Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Marc Ellis: `Reading the Torah Out Loud'

Reading the Torah Out Loud: A Journey of Lament and Hope is a new work by Marc H. Ellis - http://www.augsburgfortress.org/store/item.jsp?clsid=187276&productgroupid=0&isbn=0800662105

Foremost Jewish Theologian Forging a New Religious Identity

"Marc Ellis has demonstrated great courage, integrity, and insight in the very important work he has been doing for years. It has been an inspiration for all of us.”
—Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute for Technology

Minneapolis (July 24, 2007) — In his latest book, Reading the Torah Out Loud: A Journey of Lament and Hope, Marc H. Ellis asks the following questions: What religious values and ultimate vision would one wish to pass along to his or her children? How does one sort through what is authentic and inauthentic in a religious tradition in an attempt to forge its future? He attempts to answer these questions in this quite personal, yet programmatic work.

As he reflects on the encounters that have been decisive in his own religious odyssey, Ellis oscillates continuously between two intertwined religious realms: the personal and the political. His work becomes a meditation on what can be learned and retained from his encounters with the Catholic Worker movement, from post-Holocaust theology, from Latin American Liberation Theology, from engagement with the Palestinian cause and acknowledgement of Israeli violence.

In all this, he argues, and despite all that there is to lament in “Constantinian” Judaism and Christianity, Ellis still resonates with and is committed to a living Torah modeled in prophetic figures, nourished by the Bible, and incarnated in action for justice. It is, he believes, a way of conscience and integrity for faith in the future. It will enable us to “read the Torah out loud.”

In this important work, Ellis not only gives voice to a critique of contemporary Judaism and Christianity; he also eloquently articulates the need for and shape of a new spirituality.

“Marc Ellis is a brilliant writer, a deeply thoughtful and courageous mind . . ."
—Edward Said, Columbia University

“Marc Ellis is emerging as perhaps the most important contemporary Jewish theologian.”
—Rosemary Radford Ruether, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Marc H. Ellis is University Professor of American and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for American and Jewish Studies at Baylor University. One of today’s foremost Jewish theologians, he has also taught at Maryknoll School of Theology and Florida State University and served as a Senior Fellow and Visiting Scholar at Harvard University. A pioneer in Jewish liberation theology, he is author of many works, including Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation (1987), Beyond Innocence and Redemption (1990), Ending Auschwitz (1994), Unholy Alliance: Religion and Atrocity in Our Time (Fortress Press, 1997), O, Jerusalem! (Fortress Press, 1999), and Practicing Exile: The Religious Odyssey of an American Jew (Fortress Press, 2001.)

Reading the Torah Out Loud
By Marc H. Ellis
Item Number: 978-0-8006-6210-3
Price: $20.00 / CAN $24.00 / UK £10.99Specs: 5.5” x 8.5”, paperback, 176 pages

To order Reading the Torah Out Loud call Fortress Press at 1-800-328-4648 or visit the Web site at www.fortresspress.com

To inquire about speaking opportunities and interviews with the author please call 1-800-426-0115 ext. 234 or e-mail toddb@augsburgfortress.org

To request exam copies for classroom use (professors) go to www.fortresspress.com/examcopy

Monday, October 29, 2007

Support the Annapolis Peace Summit

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has issued an Action Alert together with Churches for Middle East Peace: "Support the Annapolis Peace Summit" - http://ga6.org/campaign/palestine102607

While I have posted information about the effort already, the ELCA advocacy website provides lots of good background information - http://www.elca.org/advocacy/issues/middleeast/default.asp

The peace summit in Annapolis scheduled for later this fall presents a real opportunity for progress toward peace. On October 19, two important House members began circulating a letter to Secretary Rice in support of the international meeting and U.S. efforts to reinvigorate the peace process.

The letter also suggests additional steps to ensure success, including financial assistance to the Palestinians. The letter is a joint initiative by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and a longstanding Jewish-American leader in the House, and Rep. Charles Boustany (R- LA), one of four Arab-American House members. It sends a strong message of Congressional support for Israeli-Arab peacemaking.

The "Dear Colleague" letter that Reps. Ackerman and Boustany are circulating to generate signers is titled, "Want to Support Israeli-Palestinian Peace? Worried About the Annapolis Meeting? Here's How to Help."

Check out the Action Alert for more: http://ga6.org/campaign/palestine102607

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tutu: Realizing God's dream for the Holy Land

Archbishop Desmond Tutu's op ed in yesterday's Boston Globe can be found at this link:

Here is the text:

Realizing God's dream for the Holy Land
By Desmond Tutu October 26, 2007

WHENEVER I am asked if I am optimistic about an end to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I say that I am not. Optimism requires clear signs that things are changing - meaningful words and unambiguous actions that point to real progress. I do not yet hear enough meaningful words, nor do I yet see enough unambiguous deeds to justify optimism.

However, that does not mean I am without hope. I am a Christian. I am constrained by my faith to hope against hope, placing my trust in things as yet unseen. Hope persists in the face of evidence to the contrary, undeterred by setbacks and disappointment. Hoping against hope, then, I do believe that a resolution will be found. It will not be perfect, but it can be just; and if it is just, it will usher in a future of peace.

My hope for peace is not amorphous. It has a shape. It is not the shape of a particular political solution, although there are some political solutions that I believe to be more just than others.
Neither does my hope take the shape of a particular people, although I have pleaded tirelessly for international attention to be paid to the misery of Palestinians, and I have roundly condemned the injustices of certain Israeli policies that compound that misery. Thus I am often accused of siding with Palestinians against Israeli Jews, naively exonerating the one and unfairly demonizing the other.

Nevertheless, I insist that the hope in which I persist is not reducible to politics or identified with a people. It has a more encompassing shape. I like to call it "God's dream."

God has a dream for all his children. It is about a day when all people enjoy fundamental security and live free of fear. It is about a day when all people have a hospitable land in which to establish a future. More than anything else, God's dream is about a day when all people are accorded equal dignity because they are human beings. In God's beautiful dream, no other reason is required.

God's dream begins when we begin to know each other differently, as bearers of a common humanity, not as statistics to be counted, problems to be solved, enemies to be vanquished or animals to be caged. God's dream begins the moment one adversary looks another in the eye and sees himself reflected there.

All things become possible when hearts fixed in mutual contempt begin to grasp a transforming truth; namely, that this person I fear and despise is not an alien, something less than human. This person is very much like me, and enjoys and suffers, loves and fears, wonders, worries, and hopes. Just as I do, this person longs for well-being in a world of peace.

God's dream begins with this mutual recognition - we are not strangers, we are kin. It culminates in the defeat of oppression perpetrated in the name of security, and of violence inflicted in the name of liberation. God's dream routs the cynicism and despair that once cleared the path for hate to have its corrosive way with us, and for ravenous violence to devour everything in sight.

God's dream comes to flower when everyone who claims to be wholly innocent relinquishes that illusion, when everyone who places absolute blame on another renounces that lie, and when differing stories are told at last as one shared story of human aspiration. God's dream ends in healing and reconciliation. Its finest fruit is human wholeness flourishing in a moral universe.

In the meanwhile, between the root of human solidarity and the fruit of human wholeness, there is the hard work of telling the truth.

From my experience in South Africa I know that truth-telling is hard. It has grave consequences for one's life and reputation. It stretches one's faith, tests one's capacity to love, and pushes hope to the limit. At times, the difficulty of this work can make you wonder if people are right about you, that you are a fool.

No one takes up this work on a do-gooder's whim. It is not a choice. One feels compelled into it. Neither is it work for a little while, but rather for a lifetime - and for more than a lifetime. It is a project bigger than any one life. This long view is a source of encouragement and perseverance. The knowledge that the work preceded us and will go on after us is a fountain of deep gladness that no circumstance can alter.

Nothing, however, diminishes the fear and trembling that accompany speaking the truth to power in love. An acute awareness of fallibility is a constant companion in this task, but because nothing is more important in the current situation than to speak as truthfully as one can, there can be no shrinking from testifying to what one sees and hears.

What do I see and hear in the Holy Land? Some people cannot move freely from one place to another. A wall separates them from their families and from their incomes. They cannot tend to their gardens at home or to their lessons at school. They are arbitrarily demeaned at checkpoints and unnecessarily beleaguered by capricious applications of bureaucratic red tape. I grieve for the damage being done daily to people's souls and bodies. I have to tell the truth: I am reminded of the yoke of oppression that was once our burden in South Africa.

I see and hear that ancient olive trees are uprooted. Flocks are cut off from their pastures and shepherds. The homes of some people are bulldozed even as new homes for others are illegally constructed on other people's land. I grieve for the land that suffers such violence, the marring of its beauty, the loss of its comforts, the despoiling of its yield. I have to tell the truth: I am reminded of the bitter days of uprooting and despoiling in my own country.

I see and hear that young people believe that it is heroic and pious to kill others by killing themselves. They strap bombs to their torsos to achieve liberation. They do not know that liberation achieved by brutality will defraud in the end. I grieve the waste of their lives and of the lives they take, the loss of personal and communal security they cause, and the lust for revenge that follows their crimes, crowding out all reason and restraint. I have to tell the truth: I am reminded of the explosive anger that inflamed South Africa, too.

Some people are enraged by comparisons between the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and what happened in South Africa. There are differences between the two situations, but a comparison need not be exact in every feature to yield clarity about what is going on. Moreover, for those of us who lived through the dehumanizing horrors of the apartheid era, the comparison seems not only apt, it is also necessary. It is necessary if we are to persevere in our hope that things can change.

Indeed, because of what I experienced in South Africa, I harbor a vast, unreasoning hope for Israel and the Palestinian territories. South Africans, after all, had no reason to suppose that the evil system and the cycles of violence that were sapping the soul of our nation would ever change. There was nothing special or different about South Africans to deserve the appearance of the very thing for which we prayed and worked and suffered so long.

Most South Africans did not believe they would live to see a day of liberation. They did not believe that their children's children would see it. They did not believe that such a day even existed, except in fantasy. But we have seen it. We are living now in the day we longed for.

It is not a cloudless day. The divine arc that bends toward a truly just and whole society has not yet stretched fully across my country's sky like a rainbow of peace. It is not finished, it does not always live up to its promise, it is not perfect - but it is new. A brand new thing, like a dream of God, has come about to replace the old story of mutual hatred and oppression.

I have seen it and heard it, and so to this truth, too, I am compelled to testify - if it can happen in South Africa, it can happen with the Israelis and Palestinians. There is not much reason to be optimistic, but there is every reason to hope.

Desmond Tutu is the former archbishop of Cape Town, chairman of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Occupation is evil and it must end, Ateek tells Boston conference

Greetings from Boston, where World Series fever blends with a fervor for peace and an angry opposition to Sabeel's event. Here is a link to the Boston Globe article by Michael Paulson:

The report that follows is my own, highlighting Naim Ateek's keynote address.

Oct. 27, 2007

Boston -- “In the past five years, in 21 conferences in American cities, we have condemned occupation. It is evil and it must end,” the Rev. Naim Ateek, director of the Sabeel Center, said last night. Ateek welcomed a record 750 participants to the Sabeel Conference in Boston. “We have condemned violence and terrorism, whether it is carried out by the Israeli government and army or by Palestinian extremist groups,” Ateek said.

“Peace is knocking at our door," Ateek said. “Israel and Palestine can life in peace side by side.” Sabeel is an ecumenical liberation theology center in Jerusalem.

Sabeel represents “voices of peace and justice for Israel and Palestine,” said Ateek, “We are Palestinians and Israelis, Jews Christians and Muslims.” Together all these are witnessing Israel's “blind obsession for Palestinian land, a desire to ethnically cleanse the land,” he said. “Is is no longer merely occupation but racism,” he said, “and even Jewish writers are using the work apartheid to describe it.”

Ateek said that South Africans who have visited the occupied West Bank say the situation surpasses apartheid, exceeds apartheid practices. There is not a Separation Wall in South Africa,” he said.

Dispossession of the Palestinian people is Israel's objective, according the Ateek. “It is a crime against God and against fellow human beings."he said, “As apartheid ended in South Africa, so the God of justice and peace, mercy and love, demands that we combine our efforts against occupation. It must end. Human dignity must be restored to the Palestinians. Justice must be done, based on pre-1967 borders, with the creation of a Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel.”

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu opened the Sabeel conference with a blessing, saying, “God believes in you, looking down on this assemblage, God smiles a little and says, `Thank you for wanting to help me make this a slightly better world.'” Tutu will present a keynote address Saturday afternoon,
Oct. 27.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sabeel Conference: Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine and Israel

Readers, I'll be away from my desk for a few days attending the Boston Sabeel Conference. Here's information about the event. Ann

Boston Sabeel Conference to explore “The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel” with Desmond Tutu, Naim Ateek, John Dugard, and Noam Chomsky

Archbishop Desmond Tutu will address the theme “The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel: Highlighting Issues of Justice and Equality” at a Sabeel Conference in Boston Oct. 26-27. The event at Old South Church will feature lectures and panel discussions looking at ways the South African apartheid model of ethnic/racial segregation is applied in Palestine today.

Participants will discuss the moral issues of confronting and dismantling apartheid-like policies Israel administers in the occupied Palestinian lands and the emerging role of social movements and the U.S. government in addressing injustice. The conference will culminate in a peace rally in Copley Square organized by the Boston chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Sabeel is a Palestinian Christian international grassroots peace movement based in Jerusalem which promotes nonviolence, human rights, international law, democratic principles, and Gospel teachings on justice and peace-building <http://www.sabeel.org/>. Friends of Sabeel—North America <http://www.fosna.org/> works to engage American Christians through regional conferences like the one in Boston featuring Palestinian and Israeli peacemakers and experts on a variety of related topics.

Tutu, who is a Nobel Laureate, is the International Patron of Sabeel. Speaking at a New York synagogue in 1989, Tutu stated: “If you changed the names, the description of what is happening in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank would be a description of what is happening in South Africa.” Israel’s human rights group B’Tselem stated in 2002 that “Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only one of its kind in the world, as is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the apartheid regime in South Africa.”

According to The Rev. Richard Toll, Friends of Sabeel-North America chair, "A serious public discussion of the apartheid-like nature of policies imposed on Palestinians by Israel really got off the ground in the United States with the publication last year of Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Ironically it was a group of Israelis in Jerusalem and Haifa who first organized a campaign to oppose Israel’s apartheid policies in 2000, following the breakdown of the Oslo Accords and the eruption of the second Palestinian intifada. The campaign to end Israeli apartheid has since become an international grassroots effort."

Also scheduled to speak in Boston are:

- The Rev. Naim Ateek, Palestinian Anglican priest and founder of Sabeel;
- John Dugard, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian occupied territories;
- Noam Chomsky, linguist, author and lecturer;
- Diana Buttu, litigator in the 2004 case at the Hague which indicted Israel’s separation wall;
- Anat Biletzki, human rights activist, former head of B'Tselem, Israeli Information Center for Human Rights;
- Farid Esack, South African Muslim theologian currently at Harvard University;
- Jeff Halper, coordinator of The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions in Jerusalem;
- The Rev. Donald Wagner, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Northpark University, Chicago;
- Noura Erekat, initiator of the first campaign promoting divestment from Israel, at UC Berkeley;
- Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies fellow;
- Nancy Murray of the US Campaign to End Israeli Occupation;
- The Rt. Rev. Thomas Shaw, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts; and
- David Wildman, Executive Director for Human Rights & Racial Justice, General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church.

The Sabeel conference seeks to educate American Christians and others committed to building awareness of Israel's apartheid policies and U.S. responsibility for its own direct economic support of those policies. The cost to American taxpayers in dollars provided to Israel over the years for mostly military purposes exceeds $100 billion. Organizers hope the result will be informed Americans taking action. Bishop Tutu commented in The Nation in July 2002, “The end of (South African) apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure—in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation.”

Background resources:
- Settler Colonialism in South Africa and the Middle East, George Jabbour, 1970;
- Israel and South Africa: The Progression of a Relationship, Richard Stevens and Abdelwahhab Elmessiri, 1976;
- Undercutting Sanctions: Israel, the U.S. and South Africa, Jane Hunter, 1986;
- Besieged Bedfellows: Israel and the Land of Apartheid, Benjamin Joseph, 1988
- My Israel: An Apartheid State, also by Benjamin Joseph, 1987/new edition 2001.

Friends of Sabeel--North America
PO Box 9186
Portland, Oregon 97207
Ph: (503) 653-6625
Web: http://www.fosna.org/

For more bulletins from Ann Hafften, see the blog: http://voicesforpeace.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ackerman/Boustany Letter to Rice Supports Fall Meeting, U.S. Efforts to Achieve Peace

Churches for Middle East Peace writes: Ackerman/Boustany letter to Rice supports fall meeting, U.S. efforts to achieve peace

Representatives Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and Charles Boustany (R-LA) are circulating a sign-on letter to Secretary Rice commending her efforts to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by convening an international conference this fall and calling for additional steps to ensure its success.

This email is also available online at:

October 22, 2007

Julie Schumacher Cohen, Legislative Coordinator

The peace summit in Annapolis scheduled for later this fall presents a real opportunity for progress toward peace. This past Friday, October 19th, two important House members began circulating a letter - http://www.cmep.org/Legislative_Issues/Ackerman-Boustany_Letter_to_Rice.htm - to Secretary Rice in support of the international meeting and U.S. efforts to reinvigorate the peace process. The letter also suggests additional steps to ensure success, including financial assistance to the Palestinians.

The letter is a joint initiative by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and a longstanding Jewish-American leader in the House, and Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA), one of four Arab-American House members. It sends a strong message of Congressional support for Israeli-Arab peacemaking. The "Dear Colleague" letter that Reps. Ackerman and Boustany are circulating to generate signers is titled, "Want to Support Israeli-Palestinian Peace? Worried About the Annapolis Meeting? Here's How to Help."

The letter to Sec. Rice points out the current "critical opportunity to stabilize the region by advancing a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians" and warns that a "still-born initiative could...exacerbate an already volatile situation in the Middle East." The letter supports "robust, hands-on U.S. leadership and diplomacy" before and after the meeting and also urges Sec. Rice to take "additional measures" to ensure success, particularly a reorientation and expansion of U.S. assistance.

The assistance would meet the needs of the Palestinian people, "for clean government, public order, economic opportunity, and salaried employment" and would include "long-term economic development and job creation programs." Reps. Ackerman and Boustany appeal to Sec. Rice to address "corruption and public safety in the P.A. while continuing to engage with Israel to coordinate a remittance schedule for Palestinian tax monies and to improve access and movement" to ensure that the aid will be effective. (Keep in mind that Congress holds American purse strings so this letter's recommendation on U.S. financial assistance is an important show of Congressional support for aid to the Palestinians.)

The letter concludes by emphasizing the importance of "resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, through the establishment of two states for two peoples" and pledging Congressional cooperation "to ensure that [the meeting in November] is a success". The full text of the letter can be viewed here - http://www.cmep.org/Legislative_Issues/Ackerman-Boustany_Letter_to_Rice.htm -

It is supported by collegial Jewish and Arab-American organizations, including Americans for Peace Now, the American Task Force on Palestine, the Arab American Institute, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, and the Israel Policy Forum.

Your Representative's signature on this letter to Sec. Rice will send a strong signal of Congressional support for efforts by the Administration to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Your Member of Congress needs to hear from you that you want them to do all that they can to ensure that the Annapolis meeting is a successful start of comprehensive peace negotiations.



Call or Email your Representative: Capitol Switchboard is (202) 224-3121 or use House Members' Email Forms - http://www.house.gov/writerep/

(If you have a personal relationship with staff of your Representative, please send them an email directly). Let CMEP know of your efforts: please email julie@cmep.org

Phone: 202-543-1222
Web: http://www.cmep.org

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

Monday, October 22, 2007

`The Lutheran' looks at what Palestinian children learn

The Lutheran magazine looks at what children are learning in the schools of the Lutheran church in the Holy Land. See the whole article at: http://www.thelutheran.org/article/article.cfm?article_id=6725

Peace in Palestinian classrooms

In Lutheran schools, students learn respect and love for 'the other'

It should take Amal Abed Rabbo, 16, one hour to reach the Lutheran Dar al-Kalima School in Bethlehem from her Jericho home. With Israeli travel restrictions, it takes three hours each way. Instead, she stays with her uncle’s family in Bethlehem during the week.

But the Roman Catholic 11th-grader doesn’t harbor any hatred. “The situation is not good for us, but I don’t have hatred against Israel,” she said. “I have hope and faith that the situation will one day end and we will have peace.”

Students at the four schools run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land must strive daily to practice Jesus’ edict to “love thy neighbor.” Each day they face political hardships with the Israeli government and within their society. Charlie Haddad, educational director for the schools, sees helping students come to terms with their reality as a main task, in addition to striving for academic excellence.

“If they start hating, it will never end,” he said. “It is the biggest challenge to convince the young people not to feel [hate]. Of course they struggle with it. They see the news, hear their parents and feel the economic hardship. It is very difficult to convince them that it is a government doing that and not to stereotype a whole nation.”

But Haddad doesn’t necessarily want the children to get used to the situation either.

Learning about the other

Before the outbreak of the second intifada (uprising), Haddad encouraged the schools to meet with Israeli counterparts. The meetings fizzled once the violence began. “Both sides are afraid of the other,” he said. “They each know very little about the other.”

School administrators and teachers are hesitant to restart dialogue for fear of being seen as traitors because Christians and their institutions are associated with unpopular Western and American regional policies, Haddad said.

“A lot of fanaticism was created by the intifada,” he said. “Before the intifada there was no Hamas or Islamic jihad. ... Muslims look at us as foreigners now. ... It puts Christians in an awkward situation.”

Yet Haddad would like to see programs developed so Israeli and Palestinian students can communicate freely.

After the intifada, only the Arab Education Institute’s peace education program—aimed at exposing teachers, administrators and students to the religious traditions of the three monotheistic faiths—continued to function, he said. But the joint workshops with Jews, Christians and Muslims are intermittent, partly because of travel restrictions.

Talking openly

It’s vital not to sweep problems under the carpet, Haddad said. Many times the morning devotion at the Dar al-Kalima School is dedicated to discussing current events, allowing students to express their fears and concerns.

“If you ... suppress things, you allow anger to grow,” said Munib Younan, bishop of the Lutheran denomination.

“We need to teach toleration and love, [to] not to succumb to hatred but instead find a solution. Teaching violence is the tool of incompetence.”

Younan sees “toleration” as acceptance of diversity and living together in peace, whereas he said the word “tolerance,” which he dislikes, means something you must accept.

Abed Rabbo said students at her school can discuss problematic issues without letting it affect their relationships with each other. “We don’t take it personally,” she said. “The problems are outside, they are not between us.”

Last year when tempers flared in the Muslim world over Danish cartoons that lampooned the prophet Mohammed, Younan said all teachers at the Lutheran schools were asked to devote classroom time to the topic.

“It is allowed to be angry but as Jesus taught: Be angry but don’t sin,” he said. “You are allowed to be angry when someone is killed. I would be lying to you if I said I did not become angry then anybody—Christian, Jewish or Muslim—is killed. But this anger should not trespass a line and it should not only remain in anger but find ... solutions.”

At the Lutheran schools—as in all Palestinian schools—Christians and Muslims attend separate religion classes.

But in Dar al-Kalima the two classes also meet twice a month to learn about the other religion as well as about Judaism and the Old Testament.

Tony Nassar, Christianity teacher, said the schools can do more to create understanding between Christians and Muslims than with Jews because both are part of Palestinian society.
Nassar teaches the joint lesson with In’am Shaktour, the Islam teacher. “They see Tony and me working together, and they learn from us,” Shaktour said.

Both try to help students differentiate between Judaism as a religion and Israel as a political entity, she added.

Haddad said he’d like to see the school’s program become more structured. He submitted a proposal to the (Lutheran) Church of Norway for funding that would allow more frequent meetings and special trips to holy sites.

As inheritors of Martin Luther’s Reformation, the Palestinian Lutheran schools hope to be part of the reformation of Palestinian society through formal and informal educational programs. It’s something Haddad said he’d like to see.

[Story by Judith Sudilovsky]

And in an earlier issue, The Lutheran focused on the Peace Center for the Blind in Jerusalem:

New lives for the blind

One woman's dream brings hope to many in and around Jerusalem

Lydia Mansour’s hands don’t stop moving as she talks. Blinded at the age of 2 after a bout of measles, Mansour is the director and founder of the Peace Center for the Blind in Jerusalem. As she speaks about the center and its work, she prepares yarn tassels for shawls some of the students have crocheted. With surprising dexterity Mansour—who declined to reveal her age but admits to being 60 plus—quickly winds the burgundy yarn around a small board and then cuts through the accumulated bundle with a scissors.

A graduate and former directorof the Helen Keller School for the blind in Bethlehem, Mansour established the Peace Center in 1983 after the school’s adult rehabilitation facilities were closed. She began with a budget of $200 gleaned from door-to-door donations.

The budget has since grown to $110,000. Mansour said all U.S.-based donations come from Lutheran organizations, including the ELCA and the Lutheran-founded International Partners in Mission, an interfaith nonprofit organization. Other donors include Christoffel Blindenmission from Germany and the English-speaking ministry of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem.

“They have been so good to us,” said Mansour, whose petite frame, small hands and gentle voice belie her strength and determination. “So many friends from the ELCA have kept up with us since the beginning.”

Some 30 young women with varying degrees of blindness come to the center every day for vocational and living-skills training and for academic studies, including Braille in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

Without the center most of the women would be left to sit at home alone. Instead the young women are taught—mostly by blind teachers who serve as role models—handicraft skills in hand and machine knitting, sewing and weaving. Their sweaters, scarves, baby blankets, shawls and vests are sold at modest prices at the center and craft bazaars. The small amount of money they raise goes to the center, which provides center graduates with a small salary.

More dreams

For the past 10 years the center’s goal and Mansour’s main preoccupation has been the purchase of permanent space that would allow them to allocate a third of its annual income to operations rather than rent.

But the cost is high, funds are low and purchasing a building is still far from reach, Mansour said. To bring in some extra funds, she started a small beauty salon vocational training center on the grounds for girls from troubled families.

Most students are self-referred or their families come to Mansour asking for help, as did the parents of Mahmoud Hamed, a 14-year-old boy who lost his sight to a degenerative disease and was unable to cope at school. Although the center is for women, Mansour said she made an exception. Hamed is now doing his academic studies at the center and learning how to cope in his daily life.

Segments of Palestinian society still look upon blindness as a stigma. Many poor and uneducated parents view their children who are blind as a burden, keeping them at home and out of sight, sometimes to the point of neglect, Mansour said.

Karima Ahmed Reyan, 30, born with a congenital sight problem like three of her siblings, has been coming to the center since she was 12. At first she was very resentful that her mother was leaving her there, Mansour said.Now as Reyan deftly handles a knitting machine with a grid-board and levers that are complex enough a sighted person would find difficult to use, she smiles shyly, saying she is proud to have a trade where she can earn her own pocket money. “My family is happy I am independent and at least they don’t have to worry about me financially,” she said.

Reyan’s younger sister, Siham, is partially blind and has gone on from the center to study social work at Abu Dis University in East Jerusalem. “The center gave me a lot,” she said.Both women have learned to get around independently—which in this part of the world includes crossing checkpoints and roadblocks to get to the center. Mansour sometimes finds herself traveling to the checkpoint so she can negotiate with Israeli soldiers to let a student cross.

Mansour’s job is 24 hours a day—she often serves as a surrogate-mother and advocate for many of the women whose families don’t know what to do with a blind member. “I make sure they are taken for medical checkups if needed and that they get the proper education so they can become independent and contribute to their community,” she said.

[Story by Judith Sudilovsky]

For more bulletins from Ann Hafften, see my blog: http://voicesforpeace.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 19, 2007

News from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI)

News from the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) - http://www.eappi.org/

The EAPPI is an initiative of the World Council of Churches under the Ecumenical Campaign to End the Illegal Occupation of Palestine: Support a Just Peace in the Middle East - http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/international/palestine/campaign-home.html

Its mission is to accompany Palestinians and Israelis in their non-violent actions and concerted advocacy efforts to end the occupation. Participants of the programme are monitoring and reporting violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, supporting acts of non-violent resistance alongside local Christian and Muslim Palestinians and Israeli peace activists, offering protection through non-violent presence, engaging in public policy advocacy and, in general, standing in solidarity with the churches and all those struggling against the occupation.

ELCA member Karin Brown is part of the current group of ecumenical accompaniers (EAs). Karin has been placed in Yanoun. She holds an undergraduate degree in International Politics and Anthropology from Juniata College in Pennsylvania. She has previously worked with various international development organizations in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

September 2007 Newsletter
Num. 21


Many families are struggling to celebrate Ramadan this year due to increased poverty. Particularly, the economic siege on Gaza has resulted in high prices and very low incomes. EAs (accompaniers) are experiencing more difficulties at checkpoints during Ramadan. When the Israeli authorities do not allow people topass, prayers are held at checkpoints. As one EA placed in Bethlehem commented: “On Friday it was sad to see so many elderly people with the simple desire to pray being denied this fundamental right. Many had traveled a long way and were extremely disappointed.”

Ramadan also enables EAs to participate in a unique experience, visiting families and sharing in the fast breaking iftaar meal.

September 21 Peace Day

An Ecumenical service by the Heads of Churches took place at the Syrian Catholic Church in Jerusalem on 20 September. Also, an ecumenical and Interrelations event was conducted by the National Christian Organizations at the YMCA in Beit Sahur. EAs from the Bethlehem team have been present and had the opportunity to express their gratitude to be able to share the life of the community members during the past 3 months.

Can non-violence succeed?

Despite their recent victory in the Israeli High Court, the villagers of Bil'in in the West Bank will continue their campaign against the Wall. The court's decision that the Wall should be moved 500 meters from its current route, when implemented, will restore 1,100 dunums to Bil’in’s villagers. Their campaign continues, with villagers wanting to resist the wall until it falls. The success of this campaign offers hope to othervillagers who are sustaining regular non-violent demonstrations against the wall. EAs attend such demonstrations every Friday in the Bethlehem area.

Al Walajeh update

The construction of the wall, plus subsequent land grabs by surrounding Jewish settlements, has decimated the Al Walajeh villagers’ land and livelihoods. Al Walajeh with 1,700 inhabitants now consists of just 4.5 km2 of land, or 22% of its original size. Land that was once fertile and green has disappeared beneath the concrete of three major Israeli settlements- Gilo, Har-Gilo and Giv’at Yael. The trees remaining are now under attack and a large area is already uprooted; a disaster for this peaceful place. Encircled by the wall, and controlled by an Israeli entry and exit terminal, the villagers of Al Walajeh will soon become virtual prisoners on their own land.

Placement updates

A new group of 25 new Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) arrived in late September and commences work in the placements after their orientation in early October.

Visiting Delegations

A United Church of Canada (UCC) film crew was in the area visiting and interviewing UCC partners in action. Accompanied by Canadian EA Michael S├ęguin and the JIC (Jerusalem Inter Church Center) they successfully accomplished their goals between 18-30 September.

EAPPI Publications

EAPPI has produced a newsletter in Arabic, which aims to inform and update our Palestinian partners of our advocacy efforts in Europe and the rest of the world.


For more information, please contact: Roslyn Harper, Communication & Advocacy Officer (eappi-co@wcc-coe.org) or International Programme Coordinator (ial@wcc-coe.org)

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 fromvirtually all Christian traditions. Its office is in Geneva, Switzerland.

For more information on the WCC: www.wcc-coe.org

See also International Church Action for Peace in Palestine and Israel - http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=3627

For more bulletins from Ann Hafften, see my blog: http://voicesforpeace.blogspot.com/

Thursday, October 18, 2007

CMEP writes to Condaleeza Rice about Annapolis meeting

Churches for Middle East Peace writes Sec. Rice about Annapolis meeting

October 16, 2007

Churches for Middle East Peace - http://www.cmep.org/ - faxed a letter to Secretary of State Rice yesterday regarding the international meeting on Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will take place in Annapolis, probably in mid-November. The letter was also faxed to key contacts at State and the National Security Council and emailed to all Congressional offices. Signed by CMEP Board members, the letter makes several important points regarding the promise and potential of the Arab League Initiative, the need for a ceasefire and facilitation of movement of Palestinian goods and people, a reminder that Palestinians in Gaza must also find hope, an appeal to not allow violence to stop peacemaking, and a request for US action to show regard for East Jerusalem Palestinians.

CMEP tells Sec. Rice of CMEP’s efforts to build bipartisan support in Congress for the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel and that CMEP will generate support from clergy and church members. CMEP is now preparing a mailing to congregations with a suggested prayer for peace and sample letter of support for peacemaking that follows up on our previous advocacy guidance. (Please send us contact information at info@cmep.org for your congregation, if you would like to be sure they receive the materials).

As mentioned in the CMEP letter, many observers are making recommendations to President Bush and Secretary Rice. On September 28th, you received the policy recommendations of the National Interreligious Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI) - http://www.cmep.org/Alerts/2007Sept28.htm

Recently, two groups of foreign policy luminaries have issued guidance documents. The Israel Policy Forum released on September 26 “A Guide to a Successful November International Conference” with six signers including Ambassadors Sam Lewis, Robert Pelletreau, Thomas Pickering and Edward Walker, Jr.- http://www.ipforum.org/public/pdfs/November%20Conference%20Policy%20Paper.pdf

A letter to President Bush and Sec. Rice, supported by the U.S./Middle East Project, Inc., the International Crisis Group, and the New America Foundation/American Strategy, was signed by eight, including Lee Hamilton, Zbigniew Brezinski and Theodore Sorenson among others -

CMEP Letter to Rice

October 15, 2007

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
Washington, DC

Dear Secretary Rice,

Thank you for organizing an international meeting dedicated to progress on a peace agreement that would end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Churches for Middle East Peace, a coalition of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches and agencies, is urging members of Congress to promise bipartisan support for the President’s diplomatic initiative. Your bold leadership, with the strong backing of President Bush, can create momentum for continued progress and movement toward the creation of a viable democratic state of Palestine
alongside Israel, each sovereign and secure. Now is the time to build on the promise and potential of the Arab League Initiative and encourage the participation of its signers.

Clearly the situation on the ground discourages both leaders and ordinary people in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories as well as international observers. We ask that you, in preparation for the conference, press hard for concrete steps by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to improve conditions, including securing a ceasefire and facilitating the movement of Palestinian goods and people. The generosity of international donors is necessary but insufficient. The Palestinian private sector needs to be able to function for real economic development and job creation to take place and generate hope. As we all know, a healthy Palestinian economy is
in the best interests of Israel as well.

The current division in Palestinian governance must not be allowed to thwart the success of the meeting in Annapolis and those that follow. We agree with you that there is one Palestinian people and there should be one Palestinian state and urge you to ensure that Palestinians in Gaza can also find hope in a political solution.

Many observers are making recommendations about a statement or declaration of principles that addresses the final status issues. Churches for Middle East Peace has a particular interest in a resolution of the status of Jerusalem that would allow both Israelis and Palestinians to claim the city as their capital, and for Jews, Christians and Muslims to fully enjoy the profound religious significance of the holy city and its holy sites.

While many of the fruits of peace will require considerable time to be evident, small changes in Jerusalem would provide hopeful evidence that the two-state vision will actually become reality. As an example, the United States could launch USAID projects to improve daily lives of Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

It is a grim lesson from the past that violent acts by extremists can be allowed to undermine progress made by peacemakers and public support for peace. We appeal to you to lead all parties to declare that peacemaking is unstoppable, and that violent extremists will not be allowed to achieve their political objectives of disrupting the peace process.

For our part Churches for Middle East Peace will work to generate support among the clergy and members of our churches for your efforts and will encourage congregations across the country to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the compassionate wisdom and bold courage that all political leaders in this momentous initiative will need.


Bishop Wayne Burkette
Moravian Church in America

Jim Fine
Legislative Secretary for Foreign Policy
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Dennis W. Frado
Director, Lutheran Office for World Community
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

Sr. Donna Graham, OSF
President, English-speaking Conference JPIC Council
Franciscan Friars (OFM)

The Rev. Dr. Stan Hastey
Alliance of Baptists

Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory
Director, Washington Office
Presbyterian Church, USA

Rev. Phil Jones
Director, Washington Office
Church of the Brethren Witness

Rob Keithan
Director, Washington Office for Advocacy
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos
Associate General Secretary for International Affairs and Peace
National Council of Churches USA and
Representative, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Rev. Jim Kofski
Maryknoll Global Concerns

Peter E. Makari
Middle East and Europe Global Ministries
United Church of Christ and
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rev. John L. McCullough
Executive Director and CEO
Church World Service

T. Michael McNulty, SJ
Justice and Peace Director
Conference of Major Superiors of Men

The Very Rev. George Rados
Representative, Antiochian Christian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America

Maureen Shea
Office of Government Relations
The Episcopal Church

Ann V. Staal
Social Witness/Mid-East
Reformed Church in America

James Winkler
General Board of Church & Society
United Methodist Church

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See my blog for more bulletins:
Ann Hafften
Weatherford, Texas
Blog: http://voicesforpeace.blogspot.com/

"Our times cry out for a new politics of justice." Bill Moyers

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Christian world responds to "A Common Word" from Muslim leaders

News has been circulating about an open letter from 138 of the world's top Muslim leaders, clerics and academics to Pope Benedict and other world Christian leaders. The letter, called A Common Word Between Us and You, advises us that world peace depends on better dialogue between the two groups and points to fundamental beliefs they have in common - http://www.acommonword.com/index.php?lang=en&page=option1

The home page for A Common Word provides a link to many Christian responses - http://www.acommonword.com/

There is also a fascinating FAQ page - http://www.acommonword.com/index.php?lang=en&page=faq

Here is news of one response from ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson:

October 12, 2007

ELCA Presiding Bishop Responds to Letter from Muslim Leaders

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and president of the Lutheran World Federation, Geneva, responded today to an Oct. 11 letter sent to him and several global Christian leaders by 138 Muslim leaders from throughout the world.

The 29-page open letter, "A Common Word Between You and Us," calls for Muslims and Christians to work more closely together for peace.

"Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world's population," the Muslim leaders wrote.

"Without peace and justice between these two religious communities there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians. The basis for this peace and understanding already exists."

Information about the complete contents of the letter is available on the Web from several news organizations.

The text of the presiding bishop and LWF president's response reads:

"Greetings to you in the name of Almighty God, our Creator and Sustainer. On October 11, a copy of a letter was delivered to me from Muslim scholars and religious leaders addressed to Christian religious leaders around the world. As presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and president of the Lutheran World Federation, I receive this letter in the sincere expression of faithfulness intended by its drafters, and with the hopeful expectation for peace that calls to us from the origins of our sacred texts and professions of faith. I encourage prayer and planning for communities of justice, peace, and security where Muslims, Jews, and Christians draw from these origins as from essential wells of living water.

The letter attests to both the love of God and our shared heritage of true hospitality to one's neighbor. These commandments convey prophetic witness for mutual and vital co-existence that Christians and Muslims must embrace in one another. The letter further references how the commands to love God and neighbor are linked `between the Qur'an, the Torah and the New Testament.' I encourage everyone everywhere to read the beauty of these passages found in the sacred texts of the Abrahamic faiths, which signifyGod's vision for how and whom we love in a broken world. This common vision for Jews, Muslims, and Christians signifies fidelityand fellowship in a world where conflict offends our common heritage as children of God.

In 2005 I, along with an LWF delegation that included General Secretary Ishmael Noko, met with His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi, personal envoy and special advisor to King Abdullah II of Jordan.Our delegation was grateful for the sincere hospitality and friendship that were so freely displayed in our conversation. The delegation spoke at length with Prince Ghazi about the origins of the Abrahamic faiths in that region of the world. In another meeting, Akel Biltaji, advisor to His Majesty the King, stated, "We are honored to be servants and custodians of the Holy sites."

I acknowledge this letter in gratitude and recognition of the need for its further study and consideration. I likewise accept it in the belief that Jews, Muslims, and Christians are called to one another as to a holy site, where God's living revelation in the world is received in reverence among the faithful and not in fear of our neighbors. I pray for God's continued blessings among Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike, and thank God for such displays of wisdom and humility from their leaders."

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
President, The Lutheran World Federation

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See more of Ann Hafften's bulletins at http://voicesforpeace.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

CMEP: Halt Israeli Confiscation of Palestinian Land

CMEP Urges U.S. to Halt Israeli Confiscation of Palestinian Land,
Action Undermines Peace Efforts Ahead of Nov. Summit

This message is available online at www.cmep.org/Alerts/2007Oct11.htm

October 11, 2007

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) executive director and board chair faxed a letter yesterday to U.S. Ambassador Richard Jones in Tel Aviv in response to news reports that the Israeli army has ordered the seizure of Palestinian land near East Jerusalem. Copies of the letter were also faxed to key officials at the State Department and National Security Council.

CMEP Letter to Amb. Richard Jones

October 10, 2007
Ambassador Richard Jones
United States Embassy to Israel
Tel Aviv, Israel

Dear Ambassador Jones,

Churches for Middle East Peace is alarmed by news reports - http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/910763.html -
that Israel has ordered confiscation of land from four Arab villages between East Jerusalem and the Jewish settlement of Ma'aleh Adumin. This project undermines U.S. diplomatic efforts to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and restore hope that the conflict can be resolved with a viable contiguous Palestinian state established alongside Israel. We urge you to impress upon Israel that this project must halt.

The long-held policy of the United States that the status of Jerusalem must be determined by a negotiated agreement and that neither party should take actions that would prejudge the outcome of negotiations must be strongly and consistently asserted by U.S. officials.

While the stated purpose of this land confiscation is for the construction of a modern road to Jericho for Palestinians, it is widely understood that this would set the stage for settlement expansion in the E-1 area. United States objections to the E-1 plan of building 3,500 apartments and an industrial park has thus far prevented Israel from building on this parcel of land (other than the empty police station). We urge the United States to maintain their objection to Israeli use of the E-1 land and to assure Palestinians that this vacant land will remain open and available for development by East Jerusalem's Palestinian population as part of the future state of Palestine.

We are heartened by your diligent work towards a peaceful resolution of this conflict through diplomacy and commend the Administration for convening an international meeting this fall in Annapolis for that purpose. We join you in prayers for the day when the people of Israel and Palestine live as neighbors, both secure and thriving.

Maureen Shea
Chair of the Board

Corinne Whitlatch
Executive Director


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 FM (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
Email: info@cmep.org
Phone: 202-543-1222
Web: http://www.cmep.org

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

Friday, October 12, 2007

Al Khei-meh Community Ecumenical Centre opens in Amman

Greetings from Jerusalem!

The October picture calendar from the Evengelcial Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land celebrates the new Al Khei-meh community Ecumenical Centre in Amman. Download it from the website: http://www.elcjhl.org/resources/calendars/

More than 450 community and religious leaders from Amman, Jordan, and elsewhere gathered in September for the opening of Al Khei-meh (the Tent), a new Community Ecumenical Centre designed to serve social, cultural, spiritual and recreational needs of the community.

According to the Rev. Samer Azar, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and initiator of the center, Al Khei-meh is designed to be complementary to current activities of the local Ecumenical Churches, which, like the new center, serve people regardless of religious affiliation or denomination. Pastor Azar hopes to promote common values among the different Christian denominations and between Muslims and Christians.

ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan helped to dedicate the center, and Anglican Bishop Suheil Dawani also attended. At the opening, Bishop Younan said:
"Al-Khei-meh (the Tent) is the place where God is present with his people. We hope that every Christian, Muslim or Jew who enters this place will experience God's presence."

Join us in prayer: Gracious God who dwells in all people, bless this new center and fill it with creativity, inspiration, joy and community. Guide and direct its leaders and people that they may use this as a place for all to come and feel the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ, Amen."

We would also like to announce that our website and emails have changed. Instead of www.holyland-lutherans.org we are now www.elcjhl.org

Please give us feedback about the new website, and let us know if there are resources or things you would like to see on it that you can't find now.

The old website and emails will still work for some months.

Peace and blessings,


The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan & the Holy Land (ELCJHL)
P.O. Box: 14076
Jerusalem 91140
Tel: +972-2- 6266800
Fax: +972-2- 6285764
Email: communication@elcjhl.org
website: www.elcjhl.org

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Naim Ateek of Sabeel is Hardin-Simmons Distinguished Alumni

Oct. 9, 2007

Naim Ateek, director of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, is Hardin-Simmons University Distinguished Alumni

The Rev. Naim Ateek of Jerusalem, a 1963 graduate, will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award at Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, Texas, on Oct. 18. Ateek directs the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.

Since 1992 Ateek has worked to advance the work of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center [http://www.sabeel.org], to deepen the faith of Palestinian Christians, to promote unity among them toward social action.

The Distinguished Alumni Award, given since 1970, is presented to Hardin-Simmons - www.hsutx.edu/main.php - alumni whose personal and professional accomplishments exemplify the ideals and aims of the university and bring honor to its name. Honorees are selected by a committee of campus leaders. The Alumni Awards Dinner on Thursday, Oct. 18., will celebrate the recipients.

As a boy in 1948, Palestinian Christian Ateek and his family became refugees when they were forced from their hometown of Beisan, south of the Sea of Galilee, by Jewish forces. The family settled in Nazareth. After completing primary and high school education, Ateek received a scholarship to attend Hardin-Simmons University.

In 1958, Ateek left his mother, ailing father, and nine brothers and sisters in Israel to travel to an unknown land—Texas. Not only did he have to adjust to American English, he had to learn the Texas dialect as well. His homesickness for his close-knit family was eased by the “wonderful atmosphere of friendliness” on the Hardin-Simmons campus, he said. He spent holidays and summers at his friends' homes in Abilene and the surrounding area while studying at Hardin-Simmons.

As a student Ateek was active in the International Student Association and was on the dean’s list. He was named to Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities. He was president of the Science Club and won the E.P. Mead Speech Contest.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, Ateek earned a Master of Divinity degree in 1966 from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley. He was ordained in the Episcopal Church and returned to his home in Nazareth, where he served as parish priest from 1966 to 1985.

Ateek returned to the United States to complete a Doctor of Ministry degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1985. He then served as parish priest for the Palestinian congregation in Jerusalem and as canon of St. George’s Cathedral there from 1985 to 1997.

Sabeel strives to develop a spirituality based on love, justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation, and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities. Its work is to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence, and witness of Palestinian Christians as well as their contemporary concerns. Sabeel encourages individuals and groups from around the world to work for a just, comprehensive, and enduring peace informed by truth and empowered by prayer and action.

International Friends of Sabeel chapters in Australia, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, and the United States support the work of the Sabeel Center in Jerusalem.

The Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, and the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass have given Ateek Honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees. He was honored by the San Francisco Theological Seminary with its Distinguished Alumni Award.

Ateek lectures widely in Palestine and Israel as well as internationally. In addition to his book, Justice, and Only Justice, a Palestinian Theology of Liberation, he has published many articles for books and periodicals and a forthcoming book that details the current situations in the Palestinian territories.

Naim and Maha Ateek live in Jerusalem where they have devoted their lives to being peacemakers. They are the parents of Stefan and Sari Ateek and Nevart Willborn.


This message comes to you from http://voicesforpeace.blogspot.com/ - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Middle East Peace.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Mitri Raheb speaks at Human Rights Defenders Forum

Lutheran pastor Mitri Raheb addressed the Human Rights Defenders Forum at the Carter Center in Atlanta.

Raheb is a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land - www.holyland-lutherans.org/ - and the director of the International Center of Bethlehem - www.annadwa.org/

Whence Cometh Change?

“We are not poor, we are made poor, through a system of political, social and economic injustice.”

It was with these words that Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb opened his speech at the Human Rights Defenders Forum in Atlanta last (month). [www.cartercenter.org/peace/human_rights/defenders/index.html] The forum, entitled “Faith and Freedom: Protecting Human Rights as a Common Cause” was organized by the Carter Center and Human Rights First [www.humanrightsfirst.org/], brought together leading secular and religious human rights defenders from 22 countries.

Rev. Raheb continued: “If you look today at the West Bank it looks like a piece of ‘Swiss cheese’. Israel gets the cheese and the Palestinians are pushed into the holes. The holes are surrounded by a wall. Israel has taken the land, the water and natural resources, and most of the tourist sites. Through that system we are made poor. So twenty years from now we will have overpopulated, crowded areas with no room to grow, no economy to sustain us, and not much to hope for. These circumstances destroy the social fabric of our society and lead people into despair. People here look for a refuge in a life after death, but can’t believe in a life before death that is worth living here and now.”

The role of the international community was described by Dr. Raheb: “They are busy ‘managing’ rather than ‘solving’ the conflict. It is not really just a conflict between Israel and Palestine. Without the subsidy of the international community Israel cannot continue what they are doing. What the international community is doing in Palestine is charity, not economic justice. Lifting roadblocks and closures would be much better for us than all the aid. The international community closes their eyes when it comes to Israel and they shut their ears when political and human rights issues are addressed. Rather, they choose to give the Palestinians some handouts so they will not have a bad conscience.”

Rev. Raheb offered a summary of the conflict in these words: "We have too much attention but too little action. Too much politics but too little care for the polis, our cities and communities. Too much religion (I say this as a pastor) but too little spirituality. Too much aid but too little development. Too many resolutions but almost no protection. This is in brief our problem."

Commenting on a previous comment by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, on their new approach called “responsibility to protect”, Rev. Raheb said that he hopes that this might effect some change.

It was at this point that former President Jimmy Carter interrupted Rev. Raheb to voice his doubt that the UN is going to change, or that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will be able to protect the human rights of the Palestinians.

President Carter added that a big part the problem is in the US, in the Congress. No one can be reelected to the Congress if they say any of the things that have been said at the forum. “You see how distressed I am. The people living there are infinitely more distressed than I am. I don’t know what I would do if I was living under those circumstances, if I saw my wife and children starving to death... My hope is that the world will see. [...] The EU hasn’t spoken out. Russia has spoken out a little bit. [...] The US is completely in bed with the Israelis [...] Under the present circumstances I don’t see any possibility of change." The President’s display of emotion (a rarity, for those familiar with his manner) was powerful. His wife Rosalynn was crying and had to leave the room with tears in her eyes.

Commenting on this later in the day, Rev. Raheb said: “it will not change by itself unless we change it together. God is calling us to be agents for change.”

Bethlehem Media Center, ICB 20/09/2007

This message comes to you from http://voicesforpeace.blogspot.com/ - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Middle East Peace.

Friday, October 5, 2007

ELCA's Bishop Hanson Supports Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace Conference

The ELCA's Bishop Hanson has spoken out in support of an Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace Conference. Advocacy information can be found at the website of Churches for Middle East Peace: www.cmep.org/Alerts/2007Sept28.htm

October 4, 2007

ELCA Presiding Bishop Supports Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace Conference

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), said he supports an international conference aimed at taking steps toward resolving conflict peacefully between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East, and this week joined in a call for specific steps for a successful conference. The meeting is to be hosted in November by the United States government at a location to be determined.

Hanson is a member of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI), an organization of U.S. faith group leaders that has spoken publicly about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. NILI members have challenged the Israeli, Palestinian and U.S. governments each to do more to resolve the conflict. Members have met several times with officials of the Bush Administration, asking that the U.S. government become more involved in negotiations for a just and lasting peace. The religious leaders have also presented ideas to U.S. officials aimed at promoting Middle East peace. Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders make up NILI.

This week, the religious leaders, through a message of the NILI steering committee, are asking members of U.S. Congress and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to consider specific steps to help make the conference successful. NILI issued a statement, "Steps for a Successful Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace Conference."

"The ELCA is committed to praying and working for a lasting and just peace between Israelis and Palestinians," Hanson said of the message. "Our resolve is to increase awareness and advocacy as we accompany the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land as articulated in the ELCA Peace Not Walls Initiative." [www.ELCA.org/middleeast]

The NILI message to Congress and the Bush Administration recommended:

+ Inviting all of Israel's Arab neighbors, as well as Israel and the Palestinian Authority: The religious leaders said the United States should invite representatives from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria to the meeting. They also said "all issues" should be on the agenda, including Israeli-Palestinian status issues.

+ Seeking agreement on principles and taking other steps in advance of the conference: The United States must press for concrete steps by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to improve conditions on the ground, including agreement on a cease-fire and principles such as borders and security, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem, the religious leaders said.

+ Resolving the split between the West Bank and Gaza: The religious leaders said the split in Palestinian governance could thwart success of the meeting. The United States should"quietly" support efforts to form a united Palestinian government that can represent Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and that is committed to rejecting violence and negotiating a two-state peace agreement with Israel, they said.

The steps called for by NILI "are critical to turning the Middle East from a path of violence and extremism to one of freedom, justice and peace," Hanson said. "The issues are extremely complex and deeply rooted in a history of conflict and distrust. A solution requires broad participation by Arab nations willing to make difficult compromises for the sake of peace. May the November conference be one important step in that process."

NILI members met Aug. 10 with Undersecretary for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns in Washington, D.C. They expressed their support and the support of their communities for the Bush Administration's renewed commitment to work for peace between Israelis and Palestinians as a high priority of U.S. policy, according to a NILI news release. They also presented specific ideas in their meeting with Burns related to preparations for the peace conference.


Information about the ELCA's Middle East resources, including the ELCA Peace Not Walls initiative, is at http://www.ELCA.org/middleeast/ on the ELCA Web site.

John Brooks, Director
(773) 380-2958 or news@elca.org
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Forty roadblocks added in the West Bank

Lack of mobility makes everyday life in the West Bank extremely difficult for Palestinian people. Normal travel to visit family, go to worship, get medical care or attend school is almost impossible.

Haaretz reported the UN finding 40 new West Bank roadblocks in the past two months - www.haaretz.com

"Despite repeated promises to reduce the number of roadblocks in the West Bank, Israel has in fact added dozens of new ones, according to the United Nations. [See www.ochaopt.org/documents/AMA_47.pdf]

"Defense Minister Ehud Barak promised U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week to remove 24 roadblocks and consider additional alleviations of movement restrictions on the Palestinians. This followed a similar promise to alleviate movement restrictions that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

"However, the number of roadblocks has now reached 572, an increase of 52 percent compared to 376 in August 2005, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In the past two months alone, Israel put up 40 new roadblocks, OCHA said.

"Israel did remove a small fence along Road 317, in the Southern Mount Hebron region, doing away with 29 barricades. But OCHA found that 48 new roadblocks, mostly embankments preventing access to various roads, were put up.

"Altogether, there are 476 unmanned roadblocks in the West Bank, consisting of concrete cubes, earthen embankments and other barricades blocking roads and exits from villages and towns.

"The number of manned roadblocks has also increased, from 86 in July to 96 today, the UN found. Most of them are manned by soldiers round the clock, but some are manned only a few hours a day.

"Since April, the defense establishment has refused to provide data about the number of roadblocks. In the past, defense officials said that many of the roadblocks were added to protect settlers, and not only to prevent terror attacks in Israel.

"The UN figures do not include checkpoints set up along the Green Line."

For the full report on movement and access, see the link above; for many more reports, maps and updates, go to OCHA: www.ochaopt.org

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Children building bridges of peace

Palestinian and Jordanian Children on a Mission to Build Bridges of Peace and Understanding

Ten Christian youth from Palestine and Jordan and their two teachers will visit the United States from September 23, 2007 to November 4, 2007 as part of Holyland Christian Ecumenical Foundation's - www.hcef.org - Children's Peace Project. The purpose of this program is to enable American churches and schools to work for greater understanding and Christian solidarity with the Church in the Holy Land by hosting Christian youth from that troubled region.

Hosting this year's Holy Land students and teachers are St. Susanna Catholic Parish in Mason, Ohio for the 5 Jordanian children and teacher, and St. Lawrence Catholic Parish in Utica, Michigan for the 5 Palestinian children and their teacher.

The youth will also take part in a Children's Peace Conference in conjunction with HCEF's 9th International Conference on October 26 and 27, 2007 in Washington, DC. There, the students will have the chance to interact with American Christian youth and to share what they have learned during their time living with Christians in the United States. Attendees of the conference will have the chance to learn from the reactions, fears, insights, hopes, and prayers of these young ambassadors of peace from the Holy Land.

With the goal of "building a living bridge of peace between Christian communities in the West and Christians communities in the Holy Land," the Children's Peace Project gives youth an opportunity both to learn from and teach each other and the larger community. Stereotypes are broken down, and those involved come to see that differences do not diminish the dignity of a person. Lasting relationships develop between the Holy Land youth and their American families and friends that continue even after the students return home.

HCEF President Rateb Rabie, KCHS, believes that these youth act as ambassadors of peace who are able to share unique insights about the experience of Christians in the Holy Land. The Children's Peace Project changes hearts and lives, providing hope for peace in the Holy Land.

For additional information on the Children's Peace Project, visit: http://www.hcef.org/PublicFiles/conference/9th%20Conference/07CPPflyer.pdf

If you are having problems with this link copy the above link to your internet browser or visit our website at www.hcef.org

Contact: Jonathon Smith
Tel: (301) 951-9400 ext 217
Email: Jsmith@hcef.org