Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Church leaders' letter to president in advance of peace talks

Churches for Middle East Peace issued this bulletin today.

Christian Leaders Offer Words of Hope and Encouragement to President in Advance of Peace Talks

Christian leaders from a broad group of denominations and organizations sent a letter to President Obama on Monday expressing renewed hope and urging the U.S. to sustain its close cooperation with Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In the letter, 28 leaders from Catholic, Orthodox, mainline Protestant, Evangelical, and African American denominations and organizations recognized the unique opportunity that the talks present to resolve final status issues that have remained stumbling blocks. They stressed, however, the importance of avoiding statements or actions by either side that would undermine confidence in the negotiations, incite disrespect, or prejudge the outcome of final status issues.

The leaders echoed the belief that an agreement could come to fruition in one year and said they would work with both the American Jewish and Palestinian communities to assure them of achieving each people's aspirations for peace and security.

Click this link for the text of the letter and the list of church leaders who have signed it: http://cmep.org/letters/2010_Letters/Letter%20to%20the%20President%20083010.pdf

Here is the full text of the brief letter:

Dear Mr. President,

As leaders of American Christian faith communities deeply concerned with the need to end the long-standing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, we are pleased with the success of your diplomacy in bringing the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Authority together in Washington September 1-2 to restart direct negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement on final status issues within the coming year. We fully support your goal of ending the occupation that began in 1967 and achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace with a viable Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security.

At the same time we have no illusions about the difficulty of the task ahead. Both sides hold deep convictions contrary to those held by the other. Although many issues have been clarified in past negotiations, major compromises by both sides will be needed at considerable political risk and cost. Without your help it seems unlikely that an agreement can be reached. Time is short. If an agreement is not reached within the coming year, it may not be reachable at all.

For that reason we call on you and your negotiating team to continue your vigilant efforts to help the parties find acceptable solutions. We are heartened by the statement of Senator George Mitchell that he will remain closely involved in the negotiations. The U.S. will need to empower both sides to take risks for peace and when necessary to make proposals to bridge remaining differences. The United States must be clear that actions or words by either side in the coming year that undermine confidence in the negotiations, incite disrespect or prejudge the outcome of final status issues will not be tolerated.

In support of this effort, we pledge to maintain and expand our dialogue on this issue with American Jewish and Palestinian communities and to assure them of our steadfast support for achieving the aspirations of both Israel and the Palestinian people for peace and security.

Mr. President, we are praying for you as you seek to bring God's justice and peace to a place torn by walls and weapons. We are convinced that with your vigilant support this dream can be fulfilled, and the lives of Palestinians and Israelis, as well as U.S. national security interests, can be transformed for the better.


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Delegation seeks just, inclusive peace in Palestine and Israel

WCC delegation seeks just and inclusive peace in Palestine and Israel

27 August 2010

At a time when there are signs of hope emerging from the churches in the Middle East around the conflict in Palestine and Israel, a World Council of Churches (WCC) delegation led by WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit will be travelling to the region to emphasize the need for a “just peace”.

While planning for the visit was initiated several months ago, it now coincides with the start-up of peace negotiations 2 September in Washington, D.C., United States.

“The purpose of this visit is to support the churches in the region and to encourage all actors involved to make needed changes to the situation there,” Tveit said prior to the visit.

The delegation, which includes WCC staff members and the moderator of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, Rev. Kjell Magne Bondevik, will be visiting with WCC member churches, ecumenical partners and leaders from the Jewish and Muslim communities as well as WCC partner agencies and political leaders. The visit is 28 August to 2 September.

“We want to reaffirm that the WCC as a fellowship of churches is working and praying for peace and justice for all people in the Holy Land,” Tveit said. “The conflict in the region requires a political solution. All religious institutions and communities should work together for a just peace. This is essential for a reconciliation and healing process.”

“We are aware of the extreme difficulties facing the negotiations beginning 2 September,” he said. “We pray for those in charge of this important work and believe that the negotiations must be inclusive of all in the region who suffer because of this conflict and be based on principles of international law.”

During the visit Tveit will also say that the Kairos Document, which was developed by Palestinian Christians in late 2009, is resonating in WCC member churches around the world. [http://www.kairospalestine.ps/]

“The WCC member churches are viewing this document as cry for justice coming from Palestinian Christians, whose human dignity is being diminished and denied,” Tveit said.

The WCC has been encouraging its member churches to develop and coordinate active advocacy plans to address government, international bodies, interfaith partners and churches in the region to end the occupation of Palestinian territories and the suffering of both Israeli and Palestinian people.

The visit is also one part of an overall effort within the WCC leading to the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation, to be held in Jamaica, May 2011, where nearly one thousand people will gather to move forward the Ecumenical Declaration for Just Peace. [http://www.overcomingviolence.org/en/peace-convocation.html]

(Ecumenical Declaration for Just Peace - http://www.overcomingviolence.org/en/iepc/about-iepc/drafting-group.html)

The WCC delegation will visit with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), which is a WCC-sponsored programme that brings people from around the world to Palestine-Israel to provide a protective presence to vulnerable communities. The ecumenical accompaniers monitor and report human rights activities and abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working for peace. [

Media contact: Mark Beach, +41-79-50.76.363

WCC member churches in Palestine and Israel - http://www.oikoumene.org/member-churches/regions/middle-east/israel.html?no_cache=1

Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel - http://www.eappi.org/


The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Meet the ELCA Team

Meet the ELCA Europe and Middle East Team

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America kindly provides a detailed picture of its Global Mission Europe and Middle East staff team

The Global Mission Middle East and Europe staff team met in July, 2010, to strategize about their work together. Pastor Julie Rowe provided these introductions:

The Rev. Robert Smith (first row center), the EME Desk Director, has a lot of ground to cover as his job takes him from the United Kingdom in the northwest to Vlaidavostok in the northeast and as far south as Palestine and Cairo. Egypt. Some main areas of focus for the EME desk are to bring justice and reconciliation for refugees and displaced people, such as St Andrews Refugee Services in Cairo, which works with Sudanese refugees, or those dealing with Roma (gypsy) populations, which are subject to great discrimination in Europe.

The Rev. Peter Johnson* (upper row left) administers the Cairo program as well as serves as the pastor of St. Andrew’s International Congregation.

Pastor Arden Haug * (upper row center) is the Regional Representative in Europe and serves as the pastor of the International Congregation in Bratislava, where he also supervises the almost 20 ELCA missionaries, whose salaries are paid by the European governments, that serve as English teachers in Slovakia and Poland. The focus of the desk is toward building capacity for companions in Russia, the Baltics and Central and Eastern Europe while still maintaining support of international congregations in Western Europe as well.

Carol LaHurd (upper row right) is the Coordinator of the Peace Not Walls Campaign that carries out the ELCA’s Middle East strategy to advocate for a just, lasting peace in Palestine and Israel.

The Rev. Julie Rowe ( first row left), a former missionary in Jerusalem for four years, works with Companion Synods and Working Groups relating to Europe and the Middle East, the Peace Not Walls Campaign and other website work.

Marlene DeWulf (first row right) holds down the administrative fort for the whole team.

The Rev. Peter and Michele Johnson and the Rev. Arden and Jana Haug are among our 225+ ELCA missionaries serving in 50 countries. Learn how you and your congregation can provide prayer, financial and encouraging support for ELCA missionaries like the Johnsons and Haugs at www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.

This email update courtesy of Hand in Hand Global Mission Support Blog Digest - http://blogs.elca.org/handinhand/

Find out more about ELCA Global Mission at this link: http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Global-Mission.aspx

ELCA Peace Not Walls is based in Global Mission, but you'll find its web presence at this link: http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Peace-Not-Walls.aspx

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Monday, August 23, 2010

An ecumenical accompanier writes from Jayyous

"The soldier closing the gate calls out to us, `Have a good day.' (...) `A good day?'

"It’s a good day when the gates that separate farmers from their fields are closed 22 hours out of each day? It’s a good day when Israeli soldiers choose to give Palestinian farmers permission to go onto their own Palestinian land that they have farmed for generations? It’s a good day when farmers and their families are forbidden to stay on their land over night but must return through the gate between 6 and 6:30 in the evening?"

Hope you'll read the full blog post from EAPPI accompanier John Buttrick: http://fjbuttrick.blogspot.com/

John is serving as an "EA" through the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) - http://www.eappi-us/

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

ELCA Network News: Highlight Lakeside Theological Convocation

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has issued its August Middle East Network Newsletter [posted at http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Peace-Not-Walls/Resources/Newsletter.aspx]

Please give special attention to the Lakeside Theological Convocation, Sept. 7-9, 2010.

The Church and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict –Working for Peace in the Middle East
Lakeside Theological Convocation
Sept. 7-9, 2010

It is not too late to register for Trinity Lutheran Seminary's Lakeside Theological Convocation at the Lakeside Conference Center, 60 miles east of Toledo on Lake Erie.

Keynote presenters are Warren Clark of Churches for Middle East Peace; Bishop Bruce Burnside from the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin; Susan Wilder, ELCA representative for Middle East policy; Rani Abdulmasih from Mother of the Savior Arabic Lutheran Church in Dearborn, Michigan; and Michael Trice, Associate Executive for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, ELCA.

Find more information and register at this website: http://www.trinitylutheranseminary.edu/lakeside-theological-convocation - or call 614-384-4661.

Program topics and titles include:
•Background to the Conflict
•Transformed Nonconformists: Opportunities for Middle East Peace Making in the US Arena
•Holy Land, Holy people, Holy God: A Christian Palestinian Perspective
•Balancing Interests: Christian-Jewish Conversations Today
•On the Ground in Israel and the Palestinian Territories: Obstacles and Opportunities


Other news from the ELCA Middle East Network... Middle East-related news and action alerts from the ELCA e-Advocacy Network - http://www.elca.org/~/media/Files/Our%20Faith%20in%20Action/Justice/Peace%20Not%20Walls/MENET/MENET%202010-08-10.pdf

On July 24, 2010, the Rev. Dr. Munib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), was elected President of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF). He succeeds outgoing president the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, who has held the position since 2003. Bishop Younan will serve until the next LWF Assembly, which is normally held every six years. (...) see Bishop Younan's July 25 sermon, "Who could imagine the Holy Land without Christians?" - http://www.lwf-assembly.org/experience/lwi-assembly-news/news-detail/article/555/8/neste/1/

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land complete joint youth mission trip
The Holy Land Youth Mission returned safe and sound at the end of July, full of experiences and emotions and struck by the contrasts of the blessed but battered Holy Land. As Laura Heinrich put it in her blog: In Jerusalem we experienced the good, the bad, the ugly, the worst, the sad, the broken... U.S. participants were shocked by story after story of oppressive restrictions, but heartened by the hospitality and graciousness of their Palestinian hosts. They were saddened by some hopelessness about the situation, yet inspired by the many who have dreams and convictions of bringing justice and peace to their land. Stay tuned for more reflections as they return to internet connectivity and have time to process all they have experienced. Click to this website - http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Peace-Not-Walls/What-We-Do/Travel/Youth-Trips.aspx - which also has a link to the facebookpage, ELCA/ELCJHL Holy Land Youth Mission.

Current analysis and reports from the ground on PNW (Peace Note Walls) website
What are Israeli peace leaders are saying about the current situation? How are Palestinians and Israelis together practicing non-violent resistance? Who makes the best beer in the West Bank? For answers, go to current analysis and reports from the ground on the Peace Not Walls website - http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Peace-Not-Walls/Situation-Update/Current-Analysis.aspx

Posted there are recent analyses (and video clips) by Israeli, Palestinian, and American commentators, such as Gershon Baskin, co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information; Ziad Asali, President of the American Task Force on Palestine; and New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof. Titles include: "Peace Demands Courage," "Encountering Peace: Settlements and the anti-Zionists," "The West Bank - What about Fairness?" and "Beer and Checkpoints in the West Bank."

There is much more in the ELCA's Middle East Network Newsletter -
Please check out the whole August edition.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

CMEP Bulletin: Negotiations for Direct Talks Heating Up

Churches for Middle East Peace - http://www.cmep.org/
Bulletin August 17, 2010

Negotiations for Direct Talks Heating Up

There are intense negotiations going in this week between Israel, the United States and the Palestinians, as well as with the Quartet (the US, the EU, the UN, and Russia) over terms under which direct negotiations would resume between Israelis and the Palestinians.

Israel continues to insist that it wants to begin direct negotiation as soon as possible but without preconditions. Palestinians fear that without an agreed framework, Israel with its stronger position would be able to allow negotiations to drag on while Palestinians would remain under pressure of Israeli expansionism into the West Bank and east Jerusalem. President Abbas is insisting that there must be some agreed framework and timetable for the talks, such as the statement issued by the Quartet on March 19 - http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/409607B6476A9116852576EB004854B6 - that called for the conclusion of a negotiated agreement within two years (March 2012).

At his meeting with President Obama on July 6, Prime Minister Netanyahu said he was willing to take risks for peace, yet so far he has made no proposals, saying he is waiting for the beginning of the direct talks.

It was reported earlier last week that the United States is putting intense pressure on President Abbas to begin direct talks.

Churches for Middle East Peace is urging the administration to publically reaffirm United States support for the Quartet statement of March 19 and in particular to call for continued suspension of actions by either side that could undermine confidence or slow down progress toward an agreement to be reached not later than March, 2012.


Additional Resources:

"Secretary Clinton tries dialing diplomacy for Mideast." AP, August 13, 2010 - http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/409607B6476A9116852576EB004854B6

"Settlement freeze dispute threatens direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks." Christina Case Bryant, Christian Science Monitor, August 16, 2010 - http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2010/0816/Settlement-freeze-dispute-threatens-direct-Israeli-Palestinian-peace-talks

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

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Through the Eyes of Women - Their Faith and Courage

Palestinian women are the focus of the summer edition of Cornerstone from Sabeel in Jerusalem. Here is Sabeel Director Naim Ateek's cover article, "Through the Eyes of Women - Their Faith and Courage."

Summer 2010
Find this article and more at the website:

Through The Eyes of Women - Their Faith and Courage
by Naim Ateek


In this issue we focus on the life of Palestinian women under occupation. The intention is to highlight the important role women have played and continue to play in the struggle against the illegal Israeli occupation. The general impression is that men are the only political players and that women are uninvolved, and at best, play a minor and passive role.

It is true that Palestinian men have been the key players in conducting both the armed struggle and the political negotiations, and that women have had a relatively minor role to play, though some of them have been active in both. Yet when we consider the multiple layers on which the liberation struggle has been conducted and the various fronts on which the resistance has taken place, it becomes clear that Palestinian women have been vanguards in their direct and indirect involvement and especially in its nonviolent aspects, though some have been involved in the armed struggle as well.

Sabeel’s Theological Position

In many countries and throughout many centuries, history, culture, and religion have contributed to discrimination against women and perceived them as inferior to men. Sadly, religion has played a despicable role in this. In fact, it has taken humanity thousands of years to rise above such primitive theologies and, unfortunately, in many places around the world women still suffer from prejudice and discrimination.

Palestinian Liberation Theology has always affirmed that the God we believe in is the God who loves all and created us all equally -- both men and women. “…There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). God created us all as humans and endowed us with gifts, talents, and responsibilities in all aspects of life. It is clear from the Gospels that Jesus related to both men and women with respect and honor as equal human beings.

Consequently, Palestinian women played a prominent role in the establishment of the Sabeel center in the early 1990’s and have continued to be involved in the articulation of its theology, vision for ministry, policy, and decision-making. Women have been conspicuously active on the board and staff as well as representing Sabeel both locally and internationally in various forums and conferences.

At Sabeel, it is theology that guides us rather than any cultural or religious limitations. It is our theology of God expressed and exemplified in the life and behavior of Jesus Christ towards all people – men, women, Romans, Greeks, Jews, Samaritans, and others. Our faith in the God of love for all people must transcend those aspects of culture that are discriminatory and biased against

Women Under Occupation

The burdens and responsibilities which many Palestinian women have to bear under the Israeli occupation cannot be underestimated. Life under the illegal Israeli occupation has been and continues to be extremely difficult especially when one considers the obstacles that the occupation has imposed. Israel has placed before Palestinians insurmountable stumbling blocks that obstruct and impede their daily life. In addition to the separation wall which Israel built and the military checkpoints which are enforced, there are numerous other military regulations and daily challenges that obstruct even the nitty-gritty matters of daily life.

The role which women have played has been very significant. One can summarize it with the word courage – courage to withstand the injustice, to confront and face the Israeli army and engage it with boldness and determination and sometimes suffer the consequences, courage to make hard decisions when caring for the wellbeing of their families, when, at times, their husbands and children were in detention or incarceration.

Moreover, it is not only the physical but the psychological and emotional drain that many women have to bear. It is the day in and day out of continuous hardships caused by the lack of freedom that is accompanied by a sinister humiliation at every turn. Palestinian women have been involved in the struggle directly and indirectly, in their homes as well as outside, showing unflinching vigor and resilience.

In light of all the hardships, we thank God for the undaunted faith and courage of many Palestinian women, their unwavering nonviolent struggle against the oppressive occupation, and together as men and women we look for the day when justice will be achieved and the occupation will come to an end. We express our hope that soon all the people of Palestine will celebrate their freedom and liberation and all the people of our land Palestinians and Israelis, men and women, will live together in peace and security.

The Rev. Naim Ateek is the Director of Sabeel, the ecumenical liberation theology center in Jerusalem: www.sabeel.org

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Greta Steeber writes: We Are Floating in a Sea of Crazy

Dear readers,

I wish I could share with you all the marvelous newsletters sent to me in the past year by Greta Steeber, a young friend who lived in Beit Sahour through the Young Adults in Global Ministry program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ameria (ELCA). She taught at the Lutheran school there. Greta sent her reflections in a monthly newsletter, beautifully laid out. I'll include here her message from the last newsletter she sent from Palestine (June 2010).

For more about the young adults - six of them! - who served in Palestine, including an example (April) of Greta's newsletter, go to the web page of the ELCA's Peace Not Walls campaign (you have to scroll down a little bit): http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Peace-Not-Walls/What-We-Do/Accompaniment.aspx

June 1, 2010

Why Is This Place Different?
We Are Floating in a Sea of Crazy

By Greta Steeber


Contrary to what is usually advisable when writing essays etc., I wrote the title to this newsletter yesterday before starting to write and with an entirely different meaning in mind. However, events have conspired against me and I am forced to reinterpret “floating in a sea of crazy” quite differently. You may have heard of the “Freedom Flotilla” that was making its way from Turkey with 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid for Gaza. On Sunday night the boats were attacked in international waters by the Israeli Defense Forces who were intent on enforcing the blockade of Gaza; so intent were they on stopping the aid boats that they were willing to use extreme force including live fire, thus killing at least 10 people, maybe more. [ed. we now know that nine people were killed.] The repercussions of this event are ongoing and I encourage you to keep up to date on how the pieces are moving on the political chessboard.

My original idea was to talk about how much attention this part of the world gets in comparison to so much suffering elsewhere. Israel/Palestine is a hot button topic that is sure to raise opinions from most people who know about it. It is also assuredly the key to conflicts in other parts of the world - even going so far as to call it the flash point of conflict between the “West” and the “East” if you want to think about the world being so divided (my own opinion is that this is not the most helpful frame of reference). On the other hand, when I am here it is not always easy to keep in mind that there are many kinds of occupation in the world. There is economic occupation, domestic violence, slave trade, religious extremism, racism, occupation of the body through disease, and many other less known calamities happening around the world every day. All of these occupations are devastating and pervasive.

I do not believe that you can rank suffering, but I do think that each voice has a right to be heard. Israelis are not physically occupied, though events I have witnessed in the last year have persuaded me that they are morally compromised by the actions taken in their name against the Palestinians. Palestinians are not blameless either. Each side has its share in the big pot of crazy being brewed here and which is sure to overflow every now and again. Again, I am not sure this is exactly different from other kinds of occupation. What I have come to understand for the sake of my own sanity, is that you cannot compare situations. All you can do is be where you are and be present for the people in your community. There is much that I have left unsaid about communities and their importance, but I encourage you to discover this for yourself wherever you are right now!

I have done what I said I would not do, and that is to editorialize. This was, however, an important part of my month. Us six ELCA YAGM’s were spending an evening in Ramallah last weekend and decided to try having an evening without any discussion of the occupation, politics relating to occupation, our school dramas or basically anything about Palestine/Israel. The experiment has yet to be tried, but I am guessing it will fail. This is one of the things that makes living here so stressful - you cannot often forget the occupation hovering right above you.

Some things do have that magical power though. For instance, helping students at my school get ready for their open house. The students from all the classes prepared projects, posters, exhibits and plays to show off their work from the entire year. I had a wonderful time cruising through the transformed classrooms and having students show me their projects. It was especially eye-opening because I don’t often get to see what their strengths are outside of the English department - some kids need all thehelp they can get with English, but are whizzes at reprogramming computers and I never knew. Some of the presentations were quite amazing and I was able to reconnect with some of my high school science principles as I helped them translate their explanations into some mix of Arabic and English that I could understand.

I think I have already mentioned how much I love getting even seemingly minor religious holidays off. For instance, this month we had Ascension Day off as well as Whit Monday (the official name of the day after Pentecost). I took advantage of one of these days to visit Old Jaffa on the coast. It is one of the oldest ports along the coast and the arab precursor of the modern Tel Aviv. It is justifiably known for good food and rustic scenery. I also found it to be swarming with international Jews on birthright tours. This is a program through the Israeli government (and funded largely by Americans), that seeks to strengthen the Jewish heritage by bringing young Jews to Israel (http://www.birthrightisrael.com/site/PageServer). Unfortunately, it is also a prime opportunity for a propaganda campaign of pro-Israeli zionist ideas. There is even a separate program that has been formed called “Birthright Unplugged” that tries to break down the information from the government into a more tempered and two sided perspective (http://www.birthrightunplugged.org/).

When I got back to school after my trip and after our open house, it was on to the next big event - graduation. We had both a kindergarden graduation and high school graduation. The top class of kindergarden is called Taumhedi, and the top class of high school - grade 12 - is the Tawjihi, so named for the school ending exams they take in the summer which in turn determine their future to some extent. The kindergarden graduation was cute and brief, and the high school was a sight to behold. All year I have not really gotten to know the Tawjihi because supposedly they are too busy learning the government material for their exams and don’t have time for mere trifles like learning conversational skills etc. But I saw them in all their triumph at graduation when they dressed to the nines and paraded across the stage before heading for their party at which there were apparently over 850 people - a number to which I can attest. I did not graduate from a small school, on the contrary, my graduating class was over 650, so I don’t know how to compare this graduation with similar ones in the US, but I can say that our 30 or so Tawjihi students have been surrounded by a supportive community and are not likely to loose track of the friends they have made at the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour.

We now have less than two weeks of school left and this in itself is a scary proposition. I am going to deeply miss having the chance to see all these familiar and friendly faces every day. One of my jobs is to help prepare the yearbook for publication, so hopefully when I get back, I will have a vehicle for sharing some of these wonderful experiences with you in a very secondhand way.

Finally, I don’t know why I feel the need to share this with you other than that it simply tickled my fancy, but yesterday as I was running at my gym here in Beit Sahour, I got handed a key chain that doubles as a bottle opener. Not a big deal,right? But this is maybe saying something about living in minority Christian community in a Muslim country - besides the fact that my gym is handing out bottle openers.... I enjoyed it as one of those odd little moments I have come to appreciate about my time here.

ma’salaame, Greta

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Palestinian Lutheran pastor addresses Presbyterians

Here's a little article from the Metro Lutheran pointing to Pastor Mitri Raheb's address to Presbyterians meeting in Minneapolis earlier this summer.

Palestinian Lutheran pastor addresses Presbyterians - http://metrolutheran.org/2010/07/palestinian-lutheran-pastor-addresses-presbyterians/

July 27, 2010

Palestinian Lutheran pastor addresses Presbyterians

The Rev. Mitri Raheb, pastor of Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem (a member church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land), spoke to delegates of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.’s national convention in Minneapolis in early July.

A resolution before the PCUSA called for an immediate cessation of all violence, an end to Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, a freeze on the establishment of settlements in those territories, and an agreement about Israel’s absolute right of existence with safe and secure borders.

Raheb, a Palestinian Lutheran pastor and a chief author of the Palestinian Kairos document: “A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering” released by Palestinian Christians in December 2009, urged delegates to vote for a strong resolution, knowing that the immediate hardships would be felt by his own countrymen. Still, Raheb argued, the Middle East situation will not change until Western countries pressure Israel to end the occupation.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Methodist Church UK to boycott goods from illegal Israeli settlements

Back at the end of June, the Conference of the Methodist Church in the UK passed a resolution to boycott goods from illegal Israeli settlements. Here is the news release with my apologies for its late distribution.

Methodist Church to boycott goods from illegal Israeli settlements
Conference denounces all violence

The Methodist Church has today voted to boycott all products from Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, and to encourage Methodists across Britain to do the same.

The decision is a response to a call from a group of Palestinian Christians, a growing number of Jewish organisations, both inside Israel and worldwide, and the World Council of Churches. A majority of governments recognise the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories as illegitimate under international law.

Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relationships, said,“This decision has not been taken lightly, but after months of research, careful consideration and finally, today’s debate at the Conference. The goal of the boycott is to put an end to the existing injustice. It reflects the challenge that settlements present to a lasting peace in the region.

“We are passionate about dialogue across communities and with people of all faiths. We remain deeply committed to our relationships with our brothers and sisters of other faiths, and we look to engage in active listening so that we act as agents of hope together.”

In December, Defra introduced new advice on labelling, recommending that packaging of products imported from the West Bank should distinguish between Palestinian areas and Israeli settlements.

The Conference also adopted a statement calling for a full arms embargo against all sides in the conflict. “This conflict is further fuelled by partisan support by other countries. Violence from all parties in this conflict must be denounced, and a just peace sought for all peoples living in the region,” said Christine.

The move to boycott is just one among a number of measures agreed by the Conference, which also include a commitment to regular and informed prayer for the needs of those in region. Methodists across Great Britain are also encouraged to visit the region, write to their MPs and engage in respectful dialogue with Jews and Muslims on this issue.


This is the World Council of Churches' news release on the work of the Methodist Conference in Portsmouth.

UK Methodists "dare more than words" for just peace in Palestine and Israel

For immediate release: 02 July 2010

The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit has congratulated the United Kingdom's National Methodist Conference “important and forward looking resolutions by your church around the question of a just peace for Palestine and Israel.”

The conference, which met on 24 June to 1 July in Portsmouth, has received a report entitled “Justice for Palestine and Israel” and voted on 11 resolutions pertaining to it. These include a request to the Methodist Faith and Order Committee to “undertake further work on the theological issues, including Christian Zionism, raised in the report that are needed to guide and support the approach of the Methodist Church to the Israeli/Palestinian situation”.

On a more practical ground, the Conference called on the Methodist people “to support and engage with [the] boycott of Israeli goods” emanating from illegal settlements as their response to a call of the WCC in 2009 supported by Palestinian Christians in the "Kairos document"
[http://www.kairospalestine.ps/] and a growing number of Jewish organizations, both inside Israel and worldwide. The Conference also called for a full arms embargo as an important step towards a just peace in the region.

Tveit underlined the “thoroughness of the process that preceded the inclusive decision making” and stated how the UK Methodists “have set parameters which will be a model worth replicating in many arenas.”

In his letter of congratulation to the president designate of the Methodist Conference, Rev. Lionel Osborn, and to the vice-president designate Ruth Pickles, Tveit expressed deep satisfaction with the “transparent spirit that can provide a genuine space for a church body to develop church policy that embodies the Christian understanding that ‘we are all one’ in the Spirit and one in the Lord.” This oneness was symbolized when the conference prayed the Lord's Prayer together following the vote.

“Palestinian Christians will certainly take courage and strength from the implementation of the report’s resolutions. They will be more courageous in denouncing all forms of violence and to invoke the need for enforcing international law by bringing an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories,” Tveit added. “We trust that Methodists in Great Britain and, indeed, people everywhere will be influenced and impacted by your call to boycott goods from illegal Israeli settlements as a pathway to a lasting and sustainable peace in the region.”

Such actions, he stated, “are visible proof of your irreversible conviction that God demands that we dare more than words.”

Commending the spirit of the resolution, Tveit also recognized "that your agenda is neither divisive in spirit nor in intent. The approved resolutions of the conference are a clear response to the aspirations for a just peace both by Palestinian Christians as well as a growing number of Jewish organizations, both inside Israel and worldwide.”

The Conference also resolved to commend the Palestine/Israel report to local churches, circuits and districts “for reflection and action” and to support the “vital work” of the WCC Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), encouraging Methodists to volunteer in the programme [http://www.eappi.org/] .

The Methodist Church is the 4th largest Christian denomination in the United Kingdom.

More information on the Methodist Conference in Portsmouth -

WCC Central Committee statement on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory(September 2009) - http://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/central-committee/geneva-2009/reports-and-documents/report-on-public-issues/statement-on-israeli-settlements-in-the-occupied-palestinian-territory.html

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Taking water to the Jordan - EAPPI summer team report

Taking water to the Jordan

20 July 2010

By Doris R., Ecumenical Accompanier in Yanoun, and the EAPPI summer team 2010

A few days ago, I was handing out bottles of water within a few miles of Israel/Palestine’s only major river, the Jordan. The village of Al Fasayel lies in a desert landscape, a contrast to nearby Israeli settlements, which have access to almost unlimited water. Al Fasayel itself has not had water on tap for over seven weeks.

The Jordan Valley is an area of stunning natural and rugged beauty. The mountainsides are barren, the illegal settlements in the valley floor dark, fertile green. But the valley is also an area of discrimination and grinding poverty.

The first time I and other participants in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) visited Al Fasayel, we were offered glasses of sweet tea. [http://www.eappi.org/ ]

It was only when we went outside to talk with the children that they showed us a tap that has been dry for almost two months.

EAPPI brings internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation. Ecumenical Accompaniers provide protective presence, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace. We had come to the Jordan Valley to visit some of the region’s most vulnerable communities.

Lack of access to water has long been a problem for Palestinians in the Jordan Valley. Since it occupied the West Bank in 1967, Israel has denied them access to the waters of the Jordan River and severely limited their access to other local aquifers. The Oslo Accords of 1993 merely consolidated Israel’s control over the West Bank’s water resources. Israel now places severe restrictions on Palestinian usage.

Palestinian water consumption in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is only around 70 litres a day per person, whereas the same figure for Israelis is around 300 litres, according to a report by Amnesty International -

Some Palestinians survive on barely 20 litres per day, the necessary amount calculated by the World Health Organization for short-term survival in emergency situations - http://wedc.lboro.ac.uk/resources/who_notes/WHO_TN_09_How_much_water_is_needed.pdf
The 450,000 Israelis living in illegal West Bank settlements use as much or more water than the 2.3 million Palestinians in the same area. The World Bank reported in 2009 that Palestinian access to water is in decline -

Near Al Fasayel lies the Bedouin encampment of Ein Al Hilweh. The 25 families living in these modest tents have to collect their water from a well an hour’s drive away. The army sometimes bans them from using the road, and the trip to collect water may bring a fine of several hundred shekels. The settlers, who live in well-built houses with running water, also regularly harass the Bedouin.

Around 9,600 Israelis now live in the illegal settlements that blanket much of the Jordan Valley. They grow a variety of fruits and vegetables for export to Europe, particularly by the Israeli company Agrexco. Experts estimate that with their artificial irrigation systems, these settlements use over half of all water consumed in the West Bank. This places intense strain on the valley’s scarce water resources, says George Rishmawi of the Near East Council of Churches.

“Israel is trying to isolate the Jordan Valley from the rest of the West Bank and forcibly remove its Palestinian inhabitants by denying them access to water,” he says.

Much of the sewage from Palestinian towns goes untreated because Israel does not allow the Palestinian authority to build new treatment plants. According to a recent report by Amnesty International, the Israeli army frequently smashes up water infrastructure built by Palestinians – even rainwater harvesting systems.

Duties of the occupier

So what could we do? We contacted a local businessman, Arab Al-Shorafa, who runs the Yanabee, a company that sells bottled water. He was also the mayor of the Palestinian town of Beita. We had reached him using the phone number on the back of one of the company’s water bottles, and told him about the situation in Al Fasayel.

Immediately he offered to donate over 700 litres of bottled water, providing we could collect them from the factory that evening. He phoned back later, offering to quadruple the number.

We agreed to collect and deliver the first batch that night. We drove to the factory and loaded a van. Al-Shorafa met us and promised to provide more water and the truck for another delivery the next day.

We drove back to Fasayel. In the dark, we distributed the water to the families as they appeared through the darkness with their children. The next morning, with temperatures in the mid-30s centigrade, we delivered another batch.

Tony Blair, envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, recently visited Fasayel. He managed to persuade the Israeli authorities to rescind a demolition order on the local school. But the village’s taps remain dry.

Our deliveries to Fasayel have provided enough water for each family in that village for a week. But Al-Shorafa’s act of charity merely underscores the fact that ensuring access to adequate food and water is the duty of the occupying

Many locals believe that Israel’s failure to fulfill this is part of a strategy to drive them from their ancestral lands. As we delivered bottles of water in the searing heat, we could understand their point of view.

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More information on water scarcity in the West Bank is available from the Jordan Valley Solidarity Campaign - http://jordanvalleysolidarity.org/

Sign up to instant updates from EAPPI at www.twitter.com/eappi and join the EAPPI Facebook group - http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=info&ref=search&gid=2309402802

WCC member churches in Palestine and Israel -

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) was launched in August 2002. Ecumenical Accompaniers monitor and report violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, support acts of non-violent resistance alongside local Christian and Muslim Palestinians and Israeli peace activists, offer protection through non-violent presence, engage in public policy advocacy and stand in solidarity with the churches and all those struggling against the occupation. The programme is coordinated by the World Council of Churches (WCC). Opinions expressed in WCC Features do not necessarily reflect WCC policy. This material may be reprinted freely, providing credit is given to the author.

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians
in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

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