Monday, June 30, 2008

Sabeel presents `Beyond Remembrance: Facing the Challenges of the Future Sixty Years After the Nakba'

I encourage anyone to take part in Sabeel's annual conference in Jerusalem. This year's theme, Beyond Remembrance: Facing the Challenges of the Future Sixty Years After the Nakba. Information and links are provided here.

Pilgrimage and Christian Witness Opportunity:
Seventh International Sabeel Conference

This link provides all relevant information, a pdf file of the brochure, and registration form:

Beyond Remembrance: Facing the Challenges of the Future Sixty Years After the Nakba
November 12-19, 2008

Mark your calendars, and spread the word! The conference will focus on the commemoration of 60 years since the Nakba, and the complex issues of memory, narrative, and identity raised by the events of 1948. The conference will include: 4 nights in Nazareth, with trips to villages that were destroyed in 1948 and visits with the local Christian community; 4 nights in Jerusalem, with trips to Jaffa, Ramle, and Lidda; Lectures, workshops, discussions, and cultural events focusing on the last 60 years and the future for Christians living in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories; Optional pre-conference travel to holy sites in the Galilee; Optional post-conference travel to understand the Occupation including visits to holy sites in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Troubled Past, Complex Future
Among those who struggle for justice and peace in Palestine, our focus has been the fight to end the illegal Occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. However, in order to truly understand the complexities of memory, narrative, and identity faced by the Palestinian community, it is vital to examine the events of 1948—what the Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or Catastrophe. For 60 years, the Nakba has cast its shadow over the struggles of identity and narrative undertaken both by Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel and those in the Occupied Territories. As the nonviolent resistance to Occupation continues, the question of what it means to be a Palestinian remains.

As Israel begins its celebration of 60 years since independence, the Palestinian community will commemorate 60 years since the Nakba. During this important year, Sabeel believes that it is vital to examine the impact of 1948 on the quest for justice and peace in the Holy Land. It is only by examining and understanding the past that the Christian community—and, indeed, all people of this land—can begin to move towards a future of justice and reconciliation. For Palestinian Christians, and those Christians who are now citizens of the state of Israel, the question of identity becomes even more complex. As this community continues to address identity crisis, it also questions what resources within its past can enable to it to construct a more just and hopeful future.

In addition to the question of identity, this conference provides an opportunity to address the ongoing refugee crisis which had its genesis in the Nakba. As Christians, we must face the challenge of finding a just resolution to the longest standing refugee crisis in the world today. This conference will provide an opportunity to hear directly from the refugees, and to explore options for a just and hopeful future for these Palestinians.

Sabeel believes that Christians are called to prophetically speak of justice and hope in the face of injustice and hopelessness. While memories of 1948 are often shocking and disturbing, the necessity of shining the light of justice and truth on the events of the past remains. By so doing, Sabeel hopes to forge a path from remembrance to justice and mercy and to challenge Christians and the global community to come to terms with 1948, to have a better understanding of the Palestinian Christian community inside the state of Israel, and to find a just solution to the refugee crisis.

The Questions
+ What truly happened in 1948, and what did the Nakba mean for Palestinians?
+ How have the events of 1948 shaped the complex identities of modern Palestinians and Israelis, and especially Christians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel?
+ Why has the refugee crisis remained unresolved for 60 years, and what can churches and the international community do to promote a just resolution of this situation?
+ How will the events of 1948 continue to effect the quest for a just peace in Palestine and Israel?
+ What do the events of 1948 reveal about injustice within Israel in addition to the injustice of the Occupation?
+ How can those who seek justice for Palestinians as well as Israelis face the truth of 1948 while moving beyond memory to justice and reconciliation?

The Forum
These are some of the questions we will address at our Seventh International Conference. A roster of respected theologians, academics and activists from around the world will gather in Nazareth and Jerusalem in November 2008 to lead panel discussions, lectures, workshops, bible study and worship. Participants from many countries and a variety of faith denominations will have an unparalleled opportunity to learn, share insights, and work together.

The Invitation
We invite you to be a part of this important conference through your financial support. Your generosity can enable us to:
- Organize and facilitate an international dialogue on these challenging questions
- Host prophetic speakers from around the world.
- Provide assistance to participants from developing countries.
- Publish the conference proceedings so that others may benefit from what has been learned.

To provide a tax-deductible financial contribution for this important international conference, mail your gift to Friends of Sabeel—North America with a note stating it is for the "7th International Conference." Mail to Friends of Sabeel, PO Box 9186, Portland, OR 97207.

For more information, email: or call: (972) 2-532-7136 in Jerusalem.

For prices and information about registration, etc., please go to

For questions, contact or

Air Travel:
You may arrange your own air travel or make flight arrangements through Shepherds Tours of Jerusalem:
Shepherds Tours
9 Azzahra Str.
P.O. Box 19560
Tel: 972-2-6284121
Fax: 972-2-6280251

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, subscribe at the blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace -

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Notes from the ‘Legacies of 1948’ Delegation

Interfaith Peace-Builders & American Friends Service Committee sent a delegation to Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories this season under the theme, "Legacies of 1948."

I certainly affirm these organizations' belief in the power of eye-witness experience and transformation. Given the opportunity to speak directly with Israelis and Palestinians, delegates return to the United States better informed, more energized, and with a deeper understanding of the possibilities for true justice in the Middle East.

I've added some links in the body of the text.

A series of reports have been posted at

Photos are posted online here:

I chose at random Report Four: Bethlehem – Reconciliation & Return

“No More”

Mad man, bruised heart
Runs from grave to grave
Slams into walls, checkpoints,
Concrete barriers,

Refugee from Galilee:
An army, a lethal legion,
High-tech handcuffs,
American guns,
Creatures of habit and fear
Occupying mad man’s soul.

“I am not afraid of this legion.”
Exorcist believes, risks, invites
Mad man out of the grave lands –
To touch, to feel, to see,
To eat, to care, to shake
Off the mad occupation!

Organize friends, break bread,
Gather popular committees,
Stop walls,
Insist on boycotts, return to villages,
Respect everybody, respect all,
Love, love, love,
Sit when bulldozers roar to destroy,
Build now, build, build.

“You are shaking off the occupation!”
Mind clears, heart heals
So it can break right now
And grow strong,
Occupied no more.

--Dave Grishaw-Jones
June 1, 2008, Palestine
Mark 5:1-20

Birthday Reflections from Bethlehem
June 2, 2008

June 2, celebrating my birthday in Bethlehem! Like all of our days, full of contradictions and intensely powerful experiences. Started out in Jerusalem heading to Bethlehem – long way around – our tour guide says we can’t go through the checkpoint on the most direct route. Did I mention that Israel and Palestine are full of barriers – real tangible walls like the Separation Wall – and intangible walls – fear and prejudice. On the road, I ask our guide to explain the permit system again; seven days here, I still can’t keep it straight. Israeli Palestinians have Israeli citizenship; and like all Israelis, cannot travel in the West Bank, Zones A and B. (Except the 450,000 settlers who live in the West Bank, they travel around, but on settler only streets). So, Palestinians in Israel cannot visit their family members in the West Bank. East Jerusalem
Palestinians need a permit to get into West Bank; but West Bank Palestinians cannot come into Jerusalem or Israel except with a permit, and authorities only rarely give permits. Still not sure I understand it; except the system seems designed to limit Palestinians in as many ways as possible. Maybe I am getting it?

Morning at the Wi’am Center []. Once again, I am in awe, in a land that has been under occupation for decades, we meet men and women who still talk about hope. The Center is an inspiration – we hear how the Center is working to teach conflict resolution skills, to offer classes and community support for children suffering from the trauma of living under Israeli occupation, to offer training to women. Our host talks about how mediation here is different than in other places. The occupation and the incredible barriers used to try to destroy Palestinian communities may stem from a political motivation –but the economic effects have devastating consequences for the family and community structures.

We head out to Manger Square for a tour of the Church of the Nativity and a visit to the Peace Center []. Bethlehem isn’t the only town in the West Bank where Christian and Muslims live and work together – but certainly it’s the most well known. Again and again, we see Palestinian Christians and Muslims sharing community. The relatively peaceful co-existence in the Palestinian towns is a stark contrast to the settlements that have spread out over many mountain tops, in which Israeli settlers live in isolated communities. Time and time again, I hear Palestinians say “we can live together, and have been doing so for hundreds of years” and ask “why can’t they (Israelis)?”

Later, we are walking through Dheisheh Refugee camp. By now, the Nakba story is familiar – but hearing it from the Palestinians in the camp is heartbreaking. “We were forced out of our homes often by force. We thought we would go back in a few days, or weeks. Sixty years, and for us there is no right to return.” Suheir, our host’s wife, was born in the camp, and has lived there all her life, now her children also have grown up in the camp. Later, we meet her mother-in-law Fatma who was forced out of her home in 1948. She relays her story of Nakba: “We saw what was happening in a village close by and we took the keys to our homes and left. We thought it would only be for a short time until things returned to normal.” Suheir and Naji describe life in the camp, the horrific period in 2002 when the camp was under curfew for 45 days. Fatma tells us how important the right of return is to her, even now, she says she would live without anything if she was given the chance to go back to her village.

I keep asking myself, how can we have three generations of refugees – and no real solution in sight? How can you live at Dheisheh, in the shadows of a large (and illegal) settlement and just a short distance from the homes and villages you were forced to leave, and maintain hope?

Much of what I had learned about Israel and Palestine was distorted by a false view that Israel was right and that Palestinians were wrong. But, Israeli children were not told about the Nakba until recently; we heard somewhat conflicting stories, but even teaching about the Green Line is new. The US, and other members of the international community, have all said that the settlements are wrong, illegal. Still, while Israel was talking “peace” it was steadily building up the settlements in the West Bank. The Separation Wall seems to be more about taking land from the West Bank and less about security. Much of the nonviolent protests by Palestinians
and the international community has been and is being met with brutal and unrelenting force. And, I have been overwhelmed by the hospitality and kindness I have received in Jerusalem and in the West Bank. “It is complicated,” is the refrain I hear from Palestinians, from Israelis.

As I head off to bed – across the street from the refugee camp – I replay the anger and frustrations of the Palestinians we have heard in these past few days and am amazed that they find some way to hold on to hope – that the world will see what has happened to them and that they are not a forgotten people. I am in awe of the courage and resilience I see at every turn. I am no less in awe of the Israelis we have met who have spoken out about the human rights abuses we have seen with courage. It cannot be easy to speak out against the home demolitions, the Separation Wall, the military protection for the illegal settlements; but there are many who
do. It takes courage to be on the front line – and be willing to speak out and perhaps be arrested for helping Palestinians secure access to their lands, but Rabbi Ascherman assures us he can and has. I hear the New Profile [] member’s challenge “There is more than one Israeli voice – one view. Don’t accept what’s happening in Israel without questioning it.”

What an incredible birthday; what an incredible new beginning in understanding the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

--Paula Roderick

“Brief Moments of Entire Lifetimes”

June 2, 2008

Our final stop of today was the Dheisheh refugee camp. This was a truly powerful experience. We were met with a tight-knit community that receives what few services it does from the UN and provides the rest itself on a volunteer basis. The community leaders we met are secular, political, socialist, and can easily navigate between anger at their constant state of dispossession to humbling warmth and hospitality. We were given harrowing firsthand accounts of Israeli occupation, brutality and insensitivity. We even heard from a survivor of the Nakba.

In fact, we were talked to so much that I felt brief moments of panic, as though the Occupation had descended upon me as some sort of immaterial weight, and I felt something like claustrophobia. I needed to get up and leave, see a different room from the one in which we spent a total of some three hours being lectured about refugees' suffering. I needed a different message, any message. I resisted this feeling, and these moments passed quickly when I focused on the speaker's humanity and individuality even within this massive stream of experiences of the occupied. On some level, perhaps, I saw a glimpse of what life under the Occupation is like.
I cannot imagine what it means for my brief moments to stretch out across entire lifetimes. On the other hand, I felt more like I was in a world where problems can be solved instead of normalized into constant fatalistic struggle when I was able to access the human behind the refugee. I do not think they would claim to be anything more than human, they just want to make sure we Americans know their stories since we never hear about them in the US.

The real tragedy of the Occupation is less the suffering alone and more that this suffering is imposed on human beings - who smile warmly, yell at their sons, tease their spouses and mothers, weep discreetly about the frustrations of the day. In other words, the Occupation and the Refugee crisis as political issues are something I can engage upon on an intellectual level and for which I can try to think of solutions and imagine my role in them. But when I see a human refugee, suffering in his or her own unique way from the Occupation, but also maintaining a humanity independent of the Occupation, then I can relate to and identify with the problem, and use this as my motivation for any role I might play in a solution.

We heard from no less than six speakers today, and to some degree it is difficult to differentiate between them. As I already mentioned, the constant and often repetitive discourse of suffering under the Occupation merged into a sometimes overwhelming stream but a few common themes emerged. First of all, every single person we talked to insisted that their vision for the region would be a single democratic state for all its people. All at some point or another emphasized that Jews would be welcome in this state, and some went on to say that the
enemy was Zionism and colonialism, not Judaism. They all assured us that the resistance would end if the Occupation were to end and these other conditions met. Maybe this is true, or maybe, as I'm sure some might say, they were just telling us what we wanted to hear. But at some point, after hearing this from Palestinian after Palestinian, it becomes increasingly difficult to declare them all liars in order to justify a paranoid xenophobic conviction that everyone's out to kill us, to which we seem to have become all too attached.

It's hard for me to think of us in this delegation as a resource to these disenfranchised Palestinians, and I feel extremely self conscious about using any of their resources. But they host us so well. Our stay at the Phoenix Center in Dheisheh was evidence that they have accommodations specifically for this kind of delegation. Hopefully we can live up to the hospitality we receive from the destitute, and give back to them by giving them a voice in a world that is not listening.

--Yotam Amit
[A longer version of Yotam’s piece was originally posted here:]

“Mother of God”

They beat my children, she cries,
Fire in her eyes, her voice throwing sparks.
I don’t see any moment in my life
Without suffering.
I can’t breathe good.
She’s breathing fire.

I spend three hours, waiting in the sun,
At checkpoints; huge dogs, baring teeth,
Sniff me up and down, my children,
They watch. I am a human being, she says
And she says it again, I am a human being.

Can you imagine my children’s problems?

I am a refugee. All I think about.
It is no life.
She walks on shards of glass
Through unlit alleys –
And her children too.
I need a safe place for my children.

Why does Herod still rage
After Mary’s children
In Bethlehem?

--Dave Grishaw-Jones
June 2, Dheisheh Refugee Camp, near Bethlehem in Palestine

Join a delegation to Israel/Palestine
Upcoming delegation dates: July 26 - August 9, 2008
November 8 - 22, 2008
March 7 - 21, 2009

Interfaith Peace-Builders
1326 9th St., NW
Washington, DC 20001
phone: 202.244.0821

--- ---- ----

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, subscribe at the blog, A Texas Lutheran'sVoice for Peace -

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

News from Bright Stars of Bethlehem

News from Bright Stars of Bethlehem -

Bright Stars Summer Academy

"Fulfill Your Dreams" ("Khale Helmak Iyser Hakeka" in Arabic) is the theme for this year's Bright Stars Summer Academy, run by the International Center of Bethlehem through the Dar al-Kalima School and the Dar Al-Kalima Health & Wellness Center.

Between 250 and 300 girls and boys, ages 6-16, are expected to participate in clubs and activities during the 4 weeks of the Summer Academy, which runs from June 23rd - July 19th. The Academy meets from 8:30-12:30, five days a week, with day-trips around the Bethlehem area on Thursdays.

Kids ages 6-8 participate in selected activities like swimming, painting, handcrafts, drama, games, sports, computers and storytelling.

Older kids and youth, ages 9-16, choose the clubs they join, according to their talents and interests. This year, the clubs being offered are:

Sports: volleyball, basketball, swimming, table tennis, soccer, karate, unicycling

Arts & Crafts: painting, handcrafts, filmmaking, computer and graphic design, animation, puppet-making

Fine Arts: creative writing, music (flute), drama, Latin dance

Participants pay a modest fee (about $40) to enroll their children in the Academy, but this only covers about a quarter of the actual program cost. The rest is subsidized by donations and the BSB Scholarship Fund.

Scholarships for Bright Stars

The Bright Stars Program for Children & Youth runs year-round, providing opportunities for young people to pursue their interests and hone their talents, under the guidance of local professionals and visiting experts. During the academic year, students are involved in the Bright Stars and Extra-Curricular Program (ECP) clubs, and have the option of attending the Bright Stars Summer Academy in June and July. This year 628 children participated in these programs. Hundreds of applications are received each year from parents who want their children to have the opportunity to explore their creative abilities, but due to limits on space and funding, many bright children are turned away.

You can help the Bright Stars Program keep program costs affordable while expanding its capacity to include more eager, talented young people in its academic-year programming! The Bright Stars of Bethlehem Scholarship Fund offers you a way to make a personal connection with the people of Bethlehem by matching you with a Bright Stars student. As a scholarship provider, giving $30 a month, you will create a place for a child in this wonderful program. You will also receive a short biography and photo of your student, and updates on them twice a year.

Please click here now for more information on this important outreach ministry and how to help make a bright star shine brighter!

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, subscribe at the blog, A Texas Lutheran'sVoice for Peace -

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gaza cease-fire welcome, prompts cautious optimism; Evolving politics around Jerusalem

Churches for Middle East peace has issued this e-mail memo: Gaza Cease-Fire Welcome; Prompts Cautious Optimism

See the complete text online

June 19, 2008
By Warren Clark, Executive Director

The cease-fire arrangement that went into effect today between Israel and Hamas is a welcome development and cause for cautious optimism. Months of rocket attacks, military responses and border blockades have made life for the people of Gaza and the residents of southern Israel intolerable and have undermined progress on the Annapolis peace process. While the cease-fire is fragile, it is undoubtedly the best option to end the violence and enable progress on the diplomatic front.

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) has consistently called for a cease-fire, an end to the blockade and a solution to the border crossings that meets Israel's security needs and allows the return of economic life to Gaza. CMEP has commended the fifty-two Members of Congress, lead by Rep. David Price (D-NC) and Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), who sent a letter to President Bush in May urging efforts to end the crisis in southern Israel and Gaza and re-energize the Annapolis process.

Work must now be done to ensure that the cease-fire holds and that the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza is rapidly alleviated. Issues related to the border crossings - both facilitating the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza and preventing the smuggling of weapons - will need to be resolved. These efforts can help normalize daily life for both Palestinians and Israelis and are integral to creating a climate conducive to peacemaking.

The United States provided quiet support for the cease-fire negotiations, which were brokered by Egypt. It should now help to strengthen and preserve the current arrangement and use the opportunity of the calm to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. Ending Gaza's isolation must ultimately pave the way toward the unity of the Palestinian people that will be necessary for a viable state living in peace with Israel.

The Gaza cease-fire, together with Israeli overtures towards Syria and Lebanon, also of uncertain prospect, are all related to the ongoing talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) set in motion last November at Annapolis. Any meaningful agreement will require addressing a host of thorny issues, not least of which is the Palestinian political schism between Hamas in Gaza and the PA in the West Bank. No one can know whether or how these divides can be breached, but it seems that hopes for progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement remain alive and are in some way spurring regional diplomatic efforts that have not been seen for a long time.

Background Resources:

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing -
Tom Casey, Washington, DC, June 18, 2008

Secretary-General welcomes Israel/Gaza cessation of violence -
United Nations, June 18, 2008

Gaza truce takes hold, skepticism abounds –
Ibrahim Barzak, Associated Press, June 19, 2008

As Israeli Siege Strangles Gaza Strip, Hamas, Smugglers Profit Off Tunnels –
Griff Witte, The Washington Post, June 18, 2008

Reason to Believe? –
Joharah Baker, Miftah, June 18, 2008

Ten Comments on the Gaza Cease-Fire and What Next –
Daniel Levy, Prospects for Peace Blog, June 17, 2008

CMEP Policy

CMEP Commends 52 Reps. for Letter to Bush Urging Efforts to Re-Energize Annapolis Process –
May 15, 2008

Heads of Churches on Gaza Crisis, Ahead of Sec. Rice's Mideast Trip –
February 29, 2008

CMEP Writes Sec. Rice on Gaza Crisis –
January 23, 2008

--- --- ---

An earlier lengthy memo from Churches for Middle East Peace deals with Jerusalem: Evolving Politics Around a Holy City. For the complete text, please go to

June 13, 2008
By Warren Clark and Julie Schumacher Cohen

It is common for the issue of Jerusalem to become a political football on the presidential campaign trail. The latest iteration was Sen. Barack Obama's remarks on June 4th to an American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference when he said, "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." This episode evoked controversy, clarifications and responses that show the evolving nature of how Jerusalem is viewed and debated by the American public and in the political arena.

Churches for Middle East Peace has long supported the U.S. policy that Jerusalem is a "final status issue" to be negotiated and calls for the city to be shared by Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims. As the church leaders in the Holy Land said in a September 2006 statement, "In God's own design, two peoples and three religions have been living together in this city. Our vision is that they should continue to live together in harmony, respect, mutual acceptance and cooperation."

For more see Obama and McCain on Jerusalem: In Their Own Words at the CMEP website:

As the campaign season heats up, advocates should hold their candidates accountable on issues that matter to them. CMEP will be communicating with both presidential candidates over the summer and into the fall and providing advocacy guidance, building on our August 2007 Board and Leadership Council letter -

"Insofar as she is the homeland of the hearts of all the spiritual descendants of Abraham, who hold her very dear, and the place where, according to faith, the created things of earth encounter the infinite transcendence of God, Jerusalem stands out as a symbol of coming together, of union, and of peace for the human family."-Pope John Paul II (April, 1984)

For more information on Jerusalem, go to CMEP's Shared Jerusalem Resource Center:

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

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

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, subscribe at the blog, A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace -

Friday, June 20, 2008

Family of Palestinian killed by Israeli security guards donates his organs to save six Israelis

Our group was in Bethlehem's Deheishe refugee camp just days ago and watched from a rooftop as Israeli soldiers circled a house with jeeps, shooting tear gas as well as rubber bullets and live ammunition. Up to 11 Palestinians were reported injured. The news report below describing the outcome of a similar event a few weeks ago resonates deeply with me. Ann

This is from Ma'an News Agency: "Family of Palestinian killed by Israeli security guards donates his organs to save six Israelis" -

June 20, 2008 Bethlehem - Ma’an - The family of an 18-year-old Palestinian civilian, who died after being shot by Israeli security guards a few weeks ago, have donated his organs to save the lives of six Israelis.

Patient "A" was clinically dead when he was transferred to the intensive care unit in Shiba medical center in Tel Hashomeir. But doctors were unable to resuscitate him.

The Hebrew daily newspaper Ma’ariv reported that his family decided to donate his organs to those who needed them, regardless of their race, religion or identity.

The National Center for Organ Transplants promised to keep information concerning his identity confidential for the safety of his family who live in the Palestinian Authority area. The families of the recipients were told about the identity of the donor but have also agreed to keep the information confidential, according to the newspaper.

On Wednesday evening the Patient "A"'s father had an emotional meeting with the patient who received his son’s heart. Patient "A"'s father described his son as "a great person who was loved by everyone. He was big-hearted and I didn’t hesitate to donate his organs to needy patients, even though he was killed by Israeli security guards.”

“At first it was hard for me, but God inspired me to take the right decision to help the patients by donating my son’s organs. I’m happy with this decision and I don’t differentiate between Jews and Arabs. All I care about is saving people's lives. That’s why I didn’t ask about the patients' identities,” he added.

Ma'an News Agency:

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, subscribe at the blog, A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace -

Monday, June 9, 2008

News from the Diyar Consortium, Bethlehem

Pastor Mitri Raheb of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem shared a couple of news items. The various ministries of the International Center of Bethlehem have been restructured to form the Diyar Consortium.

-- --

Salaam from Bethlehem. We would like to share with you our most recent exciting news that motivate us to continue the work that we do, empowering and encouraging the local community to believe that we have a life and can live it abundantly. But first, we would like to invite you to visit our newest website, that of Diyar Consortium, which reflects the current development and progress of our work. Please go to: [Ann's note: Take some time to explore this web site. Click on "About" and then "History" for an explanation of the ministries and the restructuring.]

Our news are summarized in the following 2 items:

Last week, it was announced that Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb has received the prestigious Aachen Award for Peace. The award ceremony will take place on September 1, 2008 in Germany. This prize is given to individuals and organizations that have worked tirelessly for peace on the grassroots level. Receiving this award, as you will see when visiting the website, has stirred an extraordinary media attention and coverage, especially in Germany. To read more about this item, please visit the website:

Bethlehem has hosted during this week one of the largest conferences ever held in the city, the Palestine Investment Conference where 2000 people from different parts of the world attended. It was a highlight in a number of ways to the city of Bethlehem and Palestine at large. However, the proud moment for us as Diyar Consortium was the fact that when the organizers of the conference thought of how to present the best of Palestine to the guests, immediately they thought of us. Diyar's work was manifested and presented on 3 occasions during this 3-day conference:

· Each guest was presented with a memento of Palestine, which was our own silver olive leaf. The leaf was designed by the ICB and produced by our students to be distributed to every participant.

· On the first opening day, a short film screening entitled "Eye on Palestine" was held. At the end of the film, the ICB appeared twice, together with its logo and some of its activities.

· At the last evening of the conference when the big banquet was held at Manger Square, the Dar al-Kalima School choir and band were asked to present melodies that presented the culture of Palestine and the spirit of Bethlehem. Our music teacher, Miriam, did a great job with the live music, and the children were wonderful. A great response was received from the audience.

We are glad that the work that we have been doing is bearing fruits locally and receiving recognition both nationally and internationally. Thank you for being part of this success story.


Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb
Diyar Consortium

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, subscribe at the blog, A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace -

Friday, June 6, 2008

Statement of concerned Christians and Jews calling for all politicians to disassociate themselves from Pastor John Hagee

The Rev. John Hubers, a PhD candidate at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, is circulating an important petition calling on concerned Christians and Jews to sign on indicating their opposition to the views of Pastor John Hagee.

Simply go to the "speakout on hagee" blog site, scroll down and click on "comments" to sign:

Here is the text:

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Statement from Concerned Christians and Jews About the Extremist Views of Pastor John Hagee

Dear friend,

As people of faith we have been deeply concerned with the extremist ideology of Pastor John Hagee and his organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI). The latest revelation of Pastor Hagee's claim that the Antichrist is Jewish, makes us believe we need to speak out to let our voices of protest be heard.

What we are asking is that all politicians follow the lead of Senator McCain to disassociate themselves from Pastor Hagee and CUFI, noting that the extremist views he represents are not representative of the great majority of the American public, and certainly not of the great majority of Christians and Jews.

We are asking that you join your voices with ours in "signing" this statement to be published this week on a prominent blogsite.

To let your voice be heard simply click on the "comments" link below (with the number in front). When you get in you'll see a box for "comments." In this box put your name, title and/or address. Sign in as "anonymous" unless you have a google account. That's all. No need for comments. Your signature is comment enough. Please do so ASAP as we want to publish this by the end of June.

Thanks for speaking out!

The Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism

A Statement from Concerned Christians and Jews

Psalm 122 – Pray for the peace of Jerusalem

As Jewish and Christian leaders and members of worshiping communities in the United States, we write to address the ongoing controversy surrounding Pastor John Hagee. We are concerned by the content of his statements, his organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), and the theological ideology of Christian Zionism underlying both.

We have concluded that John Hagee is a poor representative of how faith can inform discernment regarding public life and discourse surrounding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It is regrettable that any public figure would choose to be associated with Pastor Hagee or his organization, CUFI. We were surprised to learn that three elected officials are scheduled to speak at CUFI's upcoming "Washington-Israel Summit": Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY), and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT). We call on each of these elected officials to disassociate themselves from the extremist views of Pastor Hagee and withdraw from this event.

We feel they should do so for the following reasons:

Pastor Hagee has claimed that supporting the State of Israel is "God's foreign policy." But his work to support the State of Israel does little than ensure that Israel's conflict with the Palestinians and its other Arab neighbors will continue into perpetuity given his adamant opposition to a negotiated peace.

He prays for the peace of Jerusalem, but not its shalom, as he looks forward instead to the false peace established through a treaty offered by the Antichrist, whom, we now know,Pastor Hagee believes must himself be a Jew.

Just as his ideology blames Jewish unbelief in Jesus for their centuries of suffering at the hands of Christians and provides a simplistic justification for the Holocaust (also based on Jewish intransigence), Pastor Hagee has again found a way to blame Jews for their own demise . . . this time at the hands of their self-supplied Antichrist.

In this political season, Pastor Hagee's radical views were first exposed by his description of the Roman Catholic Church as a "false cult system" that is the "Great Whore" of Revelation 17 and 18. Ignored in most media coverage of this controversy was the fact that these attacks on Catholicism were central to Pastor Hagee's ideological Christian Zionism.

Pastor Hagee's support for the State of Israel is at the expense of many others, including the Roman Catholic Church. Now, it has become clearer than ever before that Pastor Hagee's support for the State of Israel comes even at the expense of Jews.

As CUFI sought to expand its congressional influence, Rep. Betty McCollum (DFL-MN) wrote that Hagee’s public comments “demonstrate extremism, bigotry and intolerance that is repugnant.” We agree.

Signed by: ... to see the signatories go to the blog site:

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, subscribe at the blog, A Texas Lutheran'sVoice for Peace -

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Pastor Arland Jacobson's travel report

Pastor Arland Jacobson of the Charis Center in Moorhead - - led a group visiting the Holy Land over Orthodox Holy Week. They arrived back in Minneapolis Monday the 5th. Courtesy of Charles Lutz, here are (slightly abridged) reflection highlights from Arland, shared May 7. I've added some links. Thank you, Arland, for your thoughts.

Beginning with the positive... I was honored to concelebrate mass at the Melkite Catholic Church in Bethlehem and to assist in the baptism of the grandson of Micheal Zoughbi on Sunday, April 27. The priest kindly helped me in negotiating the Arabic service, asking me to read a number of parts in English.

This was the second time I have done this. Melkites are an Eastern Rite church using a somewhat abbreviated version of the Orthodox liturgy of Chrysostom; they are in communion with Rome, but maintain a number of Orthodox traditions (e.g., a married clergy).

Our group included three Egyptian-Americans with American passports, one of whom was detained by Israeli security for FIVE hours at the Allenby Bridge crossing. I sat with the three helplessly while the young Israelis, mostly young women, VERY slowly processed us and a few other detainees for hours for no apparent reason. We were never told why. I was questioned as well. The rest of the group continued while we were detained; we took a taxi later to meet them in Jerusalem.

I came away with two main impressions. First, the Christians we met with (Melkite Archbishop of Galilee, Elias Chacour; Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan; Lutheran pastor Mitri Raheb; director of the Wi'am Center for Non-violent Conflict Resolution, Zoughbi Zoughbi; and ELCA pastor Mark Holman) took the same basic point of view, with varying accents. Namely, we refuse to be defined by our victimhood, and to wallow in pity or resentment; we will maintain a defiant hope despite the enormous obstacles presented by the Israeli occupation; and we will be non-violent, but very active in doing constructive work on behalf of our people.

One of my biggest surprises was a visit to Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem -

On the previous visit, the elderly head man graciously hosted us, but talked only of the problems they had. Now, a new generation of (almost certainly Muslim) young men has taken over. They are organizing dozens of groups of youth, women, and the elderly to do things for themselves. [For more see] The change in spirit was stunning. I wonder if they have been inspired by the work of Mitri Raheb, who is developing an amazing number of programs and institutions that are progressive and effective in helping the community.

My second impression was negative. All these wonderful and brave efforts, while improving the lives of people living under occupation, are doing nothing to change the basic situation. Israel's apartheid system is getting solidified, and talk of some kind of peace agreement by the end of the year is totally meaningless (even if it happens). It is not just the Wall, ugly and horrible as it is. Israel is developing myriad ways to keep Israeli Jews and West Bank Palestinians separate and grossly unequal--roads, walls, fences, checkpoints, systems of "justice," etc. They use whichever of the at least five systems of law (Ottoman, British, Jordanian, Israeli military, Israeli civil) that works to their benefit--or simply change the laws to suit them.

It is clear to me that Israel's intention from the very beginning (i.e., pre-1948 on) has been the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, the takeover of every possible inch of land in the West Bank, and a deliberate policy of making life as miserable as possible for Palestinians. The idea of trying to suppress "terrorism" or resistance by helping to BUILD Palestinian society and to develop collaborately has NEVER been Israel's aim, though it would have been much more effective than the brutal and racist system they are using. The number of Palestinian CHILDREN killed since the beginning of the second Intifada began in Sept. 2000 has now climbed past 1,000!

While we were there, Israel was in the process of destroying an orphanage in Hebron serving 240 children because the organization running it supposedly provided funding for a group Israel doesn't like. [news report at] Israel stole $157,000 worth of goods (including rice, oil, sugar, clothing, etc.) from the organization's warehouse, destroyed the oven in their bakery, etc. The theft of land continues unabated, as does the rape of the land (the destruction of olive and other orchards, the flattening of hills, the destruction of ancient terraces).

Israel has no interest in peace, except the "peace" of submission to systemic and brutal oppression, the "peace" of death and of apathetic resignation. But Israel is smart: its apartheid system is one of slowly choking Palestinian life to death, mostly avoiding the blatant (and now largely forgotten) massacres and forced evacuations of 1947-48 and 1967. It loves the "peace process" because it presents to the world the mask of peaceful intentions, but it has no interest whatever--absolutely none--in doing what would be necessary for real peace with justice. Only extreme pressure from the U.S. is likely to make any difference, and I see no prospect of that from any of the presidential candidates, certainly not McCain or Clinton.

One more thing. Extreme pro-Israel groups in this country put out detailed accounts of how Palestinian schools are promoting hatred of Israel. But the principal of the Lutheran K-12 school in Bethlehem pointed out that Israel has to approve the curricula used in Palestinian schools (just as they control everything else), so the notion that Palestinian school curricula are promoting hatred is highly unlikely (which is not to say such hatred does not exist). Perhaps reports are based on curricula no longer in use.

Meanwhile, Israel's children are told in their schools that the whole land was given them by God, so Palestinians are wrongfully occupying the land. The vast majority of Israelis generally have not an inkling of what life is like for Palestinians, and an apartheid system insures that they will remain blissfully ignorant of anything except Palestinian resistance, always branded as "terrorism."

Inspired as I was by the Christians we met, I came away in despair, not only for Palestinians but for the hollowed hearts of Israeli Jews like the ones who detained a young Egyptian-American woman at the Allenby Bridge, or the ones who kill Palestinian children, bulldoze Palestinian homes (with residents sometimes still in them), or humiliate Palestinians at the many checkpoints within the West Bank and between the West Bank and Israel. Military occupation corrodes the hearts of those who enforce it as much as it does those who are its victims, making ever more unlikely any deviation from the present disastrous course.


--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, subscribe at the blog, A Texas Lutheran'sVoice for Peace -

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Smith's "Toward a Lutheran Response to Christian Zionism" and more....

I have already pointed to Robert Smith's article on Christian Zionism, "Toward a Lutheran Response to Christian Zionism," cited by ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson at the Churches for Middle East Peace conference earlier this spring in Washington, D.C.

Here is the link to Smith's full article at the ELCA's Peace Not Walls web site -

Smith is continental desk director for Europe and the Middle East in ELCA Global Mission.

I'll quote this portion:

"The most highly informed Palestinian responses to Christian Zionism have originated with Palestinian Christians, especially those with close ties to North American Christian communities. (40) The most consistent Palestinian Christian engagement with Christian Zionism has been from Munib A. Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). In January 2003, the ELCJHL newsletter noted the fact that Bishop Younan, speaking to a Danish newspaper, had declared Christian Zionism to be a heresy: “I hereby declare that Christian Zionism is not only a sick theology but it is a heresy, right along with Arianism and Nestorianism and others. I believe it is time we named this misinterpretation of Christ and the gospel for what it is.” The newsletter identified three objectionable aspects to Christian Zionism, including 1) its promotion of Jesus “not as the Savior but as a military general,” 2) its treatment of Jewish people simply as “characters … in the so-called final battle,” and 3) as “anti-justice, anti-peace, anti-reconciliation.” (41) Bishop Younan was one of the four signatories of the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, issued in August 2006 by the Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches in Jerusalem.42 In May 2007, Bishop Younan published a major article on the theological and political implications of Christian Zionism in The Journal of Lutheran Ethics, an online publication of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.43 Bishop Younan seeks to proclaim his understanding that “My Jesus is never the Jesus of the sword. My Jesus is the Jesus of the cross.”

The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism can be found at the web page of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land -

This link takes you to The Journal of Lutheran Ethics -

For all the best info on Christian Zionism go to

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, subscribe at the blog, A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace -