Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Annapolis conference news and resources

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

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

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

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

To receive regular advocacy alerts from the ELCA, go to: http://ga6.org/elca_advocacy/join.html?r=YpLYbS51L9ksE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---Latest NCC News at www.councilofchurches.org---

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

Dear President Bush:

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

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

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

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

Rev. Michael Livingston

Ms. Clare Chapman
Acting General Secretary

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

cc: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

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To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, go to my blog, A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace: http://voicesforpeace.blogspot.com/

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Reports from the olive harvest

I have such high regard for the Interfaith Peace-Builders - http://www.ifpbdel.org/

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

I also want to direct you to a lovely piece aired on National Public Radio yesterday (Thanksgiving) morning, dedicated to the place of olive trees and olive oil in Palestinian culture: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16506897

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, check these websites:
The Bil’in Friends of Justice and Freedom Society: http://www.ffj-bilin.org/
The Bil’in popular Committee: www.bilin-village.org/english/

--Doug Kerr

To See for Myself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Nancy Benson

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

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

phone: 202.244.0821
fax: 202.232.0143

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

Letter to Annapolis leaders from Bishop Munib Younan

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

Bishop Younan spoke at the Carter Center on Nov. 12 - http://www.elca.org/ScriptLib/CO/ELCA_News/encArticleList.asp?article=3778
More about Younan's speech in Atlanta follows his Open Letter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 16, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Prayer resources for Middle East peace -- including prayer resources for the upcoming Annapolis peace conference -- are at the ELCA's Peace Not Walls web site: http://www.ELCA.org/peacenotwalls/pray/index.html on the Web.

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pray for Peace this Sunday


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

Pray for Peace this Sunday, Nov 25

This email is also available online at: http://www.cmep.org/Alerts/2007Nov19.htm
Anna Rhee, Grassroots Advocacy Project Coordinator

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

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

Click this link - http://www.cmep.org/Alerts/2007Oct26.htm – for the cover letter and full list of resources that CMEP distributed to over 1500 congregations in October.

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

Print the prayer and bulletin announcement in PDF format (text included below): http://www.cmep.org/documents/2007_Congregational_prayer_for_peace.pdf

You could also use interreligious prayers for peace created by the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative and posted on CMEP's website: http://www.cmep.org/documents/Interreligious_Prayers_for_Peace.htm

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

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

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

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

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

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

More News: Former Ambassador Named New Executive Director of CMEP

This email is also available online at: www.cmep.org/Alerts/2007Nov16.htm

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

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

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

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


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

Churches for Middle East Peace
Email: info@cmep.org
Phone: 202-543-1222
Web: http://www.cmep.org

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

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Alternative Travel Possibilities - November 2007 Update

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

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

Alternative Holy Land Travel List
Updated Nov. 17, 2007
For continued updates see http://www.fosna.org/ - Friends of Sabeel-North America

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

Global Exchange, Palestine/Israel: Prospects for Peace with Justice - Dec. 2-12, 2007
As the Israeli military continues to place Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps under siege, Palestinians continue to resist the 39 year Occupation of their land. Global Exchange delegations to Palestine/Israel strive to further understanding in the USA of the region's history and realities by giving participants first-hand exposure to the aspirations and frustrations of Palestinians living under Occupation, the dimensions of the human rights crisis under Israeli rule, as well as the perspectives of Palestinians and Israelis who are working for a just peace and an end to the occupation. For detailed information go to the web page: http://www.globalexchange.org/tours/830.html
Upcoming 2008 Prospects for Peace with Justice tours: April 5-15, August 2-12, and Dec. 6-16. For details, see http://www.globalexchange.org/

The Bethlehem Christmas Project – Dec. 7-15, 2007
Former Israeli soldiers and Palestinians will work together to deliver Christmas gifts to children in Bethlehem. The Bethlehem Christmas Project has partnered with Musalaha (a ministry of reconciliation operating within Israel and the Palestinian Territories) to bring together two peoples usually thought of as mortal enemies. The goal is to build bridges of understanding and bring hope to children. Participants will have the opportunity to receive lectures from the Dean of Academics of Bethlehem Bible College. Christian leaders, young and old, who understand the power of love to change the world are invited to participate. If you believe you can make a difference, contact us about this opportunity.
Contact e-mail: info@BethlehemChristmasProject.info
The web site: http://www.bethlehemchristmasproject.info/
For a video look at the project: http://bethlehemchristmasproject.info/index.php?option=com_jd-wp&Itemid=38&p=58

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


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

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

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

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

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

Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation - Jan. 7-20, 2008
Join Fr. Michael Salah in a Unique Ecumenical Pilgrimage to the Holy Land and fact-finding mission to see the holy sites in Jordan, Palestine and Israel and meet with the Christian communities there. This trip will include an opportunity to participate in the Fourth Ecumenical Children's Journey to Bethlehem and a chance to attend an International Peace Conference also being planned in Bethlehem (both sponsored by HCEF). This pilgrimage will include the exciting new archaeological find at Bethany Beyond the Jordan marking the spot where John baptized Jesus. A very important feature will be the opportunity for pilgrims to visit, share meals and worship with the Palestinian Christians in villages throughout the Holy Land and observe first hand the full impact of the occupation and the Wall on the lives of Palestinians. Meetings will be organized with political and religious leaders of the area. The cost of the pilgrimage is $3100 (including round trip airfare, all meals and tips) from any major international airport in the US. Reservations must be made no later than November 30, 2007.
Contact: Gail Freeman 1-866-871-4234 or e-mail gfreeman@hcef.org
Additional HCEF Pilgrimage/Fact Finding Missions:
February 2-15, 2008 - Pilgrimage/Fact Finding Mission organized by First Presbyterian Church, Boulder, Colo.
May 2008 - Pilgrimage/Fact Finding Mission organized by Fr. Alex Kratz, O.F.M., Detroit, Mich.
June 2008 - Pilgrimage/Fact Finding Mission organized by St. Andrew Catholic Church, Milford, Ohio
For more information contact: Gail Freeman, Pilgrimage Coordinator, Toll free at 1-871-4234 or E-mail: gfreeman@hcef.org
See the web page for general information: www.hcef.org/index.cfm/ID/420.cfm

United Theological Seminary - January 8-22, 2008
Dr. David Watson, the Rev. Dr. Gary Olin
15 Day Inter-cultural Program Experience including Jordan, Israel, the West Bank.
For information: www.fosna.org/conferences_and_trips/UnitedTheologicalSemJan2008Trip.htm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interfaith Peace-Builders
Since 2001, Interfaith Peace-Builders has led 20 delegations and more than 250 people to Israel and Palestine. Our delegates have returned to undertake speaking, writing, and organizing to educate others about their experiences. Formerly a program of Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), Interfaith Peace-Builders continues to work in close partnership with FOR. For information see the web page - http://forvps.welcome2htn.net/programs/ipb/ or call 244-0821 or e-mail: office@ifpbdel.org

Voices of the Peacemakers: Palestinians and Israelis Chart a Shared Future - March 29 – April 12, 2008
Interfaith Peace-Builders is currently developing plans for a co-sponsored delegation with the National Peace Foundation in March/April, 2008. This delegation will feature meetings with Palestinian and Israeli peacemakers – leaders of civil society groups, grassroots organizers and more. The trip will also include themes relevant to the three major monotheistic faiths during the spring holiday cycle. And activists and historians will address the history of the conflict reaching back 60 years to the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) and the creation of the State of Israel (which will be the major focus of IFPB’s May – June delegation). The National Peace Foundation has developed people to people exchanges and dialogue projects in locations around the world. The collaboration between IFPB and NPF promises to open new dimensions to our work in the Middle East and North America. Learn more: www.ifpbdel.org/del26

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

Middle East Children's Alliance Delegation to Palestine/Israel - July 1-12, 2008
For nineteen years, MECA has taken small groups to visit Palestine/Israel. On MECA's twelve-day delegation you will be taken on a geographic, political, historical and cultural tour of Palestine/Israel by two MECA staff people, and Yacoub Odeh, refugee, former political prisoner, and human rights worker. We will travel by van to witness the impact of the Israeli occupation and visit organizations working for justice and equality. You will learn about refugees, land confiscation, political prisoners, women's initiatives, mental and physical health issues, civil rights in Israel, and the lives of children. The group of eight to twelve people will stay at the guesthouse of MECA's long-time partner Ibdaa Cultural Center in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, near Bethlehem. Ibdaa is a lively place in the heart of the community with great food and comfortable accommodations. Trip Cost: $1,800. For much more information go to http://www.mecaforpeace.org/article.php?list=type&type=52

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

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

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

Seventh International Sabeel Conference – Nov. 12-19, 2008
Program and registration details will be posted at http://www.fosna.org/

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

Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
For information about unique tour through ICAHD, go to http://www.icahd.org/eng/projects.asp?menu=3&submenu=4
ICHAD tours allow participants to glean in-depth information about the situation on the ground; meet key players on both sides of the divide who work for a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Return home as eye-witnesses and the authority to speak with first-hand knowledge. Cost includes direct flights with British Airways, transportation to and from Ben Gurion Airport, hotel accommodation including bed, breakfast and evening meal, tips, the full tour itinerary and material for tour preparation and de-briefing. For the full itinerary and application form, please contact tours@icahduk.org or call the ICAHD UK office: 020-7383-3893.

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

Friday, November 16, 2007

Prayers for Peace in the Middle East On the Eve of the Annapolis Peace Conference

The National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East provides six prayers for peace in advance of the Annapolis peace conference with the suggestion that congregations and organizations use these prayers for Thanksgiving worship services.

Prayers for Peace in the Middle East
0n the Eve of the Annapolis Peace Conference
From the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative For Peace in the Middle East usicpme@aol.com

Sustain together
in undiminished hope, O God of hope,
those who continue to labor with undiminished determination
to build peace in the land from which, of old,
out of brokenness, violence and destruction,
nevertheless hope emerged for so many of faith. . . .
Bless all the spiritual seed of Abraham
together with the light of your Presence.
For in the light of your Presence
we have found a way of justice and mercy
and a vision of Peace.
We praise you O God, Giver of Peace,
who commands us to Peace. Amen

Rabbi Herbert Bronstein, Emeritus
Northshore Congregation Israel,
Glencoe, Ill.

God of mercy
and compassion,
of grace and reconciliation,
pour your power upon all your children in the Middle East:
Jews, Muslims and Christians, Palestinians and Israelis.
Let hatred be turned into love, fear to trust, despair to hope,
oppression to freedom, occupation to liberation,
that violent encounters may be replaced by loving embraces,
and peace and justice could be experienced by all. Amen.

The Reverend Said Ailabouni, Senior Pastor
Grace Lutheran Church
La Grange, Ill.

In the Name of God
, The Everlasting Merciful, The Cherisher
Of the Worlds and Worthy of all Praise,
Our Lord: You have created us from a single (pair) of a male
And a female and made us into Nations and Tribes that we may
Know one another (not that we may despise each other) so
Help us to love each other and take the hatred and anger from our
Hearts so that People of The Book (Jews, Christians and Muslims)
In the Middle East may live in Peace and Justice. Amen

Dawud Ahmad Assad
Council of Mosques, USA
New York, N.Y.

O God Source of Life
, Creator of Peace. . .
Help Your children, anguished and confused,
To understand the futility of hatred and violence
And grant them the ability to stretch across
Political, religious and national boundaries
So they may confront horror and fear
By continuing together In the search for justice, peace and truth. . . .
With every fiber of our being, we beg You, O God,
To help us not to fail nor falter. Amen

Rabbi H. Rolando Matalon
Congregation B'nai Jeshurun
New York, N.Y.

Lord God, we turn to you
in these trying hours when
conflict is a daily reality for our sisters and brothers
in Israel and Palestine. We promise you to work to our
utmost for peace and reconciliation in the region. But we
know we cannot do it alone. We very much need the strength
of your presence in our midst if we are to overcome the
obstacles before us. So our prayer at this moment is that
you add your support to our efforts, that you show yourself
as a tower of strength in those moments when the barriers
seem impassable. Together we can become beacons of hope
for just and peaceful societies in the land so very dear
to the peoples of your covenant. Amen.

Reverend John T. Pawlikowski, OSM
Catholic Theological Union
Chicago, Ill.

Almighty God!

After almost a century of mistrust and fratricide,
you inspired Jews, Christians and Muslims
to take the path of reconciliation in the Middle East. . . .
We ask for your forgiveness, O God,
yet we find it hard to forgive our past enemies.
May Your Words touch those who still stray
in the wilderness of vengeful violence,
forgetting your command to "forgive and overlook,
till God accomplishes His Purpose;
for God hath power over all things." Amen

Abdelwahab Hechiche
University of South Florida
Tampa, Fla.

For more information and/or to become involved in the Interreligious Intiative for Peace contact: usicpme@aol.comto

To receive bulletins from Ann Hafften go to the Blog: http://voicesforpeace.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

News from ELCA Middle East Network

The newsletter of the Evangelical Lutheran Church's Middle East Network came out earlier this month. ELCA Peace Not Walls is at http://www.elca.org/peacenotwalls/

Newsletter - http://ga6.org/elca_advocacy/notice-description.tcl?newsletter_id=12673754


- U.S. Religious Leaders write Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about upcoming Annapolis peace conference
- ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson responds to letter from 138 global Muslim leaders
- Congregational Resources for Annapolis Peace Summit Available

1. U.S. Religious Leaders write Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about upcoming Annapolis peace conference

On January 29, 2007, Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders representing the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI), including the heads of twenty-five national organizations, met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They expressed strong support for renewed high level U.S. efforts for Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace. Following that meeting NILI delegations have met regularly with Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns to hear reports about preparations for the Annapolis peace conference and to present their concerns and recommendations.

A NILI delegation will meet again with Under Secretary Burns on Friday, November 9. The following is a Letter to Secretary Rice sent by the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative on November 1, urging a more assertive U.S. role in preparation for the Annapolis conference and urging U.S. support for principles and practical ideas for resolving the final status issues, ideas developed by Israelis and Palestinians and reflected in documents such as the Geneva Accord.

NILI's November 1 letter to Secretary of State Rice can serve as a model for letters to Secretary Rice and to members of Congress. http://www.elca.org/advocacy/issues/middleeast/07-11-01-nili.html

NILI's October 3 urgent message about the November peace conference - http://ga6.org/elca_advocacy/notice-description.tcl?newsletter_id=11403129

NILI's December 2006 consensus statement, "Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace: From Crisis to Hope" - http://www.elca.org/advocacy/issues/middleeast/06-12-14-nilistatement.html

2. ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson responds to letter from 138 global Muslim leaders

"A Common Word Between You and Us," calls Christians and Muslims to work together for peace. An excerpt: "Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world's population. 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."

Full text: http://www.acommonword.com/index.php?lang=en&page=option1

Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson's response letter to Muslim leadersExcerpt:"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 signify God's vision for how and whom we love in a broken world. This common vision for Jews, Muslims, and Christians signifies fidelity and fellowship in a world where conflict offends our common heritage as children of God."

Full text: http://www.acommonword.com/index.php?page=responses&item=2

October 12 ELCA news release, "ELCA Presiding Bishop Responds to Letter from Muslim Leaders" - http://www.elca.org/ScriptLib/CO/ELCA_News/encArticleList.asp?article=3749

Responses from many Christian leaders and scholars - http://www.acommonword.com/index.php?lang=en&page=responses

3. Congregational Resources for Annapolis Peace Summit Available

Churches for Middle East Peace has produced resources appropriate for prayer and advocacy by congregations and church leaders to generate Congressional and public support for the international meeting on Israeli-Palestinian peace that is planned for Annapolis this fall. These resources, including a prayer for peace, bulletin insert, and sample letter to Congress, should be used anytime between now and the end of the summit (which is not yet scheduled). Learn more at http://www.cmep.org/Alerts/2007Oct26.htm

You can sign up for Evangelical Lutheran Church in America e-Advocacy Network at http://ga6.org/elca_advocacy/join.html?r=N1LYbS5159AgE

To receive bulletins from Ann Hafften, go to http://voicesforpeace.blogspot.com/

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Gaza reports and articles

There is so much news circulating about the increasingly hideous situation in Gaza, I struggle to keep up. I'll dedicate this post to a list of just a few of the published articles and reports I've seen lately:

November 6, 2007
Fanfare and Phoniness
Punishing Gaza

October 30, 2007
EU envoy warns Israelis not to inflict 'collective punishment' on Palestinians
Compiled by Daily Star staff

From Btselem report
October 2007
Gazan cancer patient dies after being delayed entry into Israel for 10 days

OCHA link to the latest Humanitarian Situation on Gaza 1
31 Oct. 2007
Humanitarian Situation Report 01-31 October 2007 Karni crossing, the main crossing for commercial goods, remains closed since 13 June. On 28 October,Israel announced the permanent closure of Sufa crossing. Kerem Shalom is now the only crossing open for the movement of goods into the Gaza Strip. Rafah crossing remains closed. The amount of goods entering Gaza has decreased by 71% since before the Karni closure, from an average of 253 truckloads per day in April to an average of 74 in October.

Amira Hass writing in Haaretz
Nov. 11
A moment before the lights go out

For more bulletins from Ann Hafften, go to http://voicesforpeace.blogspot.com/

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Article in `Global News and Notes'

Readers, here is a link to an article I wrote for the newsletter of the Center for Global Education at Augsburg College, Minneapolis: http://www.augsburg.edu/global/generaldocs/gnnfall07.pdf

I was on the staff of the Center in the early 1990s. In this little article I seek to compare the concerns that travel seminar participants looked at then with the key issues of today.

Since Global News and Notes is a pdf file, I'll give you the link to the newsletter page here: http://www.augsburg.edu/global/gnn.html

Here is the text of my article:


Every time I visit Israel and the occupied Palestinian lands, it feels as if the region's desperate situation is on the cusp of positive change. Sometimes that feeling comes from a political initiative or a new sense of commitment on the part of U.S. and worldwide churches to making a difference there. Other times the feeling is rooted in an impression that things cannot get worse – or cannot be allowed to get worse - for the people there.

It was my privilege to lead two Middle East trips through the Center for Global Education in the early 1990s, once assisting Director Joel Mugge and once leading a travel seminar on my own. At that time we were looking hard at international and military law, human rights, detention and torture, settlements, and self-determination for the Palestinian people, and those issues are still painfully apparent to conscientious visitors.

Land confiscation and water issues were on people's minds 15 years ago and we tried to give them some attention even in the midst of troubles that were more acute for the people we visited.

Today it is the Wall that we see while traveling in the region, an obvious, visible manifestation of ghetto-ization, even apartheid, separating Palestinians from Israelis and, more insidiously, separating Palestinian families and communities from each other. The dreadful Wall is both symbol and enforcer. Its ugly shoulders block the sun and its snaking path is has gobbled up thousands of acres of Palestinian land in favor of the settlements that continue to grow and multiply unabated.

When I have a chance to teach, I now refer to the settlements as “colonies” or “Israeli cities” staking out enormous blocks of land on the Palestinian side of the Green Line. In the years since the Oslo agreement, betrayed by a series of Israeli administrations, these cities and the restricted highways and infrastructure that serve them have grown out of control. The resulting losses are opening talked about as ethnic cleansing.

Israeli Victoria Buch writes, “The prime ethnic cleansing tool is, forever, Palestinian land grab in conjunction with settlement expansion. Various stages of annexation process are in evidence in the originally rural part of the West Bank, constituting 60 [percent] of its area. By now, nine percent of the West Bank land has been transferred to the direct control of the settlements.”

Palestinians' loss of mobility is almost total. The Wall, barricades and destruction of roads, plus “flying checkpoints” cost the West Bank population its health and safety and employment.
Gaza's citizens are completely isolated in their territory, a prison with a bottomed-out economy.

Family unification has become a terrible problem for husbands and wives with different residence permits, and Palestinians face ongoing and increasing demolition of their homes.

So what makes me think there will be positive change? When I feel frustrated I remind myself of the impossible frustration of the Palestinian people and the miracle of their patience and unwillingness to succumb to despair. While official peacemaking efforts have lost all momentum, thanks in part to U.S. attention to the war in Iraq, awareness and understanding are up in U.S. churches and activist communities along with opportunities to volunteer and “accompany” among the grassroots of Palestine.

I continue to urge Americans to visit Palestine and Israel. I hope to return there for the seventeenth time with a group in 2008.

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To find a regular listing of upcoming trips and delegations, visit the website of Friends of Sabeel-
North America - http://www.fosna.org/

To inquire about a trip I hope to lead in June, contact me: annhafften@mindspring.com

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, go to http://voicesforpeace.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Accompanier Karin Brown reports from Younan

Karin Brown, an ecumenical accompanier with the World Council of Churches' EAPPI program, provided this report Nov. 1. Karin is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

A new EAPPI-US web site is up: http://www.eappi-us.org/

The WCC EAPPI web site is under improvement at this time, but it's worth a look: http://www.eappi.org/

The Olive Harvest

There is an air of anticipation building in the village of Yanoun, as all gather outside of their homes in the early morning waiting for the military to make their presence known. This morning is scheduled to be the first of four days designated for olive picking in the groves above Upper Yanoun- where the village's olive trees touch the border of Itemar settlement and are thus out of bounds for the majority of the year. The Israeli military is required to be present during this time to offer protection for the villagers picking olives by warding off the harassment of the settlers.

No clear signal is given, no direct conversation is had, no explicit directions, neither written nor verbal are provided. It is a matter of waiting and guessing as to when the farmers and their families are permitted to ascend into the controversial groves. For fear of settler attacks, the farmers do not normally venture into these groves to tend to their trees or plow their fields. This means that hundreds upon hundreds of olive trees are left uncared for throughout the majority of the year- new growth fills out the body of the trees not allowing the olives enough sunlight, thick undergrowth covers the base of the trees and grass grows high in the unplowed fields, sapping water from the trees and causing the olives to be underdeveloped.

Repeat this scenario over some years, and the yield from the olive trees is dramatically impacted. An area of trees that used to produce fifty bags of olives, now only gives five to ten bags. A tree that used to produce a gallon of oil, now only gives a quarter. This year is widely thought of as an off-season, but the majority of the trees in Yanoun are in especially bad shape.

Once the signal is given by Rashed, the mayor of Yanoun, the families begin the trek to the upper groves along paths well known and well worn from years past. An excitement and energy is widespread as the villagers reach the expansive valley filled with olive trees that they have not seen since last year's harvest. Tarps are laid out, brush is quickly cut back, olives are hurriedly picked, branches are roughly pruned, picked olives are immediately sorted and put in sacs and with no time for idle conversation the family moves to the next tree. The time crunch is apparent as they have only four days to pick what used to take twenty.

Around midday a heavily armed settler approaches, dumps over a fifty kilo bag of olives representing a morning's work, and confronts Hani - telling him that he has gone too far, crossed a line too close to the settlement, and is not allowed to pick olives from these trees. Three Israeli soldiers join the settler, higher military and police authorities are called in, and discussions ensue about rights and access, but it is clear as the chaotic situation develops that the settler has the upper hand. With the forbidden areas never clearly defined by the military, Hani and the others were picking olives from trees belonging to their families without regard for their proximity to unmarked outer border of the settlement's outpost.

After an hour's time, having been held under threat of arrest for his transgression, Hani is finally told to leave the area. He is given five minutes to descend from the upper olive groves and is not to return the next day. Complicating the situation is the presence of five international Ecumenical Accompaniers and an Israeli activist, who are threatened by the Israeli police with arrest and deportation if they remain picking olives alongside the families of Yanoun. Apparently, unannounced to the internationals or the mayor of Yanoun, this upper olive grove had been declared a 'closed military zone' for the duration of the olive harvest, which in effect means that Palestinians, security forces, and permanent residents (accounting for the settlers) are allowed access, while Israelis and, by default, internationals are not.

With no option we, the Ecumenical Accompaniers, follow Hani down towards Yanoun, escaping arrest and abandoning the work that continued in and around the olive trees. The families continued to pick, prune, and collect olives for the next three days, free of further harassment. The settlers are apparently satisfied in having effectively curtailed the access, aid, and accompaniment that internationals and Israelis were able to provide the Palestinians of Yanoun during the most controversial and anxiety ridden part of the olive harvest.

Karin Brown
EAPPI Team 24

(these are all my thoughts and do not neessarly relect those of the EAPPI).


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