Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lutheran Bishop Younan was Allowed to Enter Gaza Strip

Several news items from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL):
+ Lutheran Bishop Allowed to Enter Gaza Strip on Third Attempt
+ ELCJHL calendar resources and prayer
+ ELCJHL newsletter, "ELCJHL E-pistle"

March 20, 2009
Lutheran Bishop Allowed to Enter Gaza Strip on Third Attempt

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- After three attempts in five weeks, three bishops from Jerusalem were allowed to enter the Gaza Strip March 10 to visit churches and humanitarian projects. The three were the Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, Anglican bishop in Jerusalem, and Greek Catholic Archbishop Elias Chacour, according to an ELCJHL news release.

On Feb. 4 Dawani and Younan -- part of a delegation of five bishops -- were denied entry at the Erez Crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The ELCJHL said Younan and Dawani were the only Palestinians in the delegation. Both said they had obtained permits from Israeli officials to enter the region.

Younan, Dawani and Chacour later applied for permission to enter the Gaza Strip on Feb. 24 but were denied for undisclosed reasons.

On the March 10 trip the bishops visited the Anglican Al Ahli Hospital, which served more than 400 patients and causalities during the war between Israel and Hamas. They were briefed by hospital director Suheila Tarazi and Dr. Maher Ayad. The bishops visited staff and patients. In the hospital chapel they prayed for the war dead and wounded, and for peace and justice, the ELCJHL report said.

Constantine Dabbagh, director, Near East Council of Churches Refugee Works, updated the bishops about its outreach. The clinic was bombed during the conflict in the Gaza Strip, forcing the organization to resume its work in a small provisional center, the release said. Other personnel are working in one of the most impoverished areas of Gaza City to restart programs for women and children, as well as a program for malnourished children.

"We urge our partners to continue to support our diakonia and relief work in Gaza," Younan said. He called for the implementation of international law and human rights in Gaza "so the border points will be opened and all the necessary building material will be allowed in for rebuilding," the ELCJHL release said.

Younan, Dawani and Chacour also asked all parties to abstain from acts of violence and to work for a peaceful, negotiated resolution to the conflict based on justice and international law.

After Younan and Dawani were denied entry into the Gaza Strip, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, sent a letter Feb. 5 to Israel's ambassador to the United States. They expressed "grave concern" and requested help to determine why Younan and Dawani were denied entry. They asked that the bishops be allowed into the area for a pastoral visit.

A March 10 news release from the Embassy of Israel said the bishops were denied entry into the Gaza Strip "because both bishops are legal residents of the State of Israel."

"Israeli citizens and legal residents are prohibited from entering the Gaza Strip for security reasons and out of concern for their safety," the Israeli news release said.

The March 10 visit by Younan, Dawani and Chacour was facilitated by Israel, the embassy's release added.

Information about the ELCJHL is at on theWeb.

* Allison Schmitt is communication assistant with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:

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The ELCJHL provides a monthly calendar with pictures, info about a particular ministry of the church and prayer:

March 2009
“The Tent” community center offers something for everyone

No matter your age, gender, religion or interest, you’ll probably find something to enjoy at Al Khei-me-h. Al Khei-me-h (The Tent) is the ecumenical community center that is a ministry of the ELCJHL Church of the Good Shepherd in Amman, Jordan. Opened in 2007, Al Khei-me-h offers cultural events such as music and drama performances and art exhibitions, for example. Earlier this year there was a forum on Gaza.

A women’s aerobics class, which attracts both Christians and Muslims, meets three times a week. In cooperation with the Jordan Academy for Music, the center offers music lessons. The center serves as a meeting place for youth. Work is under way to provide activities for senior citizens in the morning. There are also plans to provide internet access and a library.

All these activities help fulfill the center’s mission, which is a broad one. In addition to promoting coexistence and ecumenism, the center hopes to meet the community’s cultural, recreational, social, spiritual and sport needs while helping participants develop their God-given talents.

Rev. Samer Azar, pastor of Good Shepherd, asks for your prayers for this ministry.

The calendar includes a photo of a performance by the Lebanese drama group called “Just for Kids” at “The Tent”. The Jordan Bible Society co-sponsored the event.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, your khei-me-h is large enough to shelter all who are made in your image, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or other distinction. Bless all who participate in this ministry, either as provider or participant. Teach all your children to welcome others and share the blessings of your creation together. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

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The newsletter of the ELCJHL is called "ELCJHL E-pistle." Here's the link to newsletters:

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Naim Ateek: A Time to Remember, a Time for Truth

The Rev. Naim Ateek writes for Sabeel's quarterly newsletter, Cornerstone. His winter 2008/09 column was dedicated to summing up the annual Sabeel international conference which gathered under the theme, The Nakba: Memory, Reality, and Beyond - A Time to Remember, a Time for Truth.

I commend to you the entire publication which includes articles by Dr. Efrat Ben-Ze'ev, Dr. Andreas van Agt, and Josef Ben-Eliezer. Find it at this link: - or go to the Cornerstone archive at Friends of Sabeel - North America:

A Time to Remember, a Time for Truth
Naim Ateek

The Seventh International Sabeel Conference ended on Nov. 19, 2008 with a Holy Communion service at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem, next door to the Church of the Resurrection. The Lutheran Bishop, Munib Younan, gave the homily as over 250 people from over 20 countries around the world listened. He emphasized the importance of memory for a sense of identity and a sense of direction. Before the people departed the church, they were commissioned to commit themselves to work for peace with justice. The following is an excerpt:

Leader: We have been together to share in the memories of those whose lives have been and still are affected by the events of the past 60 years. We have taken stones from villages that represent the past. We bring them here for blessing so they may represent memory and reality. We carry them with us to remind us and those we meet at home of the need for justice in Israel and Palestine. As we depart for our homes and our safety let us be guided by God’s word in Scripture that makes a clarion call: Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. May these symbolic stones become the building blocks of a new future for all who dwell in this land!

Today we receive our commission to go from this conference, committed to pray for, and proclaim the justice of our God and God’s eternal love of all creation.

People: We have received your message, O God, and we commit ourselves.
• To your works of remembrance and forgiveness with gentleness and reverence.
• To work for truth and justice with the energy of an ever flowing stream.
• To bring healing and liberation to all people with your joy and peace in our hearts.

Leader: O God of power, you have identified with the powerless and the weak of the world, and here we pledge our identification with them. O God, strengthen us in our desire and breathe into our bodies the passion of your love.

As the participants were leaving the church they sang “We are walking in the light of God” and each person took home a stone from one of the 20 destroyed villages they had visited in Galilee to remind them to pray for the Palestinian people and especially the refugees, to remember their cause of justice, and to become involved in advocacy on their behalf so that all the people of the land may live in security and peace. [...]

The theme of the conference was The Nakba: Memory, Reality, and Beyond - A Time to Remember, a Time for Truth. In Nazareth, the emphasis was in great part on memory as we listened to local speakers - Christian, Muslim, and Jewish - reflect on the Nakba of 1948 and its ramifications during the ensuing years. This was enforced by a visit to over 20 destroyed villages mainly in the Galilee district. Five buses carried the participants on five different routes
where testimonies were given by some of the original inhabitants of those villages and towns.

On Sunday, the participants worshipped with 12 different church denominations in Nazareth and surrounding towns and villages. This was followed with a lunch either with that particular church community or in various parishioners’ homes. This proved to be an invaluable experience for both hosts and guests and left lasting impressions. I would like to take the opportunity here to express Sabeel’s gratitude to all the clergy and families that received their guests with great kindness and generosity.

Another special event took place in Jerusalem on Sunday evening where Bishop Suhail Dawani hosted a reception at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral. A number of Patriarchs or their representatives as well as bishops and clergy were present. It was a wonderful gesture of welcome and hospitality. Both Bishop Suhail as well as Patriarch Theophilos’ secretary greeted the participants who packed the Cathedral. Again here, Sabeel expresses its thanks to Bishop Suhail and to all the representatives of the churches of Jerusalem for their presence. It was, indeed, a warm welcome on a rather cold night.

In the Jerusalem part of the conference we addressed the question of Palestinian refugees and the issue of Jerusalem. After visiting several refugee camps in the Bethlehem area and visiting refugee homes and conversing with the families, a whole afternoon was spent at Dheishe Refugee Camp. The program continued with a number of speakers. This was followed by dinner and a cultural event of song and dance presented by the young people of the camp.

During the Jerusalem part of the program, the participants became aware of the ongoing Nakba of the Palestinians as they were exposed to the many tragic faces of the occupation and the reality of Palestinian life on the ground.

The conference objective, however, was not only to dwell on the past and lament the present but to address the future and point to practical steps that both locals and internationals can take in order to contribute to change - the end of the occupation and the movement towards a genuine peace.

From beginning to end, the conference emphasized the significance of nonviolence and the condemnation of all forms of violence whether perpetrated by the state of Israel and its settlers or by organized Palestinian groups. For most of us, whether people of faith or secular, our only choice is to confront the violence with nonviolence. This is what we believe and what we stand for. This is the way we can actively witness for truth and justice in our community.

Indeed, as Palestinians we have failed so far to see the emergence of a national movement of nonviolent resistance. There are weekly activities of nonviolence at Biliin, Na’lin, and Jayous as well as other villages that are taking place on a regular basis but it has failed to be translated to a national scale. Palestinian political leaders have been submerged in political negotiations that have taken us nowhere. They and their Israeli counterparts have become experts at negotiations that are futile and ineffective and have become an end in themselves rather than the means to ending the occupation. Many Palestinians wish that these negotiations would stop and that the Palestinian leadership would turn its attention to building a strong nonviolent movement in the country. Such a national public strategy, if well planned, can potentially force Israel and the international community to take the Palestinian demands for justice more seriously and exert the right pressure on the Israeli government.

It is important to remind ourselves of the last words of the presentation of Bernard Lafayettte. “I ask you, who built the settlements and who is building the Wall?” Such poignant words make us Palestinians ashamed of ourselves. Again, in the words of Lafayette, no one can ride your back if you are standing straight. Many of our people have sadly resigned themselves to a life of humiliation, oppression, and dehumanization.

The challenge of the conference was clear. We can all, local and international, contribute to building a just peace in Palestine and Israel. We must commit ourselves again to participate, educate, and advocate within our own countries and visà-vis our own governments.

The Sabeel Conference ended with a statement that was prepared and endorsed by the participants. I would also like to express my thanks to all our friends who shared with us this conference. I would also like to thank all those who supported us financially, to all the speakers, and all those board members, staff, and volunteers who toiled day and night to make it happen.

May God help us all to commit ourselves to truth and to work tirelessly for a peace that is based on justice.

The Rev. Naim Ateek is Director of Sabeel.

Sabeel is an ecumenical grassroots liberation movement among Palestinian Christians. In Arabic Sabeel means "The Way" and also a "Spring of Water." Sabeel strives to develop a spirituality based on justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities. Sabeel also works to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence, and witness of Palestinian Christians.

[Friends of Sabeel--North America, PO Box 9186, Portland, OR 97207 - -]

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Rachel Corrie anniversary and injury of Tristan Anderson

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs - - has provided this bulletin addressing the anniversary of Rachel Corrie's death in Gaza and the serious injury of volunteer Tristan Anderson on Friday at Ni'lin.

Statement from the family of Rachel Corrie

Posted on: March 16, 2009

We thank all who continue to remember Rachel and those who, on this sixth anniversary of her stand in Gaza, renew their own commitments to human rights, justice and peace in the Middle East. The tributes and actions in her memory are a source of inspiration to us and to others.
Friday, March 13th, we learned of the tragic injury to American activist Tristan Anderson. Tristan was shot in the head with a tear-gas canister in Ni'lin Village in the West Bank when Israeli forces attacked a demonstration opposing the construction of the annexation wall through the village's land. On the same day, a Ni'lin resident was, also, shot in the leg with live ammunition. Four residents of Ni'lin have been killed in the past eight months as villagers and their supporters have courageously demonstrated against the Apartheid Wall deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice - a wall that will ultimately absorb one-quarter of the village's remaining land. Those who have died are a ten-year-old child Ahmed Mousa, shot in the forehead with live ammunition on July 29, 2008; Yousef Amira (17) shot with rubber-coated steel bullets on July 30, 2008; Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22) and Mohammed Khawaje (20), both shot and killed with live ammunition on December 28, 2008. On this anniversary, Rachel would want us all to hold Tristan Anderson and his family and these Palestinians and their families in our thoughts and prayers, and we ask everyone to do so.

We are writing this message from Cairo where we returned after a visit to Gaza with the Code Pink Delegation from the United States. Fifty-eight women and men successfully passed through Rafah Crossing on Saturday, March 7th to challenge the border closures and siege and to celebrate International Women's Day with the strong and courageous women of Gaza. Rachel would be very happy that our spirited delegation made this journey. North to south throughout the Strip, we witnessed the sweeping destruction of neighborhoods, municipal buildings, police stations, mosques, and schools - casualties of the Israeli military assaults in December and January. When we asked about the personal impact of the attacks on those we met, we heard repeatedly of the loss of mothers, fathers, children, cousins, and friends. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reports 1434 Palestinian dead and over 5000 injured, among them 288 children and 121 women.

We walked through the farming village of Khoza in the South where fifty homes were destroyed during the land invasion. A young boy scrambled through a hole in the rubble to show us the basement he and his family crouched in as a bulldozer crushed their house upon them. We heard of Rafiya who led the frightened women and children of this neighborhood away from threatening Israeli military bulldozers, only to be struck down and killed by an Israeli soldier's sniper fire as she walked in the street carrying her white flag.

Repeatedly, we were told by Palestinians, and by the internationals on the ground supporting them, that there is no ceasefire. Indeed, bomb blasts from the border area punctuated our conversations as we arrived and departed Gaza. On our last night, we sat by a fire in the moonlight in the remains of a friend’s farmyard and listened to him tell of how the Israeli military destroyed his home in 2004, and of how this second home was shattered on February 6th. This time, it was Israeli rockets from Apache helicopters that struck the house, A stand of wheat remained and rustled soothingly in the breeze as we talked, but our attention shifted quickly when F-16s streaked high across the night sky. and our friend explained that if the planes tipped to the side, they would strike. Everywhere, the psychological costs of the recent and ongoing attacks for all Gazans, but especially for the children, were sadly apparent. It is not only those who suffer the greatest losses that carry the scars of all that has happened. It is those, too, who witnessed from their school bodies flying in the air when police cadets were bombed across the street and those who felt and heard the terrifying blasts of missiles falling near their own homes. It is the children who each day must walk past the unexplainable and inhumane destruction that has occurred.

In Rachel's case, though a thorough, credible and transparent investigation was promised by the Israeli Government, after six years, the position of the U.S. Government remains that such an investigation has not taken place. In March 2008, Michele Bernier-Toff, Managing Director of the Office of Overseas Citizen Services at the Department of State wrote, "We have consistently requested that the Government of Israel conduct a full and transparent investigation into Rachel’s death. Our requests have gone unanswered or ignored." Now, the attacks on all the people of Gaza and the recent one on Tristan Anderson in Ni'lin cry out for investigation and accountability. We call on President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and members of Congress to act with fortitude and courage to ensure that the atrocities that have occurred are addressed by the Israeli Government and through relevant international and U.S. law. We ask them to act immediately and persistently to stop the impunity enjoyed by the Israeli military, not to encourage it.

Despite the pain, we have once again felt privileged to enter briefly into the lives of Rachel's Palestinian friends in Gaza. We are moved by their resilience and heartened by their song, dance, and laughter amidst the tears. Rachel wrote in 2003, "I am nevertheless amazed at their strength in being able to defend such a large degree of their humanity - laughter, generosity, family time - against the incredible horror occurring in their lives ... I am also discovering a degree of strength and of the basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances ... I think the word is dignity." On this sixth anniversary of Rachel's killing, we echo her sentiments.

Cindy and Craig Corrie
On behalf of our family
Updated on March 16, 2009

Updates on Tristan Anderson's condition (abridged):

Orly Levi, a spokeswoman at the Tel Hashomer hospital, tells Ha'aretz:
"He's in critical condition, anesthetized and on a ventilator and undergoing imaging tests," She described Anderson's condition as life-threatening.

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollack told Ynet:
… "the firing incident took place inside the village and not next to the fence. There were clashes in the earlier hours, but he wasn't part of them. He didn’t throw stones and wasn’t standing next to the stone throwers.
"There was really no reason to fire at them. The Dutch girl standing next to him was not hurt. It only injured him, like a bullet."


14 March: Gabrielle Silverman, Tristan's girlfriend who was with him when he was shot, spoke to Bay City News and KTVU:
"As of Saturday he was on full life support and heavily medicated at Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv, his girlfriend Gabrielle Silverman said today in a telephone interview.
"`My understanding is that they are trying to let his brain rest as much as possible and do as little work as possible,' Silverman said. …
"Palestinian medics immediately came to their rescue and attempted to place Anderson onto a stretcher. But even then, Silverman said, 'The army began firing tear gas directly at us again and again and again.'
"`Tear gas was falling at our feet as were loading him onto the stretcher,' Silverman said.
"When the medics had successfully situated Anderson, an Israeli soldier stood in front of the ambulance and would not allow it to move, Silverman said.
"Silverman detailed with clear agitation in her voice the circumstances that followed, as Anderson was 'getting worse, vanishing further.'
"She said they underwent another 15-minute holdup at the checkpoint, the reason being, she said, that `Palestinian ambulances are not allowed to enter into the state of Israel from the West Bank.'
"`Tristan's life was in serious danger. He was bleeding terribly everywhere from the head,' Silverman recounted. `We had to just sit and wait until eventually an Israeli ambulance from God knows where showed up and we had to change to another ambulance.'
"Once they had arrived at the hospital, Anderson immediately underwent surgery, Silverman said."


The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, PO Box 53062, Washington DC 20009

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jimmy Carter book: We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land

I had a fascinating several days in Houston staffing a booth for Friends of Sabeel North America - - at the Unitarian Universalist Women's International Convocation. What a gang of wonderful sisters, all very interested in justice and peace. After that I escaped to Minnesota for a few days with my family. Sometimes life gets crowded, so I apologize for delays in posting here.

My work with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel keeps me very busy and it's a real joy -
At the home page you'll now find links to the blogs of two current accompaniers, both from southeastern Michigan, Scott Thams and Pat Ochodnicky. I commend them to you.

I want to put out another shout for Jimmy Carter's new book. The former president's work is right on the money, as always in my view. It's called We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land - A Plan That Will Work.

The Amazon website says, "In this urgent, balanced, and passionate book, Nobel Peace Laureate and former President Jimmy Carter argues that the present moment is a unique time for achieving peace in the Middle East -- and he offers a bold and comprehensive plan to do just that.
"President Carter has been a student of the biblical Holy Land all his life. For the last three decades, as president of the United States and as founder of The Carter Center, he has studied the complex and interrelated issues of the region's conflicts and has been actively involved in reconciling them. He knows the leaders of all factions in the region who will need to play key roles, and he sees encouraging signs among them.
"Carter describes the history of previous peace efforts and why they fell short. He argues persuasively that the road to a peace agreement is now open and that it has broad international and regional support. Most of all, since there will be no progress without courageous and sustained U.S. leadership, he says the time for progress is now. President Barack Obama is committed to a personal effort to exert that leadership, starting early in his administration.
"This is President Carter's call for action, and he lays out a practical and doable path to peace."

Haaretz pointed to Carter's openness to talking with Hamas:
Here's a quote: "Likudniks don't scare former United States president Jimmy Carter. On the contrary: The electoral turnaround of 1977 that brought them to power for the first time enabled Carter to be inscribed in the history books as the leader who facilitated the first peace agreement between Israelis and Arabs. In his new book, `We Can Have Peace in
the Holy Land' (Simon & Schuster), Carter relates that neither he nor America's Jewish community knew what to expect from prime minister Menachem Begin, a former underground fighter who had acquired a bad name for himself as a war-mongering fanatic. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat reported to Carter that he had asked Eastern European leaders who knew the new prime minister whether Begin was an honest man and a strong person. According to him, the
answers were in the affirmative.
"In a telephone interview before this week's election, I asked Carter what he thinks of Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. From his office at the Carter Center in Atlanta, the 39th U.S. president answered calmly that Netanyahu is a practical politician, and that if a proposed peace agreement wins broad support among the Israeli public, the Likud leader would not turn his back on it, and would be `constructive.'"

And on NPR -
"Nearly 30 years ago, Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty that holds to this day. Much of the credit for that treaty goes to former President Jimmy Carter.
"In the decades since, Carter has pursued a much more elusive goal: a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And he says there have been three recent developments that could help achieve it.
"The first development was the election of Barack Obama as president, he tells NPR's Renee Montagne. For the Middle East, Carter said, that should mean `a balanced and aggressive commitment to bring peace. That's quite a change.'
"The former president also cited progress in his meetings with members of the Palestinian parties, Hamas and Fatah, in April and December of 2008.
"`For the first time, the Hamas leaders pledged that they would accept any peace agreement negotiated between the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israel,' Carter said — as long as Palestinians approve the agreement in a referendum.
"And the recent violence between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which Carter called an `evolving tragedy,' adds what he said is `another element of urgency to bringing peace to Israel.'
"Carter has written a new book on that topic, titled We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land. It follows his 2006 analysis, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, which sparked protests from supporters of Israel.
"His latest book is subtitled, `A Plan That Will Work.' And that plan, Carter said, is no secret: a two-state solution in which Israel's right to exist is recognized by its neighbors — within its pre-1967 borders."

Eileen Fleming reviewed Carter's book on her blog, We Are Wide Awake:
Here's a portion of The Bell Tolls: A Review of We can have Peace in the Holy Land, by Jimmy Carter:
"With `the fierce urgency of now' Jimmy Carter writes of reasons why recent `public opinion polls in the Arab world revealed that the United States was seen as a greater threat than Iran, and a successful peace effort in Palestine could be the most important factor in improving its citizens' opinion of America.'[1]
"Due to their lack of political and military power, the Palestinians have been dependent on the international community to survive; and they have commitments from the UN, the International Quartet and the Arab League who have all dreamt a dream of a sovereign peaceful Palestinian state beside a secure Israel.
"The Carter Center Team in Ramallah reported that the failure of negotiations post Annapolis `may well mark an end to the two-state solution for Israel Palestine…The conclusion seems to be that even second class Israeli citizenship is preferable to unending occupation, or in other terms, the future may lie in one state.'[2]
"Palestinian negotiator, Ahmed Qurei predicted, `If Israel continues to reject our propositions regarding the borders [of a future Palestinian state], we might demand Israeli citizenship.'
"A Fatah leader quipped, `Where will a Palestinian state rise up? The Israeli nation is inside us already.'"

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