want to and have the right to go back homes. With so many homeless, stranded parents, children and elderly, so many more dead and injured, so many homes demolished, so much hardship, so many societies torn apart, there is certainly some joy and hope to give, some peace to construct, some good will to show that we care and to prove we are truly human and deserving of life.

[Hind Khoury is a Palestinian Christian who worked for more than 20 years in the economic development of the Palestinian Occupied Territories. In 2005 she was appointed as Minister of Jerusalem Affairs for the Palestinian Authority and later the Palestinian Ambassador to France.]


Here is Sabeel's Christmas message, written by the Rev. Naim Ateek.

“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke2:8).

“…after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem…” (Matthew 2:1).
The fact that the Christmas story mentions only two groups of visitors to the Christ child in Bethlehem, has, I believe, a theological significance. The shepherds in first century Palestine represented one of the lowest social strata in society. Religious tradition of Jesus’ day labeled them as unclean. They were marginalized, poor, and considered as the scum of society; while the wise men represented the well to do, the educated, and the scholars of their day. The theological implication is clear: God’s love for all people was expressed in and through the coming of Jesus Christ. This love welcomed both the shepherds and the wise men. True love does not differentiate between God’s children. In Christ, the evil of discrimination and bigotry is obliterated. 

Moreover, the shepherds were presumably Jewish, while the wise men were foreigners. Since the wise men came from “the East,” a number of New Testament scholars have suggested that they came from Arabia. There is a further theological significance here. Both Jews and Arabs came to offer their homage to the Christ child. When we stand before God, not only do our social differences lose their importance, our racial differences are also eradicated. God’s love for all people was being communicated regardless of social and financial status in society and regardless of racial background. Not only do rich and poor, Jew and Gentile stand before God as equals, there are also no political boundaries. All are welcomed and accepted. In other words, when we stand before the holy, our racism and bigotry should melt away and we should become authentically human recognizing the other as a brother and a sister. 

One of our most disturbing issues during this Christmas season is the situation of the shepherds and farmers of today, namely, the Bedouins of the Negev who are citizens of Israel. The Israeli government plans to Judaize the Negev by forcibly relocating tens of thousands of Bedouins from their ancestral lands on which most of them have lived for hundreds of years, long before the state of Israel came into being. Israel wants to force them away from their lands and traditional way of life for the benefit of Israeli Jewish citizens. It is essentially a land grab.* Many local and international human rights organizations have condemned Israel’s actions and policies as discriminatory and in violation of international law.
[To read the entire message, go to this link]


I want to bring to your attention Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives.

As we are nearing the end of the 2013, we would like to officially announce our change of name from the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information to Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives.
There was a time after Oslo, when many NGOs including IPCRI found it effective to meet, think, write policy papers, and produce immense amounts of research. Today twenty years after Oslo the shelves are filled with numerous files on how to solve the various issues in the conflict, including Jerusalem, refugees, borders, and security. Yet, we still do not yet have peace. The only research project that we are engaged in right now is one that investigates an innovative model of the two state solution that is based on one space. This model abandons the separation paradigm of “us here”, “them there”, and takes into account the true needs of the inhabitants of Israel and Palestine.

IPCRI’s central objective today is to create “sustainable peace building” through projects that translate directly into positive changes in people’s lives. Instead of sitting behind closed doors and talking about how to solve the conflict, we are out there, creating more jobs in Palestine, and bringing down the psychological barriers that separate the two peoples. True peace building means acknowledging people’s rights to live in prosperity and dignity, and to where proper education, job opportunities, and freedom of movement are guaranteed. It also means that negative perceptions about the other group are transformed. Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives celebrates its 2014 objective to use innovation and creativity to challenge the status quo, and to implement projects that don't just "think", but "do". 


A lot of good information in this blog by Jim Wall, Netanyahu's Flawed Vatican Charm Offensive.  Wall gives well-deserved attention to an important new book by Scott Anderson, Lawrence In Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East.  Anderson details an important historic episode, a successful propaganda campaign orchestrated by, among others, Aaron Aaronsohn, described by reviewer Alex Von Tunzelmann as “a Zionist agronomist of Romanian origin, who had settled in Palestine.” I won't repeat all of Wall's excellent points here, but I urge you to read the whole piece.

ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD is an important new film.  Watch for it or check the website for distribution information.
   Filmmaker Lia Tarachansky grew up in a settlement. When the second Intifadah broke out in 2000 her family moved to Canada. There, for the first time she met Palestinians and "discovered" their history and learned why they were fighting Israel in the first place.
   When she became a journalist, she returned to Israel to become the local correspondent for The Real News network. Returning for the first time to her settlement, she "discovers" the Palestinians next door as she travels the West Bank covering the Israeli military occupation.
   In this film she meets with those who played a personal role in the events of 1948 and like her, "discovered" that which they had not only erased from their consciousness, but erased from the map. For years she tries to convince veterans of the 1948 that set off the conflict as we know it today to face the most difficult questions and dig deep into their memories. This is a film about the questions Israelis cannot ask, about memories that cannot be uncovered, and the history that's fighting to come to light.
   It was then, in 1948, three years after the holocaust that the nascent Jewish state was created in a bloody war that led to two-thirds of the Palestinian people becoming refugees. Those who fled or were expelled to this day remain in camps throughout the Arab world, the West Bank and Gaza. In 2009 the Israeli government proposed a law that forbade mourning this history. A law that attempted to criminalize history itself.
   You can view the trailer and meet some of the principle characters at the website for ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD.  

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Samia Khoury’s book is `Reflections from Palestine’

Samia Khoury’s book, `Reflections from Palestine’
is launched at Sabeel anniversary

Jerusalem - The twenty-fifth anniversary of Palestinian liberation theology was the setting for the launch of Reflections from Palestine – A Journey of Hope, a memoir by Samia Nasir Khoury. The celebration in Jericho was part of the Sabeel International Conference.

About 350 people from Jerusalem and the West Bank, Nazareth and the Galilee area of Israel, and 15 other countries took part in the celebration. Khoury was a founding member of Sabeel, the ecumenical liberation theology center in Jerusalem.

Reflections from Palestine tells the story of life under Israeli occupation. It is a story that Khoury¸ who celebrated her 80th birthday on the day of the book launch, has told for many years. The book opens at the outset of 1967 “Six-Day” war” and describes the relentless series of “temporary measures” that became the binding, suffocating reality of occupation leading up to and following the Oslo Accords.

Khoury explains the wide-ranging social and political problems facing Palestinians under occupation through the sweet and sorrowful experiences of family and community life.

The Rev. Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel, said Khoury “makes her reader live with her the anxiety of a mother and grandmother, yet she never sounds bitter and never loses hope because she strongly believes in the justice of the cause of her people, the Palestinians.”

Khoury is a founding member of the Board of Trustees of Birzeit University in the West Bank. She was for many years a leader in the East Jerusalem YWCA. Khoury wrote for more than five years for The Witness magazine, a publication of the Episcopal Church Publishing Company.
Reflections from Palestine – A Journey of Hope is published by Rimal Publications.

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For more reports from the Sabeel Conference, "The Bible and the Palestine/Israel Conflict," go to the website of Friends of Sabeel-North America.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Holy Land travel, Chicago Sabeel Conference, Israeli army in Hebron, and more

Greetings friends.  In a few months our Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Mission Area (ELCA Synod) will send a delegation of travelers to Israel and Palestine for 13 days. Our tour is called Seeking Peace and Following Jesus in the Holy Land.  
A web page at ELCA Peace Not Walls provides outstanding resources for Holy Land travelers.
Why Visit the Holy Land?

•For an unforgettable, faith-deepening pilgrimage to the setting of Jesus' life and ministry

•To meet, worship with, and get to know the descendants of the first Christians

•To build a relationship with the members and leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and see how the world's only Arabic-speaking Lutheran church ministers to its context

•To experience the daily lives and challenges of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Holy Land

•To go behind the headlines and inform yourself about a political situation of significance to the world

•To learn about efforts toward a permanent and just peace.
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Chicago Sabeel Conference October 4-5, 2013

All the plenary sessions at the recent Sabeel Conference in Chicago were videotaped. To watch and listen, go to this link at the Friends of Sabeel-North America website. Click "7 updates" to view recordings of the plenary sessions. You must set up a Livestream account to screen these presentations, but that's a simple process and gives you easy access. 

Keynoters and panelists include Rabbi Brant Rosen, Dr. Hatem Bazyan, Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, Ali Abunima, Sam Bahour and others discussing the challenges of constructing a "wide tent of Justice" in the Holy Land and here in the USA.

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First-hand report of recent events in Hebron
Tammie Danielsen, SW Texas Synod, shares a personal account of events that have happened over the last two weeks in Palestine, particularly in Hebron.  

Tammie writes: The message comes from an organization we (EAPPI) worked with closely when I was in Hebron.

Dear friends,
As Palestinians across Palestine took to the streets in a day for Al Quds (Jerusalem), the capital of Palestine, residents of Hebron stood firm against attacks by the Israeli Army. A number of young Palestinians were injured as the Army opened fire with live ammunition against unarmed protestors.

As in previous days, clashes between Palestinian youths and the Army focussed in the middle of the city, as camp the refugee camp in the east of the city. A young child, Musab, was hit in the eye and was transferred for treatment to the Eye Hospital Jerusalem.
The Army used live ammunition, rubber coated steel bullets, tear gas and stun grenades. In the confines of the narrow city streets it can only be concluded they disregarded Palestinians lives. As a result there were a number of injuries, in addition to the young Musab. At the time of writing 12 have been injured: Mohammed (20 years old) injured in his neck and back; Mohammed with a head injury; Mohammed Jabari injured by a rubber coated steel bullet to his head; and an unidentified young man injured in the Shalaldeh street area with live ammunition. 
Shadi Sidr, a volunteer with the group, Youth Against Settlements (YAS) was also beaten by the Army while filming the attacks. He has been taken to hospital for treatment. Many more residents suffered tear gas inhalation. 
The ferocity of the Army's actions and use of live ammunition against unarmed protestors, appears to indicate the Army's desire to murder.
Hebron is in a state of boiling fury since the uprising days earlier. There numerous injuries and violent confrontations continue at the time of writing.
Illegal settlers reside inside Hebron, and residents are subject to regular Army and settler violence. Streets and areas are closed to Palestinians as Israelis policy of occupation, oppression and Apartheid are practiced on the Palestinian population. 

For more information follow our Facebook page:
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Watch for this new film: The Village Under the Forest

Where greening is an act of obliteration
[Marthie Momberg writes about a new film from South Africa in her blog, marthiemombergblog.]
Unfolding as a personal meditation from the Jewish Diaspora, "The Village Under The Forest" explores the hidden remains of the destroyed Palestinian village of Lubya, which lies under a purposefully cultivated forest plantation called South Africa Forest.

Using the forest and the village ruins as metaphors, the documentary explores themes related to the erasure and persistence of memory and dares to imagine a future in which dignity, acknowledgement and co-habitation become shared possibilities in Israel/Palestine.

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Thirty-five years after Israeli confiscation, one Palestinian village returns to its land
Mondoweiss provided a recent story about a West Bank Palestinian village restored to its owners, no long an Israeli settlement or closed military zone.  

After 35 years, deliverance has finally come to the village of Burqa. Decades ago the West Bank hamlet on a hilltop near Nablus lost part of its agricultural grounds when it was confiscated for an Israeli army post, and then later converted into the settlement of Homesh in the 1980s. But in a first in the West Bank, Israel’s high court has restored the former settlement back to the original Palestinian owners.

“Homesh was evacuated and demolished, but still the military order to seize the land remained valid, and the Palestinians could not enter,” said Burqa’s counsel Anu Deuelle Luski, an attorney with the Israeli legal rights firm Yesh Din. [Read the full story here.]

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A Jewish journey towards compassion in Israel-Palestine

[Richard Forer, author of Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict, writing for Ma'an News Agency.]

A Jewish journey towards compassion in Israel-Palestine
For the first 58 years of my life my perspective was that at its core, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people resulted from irrational, even genocidal, hatred toward Jews. 
In 2006, while Israel was bombing Lebanon, I began to ponder whether such a one-sided understanding reflected reality. Were the people of Israel so innocent and the Arab world, especially Palestinians, so guilty? 
Or was something missing from my understanding? I decided to find out. Thus began an intensive course of study into the history of Israel/Palestine. 
When I began my research, my uncompromising identification with Israel and the Jewish people encompassed countless beliefs and images. For example, I assumed that a significant part of the world's population held anti-Semitic views and that Israel, the Jewish home, was a shelter from a violent world.  
I had never questioned these beliefs, nor had I recognized that a disturbing corollary had been added to them: insuring Israel's existence justified its aggressive policies toward its neighbors and the Palestinians. [Read the full article at this link.]
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Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Texas Lutheran Holy Land Tour in 2014

Holy Land Tour in 2014

[Sorry I clicked the "send" key prematurely last evening. Here is the complete posting I had planned.]

I'm very pleased to announce: "Seeking Peace and Following Jesus in the Holy Land," Feb. 5-17, 2014. Our 13-day journey will take us to places associated with the Jesus’ life and ministry. We will meet the leaders of today’s Lutheran ministries in Palestine, working in a context of struggle. We will encounter the reality of the Occupation that affects Palestinians and Israelis, including the Separation Barrier that has been built across the Palestinian landscape.

Our trip is sponsored by the ELCA's Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Mission Area, but It's not just for Texans, and it's not just for Lutherans. For a detailed brochure, check this link.
Online registration is available here.
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`History is not made by cynics'
Here's a bulletin from Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP)
Negotiators Meet in Washington

Monday night over dinner, Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli and Palestinian negotiators Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat broke an almost three-year deadlock without direct negotiations. By the time the negotiators left town, little was revealed except that the parties would meet within the next two weeks in either Israel or the Palestinian Territories in order to begin the process of formal negotiations. Click the link to this bulletin for a number of helpful links provided by CMEP.

Read Warren Clark's analysis here: The Impossible Dream - It's Soon or Never
"The impossible dream of peace in the Holy Land -- the end of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank; secure and recognized boundaries for Israel and Palestine; a just solution of the refugee problem; a shared Jerusalem with East Jerusalem for a Palestinian state; recognition and normal relations between Israel and the 53 member countries of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference; and an end of conflict and an end of claims  – seems less impossible today than it did only a short time ago. This week Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Washington for the first time in three years and have set a nine month timetable for an agreement.

I said here on June 7 that President Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank in March and the subsequent efforts of Secretary Kerry seemed to create a fundamental improvement in the outlook for direct talks and progress toward an agreement.
Since then, two other developments have helped cause a tectonic political shift. First was the realization of Israel’s increasing international isolation in response to its settlement expansion. This month the European Union published regulations that distinguish between trade, investment, cultural and other cooperation with Europe and Israeli entities located within the 1967 lines and with those Israeli entities located east of the 1967 lines, including East Jerusalem. 
While the immediate economic impact of the regulations will be limited, the political message was strong. The European governments not only do not recognize settlements but are willing to sanction Israel for continuing to build them."  Read the entire post at this link.
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Our Shared Witness
Seems like a good time to take a look at a new book by Bishop Munib Younan, Our Shared Witness. In the world in which he lives – where Palestinians struggle for life and coexistence with their neighbor Israelis – one might imagine that despair and hopelessness dominate. However, in reading Bishop Younan’s writings readers will find unending hope for a future of peace and goodwill, along with an optimistic determination to be part of the solution for this troubled Holy Land.
This collection of writings, speeches, and sermons reveals Bishop Younan’s context, his perspective, and his hope. Readers will find his theology to be contextual—deeply rooted in his daily reality as a Palestinian Christian —while at the same time being universal, offering insights and principles that apply to other situations in vastly different parts of the world. Click here for more information about Our Shared Witness.
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New Christian Zionism resource
Robert Smith of ELCA Global Mission is the author of a new book on Christian Zionism The book is More Desired Than Our Owne Salvation: The Roots of Christian Zionism (Oxford, 2013). More info on the book can be found here. Pastor Smith is Area Program Director for the Middle East & North Africa. He serves as co-moderator of the Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum of the World Council of Churches.
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Attacks on Arabs in Israel
Spiegel Online provides a report on racist attacks on Israeli Arabs
Arabs are being beaten and insulted in Israel, where the number of racially motivated attacks has risen dramatically. The unresolved conflict, fueled by nationalist politicians, is shifting from Palestinian areas into the Israeli heartland.
"For decades, Jews and Palestinians have been fighting over the same piece of land. Some of them even share the same citizenship. Three quarters of Israel's 8 million people are Jews, and 1.8 million are Israeli Arabs. However, their paths rarely cross in everyday life. Israel's Arabs are not required to serve in the military, and many of them live in primarily Arab towns and neighborhoods, with their children attending Arab schools. They earn less on average and are not as well educated as Israeli Jews. Officially, they have the same rights as Jewish citizens, but in reality they are often the targets of discrimination."  Click here to read the full article.
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Israeli law tears Palestinian families apart
A report from Australians for Palestine points to systematic deportation of East Jerusalem Families.
"A system of `quiet deportation' of East Jerusalem families has developed as a result of the restrictive laws applied to Palestinians in the city. Between 1967 and 2011, more than 14,000 Palestinians have had their residency status revoked.
"Since Israel’s 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem, a move unrecognised by the international community, Palestinians have rarely been granted citizenship rights, only residency rights. Palestinians live with the threat of having their residency revoked.
"As a result, a generation of Palestinian children have grown up living in uncertainty and fear. Children tell Defence for Children International Palestine, a local Palestinian child rights organisation, that they are often afraid, sad, or feel different to peers who are afforded different entitlements."  Read the full article here.

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Despite Settlement Freeze, Buildings Rise 
The New York Times ran a story on the continued building of settlements.
JERUSALEM — One of the most contentious issues facing the Middle East peace talks is whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will extend the 10-month-old building freeze in West Bank Jewish settlements, as the Palestinians and Americans want.
The Israeli construction freeze, which did not extend to East Jerusalem, was politically difficult for Mr. Netanyahu, with his right-wing coalition partners. He has called the stoppage “exceptional” and “extraordinary.” But an examination of the freeze after more than seven months suggests that it amounts to something less significant, at least on the ground. In many West Bank settlements, building is proceeding apace. Dozens of construction sites with scores of Palestinian workers are active.
Read the full article here.
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