Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Room for Hope: The Jerusalem Conference


The Jerusalem Conference
Franz and I made a road trip to Houston for the Oct. 11 Jerusalem Conference, presented by Bright Stars of Bethlehem amid its Texas-wide Room for Hope Festival. The goal was to advance the vision of an inclusive, diverse, and equitable Jerusalem. It was just one day of programming, but that day was jam-packed. 

We gathered under the theme Jerusalem: What Makes for Peace? It was a thrill to be among excellent organizers, activists and supporters from all over the USA who are taking part in the struggles for justice and peace in their churches and communities.



The Rev. Mitri Raheb and his planning group put together a stellar group of presenters and panelists. A standout speaker was Tarek Abuata, director of Friends of Sabeel-North America. (Sabeel is the liberation theology center in Jerusalem.) He was born in Bethlehem and grew up in a Lutheran church in Houston. 

Abuata told us that his story is tied to our Christian history as a people. Churches’ oppression against the Palestinian people is united with the US empire. The sins of Christian Zionism are responsible for “the pillar of sins that form Jerusalem and Palestine today, built on white savior-ism and “Christian” dominance.” 

“Palestinian Liberation Theology is the prophetic Christian antidote to this sin that flips the tables in the temple,” Abuata said. Christians should act and flip the tables in their churches and out in the streets.

Abuata gave a stirring, challenging speech that can’t really be summarized briefly. He remembered, “My 10-year old Christian child self in Bethlehem” reflecting Christian dominance this way: They didn’t want to know me. In the shadows of the Holy Land, they rushed by my Christ to genuflect to their idols. And my people’s wound was for them a showcase for a pilgrim who was enamored more by the churches of Narcissus than the Streets of the Divine. He said, “Don’t mold me into your image, forgetting that I am already molded into His Image!”

I was pleased to see ELCA leaders like the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, Dennis Frado, Bishop Michael Rinehart, and former bishop Dean Nelson, along with a number for former ecumenical accompaniers and other friends. Breaks were few, but we managed to get in a little fellowship.



Christian, Jewish and Muslim speakers were both inspirational and difficult. There were testimonies to suffering, struggle and endurance. While the subject of Jerusalem came from our president’s move of the US embassy, a number of speakers pointed to much earlier factors such as the sequestering indigenous people on reservations, the “western project” that created the state of Israel, Christian Zionists truncating American Christianity, and a culture that makes extremism acceptable, 

Dr. Iva Carruthers said we are engaged in “a conversation on what it means to be human. What does it mean for us to allow the humanity in us to lead? The question is who we are becoming. In Flint (Michigan) and in Palestine, water is being weaponized. We have to speak truth to power in a way that allows us to stand and do what we must do.” Carruthers is general secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference

She outlined some action steps for church leaders, including: Create a framework to exegete the appropriate scriptural texts; use the arts to create a “non-marginalized narrative”; raise consciousness about Israel and Palestine; address policies; cease the “devastating policies of weaponizing natural resources,” challenge and interrupt anti-BDS legislation. 

There was just too much to share effectively in a blog post. The event ended with powerful calls for justice and peace. The Rev. Mae Cannon, director of Churches for Middle East Peace, said, “We need to continue to encourage the choir but also nominate people across the aisles. Talk with people! Talk with conservatives in rural Iowa. Inform them! Change the face of the Palestinian people for those who do not know them.”

Raheb said the occupation continues because of hardware provided by the international community to Israel ($38 billion from USA) and software given to them by Christian seminaries. They connect the Israel of today with biblical Israel and view the occupation as part of a divine plan. 

I felt like everyone in the room, all attentive and diligently taking notes, was connected that day. Raheb said about the networking that is so necessary, “We need more and more togetherness to develop joint strategies.”

The four sponsoring organizations of The Jerusalem Conference (Bright Stars of Bethlehem, the National Council of Churches in the USA, Churches for Middle East Peace, and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference) affirmed a statement that is worth sharing with your networks. It can be found at this link: Affirmation for an Inclusive Jerusalem

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I took part in two other important events in September and October, the FOSNA Conference, Prophetic Action: Christians Convening for Palestine; and the big US Campaign for Palestinian Rights conference: Together We Rise. I hope I can share some ideas from these outstanding events sometime soon.  

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Action needed for Augusta Victoria


ELCA Advocacy reports that Augusta Victoria Hospital and the East Jerusalem Hospitals Network are facing cuts from U.S. assistance. We are praying for the sick and their families who would be affected. Call your lawmakers. Click for info on how to take action here

Actions requested:
1)    Call the White House hotline (202-456-1111) and use the White House comments page to urge the president to order the release of the $25 million for AVH and the other East Jerusalem hospitals.
2)    Use the sample letter provided at the link above to urge your senators and representatives to contact the White House as well. 

Thank you! 


Room for Hope coming to Texas in October

Encounter the heart of a people through their culture! Join us as we celebrate the rich heritage of Palestinians in Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin and Houston and across the globe through their food, music, dance, and art! This festival aims to showcase and support Palestinian cultural life and strengthen ties between Palestine and the rest of the world.

"In the midst of conflict, art creates room to breathe."
 ~Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb

Festivities include performances by Dance/Theater students from Bethlehem, Palestine, Palestinian appetizers and desserts, live music and presentations by Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb and Bright Stars of Bethlehem. Click this link for details, and please share this invitation widely. 


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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Khan al-Ahmar news and more

The Land of Canaan Foundation

A personal note: I am volunteering with The Land of Canaan Foundation, which supports projects that help farm families in Palestine stay on their land with food security and economic security. I'll write more about this outstanding organization in future. In the meantime, check the website or find us on Facebook


Khan al-Ahmar

The West Bank Palestinian village of Khan al Ahmar is at imminent risk of demolition. The village is located near Jerusalem, between the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and one of its elite suburbs, Kfar Adumim. It is one of several Palestinian communities facing forced relocation because it falls within the “E1” plan that would link the Israeli settlements with West Jerusalem (cutting East Jerusalem off from the rest of the West Bank).  All the homes and structures in Khan al Ahmar were issued demolition orders on March 5, 2017, requiring them to demolish their own homes, school, mosque, clinic, and barns.  

Most of the village’s structures are tin shacks, tents or permanent tents that are used to shelter the residents and their livestock. Khan al-Ahmar is also home to the Tire School, a more durable structure, established with European support. Authorities plan to move residents to Al Jabel, a village in the Azariya area, situated between the Abu Dis garbage dump and a chop shop for stolen vehicles. Each family is supposed to receive an area of around 300 square meters in the permanent site.

Here is a link to an excellent current update from +972 magazine. I also recommend this summary provided by B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization. 

And follow this link to the ELCA's blog post, Joint Statement on planned demolition of Khan al-Ahmar. "We collectively call on our governments to take action to stop the precedent-setting demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and to denounce this potential war crime. We urge our governments to call on the Israeli government to reverse its decisions to demolish the village of Khan al-Ahmar and forcibly evict its residents before it is too late." 

Please contact your senators and ask them to address this issue with the State Department. 

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Lots of events! 

A number of important events are taking place in the next couple months. 

Prophetic Action: Christians Convening for Palestine

Join Friends of Sabeel - North America (FOSNA) Sept. 27-28 in St. Paul, Minn., for Prophetic Action: Christians Convening for Palestine, a gathering of Christian leaders and their close allies in concert with this year’s US Campaign for Palestinian Rights conference. The gathering will begin at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday and continue until 5:00 p.m. Friday. It will be held at Central Presbyterian Church, 500 Cedar St., St. Paul, close to the venue for the US Campaign conference and immediately preceding it. Click this link for details and registration

Together We Rise - the Struggle for Collective Justice from the US to Palestine 

The national conference of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights will be in the Twin Cities, Minn., Sept. 28-30. Together We Rise will be a space for people to connect with and learn from others working in support of Palestinian rights across the country, and renew our commitment to the struggle for freedom, justice, and equality. Venue: the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront (11 E Kellogg Blvd, St Paul, 55101). 

The program includes Resilience Across Movements, Updates from Palestine, Intersectional Feminism and Gender Justice, Palestine in US Politics, and Global Struggles for Collective Liberation. Confirmed speakers include journalists Mariam Barghouti and Marc Lamont Hill, human rights lawyers Noura Erakat and Hassan Jabareen, and Indigenous rights activists Waziyatawin and Coya White Hat-Artichoker. Dozens of workshops will teach us about the militarization of the US/Mexico border, how to harness constituent power to make change in Congress, hold a direct action, and more. Here's a link to lots more info and registration

Room for Hope Festival

After postponing last year's festival due to Hurricane Harvey, Bright Stars of Bethlehem is coming to Texas for a multi-city festival of Palestinian culture. It's the Room for Hope Palestinian Festival.

Dallas/Ft. Worth - October 5-7, First Presbyterian Church, Fort Worth, and Trinity Presbyterian in McKinney

Austin - October 7-9, Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church and Concordia University

Houston - October 9-13, at Kinsmen Lutheran Church, the Hilton - University of Houston (Jerusalem conference) and St. Paul’s Methodist Church

All three locations will feature Palestinian dance students and faculty from Dar al-Kalima University. Click this link for info and registration

Bright Stars of Bethlehem presents The Jerusalem Conference

As part of the Room for Hope festival, The Jerusalem Conference is a one-day event on Oct.11 in Houston that brings together scholars, ecumenical theologians, and peace-doers around the topic - Jerusalem: What Makes for Peace? 

The recent move of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has changed the conversation. Historic commitments to Jerusalem as a city for people of three faiths are being threatened, along with the hope for peace. While the importance of the city for Jews is not questioned, its significance for Christians and Muslims, and particularly Christians is overlooked. For people of faith and for those concerned with peace in the Middle East, an inclusive Jerusalem is a must. So, what do we need to understand about the current political realities in Jerusalem, the implications of theological frameworks of the city, and current US and foreign policy? Finally, what steps can we, as faith leaders take together and in our own networks to advance peace in this region? 

Join the Rev. Jim Winkler, President of National Council of Churches; Rev. Dr. Mae Cannon of Churches for Middle East Peace; Sojourners' Founder and President Jim Wallis; and Bright Stars of Bethlehem President, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb for a timely exploration of Jerusalem as key to peace in the Middle East. Together, we will identify concrete steps and goals towards advancing the vision of an inclusive, diverse, and equitable Jerusalem.

Click this link to register or for more information. 

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Other Jerusalem,




This is a helpful presentation concluding with a petition - all from The Other Jerusalem
Let’s stop this. Sign the petition. Palestinians in Jerusalem have lived under prolonged occupation, in unequal and discriminatory conditions, since Israel’s unilateral and illegal annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

For 51 years, intersecting discriminatory laws, policies, budgets and practices have impacted every aspect of their daily lives.


Palestinians in Jerusalem live with tenuous “permanent resident status,” under the constant risk of forcible transfer. Between 1967 and the end of 2016, Israel revoked the residency status of 14,595 Palestinians from East Jerusalem. Click this link to read the entire petition


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Walking in Jerusalem, Palestine Open Maps

Take a walk through Jerusalem 

 Adrainne and Ben Gray missionaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) share a video of their daily walking commute through the streets of Jerusalem. Ben and Adrainne were sent to Palestine by the ELCA to coordinate communications for the Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). They say, "Our ministry is word, images, and service to a church and a community that has a story to tell; and indeed their story impacts the world." Learn more about Adrainne and Ben’s work on their blog.

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Check out Palestine Open Maps

I am an admitted map nerd. I have spent a lot of time lately poring over the amazing maps offered by Palestine Open Maps, a platform that seeks to combine emerging technologies for mapping with immersive storytelling. On a current satellite map, I located the kibbutz where I worked as a volunteer in the 1970s and 1980s. By moving through the overlying maps from 1951 back to 1880, I easily located the villages that I was always told were "abandoned."



My Israeli host  mother told me their names; I want to say them here: Et Tina, Huraniya, Idhnibba, Mughallis, Tall as Safi, Qastina, and Masmiya al Kabira. These villages have been erased, with the exception of Masmiya, located on the old Tel Aviv to Ashkelon highway.

Moshe Dayan, writing in Ha’aretz in 1969, said, "Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You don't even know the names of these Arab villages, and I don't blame you, because these geography books no longer exist [...] Nahalal arose in the place of Mahlul, Gvat in the place of Jibta, Sarid in the place of Haneifa, and Kfar-Yehoshua in the place of Tel-Shaman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population."

The idea for this platform was inspired by a large collection of 1940s-era survey maps from the British Mandate of Palestine, recently digitized by the Israeli national library. These maps—all now in the public domain—cover the territory at scales of up to 1:20,000, offering a vivid snapshot of a human and natural geography almost unrecognizable on the ground today, with an unparalleled level of physical detail, including population centers, roads, topographic features and property boundaries. Check out Palestine Open Maps at this link.

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Lutheran Peace Fellowship coordinator position 

Lutheran Peace Fellowship (LPF) is in the process of hiring a National Coordinator. The ideal coordinator has a passion to eliminate violence, inequality and militarism and a commitment to nonviolence. He or she will work with members to build awareness of peace issues, encourage member involvement, plan and lead peace education, advocacy, and outreach activities, develop resources, and nurture leadership.

For a full job description, see Lutheran Peace Fellowship position. Contact LPF directly at  lpf@ecunet.org.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

REWIND returns to Sheikh Jarrah, LWF medical aid goes to Gaza, and Sabeel's Wave of Prayer


REWIND features My Neighborhood

I am a huge fan of the work of Just Vision. I frequently use their documentary films in my workshops. 

Earlier this year, Al Jazeera REWIND producers reached out to Just Vision with a request to include their 2012 Peabody award-winning documentary, "My Neighbourhood," in a new series showcasing the best and most timely documentaries they've aired in the past decade. The broadcast revisits the forced eviction of the El Kurd family in Sheikh Jarrah and includes an update about what's happened since the film was released. You can stream the segment on the Al Jazeera REWIND home page in the coming days. Both the broadcast and online video include an interview with Creative Director, Julia Bacha and an exclusive poetry reading with Sheikh Jarrah's own Mohammed El Kurd. View the 25-minute segment at this REWIND link

Mohammed El-Kurd of Sheikh Jarrah, My Neighborhood


Just vision writes, "The story, sadly, couldn't be more timely. In the midst of a new wave of evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and the Trump administration's reckless embassy move, it's ever more important that we grapple with the impact of  forced displacement and settlement expansion across Jerusalem, as well as honor the communities who continue to organize daily for their rights. If you've yet to see the film, this is a good opportunity. And if you have, we hope you appreciate these updates from Julia and Mohammed. Either way, please do share this with your networks and on your social media pages. View the 25-minute segment at this REWIND link

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A team of doctors and nurses from the Lutheran World Federation’s Augusta Victoria Hospital, in Jerusalem, is in Gaza supporting medical teams tending to Palestinians wounded by Israeli forces earlier this week. (...) May 14 saw an escalation in violence and disproportionate use of force against demonstrators at the Gaza border. (...) more than 3000 people have been injured.

The team reported that the situation is extremely difficult. Injured are being brought to the hospitals, but there are insufficient staff, supplies and infrastructure to properly care for them. The WHO has asked for additional emergency doctors and nurses.

Gaza was already facing a crisis of medical personnel, medicine and supplies, having been under blockade for more than 10 years. For the full article from the Lutheran World Federation, go to this link

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Sabeel's Wave of Prayer

A massacre occurred in Palestine on Monday, the 14th of May. Sixty one Palestinians were killed by the Israeli forces in one day, as reported by the Gaza Ministry of Health. Among those who died were eight children.

Over the period of two days of protest, 2771 Palestinians were injured by the Israeli forces, including 225 children and 86 women, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. The people of Gaza have reached an unbearable level of hardship and despair, on top of which, came the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem which coincided with the 70th anniversary of Al Nakba.

Please join people of faith around the world as we pray...

Lord, we confess that we feel overwhelmed with anger. We pray that your Spirit will work in our hearts to help us continue working for justice and to persevere in our efforts to call for peace and reconciliation. Dear God, we ask that you would grant your mercy and comfort to those grieving for their loved ones. Lord in your mercy…Hear our prayer.

Join in prayer with the full Wave of Prayer at this link.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

An ACTION STEP and `Windows into Palestine'




Windows into Palestine - May 17-19

If you're in the Twin Cities area, don't miss Windows into Palestine - A Festival of Palestinian Art & Culture, starting today.

There's so much offered... exhibition of visual art by Palestinian artists, musical performances and workshops, film: shorts and feature length (discussions follow each film); Palestinian cuisine, including demonstrations and samples from renowned chefs; Authentic Spice & Craft Market.

The "Windows of Hope" Exhibition is an illuminating exhibit of paintings and photography, all from Palestine. From a people living under oppression in a holy, war-torn land, comes art that speaks of hope. The exhibition presents the reality of life on the ground for artists who paint and make photographs and tells the poignant story of their life in Palestine. It runs May 17 – June 24.

It's all at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1200 Marquette Ave, Minneapolis, Minn.

See the website for lots more info - click here

[Graphic above: Qasamat, by Mohammad Joulani, oil on canvas, 2010, Westminster Collection]

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Take action! 

Tell Congress: 70 years of suffering is enough! Stop the lethal Israeli response to Gaza protests, hold Israel accountable, and support human rights for all.


Send a message with this easy sample letter - click here


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WCC calls for just peace and an end to impunity in the Holy Land


World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit condemned use of excessive violence by Israeli forces against civilian protesters in Gaza during last week in which many have lost their lives or lost their loved ones. He expressed particular concern that some Christians are celebrating the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem as a gift from God, despite the disruptively provocative nature of this move.

See the full news release at this link - click here.

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ELCA presiding bishop's pastoral message on situation in Gaza


The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton writes:
Like so many here in our country and around the world, I am appalled and saddened by yesterday's escalation of Israeli military action against protesters in Gaza. Many reports indicate that at least 60 Palestinians, including six children, have died and more than 2,000 have been injured as a result of Israel's disproportionate use of force. Our church will support a planned medical mission from The Lutheran World Federation's Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem to Gaza to assist the wounded.

I join Bishop Sani-Ibrahim Azar of our partner church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), who today said:
We mourn with the families of the dead and dying and pray for the recovery of the injured. We believe that violent actions against the Palestinian civilians will hinder the potential for peace and reconciliation efforts between Israel and Palestine and will only lead to more violence and bloodshed. 

For the full statement from Bishop Eaton, click here.

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Kairos Statement on Gaza and Jerusalem


On Monday, May 14th 2018, in Gaza, 60 people were killed and 2771 wounded among crowds walking unarmed towards their villages, from which they had been compelled to leave. They were killed in cold blood and posed no threat to anybody.

(...) We urge the international community to shoulder its responsibilities. We call upon it to exert every pressure, even sanctions if necessary, to force Israel to follow the path of peace and justice, to lift the oppression from the people of Gaza and all the Palestinian people, to prevent death in the Holy Land, abandon its apartheid practices, and comply with international law.

We call on churches in our Holy Land and throughout the world to be courageous and faithful to their mission, to assume their responsibilities towards the Holy Land and all those who live in it, to bring through their prayers awareness of what is going on in the Holy Land, and to take effective steps towards justice, equality and peace in this land where the roots of their faith lie.

Read the entire statement at the Kairos Palestine website - click here.

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