Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Texas Lutheran Holy Land Tour in 2014

Holy Land Tour in 2014

[Sorry I clicked the "send" key prematurely last evening. Here is the complete posting I had planned.]

I'm very pleased to announce: "Seeking Peace and Following Jesus in the Holy Land," Feb. 5-17, 2014. Our 13-day journey will take us to places associated with the Jesus’ life and ministry. We will meet the leaders of today’s Lutheran ministries in Palestine, working in a context of struggle. We will encounter the reality of the Occupation that affects Palestinians and Israelis, including the Separation Barrier that has been built across the Palestinian landscape.

Our trip is sponsored by the ELCA's Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Mission Area, but It's not just for Texans, and it's not just for Lutherans. For a detailed brochure, check this link.
Online registration is available here.
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`History is not made by cynics'
Here's a bulletin from Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP)
Negotiators Meet in Washington

Monday night over dinner, Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli and Palestinian negotiators Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat broke an almost three-year deadlock without direct negotiations. By the time the negotiators left town, little was revealed except that the parties would meet within the next two weeks in either Israel or the Palestinian Territories in order to begin the process of formal negotiations. Click the link to this bulletin for a number of helpful links provided by CMEP.

Read Warren Clark's analysis here: The Impossible Dream - It's Soon or Never
"The impossible dream of peace in the Holy Land -- the end of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank; secure and recognized boundaries for Israel and Palestine; a just solution of the refugee problem; a shared Jerusalem with East Jerusalem for a Palestinian state; recognition and normal relations between Israel and the 53 member countries of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference; and an end of conflict and an end of claims  – seems less impossible today than it did only a short time ago. This week Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Washington for the first time in three years and have set a nine month timetable for an agreement.

I said here on June 7 that President Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank in March and the subsequent efforts of Secretary Kerry seemed to create a fundamental improvement in the outlook for direct talks and progress toward an agreement.
Since then, two other developments have helped cause a tectonic political shift. First was the realization of Israel’s increasing international isolation in response to its settlement expansion. This month the European Union published regulations that distinguish between trade, investment, cultural and other cooperation with Europe and Israeli entities located within the 1967 lines and with those Israeli entities located east of the 1967 lines, including East Jerusalem. 
While the immediate economic impact of the regulations will be limited, the political message was strong. The European governments not only do not recognize settlements but are willing to sanction Israel for continuing to build them."  Read the entire post at this link.
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Our Shared Witness
Seems like a good time to take a look at a new book by Bishop Munib Younan, Our Shared Witness. In the world in which he lives – where Palestinians struggle for life and coexistence with their neighbor Israelis – one might imagine that despair and hopelessness dominate. However, in reading Bishop Younan’s writings readers will find unending hope for a future of peace and goodwill, along with an optimistic determination to be part of the solution for this troubled Holy Land.
This collection of writings, speeches, and sermons reveals Bishop Younan’s context, his perspective, and his hope. Readers will find his theology to be contextual—deeply rooted in his daily reality as a Palestinian Christian —while at the same time being universal, offering insights and principles that apply to other situations in vastly different parts of the world. Click here for more information about Our Shared Witness.
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New Christian Zionism resource
Robert Smith of ELCA Global Mission is the author of a new book on Christian Zionism The book is More Desired Than Our Owne Salvation: The Roots of Christian Zionism (Oxford, 2013). More info on the book can be found here. Pastor Smith is Area Program Director for the Middle East & North Africa. He serves as co-moderator of the Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum of the World Council of Churches.
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Attacks on Arabs in Israel
Spiegel Online provides a report on racist attacks on Israeli Arabs
Arabs are being beaten and insulted in Israel, where the number of racially motivated attacks has risen dramatically. The unresolved conflict, fueled by nationalist politicians, is shifting from Palestinian areas into the Israeli heartland.
"For decades, Jews and Palestinians have been fighting over the same piece of land. Some of them even share the same citizenship. Three quarters of Israel's 8 million people are Jews, and 1.8 million are Israeli Arabs. However, their paths rarely cross in everyday life. Israel's Arabs are not required to serve in the military, and many of them live in primarily Arab towns and neighborhoods, with their children attending Arab schools. They earn less on average and are not as well educated as Israeli Jews. Officially, they have the same rights as Jewish citizens, but in reality they are often the targets of discrimination."  Click here to read the full article.
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Israeli law tears Palestinian families apart
A report from Australians for Palestine points to systematic deportation of East Jerusalem Families.
"A system of `quiet deportation' of East Jerusalem families has developed as a result of the restrictive laws applied to Palestinians in the city. Between 1967 and 2011, more than 14,000 Palestinians have had their residency status revoked.
"Since Israel’s 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem, a move unrecognised by the international community, Palestinians have rarely been granted citizenship rights, only residency rights. Palestinians live with the threat of having their residency revoked.
"As a result, a generation of Palestinian children have grown up living in uncertainty and fear. Children tell Defence for Children International Palestine, a local Palestinian child rights organisation, that they are often afraid, sad, or feel different to peers who are afforded different entitlements."  Read the full article here.

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Despite Settlement Freeze, Buildings Rise 
The New York Times ran a story on the continued building of settlements.
JERUSALEM — One of the most contentious issues facing the Middle East peace talks is whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will extend the 10-month-old building freeze in West Bank Jewish settlements, as the Palestinians and Americans want.
The Israeli construction freeze, which did not extend to East Jerusalem, was politically difficult for Mr. Netanyahu, with his right-wing coalition partners. He has called the stoppage “exceptional” and “extraordinary.” But an examination of the freeze after more than seven months suggests that it amounts to something less significant, at least on the ground. In many West Bank settlements, building is proceeding apace. Dozens of construction sites with scores of Palestinian workers are active.
Read the full article here.
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