Monday, December 31, 2007

A report from Ursula's Holy Land trip

In a day or two I will be posting an update to the alternative travel listing that can be found at the web site of Friends of Sabeel - North America -

In the meantime, I found interesting this report of a Holy Land trip written by Ursula, a member of a Presbyterian Church in the Puget Sound (Washington) area, provided by John Berg of Middle East Fellowship -

I've taken the liberty to add a few links to Ursula's report.

Ursula writes:

My trip to Israel was very exhausting with 16 hour days, getting up at 6 am and usually finishing up our group meetings around 10 pm. We have seen much sadness with incredibly much injustice. We have met with wild settlers as well as with many people on both sides working for a just solution. We have driven and walked through refugee camps in Jenin and Bethlehem, seen the destruction, have walked through the market in old Hebron, with settlers throwing garbage onto the netting strung above the colorful vegetable and spice stands. We have seen the helicopters flying ahead of us to the Gaza strip for an attack and spoken to Israelis living in Sderot, the Jewish town frequently attacked by Quassat rockets from Gaza.

All through this we have admired the incredible strength and determination and grace of the Palestinians standing up to the hedious [sic] occupation with an unbelievable creativity and much hope. Still in Washington, DC, during our training, we have been encouraged to look for the hopeful positives and we have found many:

1. The first day we drove up to the North check point to Gaza where the security\police chief from the frequently attacked Jewish town of Sderot talked to us about the threats from Gaza while getting help with translation from our Palestinian guide, who spoke excellent English. Later, when we were shown all the rocket fragments, our Palestinian bus driver marvelled at his freedom to fotograph all the fragments in the Israeli police station of Sderot. (Repeatedly I heard ordinary people yearning for their old friends from the other side. So also the police chief. He missed his old Palestinian buddies in Gaza.)

2. We talked to an Israeli organization of families whose children are refusing to be drafted ... the refuseniks. We were told by their leader, that the Israeli high school seniors are refusing in some schools close to 50%. They were so pleased and proud. We shared a meal with them during which one of the young girls and her mother talked to us about her imprisonment for refusing ... 4x. A very proud young Israeli lady. []

3. We met with the leaders of "Bereaved Families" and listened to their pain and compassion for each other. At the end we all were crying. []

4. The last week we visited an organization of "brain power"in Bethlehem that leads the communications between the two camps for justice and peace.

5. I had a chance of stumbling across a trio of young students singing under a stairwell at Birzeit University in Ramallah of hope and dreams of walking along a river and seeing the Mediterranean Sea. They were singing of peace and justice and better days. Their leader told me that they frequently sing on campus to bring hope and encouragement to other students.

I cannot tell you how emotional listening to all the positive forces reaching out to those on the other side was. All of us, even our"cool" leader, have had tears welling up in our eyes, when listening to the pain and the determination to overcome, with hope in their eyes and deep, incredible love for their land in their hearts. We picked olives with delightful Palestinian families, stayed overnight with them, even slept on the floor in their living room ... 6 of us - a mixed group ...even a young Palestinian U student favoring Hamas among us ... yap.

We had a chance to visit an Israeli settlement ... the [stark] contrast between it and the Palestinian villages with denied garbage pickup, often surrounded by rubble from bulldozed houses tore our hearts out and left us silent, each of us contemplating our own thoughts on the bus. In the settlement we could see water was aplenty for swimming pools and beautiful landscaping with often century old olive trees transplanted from Palestinian villages, while Palestinians had barely enough drinking water. The inequities are haunting.

High above on the horizon for me stands the Christian Peace[maker] Team (CPT), working in Hebron accompanying school children through check points, walking with old people as observers and most of all standing in the way between the irrational, wild settlers and Palestinians farmers, especially when faced with house demotions [sic]. Some of these volunteers return each year for 1-3 months, others stay and support for several years. Their work is so essential in calming the enorm tension between those two sides ... often at the peril of their own lives. No, they do not usually succeed in stopping the destructions of houses, but their being there is an enormous mission of presence. []

May we all find ways to help in this situation. The Presbyterian Church is presently buying cases of organic olive oil, selling them in the US... I ordered one case for now ... more is possible.

I am sending you love and warm thoughts, Ursula

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas message from the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

The Christmas message from the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem didn't get my attention until a couple days ago. Here is is, provided by the Bethlehem Media Center -

Tuesday, 18 December 2007


"He came to his own, and his own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
St. John, ch.1 vv.11-13

Dear Sisters and Brothers,


1. Another Christmas is upon us and still we seek Peace for this Holy Land amidst continuing hardships. At the sane time it is important for us to reflect carefully on what the Evangelist is trying to put before us about God's gift to us of Jesus, born in Bethlehem's manger, together with the clear response God asks of each one of us.

Amidst our difficulties, we need to meditate upon what links us in the same time to God and this land. In this Land, we ask for our freedom, for the end of the Occupation. We mention the difficulties coming form “the Wall of Separation” that has transformed our cities in big prisons. With God, we are linked because our dignity comes from His dignity, and we are His children and the work of His hands. And we must keep in mind that it is not fleshly descent or human effort which makes us the children of God, and it is not human strength alone that makes us strong. Rather it is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God. Christmas reminds us that our faith is not only a human belonging to a group, or to a community different from the others by its religion, We are called to make a personal commitment to Jesus. Such a commitment tells the world and particularly those around us that we are prepared to witness and live by our reliance on Jesus the Word of God, born in Bethlehem, and who brought to us durable and firm peace in our hearts.

2. So often human beings believe they are capable of making peace through their own efforts; demanding conditions of their own choosing. However, when God gave us His Son to be born of a human mother and to experience all aspects of human life He did so in order that we might discern the way to resolve our difficulties from His example and teaching. Therefore we pray for ourselves in order to understand the strength God gave us when He gave us His Eternal Word born in Bethlehem. So we pray for our political leaders that God may inspire them and make them examine their conduct and demands in the light of God's commandments always remembering their own accountability to Him, in this very life and in the process of the conflict itself..

So dear Sisters and Brothers whilst we are truly conscious of the many problems of unemployment, poverty and frustration which many of you continue to face each day, we would still urge you to remember the words of the Apostle:

May "the peace of God rule in your hearts ..." and "the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom." Colossians ch.3 vv. 15, 16

We as Christians must continue to offer our prayers to God for all those around us who are struggling to care for their families, not least the young children and the elderly. We rejoice with those families now enjoying the company of those recently released from prison whilst persisting in our efforts to encourage the release of thousands more who have the same right to have back their freedom and return to the joy of their families and children.

Amidst our sufferings, we share the sufferings of the others. We have a particular thought for the countless thousands across the world who have endured great disasters as a result of the devastating cyclones and subsequent floods of recent months. We pray for them. And for all of us we repeat the verse of the Gospel:

"God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth
in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." St. John ch.3, v.16

3. To our Sisters and Brothers across the world: we are greatly encouraged by your continuing pilgrimages to this Land: we thank you for your presence with us. During your pilgrimage as well you learn at first hand of the difficulties of your fellow Christians here as well as following in the footsteps of our Blessed Lord. Thank you for your prayers and the many expressions of your love and care for everyone here.

If Peace is to come to this Land it needs even greater effort from all concerned - ordinary citizens as well as Political leaders. Christmas reminds us that God gave us the Prince of Peace to be born in Bethlehem so we must all seek that peace for everyone in this Holy Land, be they Palestinian or Israeli, Christian, Moslem or Jew and Druze. He tells us that we are able to make peace and overcome all obstacles with the power which the Prince of peace, born in Bethlehem, brought us.

We wish everyone a truly Happy Christmas and God's richest blessings on their homes and families.

Jerusalem, December 2007
Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem

Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem
Patriarch Michel Sabbah, R.C. Latin
Patriarch Torkom I Manooghian, Armenian Orthodox
Fr Pierbattista Pizziballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land
Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox
Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian-Orthodox
Archbishop Abouna Matthias, Ethiopian Orthodox
Archbishop Paul Sayyah, Maronite
Bishop Suhail Dawani, Anglican
Bishop Mounib Younan, Lutheran
Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian-Catholic
Bishop George Baker, Greek Catholic
Fr. Rafael Minassian , Armenian Catholic

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Established in the fall of 2003, the BMN is administered and operated by the Bethlehem Media Center (, the goal of which is to echo the “voice of the voiceless”, especially that of children, the youth and women. By providing training in journalistic skills and developing the opportunities for people to say their opinion, Bethlehem Media Center can offer a more exact and democratic voice to the outer world.

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To receive bulletins from Ann Hafften, go to "A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Middle East Peace" -

Friday, December 21, 2007

ELCA Peace Not Walls followup to Annapolis Conference

An action alert came from Peace Not Walls, the campaign of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to learn, pray and act for peace with justice in the Holy Land -

We are urged to be informed and take action in the wake of the Annapolis conference. The entire alert is at this link:

Here's an outline:

1. Urgently Needed Reciprocal Steps by Israel and the Palestinian Authority
As a followup to the Annapolis conference, the National Inter-religious Leadership Initiative - - of which ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson is a member, has issued "Talking Points for Public Advocacy."

Please consider using these when speaking with your elected officials during the current Congressional talking points include:
--Agreement on principles for resolving final status issues
--A united Palestinian government for peace
--Progress toward comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace

To see the full text:

2. Advent Resources from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
-- 2007 Pictorial Advent calendar -
-- Videos of Christmas 2006 -

3. December 2007 National Geographic Feature Story on Bethlehem -
-- Article:
-- Photos:

4. Recent Documents of Note
-- New ICRC report on West Bank and Gaza
-- New OCHA report on Gaza
-- International Crisis Group: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Annapolis and After
-- International Donors' Conference for the Palestinian State

Inclusion of information in MENET listings does not necessarily reflect the views of the ELCA.

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Christmas greetings from Lutherans in the Holy Land

Christmas greetings and news come to us from the office of Bishop Munib Younan in Jerusalem and Pastor Mitri Raheb

Do You Hear What I Hear?
A Voice Cries Out in the Desert: Prepare the Way of the Lord (Is 40:3)


Bishop Dr. Munib Younan

Christmas is the time to sing Gloria in Excelsis! It is the time to stand side by side around the manger with the shepherds and the Wise Men, amazed and awed by the miracle of God's birth among us.

But Christmas is also a time when we hear many other voices. But which voices bring us salvation? It is the voice that cries in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths."

After Annapolis, we hear many voices crying out that, finally, it is time for peace in Palestine and Israel. Many voices are joining together to call for that peace that we so desperately need.

Yet there are other voices. More than before, it seems a cacophony of confusion and chaos as world leaders and everyday people try to discern what really will make for peace, in the world and in our hearts.

Despite the voices of peace and reconciliation from the lofty levels of the leaders, on the ground, illegal settlements, the wall and land confiscation continue. Rockets and missiles continue to fly. People continue to talk of revenge and counter-revenge.

And in the midst of this peace talk, the voice of extremism drones on, finding ripe recruits in people who see no place at the inn for themselves. These voices of extremism all claim to speak for God, and waste no opportunity to turn a political conflict into a religious war. And they all claim that it is only their actions and perspectives will bring justice and liberation to the Middle East.

There are even voices this Christmas that claim that the Christians who are leaving Bethlehem are leaving because of conflict with the Muslims, ignoring the continued good relations for centuries between Palestinian Christians and Muslims. Also, conveniently ignoring the reality of occupation, the prison-like existence behind the wall in Bethlehem and the fact that it is hard for them to hear the voice of hope in a hopeless situation.

And, as always, there is the voice of cynicism and despair that sounds its refrain that nothing will ever change here, that the hatred is too entrenched and the pain too deep.

Jerusalem is a city surrounded by desert and rough terrain. In ancient times in the East, the road was easily erased by the blowing sands of the desert. In the West, the road was hard to follow in the rugged terrain that sloped downward to the sea. When an important person came to Jerusalem, it was necessary to make a better road. Brush was cut away, holes were filled, obstacles were flattened, bridges were built or repaired. This has also been done throughout the years to receive pilgrims. This is what inspired Isaiah and John the Baptist: "A voice cries out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord."

Someone who is greater than everyone is about to come: He who must come, the desired of the nations. A road must be made for Him, the path must be prepared so that He can arrive.
This is also true of the heart and in one's life. To prepare, we must still our hearts and celebrate the voice that sustains and that penetrates all the clouds, confusion and chaos… it reminds us:
"Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight the paths!"

Prepare to hear the true voice of peace, which echoed in the song of the angels to the shepherds and still tells us in the midst of our dark nights:
"Be not afraid! I bring you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord."

It breaks into our world and silences all other voices.

Today is no different than the world into which Jesus was born. Many leaders of that day followed voices and values that made the blessings of life only for the wealthy and the powerful.

Then, like now, there are the Herods, whose voices of power, might and the sword leave innocent children dead and cities devastated.

Then, like now, there are the Caesars, whose voices will command anything to keep their empire in place and on top.

They, like many leaders today, would create a "peace" by the sword, built on submission to power, military might, exclusion and injustice.

This season we remember that we follow a different voice. It is the voice of one crying in the wilderness, the voice of the Babe in a manger testifying to the way, the truth and the life.

This voice creates a peace that passes all understanding based on inviting all to share in the warm glow of the manger and God's blessings of life abundant. Here there are no swords, but a young woman who bears eternal Light into a dark, Bethlehem night. Only poor shepherds who were once afraid and are now at peace. Only wise men who journeyed long to kneel at the feet of a child.

As poet Ann Weems writes:
The World Still Knows
The night is still dark
And a procession of Herods still terrorizes the earth,
Killing the children to stay in power.
The world still knows its Herods,
But it also still knows men and women
Who pack their dreams safely in their hearts
And set off toward Bethlehem,
Faithful against all odds,
Undeterred by fatigue or rejection,
to kneel to a child.
And the world still knows those persons
wise enough
to follow a star,
those who do not consider themselves too intelligent
too powerful
too wealthy
to kneel to a child.
And the world still knows those hearts so humble
that they're ready
to hear the word of a song
and to leave what they have, to go
to kneel to a child.
The night is still dark,
but by the light of the star,
even today
we can still see
to kneel to a child.

Do you hear what I hear?
The voice of life and love that calls us to kneel to a child, to prepare the way for a better future for all of our children, for salvation, peace, justice and hope. The voice of the ones who don't have a place at the inn. The voice that today calls Palestinians, Israelis and our whole world toward justice and non-violence and away from war and extremism. The voice that calls our leaders to take up their power and lead in a different direction: Preparing the way of justice, for justice is the only way that will lead to a comprehensive peace, security and freedom for all.

Muslim, Christian and Jewish faith leaders in Jerusalem have formed the Council of Religious Institutions to make religion part of the solution and not part of the problem, to break down the barriers that stand in the way of justice and peace by seeing God in the other and accepting the right of the existence of the other. We are committed to education for our children that teaches tolerance and mutual respect, preparing fertile ground for the healing and future of our children. We are committed together to liberate ourselves from fear and conflict to live in freedom, security and justice. Please pray for us.

Do you hear what I hear? The Word has become flesh and lived among us, and it is possible that justice and forgiveness can become flesh among Palestinians and Israelis. This voice calls us to join the symphony of peace and justice which cries out with the angels:
"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace among all human beings."

Wishing you a peaceful Christmas
and a Blessed New Year in 2008!
Bishop Munib Younan

From Pastor Raheb at Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem:

“The Word became Flesh”: this is the Christmas message.

God came to Earth to dwell among us, to be present with us, and to be manifest in this world. This REALity of God in Christ is our focus for this season, as we strive to create here on Earth signs of God’s continued presence in Palestine, 2000 years after Emmanuel, “God with us”, was born in Bethlehem.

To see some of these signs, we invite you to have a look at our website.

Featured on the special Christmas edition of

Azwaj Supports Young Families in Bethlehem -

The ICB in the International Spotlight: Video Clips -

A Response to National Geographic’s “Bethlehem, 2007 A.D.” -

Advent Recital Series and Christmas Services -

Blessings to you this Christmas and all through the year. We are grateful to have such committed individuals around the world supporting our work here in Bethlehem.

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb
Diyar Consortium
Tel: +972 2 277 0047

Diyar is a consortium of 3 Lutheran based, ecumenically oriented institutions (Dar Annadwa, ICB, Dar al-Kalima College, Dar al-Kalima Health & Wellness) serving the whole Palestinian community, from “the womb to the tomb”, with an emphasis on children, youth, women & the elderly through unique programs that are contextual & holistic in nature.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Good work being done at Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem

This notice honoring ELCA Pastor Mark Brown, Lutheran World Federation director in Jerusalem, comes from Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.

Someone who sticks with something from start to finish is often described as “faithful.” The 2008 Faithfulness in Ministry Cross Award recipients have demonstrated that it takes special tenacity and vision to bring new life to communities struggling to survive. They’ve used their God-given gifts to nurture diverse communities around the world. Among those that Luther Seminary and its Alumni/ae Council honor this year is Mark Brown.

Mark writes to me:

The hospital has been at full capacity these last months. Dr. Nasser and the whole AVH team are doing extremely well to serve and care for so many patients in the current political and economic environment.

At the same time, we continue to improve and expand what AVH has to offer. We have received funding to upgrade the pediatric unit and are well into the renovation process. Hopefully all the work will be completed and new equipment installed by next spring or early summer. Our busing system continues to bring patients and staff to AVH from the West Bank. This is much needed and appreciated especially by the cancer patients and children in need of kidney dialysis who come several times a week.

In the AVH Cancer Care Unit we are preparing to build a chamber that will house a second linear accelerator for radiation therapy. This addition is desperately needed. The one machine at AVH is the only one operating in the West Bank and Gaza serving a population of over 3.5 million. We are also confident that special funding will be available in 2008 to establish a cancer diagnostic center and a psycho-social care center at AVH.

As you can see, a lot of good work (and more than is mentioned here!) is being done at AVH.

The Rev. Mark Brown, Lutheran World Federation, Jerusalem

From the Luther web page -
If Rev. Mark Brown had intended to get in the middle of an intractable problem, he could have done no better. As Regional Representative for the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Jerusalem, Brown negotiates the complex politics of the region while overseeing the LWF's humanitarian programs serving Palestinian refugees and others in need. []

Brown is responsible for the administration and implementation of the LWF programs in Jerusalem and the West Bank. For decades the LWF has provided essential humanitarian services, helped to protect the religious and human rights of the Palestinian people, strengthened the presence and witness of the Christian communities in the Holy Land, and promoted understanding peace and reconciliation.

The LWF work includes Augusta Victoria Hospital, a humanitarian project of the LWF since 1950. [] It is the primary medical facility for Palestinians living in Israel's West Bank. The hospital, hostage to the political winds of Israel and the institution's donor countries, faces continuous financial challenges. Further, the Israeli government's concrete security wall makes reaching the hospital difficult for employees and patients.

"Despite the complex legal issues, Brown has worked cooperatively and creatively to give the hospital a viable future," wrote Professor Craig Koester, '80, in nominating Brown for the award.
Under Brown's leadership, the LWF also runs a job-training program for Palestinians, manages a LWF olive grove and is exploring ways to provide affordable housing in Jerusalem.

“In a region divided by political and religious disputes, the need for such humanitarian work is crucial,” Koester said.

Wrote Pastor Said Ailabouni, ’79, of Nazareth [now Barrington, Ill.], “Mark has been a prophetic voice in the ELCA and globally regarding the need for a just resolution of the Middle East conflict. He refused to be quiet even when it was not popular to speak on behalf of the Palestinians.” He noted Brown’s ability to promote cooperation among disparate groups while not compromising standards of justice.

“I give thanks to God for the gift of Mark Brown, who has been a faithful advocate on behalf of the oppressed and a champion for the poor and powerless,” wrote Ailabouni.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bethlehem Update December 2007

There is so much to report about conditions in the Bethlehem area.
Mapping Palestinian Christians in the West Bank
The International Center of Bethlehem (ICB) - - announces ... 
...a new, exciting initiative that will begin the path toward developing a strategic plan for Christians and Christianity not only to survive, but to thrive here in Palestine.  Based at the ICB complex, this new project hopes to fill the gap in what is known about the Palestinian Christian community in the West Bank, and eventually in Gaza and Israel as well.  We plan, together with the National Coalition of Christian Organisations in Palestine (NCCOP), Jerusalem Interchurch Center (JIC), and other partner organisations to investigate and map Palestinian Christian communities and organisations, gather information from Palestinian Christians on their resources, needs, hopes and concerns, and provide a forum for discussion and development of new structures and initiatives.
We hope that, through this mapping exercise, this initiative will increase awareness among Palestinian Christians of their own needs and capabilities, individually and as a community, and lead to further development and cooperation, and eventually to greater civic participation.  This project will be headed up by Rifat Odeh Kassis, who has recently come to join us at DIYAR.  Mr. Kassis is the president of the international council of Defence for Children International, and worked most recently in Geneva with the World Council of Churches.

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs sent an action alert Dec. 13 regarding a London Times article by columnist Michael Gove. []

Please make your views known regarding a brief but deeply flawed article in the London Times by columnist Michael Gove, published on December 11, 2007, entitled “Bethlehem and Bigotry.” (It’s at the end of his column.) Groves is a Conservative Member of Parliament as well as a frequent contributor to The Times and BBC broadcasts.
Gove’s comments are easily and factually rebutted by reading a special report about Bethlehem Christians, published in the January/February 2006 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, pp. 16-19, “Bethlehem Voices: Hopes and Fears.” -

Please also see a report entitled “Costs of Conflict: The Changing Face of Bethlehem,” published in December 2004 by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the Office of the Special Coordinator for the Peace Process in the Middle East (UNSCO). [ ]  Extracts from the report are available at:

Write to The Times and Michael Gove to make your views known. Palestinian Christians please show that he does not speak on your behalf. Write to, and/or post your comment in the feedback section at the end of the article. ... The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, PO Box 53062, Washington DC 20009,  [], published by the American Educational Trust.

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See this month's edition of National Geographic
National Geographic magazine features a beautiful article on Bethlehem in the December 2007 issue:

I have some quibbles with the text and the pull-quotes, but the photographs are astounding.

The article begins:

"This is not how Mary and Joseph came into Bethlehem, but this is how you enter now. You wait at the wall. It's a daunting concrete barricade, three stories high, thorned with razor wire. Standing beside it, you feel as if you're at the base of a dam. Israeli soldiers armed with assault rifles examine your papers. They search your vehicle. No Israeli civilian, by military order, is allowed in. And few Bethlehem residents are permitted out—the reason the wall exists here, according to the Israeli government, is to keep terrorists away from Jerusalem.

"Bethlehem and Jerusalem are only six miles apart (ten kilometers), though in the compressed and fractious geography of the region, this places them in different realms. It can take a month for a postcard to go from one city to the other. Bethlehem is in the West Bank, on land taken by Israel during the Six Day War of 1967. It's a Palestinian city; the majority of its 35,000 residents are Muslim. In 1900, more than 90 percent of the city was Christian. Today Bethlehem is only about one-third Christian, and this proportion is steadily shrinking as Christians leave for Europe or the Americas. At least a dozen suicide bombers have come from the city and surrounding district. The truth is that Bethlehem, the "little town" venerated during Christmas, is one of the most contentious places on Earth."

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George N. Rishmawi of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People (PCR) writes:

This Year, the Christmas comes in the same week of Eid Al-Adha and allPalestinians, Christians and Muslims celebrate together.

In Beit Sahour, the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People [] and theMunicipality of Beit Sahour have joined efforts to organize a three-dayfestival December 21 – 23, 2007, which will include the Annual CandleProcession for this year which will be held under the title “Light A Candle for a Just Peace” to affirm to all the world that what Palestinians need is aJust Peace a true peace that is based on retrieving the rights of those whose rights are violated.

In addition the festival will also include the lightening of the Christmas tree in Beit Sahour and a number of folklore groups and local singers and musicians, in addition to children activities.

The program is also available at

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U.S. Volunteers Join With Palestinian Musicians for Bethlehem Concert; Christmas Eve Performance in Bethlehem to be Largest Event in Manger Square Since 1999

COLUMBUS, Mississippi (Dec.  10, 2007) -- An all-volunteer U.S. group of professional, collegiate and church musicians and choir singers from seven states will join with Palestinian musicians to perform the first major Christmas Eve concert in Bethlehem's Manger Square since 1999.

The more than 150-voice chorus traveling at their own expense from the United States will join with 20 singers based in Jerusalem and members of The Palestine Youth Orchestra (PYO) of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music.  Along with world-class operatic performers, led by renowned conductors Dr. Robert McBain and Dr. Eric Thorson, the choir and orchestra will perform portions of Handel's Messiah to deliver a simple message of "Peace on earth, good will to all."

"While the music is the traditional Christmas music of Handel and John Rutter, the presence of the singers, orchestra and soloists transcends the differences existing among peoples of the world, and unites us in friendship and hope in this deeply symbolic season," said organizer Rev. Sam Morris, senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Columbus, Miss., and adjunct professor at the Jerusalem Institute for Biblical Exploration (J.I.B.E.).  Morris conceived the idea and engaged with friends and colleagues to coordinate what officially has been dubbed the "Prepare the Way Concert Tour 2007: Peace on Earth, Good Will to All."

"With the hope of a just peace looming on the horizon, it is time to 'prepare the way,'" said Rev. Morris.  "One of the world's greatest tenors, Stuart Neill, will sing those very words on Christmas Eve to a world watching and waiting for peace." 
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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pay Attention to Gaza

I want to continue to be attentive to Gaza. Here I try to present a few items and sources for information that I find helpful. Ann

Saleh Al-Naami may have foreseen something, given Israel's push into the Gaza Strip this week, when he wrote "Countdown to the offensive" - "Israel is waiting callously for the Annapolis meeting to pass before wreaking intended destruction on Gaza," he wrote in Al Ahram:

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel issued an appeal for medical supplies that can be found at the PHR-Israel web site:

This is the introduction: "The prolonged siege imposed by the Israeli government on Gaza, the closing of its borders, the tightening of policies regarding permission to exit Gaza for medical purposes, and the severe shortage of medications and other medical supplies all severely damage the Palestinian health system and endanger the lives and health of thousands of Palestinian patients.

"This severe crisis calls for an extraordinary response on the part of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) that is separate from our routine activities. For this reason we intend to implement the following emergency actions:

"- Emergency aid dispatch of humanitarian supplies and a delegation of doctors from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) to Gaza. The aims of this act: emergency aid, even if limited; documentation and dissemination of reliable information regarding the medical situation in Gaza; expression of protest and solidarity with the residents of the Gaza Strip under siege. In order to receive permission for this act we will probably also need to use legal action.

"- Advocacy: representation of dozens of patients applying to our offices each month, whose access to Israel or passage through it for purposes of medical care is denied for “security reasons;” a campaign against the policies of the General Security Service (GSS, shabac) whereby patients are compelled to inform on others as a condition for permission to access medical care. These campaigns will be implemented using litigation and media, targeting Israeli and international audiences."

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) issued this announcement, "IOF Impose additional Collective Punishment Measures and Reduce Gaza's Fuel Supply - 70% of the Strip's Fuel Stations Shutdown and the Humanitarian Crisis Deepens -

"PCHR strongly condemns the decision by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on Wednesday (28 November) for a new reduction in the supply of fuel to the Gaza Strip, which already suffers from serious shortages in fuel. The Centre calls upon the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as UN organizations and international humanitarian organizations to intervene immediately to force IOF to stop this decision. This intervention is necessary to avert a humanitarian crisis threatening all aspects of civilian life including the functioning of healthcare facilities, drinking water wells, and sewage
disposal. The fuel cuts threaten to impact the operation of several sectors including health services, environmental services, transportation, education, commerce, industrial production, and agriculture.

"It is noted that this decision is preempted a pending decision by the Israeli High Court on a petition submitted by PCHR and several human rights organizations against the IOF decision on 25 October 2007 to reduce the fuel and electricity supplies to the Strip. The Israeli High Court held a session today to review the petition. However, the decision was delayed.

"Sources in the Association of Owners of Petrol and Gas Companies and Fuel Stations" indicated that the Association rejected receipt of the fuel amounts delivered on Wednesday, 28 November 2007, due to the new reductions implemented by the Israeli supplier, Dor Alon Co. The Israeli company informed the Association of reducing the daily fuel supply to Gaza to 90,000 liters of kerosene, 25,000 liters of benzene, and 100 tons of natural gas. The Association's board held a meeting yesterday, and replied to the Israeli supplier that it rejects receipt of such amounts, citing that the reduction will result in a humanitarian crisis on all aspects of civilian life.

"As a result, nearly 70% of the Strips fuel stations (approximately 100 out of 145) shutdown on this afternoon after their stock of fuel ran out. The remaining stations are expected to close tomorrow evening." [For the complete report go to the web page:]

For more information ... E-mail:; webpage:

OCHA's Protection Civilians Weekly Report, 21-27 November 2007, presents a litany of incidents. Honestly, it is a fascinating and sorrowful exercise to read through this lengthy report:

Here is an excerpt specific to Gaza:

"Of note this week - Gaza Strip:
· The IDF killed eight Palestinians and injured 20 others in the Gaza Strip. Of those injured, 12 were in the North Gaza governorate.
· A mother of seven children from Nuseirat refugee camp died on 24 November due to deterioration in her health condition after she was denied access through Erez to receive medical treatment in an Israeli hospital.
· 31 Qassams and 61 mortars were fired toward Israel. In addition, 11 mortars were fired at IDF soldiers inside the Gaza Strip.
· During the reporting period, the IDF carried out levelling and excavation operations near Erez crossing and the former Erez Inudstrial Zone. As of 27 November, the IDF military operation is ongoing and roads near Erez crossing remain inaccessible.
· Although the GoI announced that Sufa crossing will be re-opened on 25 November, the crossing continues to be closed. This week, however, shipments of lamb were exceptionally allowed entry through Sufa into Gaza on 22 November.
· Nine demonstrations were organised this week: four of which were to protest against the closure of the Gaza crossings; one to protest against the non-issuance of Palestinian ID cards by the Israeli authorities; one to demand that the right of return of Palestinian refugees be respected by negotiators at the Annapolis conference; and three to express opposition for the Annapolis conference."

The Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum is a network of Palestinian and Israeli NGOs working towards peaceful relations. One feature of their web page is a "Media Monitor." Here is the most recent posting from the Palestinian media:

Included is this report from Gaza:
Palestinian Media Monitor, November 27th – December 4th
Gaza and Hamas

Gaza Strip hospitals face "humanitarian disaster" due to fuel shortage, Health Ministry says
Hospitals in the Gaza Strip have been forced to shut down their emergency power generators, resulting in a looming “humanitarian disaster” due to Israel’s severe reductions in fuel supplies, said Muawiya Hassanein, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian Health Ministry.

The power cut will result in the destruction of millions of dollars of crucial vaccines and food supplies.

Hassanein said the Gaza Strip’s major hospitals, including Ash-Shifa in Gaza City, the European Hospital in Rafah, and Nasser hospital in Khan Younis are already short on fuel.

The shortage is harming intensive care units, dialysis centers, and operating rooms.

The Israeli High Court upheld the government’s decision to reduce fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip on Friday, defeating a petition by Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups. Israel has gradually reduced deliveries since June to between one quarter and one half of normal levels.

Ahmad Bahar, the acting speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) called on Arab and Muslim states to work towards removing the crippling sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel.

[The home page for the Forum is:]

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Advent 2007 Reflection by Jean Zaru

Friends of Sabeel - North America shared this greeting from Jean Zaru, a Palestinian Christian who lives in Ramallah. She is a Quaker and serves on the board of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center.

Advent 2007

Dear Friends,

It is a delight to wake up in this season and enjoy the birds singing. They seem to love the black olives on my tree in the courtyard. They are constantly singing in spite of the bitterness of the olives. They call other birds to share with them the food, and the whole community of these birds is celebrating. These birds and their positive energy remind me of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Mary, our lady of Palestine, looks unblinkingly at the realities of life lived daily under empire. That is, she bears witness to the rich oppressing the poor, the powerful lording over the weaker ones, the erection of walls of exclusion and confiscation, the stealing and demolishing of homes, the confiscation of lands, the violation of water rights, the restrictions on freedom of movement, and the denial of access to holy sites.

Standing in the shadow of empire, Mary saw with clarity and bore witness; she sang to God our savior. And she still sings today with full throated confidence in God’s deliverance for the captives and release for those living under lawless oppression. God will, Mary proclaims, turn the world upside down, bring down mountains, and raise valleys. God will be merciful and strong in ways we do not yet see; empire will be brought down and a new human community of all God’s people will rise up.

“And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
For the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the
thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
And lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty…’” ( Luke 1: 46-53)

After 40 years of occupation and denial of all our basic rights, how can I continue in joyful witness and singing like Mary?

In Luke’s account, the unwed Mary does not remain isolated with her anxieties, but seeks support from another woman, Elizabeth. Filled with the Holy Spirit who exalts the violated, the two women rejoice in God’s liberating action. In the Magnificat, the pregnant Mary enunciates God’s salvation to the humiliated and downtrodden.

The future of the peace and wellness that God provides to all without exception is not to be awaited passively. Rather, it is being born in us today, from our flesh and blood, from our commitments and struggles for justice. It becomes the hope for those who do not have hope.

We remember that Jesus opened his public ministry in another program of hope.

“`The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed meto bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’” (Luke 4:18).

It was addressed to the poor, the prisoners, the blind and the broken victims. Yes, Friends how then can I keep from singing?

Friends, your gift of friendship is one of the greatest gifts I received. You brightened my days by joining me to light candles of joy, despite all sadness, and candles of hope where despair keeps watch, and candles of love to inspire all my living.

I will light the candle of fellowship this season; I know that the experiences of unity in human relations are more compelling than the concepts and prejudices which divide us. Life keeps coming on, keeps seeking to fulfill it self, and keeps affirming the possibility of hope.

May this Christmas season be a time of renewal of our commitment and hope! With all my best wishes and great gratitude to each and every one of you for your partnership, accompaniment, and love.

Jean Zaru
Clerk, Ramallah Friends Meeting
Ramallah, Palestine

Jean Zaru is a Palestinian Christian from Ramallah (West Bank) and a founding member of Sabeel in Jerusalem. She is a spiritual leader in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), member of the International Council of the World Conference for Religion and Peace, former president of the Jerusalem YWCA, author of A Christian Palestinian Life: Faith and Struggle and Overcoming Direct and Structural Violence: Truth and Peacemaking in the Palestinian Experience. [She served as a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and a member of the Working Group on Interfaith Dialogue of the WCC.]

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For a profile and interview with Jean Zaru, go to the web page of the World Council of Churches' Ecunemical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel:

To receive bulletins from Ann Hafften, go to the blog:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Matt Duss writes on Sabeel's History of Nonviolence

Returning once more to the terrific Sabeel Conference in Boston (October 2007) , it was great to meet Matthew Duss there. He has written an excellent analysis for The American Prospect, entitled "A History of Nonviolence."

The article is at:

A History of Nonviolence

Matthew Duss
November 15, 2007

Palestinian leader Naim Ateek has long advocated nonviolence as the only way to secure peace between Israel and Palestine. So why is he so despised by hard-line Israel supporters?

"The Palestinians need to become really conscious of and sensitive to the horror of the Holocaust. ...We must understand the importance and significance of the Holocaust to the Jews, while insisting that the Jews understand the tragedy of Palestine for the Palestinians."
- Rev. Canon Naim Ateek, founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem

"Naim Ateek had just turned 11 when forces of the Haganah, the pre-Israel Zionist paramilitary organization, occupied his village of Beisan in Palestine. Days later, the villagers were informed that they were to be "evacuated," forcibly moved off land that Palestine's Jewish minority now claimed for its own state. Ordered to gather in the village center, the Ateeks took what they could carry, and joined the other frightened families, all clutching heirlooms, photographs, jewelry, and awaiting an uncertain future, away from the homes in and lands on which their families had lived for generations.

It is perhaps surprising then, that even after this experience of forcible dispossession, and even after the shock of the 1967 war, in which thousands more Palestinians were displaced and the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem came under military occupation, even after years of witnessing and enduring brutality at the hands of Israeli soldiers and settlers, Ateek has been a constant advocate of nonviolence as the only course for Palestinian independence. A parish minister to Palestine's small Christian community since 1966, Ateek founded the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in 1989 for the purpose of developing a theology to help Palestinians cope with and overcome the daily oppression and injustice they continue to endure as a subject population under military occupation."

[See the complete article at]

The comments that follow the Duss article provide some interesting reading too. I don't remember if I've seen the "Tikun Olam" web site before, but this connection is insightful:

And I'm familiar with Eileen Fleming's "We Are Wide Awake" - Http:// - good to see her connecting.

Advent blessings of hope, Ann Hafften

For more bulletins from Ann Hafften, go to

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Annapolis conference news and resources

Mainstream news sources are full of news of the Annapolis meetings. Here is an alert from Peace Not Walls (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) and a report from the National Council of Churches.

The ELCA issued a call for prayer and action during the Annapolis Peace Conference:

These aspects are addressed in the alert:
  • Lutheran Holy Land Bishop, Other Faith Leaders Make Peace Commitments
  • Lutheran Bishop in Holy Land Meets Former President Carter
  • Bishop Younan: "An Open Letter to Annapolis Leaders: Half Empty or Half Full?"
  • National Interreligious Leadership Initiative (NILI) Launches New Web Site
  • Prayer Resources for Middle East Peace Available
  • Historic Unanimity of Major Christian Leaders, Liberal and Evangelical Alike, Marks Response To Unprecedented Overture By Influential Muslims To Christians Worldwide

Several of these items have already been featured here. I was in contact with Ron Young a few weeks ago about a NILI web site, and I'm pleased to see it announced today:

To receive regular advocacy alerts from the ELCA, go to:

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(NCC News) NCC hopeful as Annapolis Mideast peace talks begin

New York, November 26, 2007--Leaders of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) are expressing encouragement and prayers for this week'sMideast peace talks in Annapolis, Maryland.

Writing to President Bush on Nov. 20, the NCC leaders reaffirmed the ecumenical group's longstanding support to "the goals and principles that are central to a lasting peace: an end to the Occupation, and a viable two-state solution; a renunciation of violence by all parties and an affirmation of the rights and security concerns of both Israelis and Palestinians; and a shared Jerusalem, which can one day be a symbol of the peace that is central to the faith of Christians, Jews, and Muslims."

The letter was written at the urging of the General Assembly of NCC and Church World Service, the NCC's partner humanitarian ministry. At the General Assembly's annual gathering last Nov. 6-8, Dr. Fahed Abu-Akel, moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA), proposed that such a letter be sent to President Bush. The letter was signed on behalf of NCC's 35 member communions by the Rev. Michael Livingston, president of the NCC, Ms. Clare J. Chapman, the acting general secretary of the NCC, and Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC's associate general secretary for international affairs and peace.

The General Assembly delegates also unanimously reaffirmed their three decade old commitments to Middle East peace.

"These same commitments lead us today to pray for the success of this peace conference in Annapolis, as a new beginning in a process that will one day lead to the realization of a just peace in the Holy Land," concluded the NCC's Nov. 20 letter to President Bush.

The National Council of Churches USA is the ecumenical voice of 35 of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches. These NCC member communions have 45 million faithful members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.

---Latest NCC News at

November 20, 2007
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush:

On behalf of the churches that comprise the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, we write to you in support of the international conference you have called, to take place in Annapolis, Maryland, to reinvigorate the peace process in the Middle East. In the spirit of the Thanksgiving Season during which this conference is scheduled, we express our gratitude for this initiative, especially for the glimmer of hope it brings to a bleak situation.

Indeed, the urgency of such an initiative as this cannot be overstated. Conditions in the Holy Land, and in the wider Middle East, have deteriorated precipitously over the last few years. This reality has been confirmed to us in our many visits to the region, visits intended to demonstrate our solidarity, not only with Christians there, but with all people there whose lives are impacted by the ongoing violence. This conference signals to all--Israelis, Palestinians, and others in the MiddleEast and throughout the world--that the United States is ready to reassert its leadership in bringing all parties back to the table.

We know that this conference will not be able to address all issues that pertain to this conflict, such as refugees, settlements, and final borders. Nevertheless,we do know that this conference can reaffirm the goals and principles that are central to a lasting peace: an end to the Occupation, and a viable two-state solution; a renunciation of violence by all parties and an affirmation of the rights and security concerns of both Israelis and Palestinians; and a shared Jerusalem, which can one day be a symbol of the peace that is central to the faith of Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

The thirty-five churches that come together ecumenically through the National Council of Churches collectively represent forty-five million Christians in one hundred thousand congregations across the country. At the Council's General Assembly held just two weeks ago, the delegates of these churches reaffirmed our long-held commitments to peace in the Middle East. Some thirty years ago, these commitments guided the Council's Track II diplomacy efforts that provided a backdrop to the Camp David Accords. These same commitments lead us today to pray for the success of this peace conference in Annapolis, as a new beginning in a process that will one day lead to the realization of a just peace in the Holy Land.

Rev. Michael Livingston

Ms. Clare Chapman
Acting General Secretary

Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos
Associate General Secretary for International Affairs and Peace

cc: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Reports from the olive harvest

I have such high regard for the Interfaith Peace-Builders -

Years ago I took part in a delelgation through a predecessor organization, also associated with Fellowship of Reconciliation. Below is a report including the comments of a participants in a delegation that concluded this month. More reports are at

I also want to direct you to a lovely piece aired on National Public Radio yesterday (Thanksgiving) morning, dedicated to the place of olive trees and olive oil in Palestinian culture:

Producer Sandy Tolan writes: "I wanted you to know about a special radio program, "The Olive Oil Season:A West Bank Kitchen Story," that I produced in collaboration with my colleagues the Kitchen Sisters, as part of their "Hidden Kitchens"series for National Public Radio. It is about a renewal of an ancient tradition - the Palestinian olive harvest."

Now to the delegation report:
Interfaith Peace-Builders & American Friends Service Committee
Olive Harvest Delegation

Report Three: Nonviolence and Reflections on the Journey So Far
Saturday, November 3, Bil’in

Is Non-Violent Resistance Still Alive In the West Bank?

Many members of our delegation have had a long-standing interest in non-violent conflict resolution and wondered what we would find during our trip to Israel and the West Bank. Some of us had heard previously from Palestinians that although community organizing of non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation had been prominent during the first intifada, the opportunity had been lost after the second intifada. We also heard that the current circumstances of the occupation, with restricted travel, communication, and public gatherings, are so harsh that organization required for non-violent direct actions is extremely difficult.

During the first week of our trip, we heard about the many less visible forms that non-violent resistance has taken, including refusing to emigrate, promoting education, community support, public relations, economic independence, and promotion of creative activities. While recognizing how valuable all these activities are for strengthening the Palestinian community, we wondered how Palestinians could continue to tolerate the severe injustices of the Separation Barrier, economic degradation, and loss of basic human rights without becoming violent.

On November 3, we traveled to the Palestinian village of Bil’in. Reaching Bil’in now requires a circuitous route. This visit sparked our sagging hope for non-violent direct action. There we saw an independent Palestinian community organization energized to confront the Separation Barrier with bold, creative action.

Bil’in is a small agricultural village, not far from the large Israeli urban settlement of Modi’in and surrounding settlements. To provide “protection” for one of these nearby settlements, Israeli government planners decided to extend the Separation Barrier within a half-mile of the village, cutting off access to many acres of historically Palestinian olive groves and other valuable farm lands, threatening the economy of the village, and blocking connecting transportation. In response, the villagers organized a resistance movement to impede completion of this barrier.

Bil’in residents started weekly non-violent protests at the nearest site of closure of access. They combined remarkably creative theatrical ways to attract attention, videotaped the protestors’ actions and the soldiers’ response, and publicized all this widely on the internet and by other means. As a result, many concerned Israeli’s and other international supporters have found their way to Bil’in to join the effort and spread the word as to what is happening. Other surrounding villages have joined in the effort and initiated similar actions elsewhere.

Actions have included wearing humorous costumes of grazing animals; attempting to establish their own Palestinian “settlement” houses on village lands which now lie on the other side of the barrier; chaining themselves to olive trees or inside of iron beams; carrying a long giant cloth snake symbolizing the “snake-like” barrier; and many more tactics. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has responded with force, including firing tear gas, clubbing the protestors, firing upon them with rubber coated bullets, and burning olive trees on the village side of the wall. The IDF also has attempted to intimidate the villagers directly by coming into their homes, establishing restrictive curfews, and arresting organizers.

A few days before our visit, the IDF came during the night, ransacked a home of one of the organizers, and arrested a visiting foreign supporter. However, the protests go on every Friday. With help of prominent lawyers, the village has simultaneously pursued legal action to defend their property rights, and the Israeli Supreme Court has decreed that the barrier should be moved back to provide access of the villagers to their land. So far the IDF has not followed the Court’s ruling (which is not unusual), and the protests are continuing, because it keeps the Bil’in villagers’ hope alive.

Our delegation was hosted by a gracious family, who invited us into their home, showed us a DVD describing what they have done, and provided us with a most delicious lunch. We were inspired by the young, determined leaders of the movement and the eager support that holds their families together. We are eager to help spread the word about their actions and continue our enthusiasm for the power of non-violent resistance to unjust oppression.

For more information, check these websites:
The Bil’in Friends of Justice and Freedom Society:
The Bil’in popular Committee:

--Doug Kerr

To See for Myself

I am visiting this small part of the Middle East to see for myself how the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is affecting both peoples and to experience once again their warm hospitality. Each day our program is intense. It is challenging to absorb all the information and impressions and then to describe them to others. So I will mention briefly several selected people and organizations which have particularly impressed me in our first week here.

It is encouraging to see that Palestinians and Israelis are working together for peace. On Saturday (November 3) we met representatives of two associations whose narratives brought tears to our eyes. Bassim Aramin had been a guerilla fighter who spent 7 years in Israeli prisons. There he learned Hebrew and began to rethink his attitude towards Israel and violent action. He founded the organization Combatants for Peace to bring Palestinians and Israelis together [].

That evening two representatives from the Bereaved Parents Circle spoke to us: an Israeli whose daughter was killed by two Palestinian suicide bombers and a Palestinian whose brother was killed by Israelis. They have become close friends. The members of the Circle are drawn to each other by their common pain. Their goal is to help break the cycle of violence and walk together down the long road of reconciliation [].

Another highlight for me was the visit to the Palestine Fair Trade Association, which organizes small farmers and helps them with production and marketing []. It is engaged also in encouraging organic farming. Once I am back home I hope to help sell their olive oil. My relatives should be prepared that they will be receiving Palestinian olive oil for Christmas!

My home stay in the village of Anin with a Palestinian family was lovely. We were welcomed warmly by the mother of the family (whose name was “Palestine”!), the father Mahmoud, five children and their nephew who spoke English. The following morning we went to their olive grove, not far from the Wall the Israelis are building around and in the Palestinian West Bank.

It was fun to pick olives with the family but it was especially nice to harvest with four delightful women who joined us. I took lots of photos of them and their children. When I started up a ladder to harvest near the top of the tree, the women were very worried about me and told me not to climb the ladder. I did so any way and they were quite happy and amused to watch me . They were eager to know my age, after seeing photos taken when I visited the region in 1960! When we were leaving they all kissed me and thanked us for coming to help with the harvest. I felt very sad to leave them, but satisfied that we had shown solidarity with them in a concrete way.

It’s very difficult to see all the Israeli settlements in the occupied areas, encroaching on and sometimes surrounding Palestinian villages. This is illegal under international law. One settlement, Mod’in, is growing fast and will become the largest city in Israel/Palestine, reaching the limits of Tel Aviv. I learned that a wealthy American is spending millions of his own dollars to help the illegal settlements expand. He cannot be stopped until US and Israeli policy changes.

I learned also that US aid to Egypt (and most other countries) must be spent according to US guidelines and restrictions but that US aid to Israeli can be spent in any way Israel chooses and frees up budgetary resources for the Wall, to promote settlement expansion, etc.

To my family and friends I say I am well and happy to be here. The weather is sunny but not too hot. The food (hummus, yogurt, couscous, pita bread, cucumber and tomato and delectable spices) is delicious. I am gaining weight.

I would like to end by offering a challenge to US Congressmen and other officials. Come visit the West Bank to learn the facts. Don’t be afraid, it is not dangerous. If a little old lady like me can do it, so can you!

--Nancy Benson

Join a delegation to Israel/Palestine
IFPB upcoming delegation dates:
2008 dates:
March 29 - April 12
May 24 - June 7
July 26 - August 9

Interfaith Peace-Builders
1326 9th St., NW
Washington, DC 20001

phone: 202.244.0821
fax: 202.232.0143

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Letter to Annapolis leaders from Bishop Munib Younan

The Rev. Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL - issued this open letter to the leaders who will gather in Annapolis next week.

Bishop Younan spoke at the Carter Center on Nov. 12 -
More about Younan's speech in Atlanta follows his Open Letter.

Salaam and grace to you from Jerusalem, City of Peace
November, 2007

An Open Letter to Annapolis Leaders: Half Empty or Half Full?

In the midst of all the skepticism and cynicism over Annapolis, I believe we are called to embody hope and act with courage. In a world where too many leaders see the cup as half empty, we are called to be a people of hope and choose not only to see the cup as half full but to commit ourselves to whatever it takes to make the cup overflow.

Our steady mantra has been that the security of Israel is dependent upon freedom and justice for Palestine, and freedom and justice for Palestine is dependent upon the security of Israel. Until we understand and act upon this symbiotic principal, we will fail to achieve what we want.

Both sides must be mutually accountable. This is where the international community must take leadership. Words and talk must be accompanied by tangible, visible changes on the ground that prove to people on the street that an end to the occupation, violence and oppression are actually possible through peaceful means. There must be a solid development plan to resurrect the beleaguered Palestinian economy, for without economic growth there is no future.

Leaders of Annapolis, I implore you to make this more than a glorified photo opportunity with smiles and handshakes. Time is not on our side. Every step toward just peace delayed is a step toward the entrenchment of extremism in the Middle East. This we cannot afford.

People in this land are living in fear and oppression and are fed up with war and rumors of war, of sending yet more arms to an already violence-ravaged Middle East. Let this be a time that sets in motion a new path of lasting peace with justice. Yes, it will be slow, but let it be the right path that finally takes seriously the basic problems that divide us here: boundaries, security, the future of Jerusalem, the illegal settlement enterprise, an equitable sharing of resources, prisoners, a just resolution of the refugee problem and the right of return. Only when we have the courage to confront these controversial issues will we start down the only path to lasting peace, which is the path of truth-telling and justice. This is the only way to end the hatred, division, occupation and violence that have plagued this land for so long.

I was among the members of a new interfaith initiative called the Council for Religious Institutions of the Holy Land who were invited to Washington recently to encourage united support for a just and lasting peace. For the first time, Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders signed a document that recognizes one another's deepest needs:

We, believers from three religions, have been placed in this land, Jews, Christians and Muslims. It is our responsibility to find the right way to live together in peace rather than to fight and kill one other. Palestinians yearn for the end to occupation and for what they see as their inalienable rights. Israelis long for the day when they can live in personal and national security. Together we must find ways of reaching these goals.

If we, faith leaders steeped in the religious sensitivities of the land, can take an unprecedented move toward reconciliation, then you can, too. This new council stands ready to be a reference group about religious issues, peace and justice in the Holy Land.

We urge the Americans, the European countries, the Quartet and the Arab countries to seize the momentum and help create the solution with a viable, sovereign, contiguous state of Palestine living peacefully side by side with Israel along the 67 Green Line, with Jerusalem a holy city shared among Christian, Muslim, Jew, Palestinian and Israeli. This must be done with a reasonable, clear timeframe.

To those whom God has given much, God expects much. I implore those with power and influence to use your strength to bring about justice, peace and reconciliation, for all the people of this land and for the sake of the whole world. May God Bless you and lead you to wise decisions for justice and peace, remembering the words of Jesus:

"I came so that you might have life, and have it abundantly." (St. John 10:11)

Bishop Munib A. Younan
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

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The communiqué presented by the Council for Religious Institutions of the Holy Land can be found at the ELCA advocacy web site:

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Here is the news release from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA - on Bishop Younan's speech at the Carter Center:

November 16, 2007

Lutheran Bishop in Holy Land Meets Former President Carter 07-194-JB

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), met in person with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in Atlanta Nov. 12 to discuss the situation in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians. Younan was also invited by Carter that evening to speak about peace and justice to an audience of about 250 people who had been invited to the Carter Center to view the new film about Carter's life, "Jimmy Carter Man from Plains."

Younan, who returned to Jerusalem Nov. 13, had been in the United States for several days with a group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders from Israel and the Palestinian territories. They came to the United States as the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land, and met with several members of Congress and religious leaders in Washington, D.C. Younan continued on to Atlanta, where he preached and spoke to area Lutherans before meeting with Carter.

Carter plans to visit the Middle East in January and said he would visit the ELCJHL, Younan told the ELCA News Service in a phone interview. In the meeting with Carter, Younan said he told the former president of the plight of Palestinian Christians and the Council of Religious Institutions.

"President Carter brought peace to Egypt and Israel," Younan said. "We can cooperate with him in waging peace and human rights for all people in the region." The former president has good access to the media and the public and could be an important ally, Younan said, adding that "the message of peace and justice for all people (in the Middle East) must be heard in the United States."

Carter wrote "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," a book that drew criticism from some people for its assessment of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Carter's experiences in the Middle East are portrayed in the film, Younan said.

Reflecting on the U.S. visit to Washington by members of the Council of Religions Institutions, Younan said "Lutherans are seen as partners in peace and justice" in the Middle East. "They have seen how much the churches are working with each other for peace and justice." The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), met with the council Nov. 5 in Washington.

Council members released a communiqué with their priorities for peace. Members are meeting next week to discuss a plan to establish rapid communication procedures to address and advise government officials regarding protection of and access to Holy sites before conflicts arise, Younan said. Other priorities include promoting education for mutual respect and acceptance in schools and in the media, and matters related to the future of Jerusalem, he said.


Prayer resources for Middle East peace -- including prayer resources for the upcoming Annapolis peace conference -- are at the ELCA's Peace Not Walls web site: on the Web.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pray for Peace this Sunday


Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) presents prayers for this coming Sunday in anticipation of the upcoming peace conference (also a bulletin announcement, which I think is particularly helpful). In addition, CMEP makes an important announcement about the appointment of its new executive director. I offer my own profound gratitude for the outstanding work of Corinne Whitlatch, who has led the CMEP effort for 21 years. Thanks be to God.

Pray for Peace this Sunday, Nov 25

This email is also available online at:
Anna Rhee, Grassroots Advocacy Project Coordinator

The date for the Annapolis conference will most likely be next Monday or Tuesday, Nov 26th or 27th. Now is the time to engage your congregation in prayer and action for the success of this conference and for sustained efforts to bring about peace in the Holy Land.

Churches for Middle East Peace encourages you to bolster our work to generate Congressional and public support for the Annapolis Conference and to further raise awareness in your congregation on this important meeting.

Click this link - – for the cover letter and full list of resources that CMEP distributed to over 1500 congregations in October.

Pray for Peace this Sunday, November 25th.
Use the CMEP prayer and bulletin announcement in your church to raise awareness of the Annapolis conference and to lend your support for a successful meeting that can make real progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

Print the prayer and bulletin announcement in PDF format (text included below):

You could also use interreligious prayers for peace created by the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative and posted on CMEP's website:

O God, we come to you with open hands and open hearts.

We pray for peace and for all those that suffer violence and injustice in the midst of war and conflict.
We pray for the innocent, combatants, peacemakers, and religious and political leaders.
We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the holy city of God and spiritual home to all the children of Abraham.

O God of mercy and compassion,
Embrace our Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters.
They have endured profound loss and sorrow.
They are fatigued by fear and anger.
Mend their broken hearts and failing spirits.
Ignite in them sparks of hope.
Comfort them and guide them onto the road of peace.

O God of peace and reconciliation,
Lift up the international leaders who search for peace.
They have talked before without success.
They face a difficult road and many obstacles.
Inspire them to move from words to actions that fulfill a greater vision of peace.
Arouse in them a passion for righteousness.
Bless them and their work for peace.

O God of all creation,
Your people cry for peace.
May your promise of justice and enduring love
Breathe renewed Life
Into our commitment to a sustainable peace,
When two states - Israel and Palestine - are a reality,
Living side-by-side in security, harmony and peace.

Our denomination/church supports Israeli-Palestinian-Arab peacemaking and encourages us to pray and act for peace. The United States will soon host a conference of international leaders in Annapolis, Maryland to make progress toward ending the conflict in the Holy Land. Let us join together in prayer in support of our government's efforts and for the success of this important meeting.

More News: Former Ambassador Named New Executive Director of CMEP

This email is also available online at:

November 16, 2007
Former Ambassador and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Warren Clark has been named Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace. Clark will succeed Corinne Whitlatch, who has led CMEP for 21 years, upon her retirement at the end of 2007.

"Warren Clark brings to CMEP a distinguished diplomatic career and a deep commitment to the churches' role in addressing problems and resolving conflicts. His understanding of the complexity of both the region and the development and implementation of US foreign policy will serve CMEP well in the days and years ahead. He will be able to build on the extraordinary work of Corinne Whitlatch, who has built CMEP into a respected voice for U.S. policies that recognize the painful realities of the Middle East while serving the cause of justice for all of its people," said Maureen Shea, Chair of the Churches for Middle East Peace Board.

Ambassador Clark began his career in the Foreign Service in Aleppo, Syria and has served in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Canada, and at the US Mission to the United Nations. Following his retirement from the State Department he worked as a private consultant and received a Master of Theological Studies degree from the Virginia Theological Seminary. Clark speaks French and eastern Arabic.

As Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace, Clark will oversee all aspects of CMEP's work. Commenting on his appointment, Clark said: "I feel honored to be asked to lead this strong organization built by Corinne Whitlatch. There is renewed attention now to the need for peace with security and justice in the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as recognition that in 2009 a new US Administration and Congress will decide how it will understand and address the pressing problems of the region. I believe CMEP can and should play a significant role in helping to shape that understanding and encourage progress towards a lasting peace."


Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington-based program of the Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Armenian Orthodox Church, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Franciscan Friars OFM (English Speaking Conference, JPIC Council), Friends Committee on National Legislation, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Maryknoll Missioners, Mennonite Central Committee, Moravian Church in America, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church (GBCS & GBGM).

Churches for Middle East Peace
Phone: 202-543-1222

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Alternative Travel Possibilities - November 2007 Update

Here is a list of possibilities for alternative travel in Palestine and Israel. At the web page of Peace Not Walls, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's campaign for justice in the Holy Land, find this site for accompaniment travel:
and an excellent downloadable guide to visiting the churches of the Holy Land:

I plan to take a group to the Holy Land myself in June 2008. Keep an eye on these pages for detailed information to come.

Alternative Holy Land Travel List
Updated Nov. 17, 2007
For continued updates see - Friends of Sabeel-North America

Holy Land Trip - Nov. 27–Dec. 7, 2007
See the Real Holy Land behind the Tourism, leaving from Detroit Metro and flying into Tel Aviv, with time in Galilee, Jerusalem, and the Bethlehem Region. For nearly 60 years the people of Palestine and Israel have lived in a state of chronic tension and military conflict. This is the religious epicenter of the three Abrahamic Faiths, and of course the stakes are high; peace or bloodshed has ramifications for the entire world. Join us for a ten-day trip that will not only include holy sites, but also highlight areas of conflict in the West Bank and Israel. $2000 includes airfare, meals, and lodging.
Contact Lutheran Pastor Marty Zimmann, 734-693-4377, E-Mail:

Global Exchange, Palestine/Israel: Prospects for Peace with Justice - Dec. 2-12, 2007
As the Israeli military continues to place Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps under siege, Palestinians continue to resist the 39 year Occupation of their land. Global Exchange delegations to Palestine/Israel strive to further understanding in the USA of the region's history and realities by giving participants first-hand exposure to the aspirations and frustrations of Palestinians living under Occupation, the dimensions of the human rights crisis under Israeli rule, as well as the perspectives of Palestinians and Israelis who are working for a just peace and an end to the occupation. For detailed information go to the web page:
Upcoming 2008 Prospects for Peace with Justice tours: April 5-15, August 2-12, and Dec. 6-16. For details, see

The Bethlehem Christmas Project – Dec. 7-15, 2007
Former Israeli soldiers and Palestinians will work together to deliver Christmas gifts to children in Bethlehem. The Bethlehem Christmas Project has partnered with Musalaha (a ministry of reconciliation operating within Israel and the Palestinian Territories) to bring together two peoples usually thought of as mortal enemies. The goal is to build bridges of understanding and bring hope to children. Participants will have the opportunity to receive lectures from the Dean of Academics of Bethlehem Bible College. Christian leaders, young and old, who understand the power of love to change the world are invited to participate. If you believe you can make a difference, contact us about this opportunity.
Contact e-mail:
The web site:
For a video look at the project:

Journey of the Magi - a Pilgrimage for Peace, Dec.14-28, 2007
In the year 2000, Christians from all over the world gathered in the Middle East to recreate the Journey of the Magi (or "the wise men") to honor the birth of the Prince of Peace. On foot and on camel the pilgrims traveled over 1,000 miles through Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Along the way the journey members met with local religious and community leaders. The story was widely covered by newspapers, radio and TV stations in the United States, Europe and throughout the Middle East. In the fall of 2007, Christians will again recall the Journey of the Magi. We invite you and your church group to join us for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to honor Christ in the Middle East. While the full 99 day JOM journey will next occur in 2010, you are invited to join the “Steps of the Magi” two-week long journey from the Jordan River to Bethlehem, where the pilgrims will arrive on Christmas Eve 2007! For more information, email or phone 626-797-7904 or visit website:


Group Travel Directors: Holy Land visits by US church groups listed below are arranged by Group Travel Directors, Minneapolis. Meetings with indigenous Christians plus Israeli and Palestinian peace groups, as well as biblical -site visits, are included. Prices are from cities cited (other US departure points available). For details on Group Travel tours, go to - click “Find a Tour,” enter “2007,” then “Middle East.”

Jan. 3-19, 2008 - The World of the Bible: Ancient Sites and Current Struggles in the Holy Land. Sponsored by Wartburg Theological Seminary (Dubuque, Iowa), led by Dr. Ann Fritschel, associate professor of Hebrew Bible. $3025 from Chicago. Contact Dr. Fritschel:

Feb. 18-29 - Prospects for Peace, sponsor: Lutheran World Relief (LWR). $2895 from Newark.
For information go to or contact Terri Mork Speirs at or phone 515-243-7691, x 434. Walk where Jesus walked, and where Lutheran World Relief has worked almost non-stop since 1945. In a region filled with history and paradox, there are plenty of peace-makers. LWR invites you to meet people on the ground who are doing what Jesus did — healing the sick, feeding the hungry and teaching the children. Participants will visit Christian and historical pilgrimage sites and significant archaeological ruins in the Bet She’an valley. Meet LWR partner organizations working toward sustainable solutions to the region’s complex issues, including the Dar el Kalima Health and Wellness Center, the Augusta Victoria Hospital and the Lutheran World Federation Vocational School.

Apr. 1-15 - “...on Holy Ground,” led by Pr. Paul and Phyllis Gilbertson of Denver; includes 4 days in Egypt. $3575, Denver.

Apr. 17-28 - “Holy Land: Then and Now, ” led by Dr. Arland Jacobson of Charis Ecumenical Center, Moorhead, Minn. (optional Egypt extension). $3022, MSP.

Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation - Jan. 7-20, 2008
Join Fr. Michael Salah in a Unique Ecumenical Pilgrimage to the Holy Land and fact-finding mission to see the holy sites in Jordan, Palestine and Israel and meet with the Christian communities there. This trip will include an opportunity to participate in the Fourth Ecumenical Children's Journey to Bethlehem and a chance to attend an International Peace Conference also being planned in Bethlehem (both sponsored by HCEF). This pilgrimage will include the exciting new archaeological find at Bethany Beyond the Jordan marking the spot where John baptized Jesus. A very important feature will be the opportunity for pilgrims to visit, share meals and worship with the Palestinian Christians in villages throughout the Holy Land and observe first hand the full impact of the occupation and the Wall on the lives of Palestinians. Meetings will be organized with political and religious leaders of the area. The cost of the pilgrimage is $3100 (including round trip airfare, all meals and tips) from any major international airport in the US. Reservations must be made no later than November 30, 2007.
Contact: Gail Freeman 1-866-871-4234 or e-mail
Additional HCEF Pilgrimage/Fact Finding Missions:
February 2-15, 2008 - Pilgrimage/Fact Finding Mission organized by First Presbyterian Church, Boulder, Colo.
May 2008 - Pilgrimage/Fact Finding Mission organized by Fr. Alex Kratz, O.F.M., Detroit, Mich.
June 2008 - Pilgrimage/Fact Finding Mission organized by St. Andrew Catholic Church, Milford, Ohio
For more information contact: Gail Freeman, Pilgrimage Coordinator, Toll free at 1-871-4234 or E-mail:
See the web page for general information:

United Theological Seminary - January 8-22, 2008
Dr. David Watson, the Rev. Dr. Gary Olin
15 Day Inter-cultural Program Experience including Jordan, Israel, the West Bank.
For information:

Birthright Unplugged (for international passport holders) - January 11-16, 2008
Unplugged trips are designed primarily for North American Jewish people, though we welcome people of all backgrounds. Our participants have been ages 12-70. In six days, we visit Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps in the West Bank and spend time with internally displaced Palestinian people living inside Israel. Throughout the journey, we help participants develop an understanding of daily life under occupation and the history of the region from people profoundly affected by and under-represented in Western discourses about the occupation. We encourage participants to be deeply reflective and after the program we support their involvement in human rights and justice oriented efforts. For more information go to the web page:

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace - January 12-19
The Meretz USA Israel Symposium, co-sponsored by Brit Tzedek v’Shalom and Meretz USA, is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to reinvigorate your activism for peace. The Symposium is a highly-packed week with personal meetings with members of Knesset representing many parties, a day in Ramallah meeting with top Palestinian leaders, settlement leaders in the West Bank. We will spend time with a variety of peace activists including Peace Now, the Geneva Initiative, Breaking the Silence, All for Peace, Moussawa, Women in Black and much more. We will take the B’Telem Jerusalem Envelope Tour and will have the exciting opportunity to interview the interviewers when we meet with journalists such as Akiva Eldar, Zvi Barel, Amira Hass and Danny Rubenstein. For people who dedicate their time and energy to the pursuit of peace, this is a wonderful way to renew yourself and come back to your community with stories, pictures, and firsthand accounts.
See the brochure:
Cost: $1700 per person, double occupancy; $2100 per person, single occupancy Israel land package. Approximately $1000 additional costs for trip to Jordan. Call: MeretzUSA: 212-242-4500.

Western Mission Cluster of the ELCA - Jan. 14-29, 2008
Holy Land — Its Prayers, Peoples, Places: Go where prayers come from Muslims, Jews, Christians. Witness first-hand the faiths in their poignant praying for peace. View the struggle among Palestinian and Israeli peoples with varied histories and cultures, and hear their hopes. Visit ancient religious places; experience present geo-political realities; imagine possible futures. As Christians we will offer our own prayers; as peoples of quite different histories we’ll reflect on our own cultural tendencies; as citizens from different places we’ll encounter our own global responsibilities. Cost: $2,925 from Minneapolis. Leader: Prof. Gary Simpson, Luther Seminary: – ph: 651-641-3253. The Western Mission Cluster of the ELCA is a collaborative organization funded jointly by Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif.

In the Footsteps of Jesus - An Alternative Tour, Jan. 18-28, 2008
Jeff Wright, pastor at Fort Collins’ Heart of the Rockies Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), will host the tour to Israel and Palestine. Many of the first-century realities that shaped Jesus' life and ministry continue to shape the lives of contemporary Palestinians and Israelis. In addition to exploring the holy sties of Jerusalem, the Galilee and Bethlehem, tour participants will visit with Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ Global Ministry mission partners and Jews, Muslims and Christians living in the Holy Land. Sabeel Jerusalem staff member, Cathy Nichols, a Disciples/UCC missionary, will accompany the group much of the time. Jeff and Janet Wright having been traveling to Israel and Palestine for several years as Disciples/UCC Global Ministries short-term missionaries, working with the East Jerusalem YMCA Rehabilitation Program in Beit Sahour. Contact Jeff at or 970/223-8465.

United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, Feb. 3-15, 2008 2008
Mission Travel Study to Palestine & Israel - Mission, Education & Advocacy for Israel & Palestine. This study will help the participants to learn about the history and complexities of relationships between Israel and Palestine. We will explore and understand the concepts of security and freedom that dominate the lives of these peoples. This study will challenge participants to move through tolerance respect to achieve a just peace. See the web page for travel information:

Middle East Fellowship provides a number of ways to visit Palestine. For details check to web page - or e-mail -
Northwest Churches Easter Holy Land Trip - March 14-29, 2008
Meet the indigenous churches of the Holy Land (including Lutherans!, tour all the key sights in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Nazareth, etc; enjoy home stays with local Christians in Bethlehem; and much much more! Cost: $3500
Open tour of the Holy Land, similar to above - June 2-12, 2008
Contact Peter Ryan:
Now entering its 5th year, PSE offers three sequential 1-month sessions, beginning in late May 2008 and continuing through mid-August. Includes Home Stays, Arabic Study, volunteer Service-Learning and meeting with a wide variety of Palestinian and Israeli peace-with-justice and reconciliation groups. See “Eight Reasons to Come to Palestine in 2008” - http://www.palestinesummer/org
July 2008: House Rebuilding Team in Palestine
Working with Israelis and Palestinians, we will rebuild a house that had been destroyed by the advancing Israeli army. [exact dates in July TBD]
Olive Tree Harvest trip: October/November 2008
Working alongside Palestinian families and with international activists from Israel and around the world, we will help pick olives and thus help a local Palestinian family keep their farm from being expropriated by the Israeli government to build settlements, the Wall or military installations. [exact dates in fall TBD]. Contact Peter Ryan:

Congressional Accompaniment Project Tour (CAP), March 15-24, 2008
Friends of Sabeel–North America and the Presbytery of East Iowa are among the co-sponsors of this hands-on educational experience for members of Congress, their foreign policy aides and their local constituents. The Congressional Accompaniment Project is a travel program by which Americans, concerned for a just peace in Israel/Palestine, can assist their Congressional representatives and/or their foreign policy Aides to be more informed regarding the “facts on the ground” in Israel and Palestine. For an application and more information, go to

Interfaith Peace-Builders
Since 2001, Interfaith Peace-Builders has led 20 delegations and more than 250 people to Israel and Palestine. Our delegates have returned to undertake speaking, writing, and organizing to educate others about their experiences. Formerly a program of Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), Interfaith Peace-Builders continues to work in close partnership with FOR. For information see the web page - or call 244-0821 or e-mail:

Voices of the Peacemakers: Palestinians and Israelis Chart a Shared Future - March 29 – April 12, 2008
Interfaith Peace-Builders is currently developing plans for a co-sponsored delegation with the National Peace Foundation in March/April, 2008. This delegation will feature meetings with Palestinian and Israeli peacemakers – leaders of civil society groups, grassroots organizers and more. The trip will also include themes relevant to the three major monotheistic faiths during the spring holiday cycle. And activists and historians will address the history of the conflict reaching back 60 years to the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) and the creation of the State of Israel (which will be the major focus of IFPB’s May – June delegation). The National Peace Foundation has developed people to people exchanges and dialogue projects in locations around the world. The collaboration between IFPB and NPF promises to open new dimensions to our work in the Middle East and North America. Learn more:

Legacies of 1948: 60 Years of Searching for Justice - May 24 – June 7, 2008
2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel and Al Nakba - the Palestinian "Catastrophe" of 1948 when 750,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes in what is now Israel. This delegation, co-sponsored with the American Friends Service Committee, will focus on this dual narrative and the pivotal role of 1948 in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The trip will feature meetings with Palestinians and Israelis who lived through the events of 1948 and witnessed its impact on history and identity. The group will tour Palestinian refugee camps, where the descendants of the original 750,000 have grown to more than 5 million, and the ruins of Palestinian villages within Israel which testify to the displacement. Meetings will also be held with Palestinian and Israeli activists, historians, and public figures who will share perspectives on the past 60 years and consider prospects for historical justice.

Middle East Children's Alliance Delegation to Palestine/Israel - July 1-12, 2008
For nineteen years, MECA has taken small groups to visit Palestine/Israel. On MECA's twelve-day delegation you will be taken on a geographic, political, historical and cultural tour of Palestine/Israel by two MECA staff people, and Yacoub Odeh, refugee, former political prisoner, and human rights worker. We will travel by van to witness the impact of the Israeli occupation and visit organizations working for justice and equality. You will learn about refugees, land confiscation, political prisoners, women's initiatives, mental and physical health issues, civil rights in Israel, and the lives of children. The group of eight to twelve people will stay at the guesthouse of MECA's long-time partner Ibdaa Cultural Center in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, near Bethlehem. Ibdaa is a lively place in the heart of the community with great food and comfortable accommodations. Trip Cost: $1,800. For much more information go to

Investing in Peace: Models for Addressing an Ongoing Occupation - July 26 – August 9, 2008
World leaders and Civil Society Groups have increasingly termed Israel’s domination of the Palestinian territories as a form of Apartheid. This delegation will examine the structural segregation of Israeli and Palestinian space and the physical separation of the two peoples. You will also explore methods proposed by Israeli, Palestinian and international peacemakers to challenge the Israeli occupation. Meetings will address the ongoing debate surrounding boycott and divestment from companies which support the occupation. Additional meetings will explore opportunities for investment in projects which promote peace and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Trees of Peace: 2008 Olive Harvest Delegation - October/November 2008 (exact dates pending
This delegation, co-sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, will provide an opportunity to participate in the Palestinian olive harvest season - generally a time of great community activism, where people of all ages from Palestine, Israeli peace and justice groups, and international groups join farmers as they reap their harvest. It is international support that makes the harvest possible in many cases. You will hear from Palestinian farmers and learn of the importance of agriculture to the Palestinian economy and culture. As with other delegations, you will also meet additional Israelis and Palestinians working for peace and justice. For information call 244-0821 or e-mail:

Walk the Green Line - May 29-31
A three-day experience that will make a direct contribution to supporting the efforts of Israelis and Palestinians who are working for peace. Walk the green line - - is a fundraising walk-a-thon and a political act whose purpose is to mark the 60th anniversary of the UN decision to partition Israel/Palestine into two states - one for the Jews and one for the Palestinians. Israelis, Palestinians and international participants will trek for three days along the route of the Green Line demarcating the border between Israeli and Palestinian territory. Walk the Green Line will support the work of IPCRI - the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and information - - a joint Israeli-Palestinian peace center and think-tank in Jerusalem bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in people-to-people programs that advance peace. Each participant will be required to raise 2,000 € or $2,500 plus their airfare to Israel/Palestine. Sponsors may be friends, family, work colleagues, neighbors, churches or synagogues, etc. More than just a Walk, each day will feature educational-political programs as well, stopping to learn about the areas where we are walking, meeting people along the way including Israelis and Palestinians who are working for peace. We will see first hand the Israeli security barrier – both fences and walls - with a special focus on the wall in Jerusalem. For more information:

Seventh International Sabeel Conference – Nov. 12-19, 2008
Program and registration details will be posted at

Christmas in Bethlehem with Elisabeth Von Trapp - December 2008
“Tidings of Comfort and Joy,” a pilgrimage to the place of Christ's birth during the Christmas season, singing hymns, bringing the "Sound of Music" to lift hearts and souls along the way. Elisabeth Von Trapp will perform concerts in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Amman, Jordan. Participants who are singers will be invited to lift their voices in song during these Christmas concerts. Pilgrimage leaders are Lutheran Pastors Michael and Susan Thomas, both well acquainted with the region, the holy places, and the situation facing all the people in the land. Meet with local families to experience a true Palestinian Christmas. Lodgings in very comfortable Christian guest houses. Approximate cost $3,300. Group Travel Directors - - is handling all arrangements in cooperation with the International Center of Bethlehem. For specific information e-mail Elisabeth Von Trapp - - or Michael Thomas - Michael.P.Thomas@Dartmouth.EDU

Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
For information about unique tour through ICAHD, go to
ICHAD tours allow participants to glean in-depth information about the situation on the ground; meet key players on both sides of the divide who work for a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Return home as eye-witnesses and the authority to speak with first-hand knowledge. Cost includes direct flights with British Airways, transportation to and from Ben Gurion Airport, hotel accommodation including bed, breakfast and evening meal, tips, the full tour itinerary and material for tour preparation and de-briefing. For the full itinerary and application form, please contact or call the ICAHD UK office: 020-7383-3893.

Five Insight Trips planned by Hands Across the Nile
Join us as we explore the history, religions, culture, and development efforts of one of the world's oldest nations. HANDS' Insight Trips allow visitors to look beyond the famous tourist sites to discover the vibrant, multifaceted Egypt of today. Emphasizing person to person experience across a full cross-section of Egyptian society, Insight Trips provide an intimate, eye opening introduction to a fascinating and unforgettable land. For more information see the web page: