Monday, July 30, 2007

A Collapsible Telescope - ICAHD Building Camp 2007: Day 13

Hello readers - I have been with the RAGBRAI cycling event in Iowa for the past week, out of contact with the internet. Ann

This journal entry was written by a participant in the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions' [ ] fifth annual Summer Rebuilding Camp.

To see pictures illustrating this bulletin, go to:

Today was a collapsible telescope… a day that highlighted the dramatic shift from intimacy to distance and back again according to the subtle curve of the beholder’s lens, the minute convexity or concavity of the heart of the witness. Throughout this trip, I have been invited to try on the various spectacles of everyone from a Zionist settler to the impoverished members of a demolished tin shanty in the Negev, to an ex-Israeli soldier who served in Hebron, to the matriarch of an Anata family turned upside down by the destruction of their home. Each time I put down one to pick up the other, I glance up fuzzy-eyed at the inscrutable shapes extending from my nose to the horizon and I can sense the unknowable complexity around me. Lenses focus, inform, and illuminate, but they can also narrow, manipulate, and distance.

At lunch, Jeff, Linda, and Temma spoke to us about advocacy at home, about transmuting what we have seen here into action through the very useful but very narrow channels of fundraising at home and (in my case), the American political system. I find myself balking at the prospect of relaying what is happening around me. There is simply no translation for the feeling(s) of being here, the reality that happens in the moments between lenses. I recall my inability to listen, to really listen, to my father’s stories when he returned home from ICAHD summer camp two years ago. Despite his passion, despite his explanations, anecdotes and photographs, it all remained two-dimensional and abstract. What I heard was his voice; I couldn’t hear the echoes of Palestinian voices he heard as he spoke. Nonetheless, I was provided a hook, for which I am so grateful. Now that I am here, I understand and appreciate the absurd challenge of awakening a sleeping people back home… rocks thrown at a tank. I am baffled as to how to invite my friends out of their tanks and into these stories, to come and see for themselves.

After dinner, while watching “Arna’s Children,” I was struck by the efficacy of the use of a lens, a camera lens, to connect. The documentary by Juliano Mer-Khamis tracks the lives of seven boys from their experience in a theatre group in Jenin to their participation in the Intifada, and seeing it made me painfully aware of how much we are missing in our brief encounters with the Palestinian people. The camera in this case acts as a secret mirror, a microscope with which we are allowed inside the language, the town, the homes, and the families of the least investigated and least heard voices- those whom we call “terrorists”. What has been presented to us through the lens of mainstream media as the blank surface of a dark ocean is in fact a whole confounding world of color and life and flux, that we can see if we but choose to put on a mask, jump in, and peer below the surface. In truth, I have no idea what the young boys whom we work with are saying, much less thinking and feeling. As closely as we witnessed the demolition of the little house near the Hamden house, moving bags of personal belongings, we have NO IDEA what it feels like to live on edge. We do not understand. Can we understand? How much, in the end, can really be communicated?

After the film, an animated conversation regarding identity, self-expression, and violence ensued. Juliano stressed the intertwining of Palestinian identity with Palestinian freedom, saying that the necessity of recapturing an authentic sense of cultural identity that has not been co-opted by the Israeli system is key to the survival of the people. In his theatrical work with Palestinian youth, Juliano provides an emotional outlet for the stifled reactions to the trauma of the occupation. By expressing themselves, the youth are able to define themselves on their own terms and not merely in response to the Israeli army. Nonetheless, as we saw in the film, artistic expression does not necessarily preclude communication through the language of violence. By the end of the film, nearly all of the featured young men have died as martyrs for the Intifada. It is all well and good for a people to dialogue creatively and share within itself, but how does one express him/herself to a world that is not listening, to a system that is actively and systematically silencing it? The wall is a deaf ear, a turned back. It is the shut-down theater in Jenin, it is the absence of Palestinian voices in mainstream media across the world. In essence, violent acts are a last-ditch attempt to be heard. Reducing a people to the label of terrorist, refusing to see and listen to them, and shutting them out from the global discussion can only perpetuate the self-fulfilling prophecy of suicide attacks. If we truly want the cycle of bloodshed to end, we must listen to the voices of the people before they reach this fevered pitch. We must help build a solid stage on which they can stand and pack the house.

To read more journal entries from the rebuilding camp, go to:

For more background on ICAHD, see:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

President Bush on Palestinian State and Peace Conference

Churches for Middle East Peace provided this memo.

President Bush's Speech on Palestinian State & Peace Conference
Also available online at:

July 17, 2007
Over five years after pledging U.S. support for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, President Bush reaffirmed yesterday, in a speech - - devoted entirely to Israeli-Palestinian issues, his support for a two-state solution and announced plans to call a regional conference aimed at restarting the peace process.

The conference will "provide diplomatic support for the parties in their bilateral discussions and negotiations, so that we can move forward on a successful path to a Palestinian state". The President offered support to the new Palestinian Authority emergency government headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, including financial assistance, and outlined steps to lay the foundation for a Palestinian state with "functioning political institutions and capable security forces, and leaders who reject terror and violence". With the proper foundation, the President said that "serious negotiations toward the creation of a Palestinian state" could begin that "must resolve difficult questions and uphold clear principles" and "could lead to a final peace in the Middle East -- a permanent end to the conflict, and an agreement on all the issues, including refugees and Jerusalem."

President Bush also made clear that "Israel's future lies in developing areas like the Negev and Galilee -- not in continuing occupation of the West Bank" and that "unauthorized outposts should be removed and settlement expansion ended." A press release by Americans for Peace Now ( noted that the President's call for Israel to remove unauthorized outposts and end settlement expansion "is consistent with repeated - unfulfilled - commitments made previously to the Bush Administration by the government of Israel". The full text of the President's speech is included below.

Churches for Middle East Peace has long called for serious and sustained U.S. diplomacy to help achieve a two-state solution to the conflict and has urged President Bush to make Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking an urgent priority of his Administration. This latest speech expresses a new readiness on the part of the President to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now, these words must be followed up with vigorous diplomacy if there is to be any real progress toward peace.


1) Call the White House Comments Line: 202-456-1111
Thank you for speech calling for a regional peace conference to advance a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As an American Christian, I support your efforts to help create a viable and contiguous Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel. Now it's essential for your Administration to follow through on this speech with serious and sustained U.S. diplomacy that can bring hope to Israelis and Palestinians that peace in the Holy Land is possible.

2) Summer Lobbying at Home
As the Congressional summer recess approaches, CMEP encourages you to make plans to visit your Representative and Senators while they are home in their states from August 6th- September 3rd. With the President's speech and plans for Secretary Rice to be in the region, there is sure to be new attention to Israeli-Palestinian issues. The Feinstein-Lugar resolution in the Senate and the Middle East Envoy resolution in the House have laid the foundation for constructive discussions with your Members and the advocacy conference of Christians United For Israel (CUFI) this week creates an even greater need for your compassionate Christian peacemaking voice. See CMEP's Summer 2007 Lobbying Guidance ( for help in arranging your meeting.

President Bush Discusses the Middle East
Link to speech:

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

110 Maryland Ave. NE
Suite 311
Washington DC 20002

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Christian Advocates Compete For Ear, and Heart, of Policymakers

Churches for Middle East Peace's summer newsletter ... explains the anti-peace efforts of Christian Zionist pastor John Hagee, Jerusalem church leaders' rejection of Christian Zionism doctrines, and tells about Christian evangelicals who support Israeli-Palestinian peace. Guidance is provided for meetings with Representatives and Senator during their summer recess.

Summer 2007 Newsletter
Corinne Whitlatch, Executive Director
This message is also available online at:

Christian Advocates Compete For Ear, and Heart, of Policymakers

Washington is renowned for hot and steamy summers and it's going to get hotter around July 16 when Christians United for Israel (CUFI) comes to town. Last summer, just months after Pastor John Hagee founded CUFI, over 3,500 Christian evangelicals came to tell their senators and representatives that they should "use every means at their disposal to permit Israel to continue its anti-terror operations in Gaza as long as its deems necessary. Israel must not be pressured to withdraw its troops before the job has been completed."

CUFI brought together an array of non-denominational Christian leaders, each with his own megachurch, television ministry or publishing company, to galvanize their supporters to urge the U.S. Congress to "not pressure Israel in any way to give land for peace."

Churches for Middle East Peace, the ecumenical advocacy voice of 22 Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant national bodies that lobbies in support of a two-state solution to the conflict and the sharing of Jerusalem, stands in sharp contrast to CUFI. We meet at the front line of Capitol Hill, each with legions of church members that span the country, each claiming to be guided by our Christian faith traditions. With the arrival of the Christian Zionist voice of CUFI, CMEP has found new openness in Congress for our message - a message grounded in the faith-based principles of peace and justice and the practice of loving compassion.

Minnesota Values
CUFI's proclaimed "love" of Israel is causing Congress members to revisit the notion of what it means to be a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people.

In April, CUFI organized a "Night to Honor Israel" event in a St. Paul suburb. The invitation to Representative Betty McCollum (DFL-MN-4) - listed local Jewish organizations that would be attending, including American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Minneapolis Jewish Federation. Rep. McCollum replied with a public letter (that was copied to the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.), "As an elected official and a person of faith, I feel compelled to speak out against a voice, like Pastor Hagee's, that promotes or, even worse, preaches intolerance and bigotry - whether in churches, synagogues or mosques. Minnesota is a state in which multiculturalism, religious tolerance, honest debate and a spirit of respect are treasured."

Rep. McCollum charges Pastor Hagee with an "extremism, bigotry and intolerance that is repugnant" and cites his well publicized public statements.

"Those who live by the Quran have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews." (Fresh Air, 9/18/06)

"I would hope the United States would join Israel in a military preemptive strike to take out the nuclear capability of Iran for the salvation of Western civilization. (Jerusalem Post, 3/21/06)

Confronting CUFI's assertion that the event's purpose is for people to "speak and act with one voice in support of Israel and the Jewish people," Rep. McCollum wrote, "Unlike Pastor Hagee, I support working for the 'roadmap for peace' in the Middle East, Israel living side-by-side in peace and security with an independent Palestinian state. That is a goal that many of us in Congress share with both Israeli political leaders and citizens."

Pastor Hagee, of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, was reported in Jewish publications to have been "perhaps the most enthusiastically received speaker at the AIPAC conference" in March, sending "the crowd into a frenzy, as delegates chanted "Israel lives.'" James Besser wrote that "Mainstream pro-Israel leaders welcome the Christian Zionists' numbers, their willingness to raise money for Israel, their political clout and their tourism in Israel, even when fearful Jews stay home. The right-wingers love the Christian Zionists for another reason:Unlike most American Jews, these Christians believe that giving back the West Bank violates God's covenant with Israel."

At the AIPAC conference and at the Night to Honor Israel events, Hagee promises his Jewish hosts "a non-conversionary event" - no proselytizing permitted. But, when they read Hagee's book, "Jerusalem Countdown," many Jews are chilled by Hagee's focus on biblical prophecy about cataclysmic wars, the specter of death beyond imagination and a peace that can come only with the Second Coming of Jesus.

A number of prominent Jews are now raising concerns about the fallout of AIPAC's embrace of Hagee and his followers. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, wrote in the May 18 Forward (a New York Jewish weekly,) that it was a mistake for AIPAC to host Hagee for two reasons. "The first is the way that Hagee's appearance would be perceived on Capitol Hill. The central principle of Israel advocacy for half a century has been that support of Israel must be broad and bipartisan, and this means appealing to the Republican and Democratic mainstream and avoiding identification with controversial minorities of either party." Yoffie's second reason is that Jewish young adults are likely to be alienated from the Jewish establishment and the Jewish state by the accreditation given to Hagee as a spokesman for Israel.

Land for Peace
It is disappointing that Rabbi Yoffie expresses no concern that Pastor Hagee's condemnation of the whole land-for-peace notion damages the hope and opportunity of reinvigorating U.S. political support for a two-state solution to the conflict.

The divide within the American Jewish community is great and deepening. CMEP's experience with Jewish American individuals and organizations brings us confidence that within the American Jewish community is a strong and steadfast dedication to peacemaking between Israel and Palestinians, and a growing recognition that Jerusalem must be shared as the political capitol of each state and as sacred space by the three Abrahamic faiths.

Some Jews hold doubts about the good intentions of American Christians - especially mainstream Protestants - for Israel and its future. CMEP encourages church member advocates to highlight their commitment to a resolution of the conflict that makes it possible for Israelis to live in peace, with security and recognized borders, side-by-side a viable state of Palestine.

Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism
The Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran and Syrian Orthodox church leaders in Jerusalem issued a statement last August on Christian Zionism. They "categorically reject Christian Zionism doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation."

They characterize Christian Zionism as a modern theological and political movement with an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ's love and justice today. Referring to Micah 6:8, "What does the Lord require of you, to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God," the Patriarchs and Bishops write, "This is where we take our stand. We stand for justice. We can do no other. Justice alone guarantees a peace that will lead to reconciliation with a life of security and prosperity for all the peoples of our Land. By standing on the side of justice, we open ourselves to the work of peace - and working for peace makes us children of God."

Evangelicals Who Embrace Two-States
There is a widely held perception that all Christian evangelicals are opposed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some observers believe that one reason for President Bush's unwillingness to press Irael to negotiate with Palestinians on final status issues is his fear of losing support among evangelical voters.

For some time now well-known evangelicals have been trying to correct that misperception. Evangelical support for peace and two states is not a new or changed position. In July of 2002, over 40 nationally known evangelicals wrote to the President, "We urge you to employ an even-handed policy toward Israeli and Palestinian leadership so that this bloody conflict will come to a speedy close and both peoples can live without fear and in a spirit of shalom/salaam."

Five years ago, they tried to update the President and his advisors. "Mr. President, the American evangelical community is not a monolithic bloc in full and firm support of present Israeli policy. Significant numbers of American evangelicals reject the way some have distorted biblical passages as their rationale for uncritical support for every policy and action of the Israeli government instead of judging all actions - of both Israelis and Palestinians - on the basis of biblical standards of justice."

Nevertheless, when four U.S. evangelicals attended a Brookings Institution sponsored U.S.-slamic World Forum in Qatar in February 2007, Martin Indyk (who was ambassador to Israel under both Clinton and GW Bush) was surprised by Ron Sider's question "Why, both in the interest of justice for all and long-term U.S. geopolitical self-interest, does the U.S. not press Israel more vigorously to embrace a two-state solution?"

Sider, in his publication PRISM, reported that Indyk said to him, "I thought all you American evangelicals had a homogenous, pro-Israel position." Sider, President of Evangelicals for Social Action, assured him that was not true, indicating that large numbers of evangelicals want just, secure states for both Israelis and Palestinians. Indyk encouraged Sider and his colleagues to make such views clear to President Bush. Sider wrote that, "The evangelical participants in the Qatar conference returned to the U.S. determined to inform President Bush, Secretary of State Rice, the American people, and indeed the Muslim world that many American evangelicals long and pray for a two-state solution." CMEP hopes to report soon that U.S. evangelicals have spoken in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace and that the President has heard them.

Generalizations about Christian evangelicals must be resisted. The profound teaching on universal justice that the Hebrew prophets proclaimed to the world transcends the theological divides within and between faiths.


Advocacy Action
Churches for Middle East Peace believes that the best response to Christian Zionist advocacy is Christian-identified advocacy that is grounded in justice, practiced with love, committed to peace and aimed toward reconciliation.

During this spring, advocates from across the country have come to Washington DC to talk with their elected officials and their staff. CMEP greatly appreciates these advocates and reminds them to maintain those relationships with calls, letters and emails that are certain to be timely and relevant when guided by CMEP's action alerts.

Most people are not able to come to Washington DC for congressional meetings, and don't need to. Actually, advocacy meetings with Representatives and Senators when they are home are very effective. You are more likely to be able to talk with the Member of Congress in a district or state meeting and their staff are often very well informed, specially in Senator's state offices. The "Summer District Work Period" is Aug. 4-Sept. 4. Pull together a small group from your church, your synod or diocese, or your community.


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, The 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).

Corinne Whitlatch,
CMEP Executive Director
Churches for Middle East Peace
Phone: 202-543-1222

Churches for Middle East Peace 110 Maryland Ave. NE Suite 311 Washington DC 20002

Monday, July 16, 2007

Most Christians support both Israel and Palestine

(NCC News) Most Christians support Israel AND Palestine, oppose Iran war: NCC leaders

New York City, July 16, 2007-As Pastor John Hagee prepares for his annual ChristiansUnited for Israel (CUFI) gathering this week in Washington, D.C., two leaders ofthe National Council of Churches USA (NCC) are reminding observers that most Christiansdo not share CUFI's stated goals -

"John Hagee's message differs greatly with what theologians have taughtfor centuries," said Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC's Associated GeneralSecretary for International Affairs and Peace.

"The Christian Gospel is clear that salvation came through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ," said Dr. Kireopoulos. "To supplementthis message is to pervert the Gospel Hagee claims to preach."

Pastor Hagee's efforts are the latest in a century old apocalyptic movement that began in earnest in the 19th century. Sometimes called Christian Zionism becauseof its uncritical support for the State of Israel, it is based on a literal readingof Biblical apocalyptic texts.

CUFI's position of uncritical support for Israel separates it from the Anglican,Catholic, Orthodox, and traditional Protestant Churches, all of whom support Israelwhile at the same time advocate for a Palestinian state, Kireopoulos said.

The NCC advocates for a two-state solution, with a secure Israel alongside a viablePalestinian state. The NCC position, approved by the NCC's 35 member denominations,is based on the Christian imperative to seek justice for all people. The NCC hasstated the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories is unsupportable. This position is shared by Churches worldwide, and is counter to the position espousedby CUFI.

"Only a just solution will bring peace to the Middle East," said Kireopoulos."CUFI stands apart from the historic Churches still present in the Holy Land.All of these Churches serve Palestinian Christians, who are adversely affected bythe policies supported by Hagee and CUFI. As a result of these policies, Christiancommunities in the Holy Land are diminishing and are threatened with extinction."

"CUFI's ongoing vilification of Islam is also unacceptable," said the Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, NCC's Associate General Secretary for InterfaithRelations.

"The NCC continues to urge Christians to build relationships with Muslim people,the vast majority of whom are peace-loving, law-abiding people," Premawardhanasaid.

Hagee's group has also advocated going to war with Iran.

"Such a war is totally unacceptable," said Premawardhana. "The NCC believes that high level dialogues with Iran and other Middle Eastern partners isthe proper method of dealing with Iran."

The National Council of Churches USA is the ecumenical voice of 35 of America'sOrthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches. These NCC denominations have 45 million faithful members in 100,000 congregationsin all 50 states.
---NCC News contact: Dan Webster,

Latest NCC News at

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Kristi Assaly reports on her return to Jerusalem

Kristi Assaly returned to Jerusalem as a volunteer, sponsored by Canadian Friends of Sabeel - [], the Anglican Church of Canada, and other groups. She spent part of her childhood there. Kristi later participated in the Sabeel Youth Conference -
She sent home to Ottawa this report of her time in the region prior to the conference.

Weeks 1 & 2
As of yesterday morning, I have been in Palestine for two weeks, and yet the variety and multitude of experiences I have had thus far make it seem as if I've been here for far longer. The last week in particular has been busy.

I arrived in Tel Aviv at 4 am Sunday, June 2nd, where I went through the typical 2 hour-or-so Israeli border control hassle. They seemed to be particularly concerned with the origins of my last name and with whether I had ever been to Lebanon. When they finally finished with me, my suitcase was the only one remaining on the luggage conveyor belt, as the rest of the people on the flight were Israeli-Jewish, and consequently passed through security with ease.

I traveled to Jerusalem, by Sherut (shared taxi), and attended mass at St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem, where I was greeted by many old friends. In the afternoon, I was taken to A-Ram, to the home of my former neighbour, Im Habib, where I am staying. I spent four years of my childhood living in this town, a suburb of Jerusalem. When I lived here, over ten years ago, my family and I frequently made the trip to Jerusalem from Ram. During my last visit, four years ago, I felt a strong familiarity with this road.

I felt this same familiarity this passed week, as I traveled to Ram, but only for the first part of the journey. The road, as we approached closer to Ram, became completely unrecognizable. There is now a giant concrete wall running through the middle of the main road in Ram, enclosing the town and the rest of West Bank. There is a checkpoint just outside of the Wall, on the Jerusalem side. There is a massive steel gate which seals the entrance of the Wall into Ram.

This gate has been opened since my arrival. Today they closed it. Im Habib received a call from her son, Fadi, who lives in the Jerusalem area but works in Ram, early this morning. He told her the gate had been sealed, along with the other gate along the Wall in a different part of Ram. Im Habib quickly gave him instructions of another way in, far out of the way, narrow, and winding. Fadi made it to work this morning, but he heard they will be closing this other gate today as well . Im Habib tells me there had been rumors they would close all entrances/exists to the Wall once school was out for the summer. She turned to me and said, "We are in a prison".

I, myself, need to go to Jerusalem today to go to my work at the Edward Said National Music Conservatory. Now there is only one way to get there, through the only opening in the Wall, the Qalandiya checkpoint. As the only exit from the West Bank for people in this area and the
Ramallah area, I expect it will take hours of waiting in line to pass through.

My work at the Conservatory has been going well, aside from the difficult commute. The Conservatory has three branches in Palestine: Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem. I have been spending most of my time in Jerusalem, but also in Ramallah. I have been giving singing lessons, accompanying students on the piano for their end of year recitals, and directing the Jerusalem Chorus in the absence of their director. On Wednesday, the Chorus will perform Faure's Requiem at the Latin Church in Ramallah. It is an adult choir with both Palestinian and International members.

Last night we rehearsed in Birzeit. During a break, I joined several choristers for coffee at a local cafe. One of the women had just returned from a weekend in Nablus, where her family lives. She is an ethnomusicologist who studied at the Conservatory in Cairo, and who works at a Folklore Centre in Ramallah. She usually returns home, to Nablus, on the weekends to visit her parents and brother. She said that this weekend, for the first time in her life, she felt scared at home. Her and her brother, a devout Muslim, were harassed on the streets as they drove through the city because her brother wears the beard of a strict Muslim. She told me, "He is not a member of Hamas. He loves God and the Prophet Mohammad, but he is not a member of Hamas." She described the growing hatred between people as the struggle between Hamas and Fatah escalates.

Last weekend, I went with a Sabeel youth group to Jericho for a conference and workshop. A group from Nazareth joined us there. The weekend's discussions had an interesting dynamic as they incorporated the thoughts of both Christian Palestinian youth living under occupation and those living in the State of Israel. I became friends with a girl my age from Nazareth. She told me that the youth of the Galilee are not as active in their churches as those youth in the West Bank. She told me that once a nun came to speak to her church youth group and told them that although Palestinians living under occupation deal with physical checkpoints, those living in Israel have checkpoints in their minds. They have a more acute identity crisis, for they cannot find a place or a sense of acceptance in the predominantly Jewish culture of Israeli society.

One of the themed talks of the weekend discussed how Palestinian Christians can define themselves: Are they Arabs? Are they Christians? Are they Palestinians? Are they Israelis? A young man from the Jerusalem area offered the thought that they should see themselves as humans first. He said that although the Christian Palestinian community is becoming "like one drop of water in the Ocean", they must first recognize the humanity each person shares in common in order to live in peace with Jews and Muslims.

I have noticed the decrease in the Christian population, even since my last visit four years ago. I visited the home of a friend in Jifnah, a historically Christian village, near Birzeit and Jalazone Refugee Camp, the other night. For the first time, I witnessed many woman wearing Hijab, the Muslim headress. My friend, Jennifer, confirmed that this is not unusual anymore. Even her family, of Catholic background, moved from the village to Beit Hanina, a suburb of Jerusalem outside of the Wall. They seldom return to Jifnah, only some weekends. Even Im Habib's building, were I am staying and where my family used to live, no longer houses any Christian families. Im Habib, the Christian owner of the property, stays in Ram only a few nights a week. She usually stays in an apartment in Jerusalem, to avoid the Wall and the humiliation of passing through the checkpoint every time she wants to leave the town.

I have already met many new and interesting people from all parts of Palestine and Israel, as well as reconnecting with old friends. My work with the Conservatory ends at the end of the month. I will spend the rest of my time here working at Sabeel, helping with the organization of their Youth Conference.

Kristi Assaly

Friday, July 13, 2007

EAPPI joins in commemorating 40 years of occupation

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI)
June July 2007 Newsletter
Num. 20
EAPPI joins in commemorating 40 years of occupation

Ecumenical service marking 40 years of Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories
On Sunday, 3 June, in an ecumenical service held in Jerusalem's St. Stephens Church to mark the anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, church leaders called for an end to 40 years of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. They emphasized the church's commitment to non-violence in the service of peace and justice.
For more information go to:

40 years of occupation commemorations June 5 -11
EAs (ecumenical accompaniers) supported local people in commemorating 40 years of occupation. In Anata on June 5 Palestinians, Israelis and internationals marked 40 years of occupation. EAs also attended a vigil organised by the Palestinian NGO network at the Old City’s Damascus gate on June 9. Many joined Israeli peace activists later that evening in a large demonstration in Tel Aviv.

Women in Black held small evening vigils throughout the week and a large vigil on Friday June 8.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) mark 40 years since the destruction of the Mughrabi Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday June 11. This was the start of a campaign to rebuild Palestinian homes that have been demolished. EAs will participate in this campaign over the summer.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, from June 5 to 9, EAs supported Palestinians and Israelis as they held non-violent demonstrations and other events against the continuing occupation in Tulkarem, Bethlehem, Um Salamone and Hebron.

EAs participated in Um Salamone’s Friday protests against the wall and settlement expansion.

WCC General Secretary visits EAs in occupied Palestinian territories
Rev Dr Samuel Kobia visited Bethlehem, Hebron and Jayyous. He met EAs and Palestinians they accompany, seeing first hand EAs in action. For further information, please go to: and click on ‘News & Updates.’

EAPPI Publications

The latest edition of the EAPPI magazine, ChainReaction, entitled : “40 Years of Occupation” contains interviews with people remembering the start of the occupation in June 1967. It also focuses on what 40 years of occupation have meant. To obtain copies, please contact EAPPI at
A German special edition of ChainReaction for Kirchentag is available by contacting
Swedish EAPPI’s booklet “Med var egna ogon” (With our own eyes) is available by contacting

For more information please contact:

Roslyn Harper, Communication & Advocacy Officer +972 (0)2 628-9402 (

Rifat Kassis, International Programme Coordinator +41 22 791-6314 (

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) supports Palestinians and Israelis working for peace by monitoring and reporting violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, offering protection by accompanying local communities in daily activities, and by advocating with churches for a peaceful end to the Occupation. The programme, which began in 2002, is coordinated by the World Council of Churches (WCC). The WCC is a fellowship of 347 churches, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. Its office is in Geneva, Switzerland.

For more information on the WCC:

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Humanitarian Impact of the Barrier - OCHA Special Focus

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has published a Special Focus document, “The Humanitarian Impact of the Barrier since the International Court of Justice Opinion,” dated July 2007.

Three years ago, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion stating that the route of Israel's Barrier in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and its associated permit and gate regime, constitute a serious breach of international law. In this Special Focus, OCHA looks at several communities in the northern West Bank that have been severed by the Barrier from their neighboring communities, from agricultural lands and livelihoods.

This link will take you to the full document (eight pages):

The report looks at Palestinian livelihoods and fabric of life in the closed areas of the barrier. In October 2003, the area between the Barrier and the Green Line in the northern West Bank was declared closed by military order and all Palestinians living there or wanting to enter were required to obtain a permit from the Israeli authorities.

Fifteen Palestinian communities are enclosed in these areas. They are physically separated by the Barrier from the rest of the West Bank and the majority of the people require ‘long term’ or ‘permanent resident’ permits to continue to reside in their homes on their lands.

Approximately 50,000 Palestinians will be located between the Barrier and the Green Line when construction is completed.

In 2006, an OCHA and UNRWA survey of 57 communities impacted by the Barrier in the northern West Bank, found that 94 individuals - mostly women and children - had not received these ‘permanent resident’ permits, resulting in their inability to leave their own community for fear of not being allowed back.

The report is full of new maps and color pictures as well as careful, thorough analysis of the implications of the separation barrier.

Contact information:
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Mac House
P.O. Box 38712
Tel:++ 972-2-5829962/5853

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Americans for Middle East Understanding: About That Word Apartheid

Readers, I have been away from computers for almost three weeks, teaching and relaxing at Holden Village - - the Lutheran retreat center in Washington's Cascade Mountains.

The Link, the newsletter of Americans for Middle East Understanding, dedicated it's spring edition to the relationship between Israel and Apartheid South Africa. Find it at this web site: - or download the pdf file:

John F. Mahoney, Executive Director, writes:

President Carter’s latest book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” has unleashed–-to use a much over-used phrase--a firestorm of controversy.

To suggest that white, racist South Africa’s treatment of its indigenous inhabitants is in any way similar to Israel’s treatment of its indigenous inhabitants, for some, smacks of anti-Semitism.

And yet, a Google search of “Israel + Apartheid” brings up 5.5 million references. The subject, it seems, is being discussed.

So, to help clarify the relationship between Israel and apartheid South Africa, we have put together a timeline, beginning with June 1917, when Dr. Chaim Weizmann and Gen. Jan Christian Smuts met in London to lobby for their respective causes.

From Jimmy Carter's book:

“The bottom line is this:

“Peace will come to Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government is willing to comply with international law, with the Roadmap for Peace, with official American policy, with the wishes of a majority of its own citizens—and honor its previous commitments—by accepting its legal borders. All Arab neighbors must pledge to honor Israel’s right to live in peace under these conditions. The United States is squandering international prestige and goodwill and intensifying global anti-American terrorism by unofficially condoning or abetting the Israeli confiscation of Palestinian territory. It will be a tragedy—for the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the world—if peace is rejected and a system of oppression, apartheid, and sustained violence is permitted to prevail.”—Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, p. 216.