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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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.]

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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]


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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". 

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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.

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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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