Friday, August 29, 2008

International theological consultation on Israel/Palestine

Let's pay attention and gather our prayers for an upcoming international theological consultation on Israel/Palestine to be held Sept. 10-14 in Bern, Switzerland. The event is organized by the World Council of Churches.

The text of the news release is below. I'm especially taken by the phrase, "the Gospel imperative for costly solidarity." What a concept!

Here's a link to more info:

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Around 65 theologians and church representatives from member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC), theological faculties and regional ecumenical organizations will gather in Bern, Switzerland, from 10 to 14 September 2008, in order to reflect on issues such as the “Promised Land”, “the Church and Israel” and “Justice and Peace”.

The consultation, hosted by the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches and the Reformed Churches in Bern-Jura-Solothurn, is organized by the WCC in the framework of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF), which was launched at an International Peace Conference in Amman, Jordan, in June 2007, as the cornerstone of a comprehensive ecumenical advocacy initiative on the Middle East. Delivered at the end of the June 2007 Conference, the Amman Call reminds us that this initiative has been taken in response to three fundamental imperatives that call us to action:

- The ethical and theological imperative for a Just Peace
- The ecumenical imperative for unity in action
- The Gospel imperative for costly solidarity

The Amman Call also states that the “peace building” track will include “furthering theological and biblical perspectives and Christian education resources around those issues central to the conflict.” To this end, the consultation will address theological and biblical issues related to the conflict in Palestine/Israel.

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Full text of the Amman Call -

WCC Programme “Churches in the Middle East: solidarity and witness for peace” -

Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches -

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

My review of The Lemon Tree in the Dallas Peace Times

This summer the Dallas Peace Times invited me to write a review of Sandy Toland's 2006 book, The Lemon Tree, and I was happy to do it. You can find the review at this web link:

It's a big pdf file, so scroll ahead to page 9. You can also go to the archived newsletters and click on July 2008:

I'll put the text here too:

The Lemon Tree – An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East, by Sandy Tolan (2006, Bloomsbury Publishing).

I have been recommending Sandy Tolan’s book, The Lemon Tree, since its publication in 2006. I was completely engrossed reading the book, and I will continue to urge everyone interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to discover its fascinating story. The Lemon Tree offers a remarkable witness to the power of empathy and reconciliation.

In 1988 someone gave me a photocopy of “A Letter to a Deportee,” an opinion piece that outlined the friendship between two people - a Palestinian and an Israeli - who each grew up in the same house in Ramle, Israel. The Lemon Tree expands that story, detailing the history of Jews and Arabs in Israel through the experiences of the two families. It provides a unique lens for seeing the events of the region from 1936 to 2005.

My bookshelf is full of books about the lands of Palestine and Israel and that pivotal struggle between their people. The Lemon Tree is different. I hope everyone who reads it can be as willing as these two people to explore the truth behind they myths they were taught and the personal experiences that color their understanding.

Dalia Eshkenazi Landau, whose family came to Israel from Bulgaria, calls it a “strange destiny” that linked her family with that of Bashir Khairi, Palestinian refugees living in Ramallah. Their connection revolved around the house in Ramle (Al Ramla in Arabic) built by Bashir’s father, where Bashir lived until the family fled before the advancing Israeli army in 1948. Dalia’s immigrant family moved into the house a few months later, and she grew up there.

Toland’s book details the background of each of the families: the Khairi’s prominent position in Al Ramla, the Eshkenazi’s breathtaking escape from the Holocaust, and the unbelievable misery of Palestinian refugees.

The entire Arab population of Al Ramla was forcibly driven from their homes. The expulsion order came from the top of Israeli military command. The city was sacked and its citizens – judged to be about 30,000 - sent east by bus or on foot. The Khairi family and all the others from Ramle and Lydda believed they would be allowed to return to their homes in a matter of weeks. That never happened, and readers learn that it was never intended. European immigrants sent by bus to Ramle found an empty city.

The key meeting of two children of these events took place 19 years later when Bashir was allowed to travel to Ramle. He approached his family’s house and rang the bell. Dalia answered the door. His approach and her openness led to the dialogue which has lasted almost 40 years.

The house itself is a central character in the story, and as we read we come to know its contours, its garden and symbolic lemon tree. We long for a solution that will allow everyone to enjoy its beauty and peace and somehow translate into a larger peace for the region and all the people.
Dalia wrote, “The house with which our childhood memories were connected forced us to face each other.” She went on, “I appeal to both Palestinians and Israelis to understand that the use of force will not resolve this conflict on its fundamental level. This is the kind of war that no one can win, and either both peoples will achieve liberation or neither will. Our childhood memories, your and mine, are intertwined in a tragic way. If we can not find means to transform that tragedy into a shared blessing, our clinging to the past will destroy our future.”

The relationship was always warm but never easy. While Dalia learned Bashir’s history and the truth about her own, she struggled with his absolute commitment to the right of expelled Palestinians to return to their homes. Bashir sought to understand but could not accept Dalia’s sense that the house in Ramle and the land of Israel are truly home to her as well.

While Dalia and Bashir have not succeeded in reconciling their ideological positions, they decided to share their home with a purpose. Bashir sought to bring joy to the Arab children of Ramle. Dalia’s dream was a center where Jews and Arabs can engage in reconciliation, seeking justice and loving-kindness. Now Open House is a preschool for less advantaged Arab children and a community center.

Open House provides a witness as solid as the stone house to the power of dreaming together in spite of differences that cannot be completely healed, division brought about by real and telling life experiences.

When I visited Open House several years ago, I traveled to Ramle with a couple of my oldest Israeli friends, zionists who came to Palestine 15 years before Dalia’s family. They live today on rural land that once belonged to neighboring Arab villages. The ironies and dissonance of the Israeli/Palestinian story never cease.

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Here are some more links to info about The Lemon Tree:

"Frontline" -
NPR's All Things Considered, Books -
NPR's Fresh Air -

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Friday, August 22, 2008

EAPPI summer newsletter: 60 Years of Palestinian Nakba – It’s Time for Palestine

The summer newsletter is available from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). Find it at this link:

The EAPPI is an initiative of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Learn about another WCC initative, International Church Action for Peace in Palestine and Israel (ICAPPI) at this link:

Here is the EAPPI newsletter's top story:

June-August 2008
Number 24

60 Years of Palestinian Nakba – It’s Time for Palestine
International Church Action for Peace in Palestine and Israel: 4-10 June 2008

15 May 2008 marked the sixtieth commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba or the “catastrophe” in which 711,000 Palestinians lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict (a number that has risen to more than 4.6 million refugees today due to natural population growth).1 Although the Nakba events were small compared to the large celebrations of the establishment of the State of Israel, demonstrations and vigils were held in towns across the West Bank as well as abroad. Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) participated in the release of 21,915 black balloons (one for each day since the Nakba) over the skies of Jerusalem.2

The World Council of Churches initiative – International Church Action for Peace in Palestine and Israel (ICAPPI) – was successfully launched in Jerusalem with an Ecumenical Peace service on 4 June. The service used a prayer from the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem asking for political leaders to be “courageous enough to sign a treaty … that puts an end to the occupation imposed by one people on another, granting freedom to Palestinians, giving security to Israelis and freeing us all from fear.” [Find the prayer at this link:]

EAs also participated in the ‘Living Clock’1 on Manger Square in Bethlehem where each person symbolised a year or a letter in the sentence: It’s time for Palestine and contributed to an ICAPPI blog on the WCC website. In its third year, ICAPPI brought together 40 countries in a week of advocacy and action for a just peace in Palestine and Israel.


There's lots more in the full July-August newsletter. To read newsletters from EAPPI, go to:

For eyewitness reports from accompaniers, go to the home page:

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

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Report from On Holy Ground trip featured at ELCA blog Hunger Rumblings

Sue Edison-Swift posted this message to the ELCA World Hunger blog, Hunger Rumblings, in July 2008 -

Sue writes:
My husband, Paul, and I recently returned from a trip to Jordan, Israel, Palestine, and Egypt. There were 21 of us related somehow to St. Luke's Lutheran in Park Ridge, Illinois, traveling "On Holy Ground" together.

We had the time and the leadership to
(1) encounter people and groups representing many perspectives/views/sides of the issues;
(2) visit important Lutheran places and people at Augusta Victoria Hospital and Resurrection Lutheran in Jerusalem, St. Andrews in Cairo, and Christmas Lutheran in Bethlehem and others;
(3) experience the holy places and churches; and
(4) do some fun, touristy stuff like visit Petra and take a bob in the dead sea.

Our group had regular meetings to prepare for the trip and we've had our first meeting
to debrief and prepare for post trip. We talked about how we answer the question, "How was your trip?" We came up with words like engaging... enraging... enlightening... and others less
alliterative. We admitted that we couldn't yet really answer "How was the trip?" for ourselves,
much less for others. Most of us just answer "It was great!" and promise ourselves to work on a
better answer for the next time.

I invite you to visit our photo journal at -- [contact Sue for the password at].

And, if you or your congregation is planning a trip to the Holy Land, I heartily encourage you embrace a "Peace Not Walls" itinerary and to visit Lutheran "holy ground" places like those I mention above. I happen to know that, as I type, someone is attending New Global Mission Personnel Training who will be charged with helping travelers to the Holy Land accomplish these very things. Until we have direct contact information, please call 800/638-3522, ext. 2654 or 2117.

By the way, our trip was great, blessings on top of blessings. Sue-s

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Visit to see all the postings (they're great!). Scroll down on the left-hand column and find a spot to sign up to receive new postings via e-mail.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Russ Siler: "When was the last time you got someone to change his mind by yelling at him?"

Lutheran Pastor Russ Siler's series continues since his return to the USA from Jerusalem. This one arrived in June, but it's very worthwhile now.

Not From Jerusalem # 11
16 June 2008

Some years ago a friend and I were discussing the circumstances under which people change their minds. Aware that I had been known to get fairly loud and forceful in expressing my own opinions, he asked, “When was the last time you got someone to change his mind by yelling at him?” With a small sheepish grin, I responded, “That would be never.” That bit of wisdom is on my mind every time I sit at the keyboard to write one of these periodic letters or any other presentation on the subject. It is also uppermost in my thinking when I offer public seminars and workshops on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All of us—almost without exception—are prone to react emotionally to the subject, often to the extent that the content of what we hear is obscured or even ignored. All of which is why I try to emphasize to those to whom I am speaking that what I say or present is entirely what I have seen, experienced, or learned. Obviously, I have strong opinions on the issues, but what I want my hearers to do is listen, read, and learn, and then form their own opinions. Verbal force—just as physical force—may alter behavior, but it will not change attitudes and opinions in a positive direction. So I often place before others ideas and propositions which require all of us to think beyond our preconceived notions, images, and stereotypes.

For example when the subject of Iran and its potential for producing nuclear weapons arises, I may ask if the fact that Israel has a substantial stockpile of nuclear weapons and the capability to deliver them might act as a motivator for Iran to counter with its own such weapons. From there we might move to the fact that the United States has engaged in a kind of international, diplomatic word game with Israel which goes something like this: “If you don’t state publicly that you have nuclear weapons, we will act as if you don’t have them. OK?” And the “game” has now gone on for more than 50 years. Let me be clear: the fact of Israel’s nuclear arsenal should not determine how the rest of the world should treat Iran, but, if we are to make sound decisions which involve the welfare of countless millions of people, we should consider all the facts available to us.

Again, I recently was told that it is a “sin” to term the dispossession of the Palestinian peoples from their homes in 1948 a nakba [or naqba] , the Arabic word for “catastrophe.” The pronouncement came within an episode of written “shouting” in my direction. There was no attempt to share a differing point of view, just a desire to overpower me with one perspective rather than work to see if we might find points of concurrence from which we could proceed to greater understanding. My point is not that we both must agree, but that, if any progress toward a just peace is to be made, we will both understand these two parallel phenomena: Israel, many of the world’s Jews, and much of the rest of the world celebrate the events of 1948, marking the founding of the state of Israel, as a great, positive watershed development; at the exact same time Palestinians, other Arabs, and many in the international community look to that year as a time of grievous injustice, and the intervening years as having compounded what is seen as an international tragedy. We must not only realize that there are two diametrically opposite recollections of the same sequence of events; we must also understand what brought Israelis and Palestinians into such a fierce conflict.

For several generations people have been told of the vicious attack on the fledgling Israel by Arab forces immediately at the declaration of statehood in May 1948. Yet there is another perspective. Even Israeli historians today disclose that official pre-state records and files maintained by leaders of the national movement give ample evidence that there was far more to the situation than that: these now-open records show that para-military operations, marked by fear and terror tactics, long preceded the 1948 war. Our approach must not be to see which side can shout its version the loudest, but to acknowledge that there conflicting viewpoints which must be reviewed honestly and resolved with integrity.

There are three things I would ask of each of us:
1. Keep telling everyone you can that there are stories of two peoples—not one—written in the soil of the Holy Land.
2. Even while you are telling the neglected story, remember to listen to the concerns of those who stand opposite you.
3. Refuse to allow others to stifle the strong witness for peace with justice by raising concerns that we will be misunderstand and our relationships will suffer.

If we do not stand with courage in behalf of justice for those who are oppressed, I cannot see that we have anything left which will be worth standing for.

Russell O. Siler, Retired

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Father Chacour in the Metro Lutheran: Christian Palestinians are an essential part of the Holy Land solution

The Metro Lutheran, newspaper of Lutherans in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, ran a feature story in its July issue profiling Father Elias Chacour of I'billin in Galilee.

The home page for the Metro Lutheran is

Editor Bob Hulteen's article is at this link:

Here is the lead...

Christian Palestinians are an essential part of the Holy Land solution -
An urgent plea for peace

"Father Elias Chacour loves his job and his homeland. He is the Archbishop of Akko, Faifa, Nazareth, and Galilee in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church."

And here are a few quotes...

“`The Galilee is known for being green. That makes the people hospitable,' Chacour claims. `Galilee for us Christians is the Galilee of the Resurrection. It is there that Christ appeared so often to his disciples.' Chacour is probably best known internationally for his book titled We Belong to the Land, which he wrote in order to explain to those who don’t know that the common claim for the same land is the primary reason for the conflict in the Middle East. `The land is so important to us that we teach our children to be respectful of wherever they are walking.'"

"Chacour warns that a selective reading of the Bible to support one’s own position is a crime against God and a crime against humanity. `If you use Biblical arguments to justify your political and geographical rights, you are making God the granter of your arguments, and there is no way for any concession.'”

"While preaching at a Luther Seminary [] chapel service, Chacour announced that he came as a beggar — not for money, but for friendship, for solidarity with Palestinian Christians.
"Chacour asks those people who visit the Holy Land to put aside at least one day to share food and water with Palestinian Christians. `We are very hospitable, and will share our food, and tell you the story of the open tomb. When you are an archbishop of a land that includes people named Jesus, Mary, and Judas, you realize you have a responsibility. And you recognize that you need to be in relationship with other Christians around the world.'"

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While in Minnesota Chacour also spoke at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn. His sermon in the chapel there is available on podcast:

Q&A with Father Chacour followed the chapel service:

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Friday, August 15, 2008

OCHA's Humanitarian Monitor - how to get it and what you'll find there

I often send folks to the website of the U.N. in Jerusalem, technically the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). E-mail versions of their "Humanitarian Monitor" are available by signing up at the OCHA website - - which also offers the one of the best selections of maps and online presentations.

Here is the link to The Humanitarian Monitor for July 2008 in a new shortened format (eight pages) -

The Monitor provides a monthly analysis of different areas of humanitarian concern for the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). The tables with monthly figures and indicators for each sector which appeared in the previous format, will be available in a separate annex in OCHA’s website by the third week of every month.

Highlights this month:

· In the West Bank, 221 unarmed civilians, including 44 children, were injured by Israeli security forces during military activities, more than half of them in anti-Barrier demonstrations
· Inter-factional fighting in Gaza resulted in the killing of 14 people including two children, and the injury of 67 others including seven children.
· Hamas security forces raided and closed down over 184 community-based organisations allegedly connected to Fatah, disrupting activities involving thousands of beneficiaries. Some of the closed organisations were subsequently allowed to reopen. In the West Bank, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) raided several Islamic institutions in Nablus district and closed some of them, disrupting services to over 3,000 children.
· This month OCHA recorded 41 incidents involving Israeli settlers targeting Palestinians and their property, the highest monthly total since the last olive harvest season.

Gaza crossings: This month saw little tangible dividend from the truce. The amount of commodities remained far below actual needs as the level of imports was 46% below the level in May 2007. Only 990 people succeeded in crossing Rafah (Gaza’s border with Egypt), compared to over 18,000 in May 2007.

Movement and access in the West Bank:
· Two major checkpoints, Wadi Nar/Container and Jab’a, were further entrenched by new renovations and expansions.
· There was a 190% increase in flying-random checkpoints from 76 to 221/week mostly in the Hebron area.
· About 80% of UNRWA attempts to pass their vehicles through the ‘Tunnels’ checkpoint without a search, failed, and resulted in a longer and more expensive re-routing.
· As of the end of July 2008, four years after the ICJ (International Court of Justice) advisory opinion, Barrier construction continues and the permit and gates regime is gradually tightening and expanding over additional areas.

Water crisis: Approximately 200 rural communities in the West Bank with an estimated population of 200,000 are struggling to meet their domestic and livestock water needs.

For comments or suggestions on the format or content of the Humanitarian Monitor please contact Mai Yassin

(The complete report is at)

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

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

NYT features Palestinian Walks, new book by Raja Shehada

I haven't read Raja Shehada's new book yet, Palestinian Walks - Forays into a Vanishing Landscape. Shehada is the founder of Al Haq -
There was a good piece in the New York Times Aug. 12, "Roaming Freely in a Land of Restraints," and two multimedia presentations.

Here's the lead:

RAMALLAH, West Bank — There is an Arabic word for Raja Shehadeh’s pastime.

Sarha is to roam freely, at will, without restraint,” he writes in “Palestinian Walks: Forays Into a Vanishing Landscape,” an account of six walks in the West Bank, which won this year’s Orwell Prize, Britain’s pre-eminent award for political writing, and was published by Scribner in the United States in June. “A man going on a sarha wanders aimlessly, not restricted by time and place.”

Of course, it is difficult not to be restricted by time and place in the occupied territories, where movement is everyday more limited by a growing number of Israeli-built fences, walls, barriers, checkpoints, settlements and the separate roads constructed to link them. But Mr. Shehadeh — a lawyer and founder of Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization, who apart from a sojourn in London for law school has lived his entire life in Ramallah — still tries.
(click the link below to read the entire article).

And here's a link to the article by Abby Aguiree:

Here's where to find an audio slide show:

And here's the link to a video:

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Alternative Holy Land Travel Opportunities - August Update

Alternative Holy Land Travel Opportunities

Friends of Sabeel - North America provides a regular listing of non-traditional travel seminars and tours.

Travel listing
UPDATE: August 6, 2008:

Alternative travel in the Holy Land provides an added benefit to pilgrimage by connecting you with the Living Stones of Palestine who live under military occupation. Visit the holy Christian sites, worship in ancient Palestinian Christian churches, walk where Jesus walked and bear witness to the realities of occupation - military checkpoints, refugee camps, Israel's Apartheid Wall, bypass roads, illegal settlements and more. This Alternative Travel page is a service of Friends of Sabeel-North America. If you know of other trips coming up, please send details to:

Alternative Travel Resource
Alternative Tourism Group in Beit Sahour, West Bank - - has published Palestine & Palestinians: A Guidebook (ISBN No. 9950-319-011-3). It is a professionally produced and very attractive book of more than 400 pages that goes beyond the scope of other guides for travelers. Palestine & Palestinians: A Guidebook provides a very detailed history of the area, as well as information on the contemporary situation. The book is illustrated with color and black/ white photos and, of course, maps of all sorts. Take a look at the ATG website:

Friends of Sabeel Regional Conferences take place several times each year in major cities in the U.S. See the Past Conferences page for a complete history -
International Witness Trips to Palestine and Israel are offered each spring and fall. See the Past Witness Trips page for details -

International Sabeel Conferences are scheduled every two years in Jerusalem. The next one is set for November this year -

Friends of Sabeel--North America
PO Box 9186
Portland, Oregon

phone (503) 653-6625

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Peace, Palestine & US Policy 1948-2008 - Sabeel Conference coming up

There is still time to register for the Sabeel Conference next month in the Detroit area.

SABEEL CONFERENCE--Birmingham (Detroit), Michigan
September 25-27, 2008
Peace, Palestine & US Policy 1948-2008

First Presbyterian Church
1669 W. Maple
Birmingham, Michigan

Sponsored by: Detroit/Ann Arbor Friends of Sabeel
For detailed information, go to this link - or contact: Jon Swanson - (734) 741-1273.

Sabeel Founder: Naim Ateek
Israel's Foremost Revisionist Historian: Ilan Pappe
Pulitzer Prize Winner: Chris Hedges
Author-Activist: Joel Kovel

With: Anna Baltzer, Susan Nathan, Phyllis Bennis, Imam Mohammed Mardini, Don Wagner, Mazin Qumsiyeh, John B. Quigley

PROGRAM highlights
Thursday, September 25
“The View from Inside Israel: Present and Future” Susan Nathan
“The View from Inside the Occupied Territories” Anna Baltzer
“Ethnic Cleansing 1948 to the Present” Prof. Ilan Pappe, Exeter University, UK

Friday, September 26
“The Mandate for Justice in Judaism, Christianity and Islam”
Joel Kovel, Rev. Don Wagner, and Imam M. Mardini
“U.S. Interests and the U.S. Role in the Conflict” Phyllis Bennis
“Blinders in the Communication Process” Chris Hedges
Workshops (Challenging Christian Zionism, Impacting Congress, Impacting the Media, Boycotts and Divestment, Working for Justice with Abrahamic Faiths, What Works? Educating and Advocating in our Communities)
Banquet at St. George’s Orthodox Church. Keynote Speaker: Canon Naim Ateek, President of Sabeel

Saturday, September 27
“International Law Related to the Israel-Palestinian Conflict” Prof. John Quigley
“Is Peace Possible?” Panel of speakers
Workshops (Impacting Congress, Working in Churches, Using International Law to Shape a Peace Agreement, Refugee Stories and Issues, Boycotts and Divestment, Palestinian Home Rebuilding: ICAHD Resists Occupation; Strategies for Educating, and Advocating in our Communities)
"What Can We Do?” Naim Ateek and Rev. Richard Toll, Chair of Friends of Sabeel — North America

The home page for Friends of Sabeel - North America:

Sabeel is an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians. Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, this liberation theology seeks to deepen the faith of Palestinian Christians, to promote unity among them toward social action. Sabeel strives to develop a spirituality based on love, justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities. The word "Sabeel" is Arabic for ‘the way‘ and also a ‘channel‘ or ‘spring‘ of life-giving water.

Sabeel also works to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence and witness of Palestinian Christians as well as their contemporary concerns. It encourages individuals and groups from around the world to work for a just, comprehensive and enduring peace informed by truth and empowered by prayer and action. See the Sabeel web site -

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Monday, August 4, 2008

New books on non-violence, dialogue

Look for Jean Zaru's new book (Fortress), Occupied with Nonviolence. Jean Zaru is a longtime activist and Quaker leader from Ramallah. Here she brings home the pain and central convictions that animate Christian nonviolence and activity today. Zaru vividly paints the complex realities faced by all parties in Palestine - Jews and Muslims and Christians, Israelis and Palestinians, women and men.

Covenantal Conversations (Fortress, 2008) says the Holy Land conflict is a case study in how Christians should do theological/social/political conversation with Jewish neighbors. A religion teacher at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter—Prof. Darrell Jodock—is the book’s editor and a contributor. Others contribute including Rabbi Barry Cytron of the Phillips Center for Jewish-Christian Learning at University of St. Thomas, St. Paul; Prof. Sarah Henrich, who teaches New Testament at Luther Seminary, St. Paul; and Prof. Mark Swanson, formerly at Luther Seminary, now teaching at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Covenantal Conversations can be ordered from the Minneapolis publisher online. Go to, under “Store Search” enter title. Price: $22.

Also treating interfaith (and intra-Christian) concerns regarding the Palestine/Israel conflict and available from Fortress: Christians and a Land Called Holy by Charles P. Lutz and Robert O. Smith (2006). It is now available at a 20% online discount, $12.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

"A Dream Come True" and "From Heaven to Hell"

This bulletin has two parts: First, Samia Khoury's "A Dream Come True," followed by Tina Whitehead's report, "From Heaven to Hell."

A Dream Come True
Samia Khoury
July 27, 2008

Tonight at the Jerusalem Festival organized by Yabous Productions at the Tombs of the Kings, I watched a dream come true - The PalestineYouth Orchestra. It was a memorable evening listening to the Youth orchestra play with the Collegium Musicum of the University of Bonn, Germany. Yabous productions had to expand the stage of the festival to make room for the 82 musicians.

No better place more inspiring than this beautiful old archeological site in Jerusalem to host this fantastic event. We seemed to be in a different world, so peaceful. Trying to forget the reality that encompasses the city, I could not help but reflect on the words of the Gospel according to Luke 19:41 "As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said: If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace….."

Even nowadays thereis enough reason for weeping over Jerusalem. However tonight we were simply elated with the sound of music. I was specially delighted to see Samer Rashed on the Viola. I remember Samer as a child when he started music at Rawdat El-Zuhur and pursued it faithfully when he transferred to high school and graduated this year. Of course it was not difficult to spot Zeina, my 17 year old granddaughter as she was one of three on the bassoon. The conservatory has indeed provided opportunities for so many Palestinian children as there are more than six hundred and fifty students enrolled in its three branches in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

The first part of the program was Aram Khachaturian's Gayane Ballet Suite No.2 and Excerpts from Suite No. 3 conducted by Walter Mik fromthe University of Bonn.

The second part was just as beautiful as we listened to the orchestra accompany three women soloists Deema Bawab, Reem Talhami and Rim Banna singing for Jerusalem. Deema excelled in Stephen Adams "The Holy City," and she also sang Rima Tarazi's song Al Quds Arrabiyah which some of you might have heard for the first time sung by Tania Tamari Nasir at St. George's Cathedral at the opening worship service of the Sabeel International Conference in 1996 on Jerusalem. Reem Talhami who has such anexpressive face sang with deep feeling the Rahbani Brothers, "Zahrat Al Madaen," and reached the same standard of excellence as Fairuz, the original singer. Reem dedicated her songs to the Kurd family in Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem who have been ordered to evict their home along with 28 other families to make room for an Israeli settlement in the midst of that Arab quarter of East Jerusalem. She also sang one of Suhails's compositions Ya Quds wain Arroh. And with her usual charm Rim Banna who was the star of the fourth night of the Festival sang her own compositions for Jerusalem and for "Sara" the young Palestinian child who was shot dead by an Israeli sniper in the Nablus area.

Ever since the National Conservatory of Music was established fifteen years ago, it has been the dream of my son Suhail, the general director of the conservatory as well as that of the founders of the Conservatory, to have an orchestra of Palestinian musicians from all over the world. Tonight with tears in my eyes I saw the dream come true. Since 2004, and for three consecutive years, the Palestine Youth Orchestra had practiced and performed every summer in Jerash, Jordan. Last year they had a new experience in Germany with the Collegium Musicum of the University of Bonn. But tonight was very special as they performed for the first time in East Jerusalem, on Palestinian soil. Indeed a dream come true. As I write this the young musicians are on their way to perform in Ramallah, Haifa, Amman,and Damascus. Maybe someday you will hear them in your part of the world.

For more about Samia Khoury:

Tina Whitehead
14 Hours: From Heaven to Hell
Aug. 1, 2008

Being in Jerusalem is to experience a rollercoaster of emotions. Never have I experienced this more than these past 2 days. I've been here now for almost a month, arriving July 2 to begin volunteering with the Palestinian peace movement, Sabeel. This is my second time here, having worked with Sabeel for 7 months in 2006-2007. I've already had opportunities again this time to see the natural beauty of the West Bank while at the same time hearing the stories of the Palestinian people who live there, of their daily struggles just to survive. These people are tired. They are exhausted. They live in hope that someday soon this will end and there will be peace, but their hope is diminishing.

But that hope seemed to come to life on Sunday night. I was invited to attend a concert given by the Palestinian Youth Symphony as part of the annual Jerusalem Festival. The theme of the concert was "Celebrating Jerusalem" and celebrate is what these young people did. They joined with the Collegium Musicum of the University of Bonn in performing works by Aram Khachaturian and then accompanied three singers, 2 Palestinian women and one from Jordan, who performed 6 pieces which sang the praises of the City of Jerusalem.

The whole experience was incredible, from the outdoor setting under the stars at the Tomb of the Kings in East Jerusalem to the music itself, which practically lifted us from our seats in its beauty and soul. The highlight for me was the singing of "The Holy City" by Jordanian soprano, Dima Bawab. I have always loved this piece, but never had I heard it so exquisitely sung. I felt as though I was being lifted up to the heaven of the "New Jerusalem" of the song. I returned home totally uplifted by the experience and in awe of the creativity and giftedness of the Palestinian performers. Surely this was an expression of the hope that lies within.

On Monday morning, after our weekly staff meeting at work, a Palestinian co-worker approached me. Did I want to come with her to witness a home demolition in East Jerusalem? How does one answer that question? Yes, I wanted to be there, if only to be able to write about it as a first hand experience. But did I really want to see it? Did I want to see the pain of families losing their homes?

We drove a mile or so until we were blocked by a barricade set up by the Israeli police. Taking a side street we reached the site of the demolition. We parked the car and walked towards the people who were beginning to gather. Israeli police were everywhere, blocking us from a clear view of what was about to happen. We heard that this family had been issued a permit to build their 4 story home. But they had enlarged a porch area and found out that the permit did not allow for this. They had appealed and eventually paid a fine for the work, but the demolition order was given. They had also begun work on an additional floor as an extension of the living space for the families. This, too, was not covered by the permit. They had promised to tear this down, but their request was not granted. They had pleaded that the demolition would only be of the work not covered by the permit, but their pleas went unheard. The whole building would come down. Eight families, 70 people, living in this building were now losing their homes.

We heard that the police had come around 4 a.m. that morning, forcibly removing the residents and taking the father and son to prison. The police then went to neighboring homes and had the tenants removed. Dogs were brought in to make sure that no one remained behind.

And then we waited. A large backhoe was in place next to the building. Various camera crews set up as close as they could get before being moved back by the police. Five members of an Orthodox Jewish group arrived and sat in protest with their Palestinian neighbors, holding signs that read "Torah demands 'Stop Destruction'" and "We Beseech Human Rights Organizations to Intervene Immediately to Rescue Our Palestinian Brothers from Zionist Captivity." There was no violence, only a protest of presence.

And then we heard the sickening sound of the backhoe as it began to tear away at the outer lower wall of the home. I could see the stones breaking apart as the drilling continued. I couldn't imagine what it would feel like to see your home destroyed. The loving work of your hands that had taken years to complete. The lives of the families that were now being totally uprooted.

How many thousands of homes have to be destroyed before the world says, "Enough." How many thousands of families have to suffer before the world has the courage to call this what it is: terrorism. Institutional terrorism that is the result of government policy, but terrorism nonetheless. This is nothing short of evil. Why is it that we are so quick to name other violent acts as acts of terrorism, but don't see the terrorism of these acts that we not only sanction, but finance?

Do you now see why I talk about a rollercoaster of emotions? The hope that I had witnessed so beautifully displayed on Sunday evening at the concert had turned in just 14 hours to the hopelessness of Israeli policies that continue to drain the life from the Palestinian people.

When and where will this end? In this election year let us look for leaders who will have the courage to address this problem in ways that will give hope, real hope, to both Palestinians and Israelis who have had enough of policies that only deplete and dehumanize. It's beyond time for us to take a stand. May we all have the courage to do so.

For info about Tina Whitehead see

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