Tuesday, September 9, 2014

World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel 2014

This message from the John Calhoun and Ranjan Solomon of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the World Council of Churches.

Greetings and peace to you all.  During 21-27 September 2014, congregations, community groups, and individuals committed to justice and human rights are invited to participate in World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel (WWPPI).

This year, the theme of the World Week is “Let my people go” (Exodus 9:1).  In response to the request of church leaders and laity in Palestine, the World Week international working group has chosen to focus attention in 2014 on the critical issue of political prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails:  Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and annexed East Jerusalem; administrative detainees; child prisoners; prisoners suffering harsh conditions; and Israeli conscientious objectors.

Over the last months, the World Week working group, along with partners worldwide, have been preparing resources for use in worship services, educational forums, and other events during the Week.  These resources include:

•The Jerusalem Prayer from Palestinian Christian church leaders in Jerusalem
•The worship liturgy "Let My People Go," written by Palestinian Christian laity and clergy for Sunday 21 September
•A booklet guide for observing WWPPI 2014, created by our international working group and Palestinian partners, with information, theological reflections, and advocacy suggestions for each day of the Week

•A dossier entitled, "Palestinian Prisoners: A Question of Conscience," focusing on the issue of prisoners held by the Israeli occupation forces, authored by human rights' and prisoners' organizations in Palestine and Israel; the dossier is a remarkable collection of statistics, analysis, and personal stories that should serve as a valuable resource for advocacy
•An online petition that will be circulated for signature in the days leading up to the World Week.

These and other resources can be found on the Resources page of the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel website, at http://pief.oikoumene.org/en/world-week-for-peace/resources

Please continue to refer to this site for additional updates through the end of the Week.

Lastly, I invite you to email us a description of the WWPPI events that you may be planning, or in which you will participate.  We are compiling a database of information regarding activities taking place during the Week, and would like to add your activities to our list.

Many thanks for your participation in World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel 2014.


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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dina and Medical Staff in Gaza - Day Four

Dina Nasser is a Registered Nurse now working in Gaza with a medical team from Augusta Victoria Hospital  in Jerusalem (Lutheran World Federation).   She is the daughter of my friend Samia Khoury. 

From Gaza
Dina Nasser
August 5, 2014
Today was day four in Gaza . The first two days were like limbo. We felt we were in Gaza but not yet feeling what was happening around. We live in the hospital compound: eat in the compound, work in the compound, sleep in the compound. We see the injured, hear the ambulances, see the bodies and people strewn around everywhere - still it does not sink in. Yesterday evening things started to get real when I saw a child sleeping with his father in the open air on a piece of cardboard. He was there in the morning, there in the evening, and again this morning and this evening. I wonder where is his mother, where is his family? The stories one hears about entire families being annihilated, completely erased from the national registers of citizenship makes your hair stand on end! But still, it does not sink in. Perhaps because I am in the operation room and used to seeing people injured. Then reality hits when the shelling in Jabalia starts. At ten in the evening we receive a lady in her sixties. She is full of dust, full of earth and full of holes throughout her body. Head lacerated, thighs lacerated, leg crushed. I think of where she could have been sitting, what were her thoughts when the shell hit… I thought of mom, I thought of all the older women I know.
When the bombing started this morning, it was children. Our first patient was a little boy around six years old. He had massive lacerations to his groin, abdomen, face and head. He had burns all over his body as well. We were able to manage him in the theatre. I wait to see how he is doing. Then comes Haneen. She is an eight year old; my colleague from the emergency room, Dr. Haytham informed me that a child is coming up with her hand hanging on her side. I went up to Haneen who was waiting calmly in the holding bay. Her eyes were closed. She had a bandage across her head; her eyes were closed because of the swelling from the oedema and the burns to her face. I approached her and held her, and greeted her, and informed her of my name. I held her little hand on the injured side. I told her that I will be with her - she held my fingers. She informed me that her hand hurts. I told her that it was injured and that we will try and fix it. She then asked me about her father and two sisters. I told her that her father was waiting for her. I could not tell her that her sister had died. I still could not tell her that later that evening, her other sister was brought in dead from under the rubble…they were both less than four years old.
I saw Haneen in the ICU later. She was awake and extubated. I greeted her and told her that I was Dina. One eye was now open. She asked me if I had a daughter, I said yes. She asked me what is her name. I said Haya. She said that is a pretty name.
It was a tough day that ended with hopeful news. The plane up above, called zanana (drone) keeps buzzing all around. My colleagues from Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem arrived today with supplies. I felt proud to greet them. The Hospital had done an excellent job sending supplies and individual packs to each of us. They were greeted and their support appreciated. Being there is all that matters. On a personal level, I feel responsible for a big group now. It is very nice to have Dr. Haytham here; he is a wonderful professional colleague. My other colleagues are in Nasser Hospital in Rafah (South of Gaza), treating the injured and witnessing the toll of martyrs. One other colleague is at Al Aqsa Hospital working in surgery.
The smell of blood and death is around the young and the old. Each day we are greeted with the car coming to take the martyrs. Our room is close to the mortuary. You look at the faces of people here - they are all stunned. A nurse on duty looks deeply sad - her son comes with her to work. My friend Bassam from Gaza came to visit me and brought me a lot of goodies to eat. I distributed them among our team and colleagues. I was worried when I looked into his eyes and saw how red they were. The strain on his face was apparent. His son had a close call, and his nephew has ben injured. They are children. They were playing in the street and had just stepped into the house….
The nursing director had to take a deep breath as he recalled all the children that he had seen. We will need time to heal she said, the pain will take time. The stories are overwhelming and the loss has not yet stopped.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Israeli occupation grinds on, but Palestinians find unity

Abbas swears in Palestinian unity government
President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday swore in a Palestinian unity government, taking a major step toward ending a crippling territorial and political split among the Palestinians but also setting the stage for new friction with Israel.

The brief ceremony at Abbas’ West Bank headquarters was preceded by last-minute haggling over the makeup of the 17-member Cabinet of technocrats, signaling the continued tensions between the long-time rivals.  Read the full article here.

ELCA Peace Not Walls blog: “Peace Process” or not, Israeli Occupation Grinds On
During the past two weeks, two events have caught the attention of the international community: the shooting deaths of two teenage protesters in Beitunia and the destruction of thousands of fruit trees on a farm south of Bethlehem.

The Nasser family has endured years of harassment by Israeli authorities and set up a retreat center known as Tent of Nations. For Christians affiliated with Lutheran churches throughout the world, these two incidents were heaped on top of the financial crisis facing Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH), an institution of the Lutheran World Federation on the Mt. of Olives providing Palestinians with regular cancer and dialysis care. Read the full blog post here.

Dancing in Bethlehem
For many young girls, ballet class is just another in a long list of after-school activities. But for girls in the West Bank, learning ballet isn’t just about learning to dance.

Sarah Bolick had studied dance as an undergraduate before signing on as an ELCA young adult volunteer in the Holy Land.

Supported in part by the gifts of members and congregations to ELCA Vision for Mission, Sarah’s work included helping teach English to students in kindergarten through eighth grade at Dar Al-Kalima School in Bethlehem, one of four Lutheran schools run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. While she loved interacting with the kids at the school, Sarah was also excited to be able to put her skills to use teaching dance in an after-school program -- something that is pretty rare in Palestine. See more at Living Lutheran.

"Before Their Diaspora"
Throughout the centuries of Arab and Muslim rule in Palestine, Jews had free access to the Wailing Wall. Access became an issue only after the 1948 War and the resultant Palestinian diaspora. "Jewish women praying at the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem" and other photos appear in Before Their Diaspora, A photographic history of the Palestinians, 1876-1948, by Walid Khalidi. See more photographs from Before Their Diaspora.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Israeli forces destroy 1,500 fruit trees at Tent of Nations near Bethlehem

Word has reached me of the recent destruction of many, many fruit trees at the Tent of Nations, the Nassar family farm near Bethlehem.  Our traveling group visited Daher Nassar at the Tent of Nations in February, and it was a highlight of our tour.

Friends of Tent of Nations North America has provided information and updates from the Nassar family and their legal team.  They plan to post an update tonight with any actions requested. This is the published ALERT.

For background on the recent demolitions, see Ben White's article
"Israeli forces destroyed an estimated 1,500 fruit trees belonging to the Tent of Nations farm outside Nahalin village, in the Bethlehem region of the occupied West Bank yesterday morning.
"Owned by the Nassar family, the farm lies just below Neve Daniel, an Israeli settlement, located in “the Gush Etzion bloc”. The property has long been targeted by Israeli occupation authorities seeking to confiscate the land and remove an obstacle to settlement expansion.
"According to the family, soldiers arrived at their land early in the morning, and in a couple of hours uprooted some 1,500 apricot and apple trees, burying them under piles of soil."  Read the full article at 
Electronic Intifada

Friends of Tent of Nations is preparing a comprehensive update which they will post on their website tonight. Click here for that update.
The Tent of Nations Facebook page has photos and timely updates.

The destruction at Tent of Nations comes in the context of Israeli policies of land confiscation and displacement in the West Bank, and the control of Palestinian agricultural production.  For more information on the impact of these policies, IFPB recommends the following resources:
• UN-OCHA Monthly Humanitarian Bulletins
• Farming Injustice briefing from the BDS National Committee.

For more background, see this World Council of Churches feature story

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

A look back at Evangelicals' meeting at the checkpoint

People certainly got riled up over this year's Christ at the Checkpoint conference.

Christ at the Checkpoint: Call to Action
Under the title "Your Kingdom Come" over six hundred followers of Christ representing more than twenty nationalities met at the third biennial "Christ at the Checkpoint" conference in Bethlehem from the 10th to the 14th of March 2014 to pray, worship, learn and discuss together the responsibility and role of the church in helping resolve the conflict and bringing peace, justice and equality to the Holy Land through following the teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God. 
   Participants were urged to sign on to the "Checkpoint Manifesto." 
Click to read the full Call to Action
   The conference got the attention of Dale Coulter who wrote the article below for First Things magazine.

Why Evangelical Support for Israel is Waning - and How it can Find a Firmer Foundation
     First Things published this article this month.  "The recent Christ at the Checkpoint Conference has a number of evangelical groups concerned about waning support for the nation of Israel among Evangelicals (see Religion News Service and Juicy Ecumenism). David Brog of Christians United for Israel even wonders whether the end of evangelical support for Israel has come .
     "While there is no doubt a push for greater recognition of Palestinian Christians among certain evangelical groups, a key issue that has yet to be addressed is the role of dispensationalism and its view of the End. When John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, is a prominent advocate of a rapture theology, one can be sure dispensationalism is in the background. There is a theological issue at stake in this debate, and Evangelicals who want greater support for Israel ignore it at their peril."
Read the full article here.

Thanks to Kate Taber who wrote a very good piece on the same conference for The Presbyterian Outlook: Evangelicals ask, "What would Jesus do at the Checkpoint?"   
    Kate writes: "Conference participants were also given a glimpse of what daily life is like for Palestinians under military occupation. They had the opportunity to visit the checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, a fifteen-minute walk from the conference venue, where an estimated 2,500 Palestinian workers pass every day, many arriving in the middle of the night to take their place in line and await the 5 a.m. opening time in order to reach their jobs in Israel, often just a few miles away in Jerusalem. These workers are the coveted few who receive permits, and even they are not allowed to drive their cars to work, instead having to wait unpredictable lengths of time at the checkpoint while they risk losing their day jobs if they are late. Conference participants also toured East Jerusalem, annexed to Israel in 1967, and Hebron, occupied by Israel in 1967. In Jerusalem, participants learned how difficult it is to maintain Jerusalem residency as a Palestinian, as they face a severe lack of municipal services, the invasion of Israeli settlements in the middle of their neighborhoods, frequent child arrests, lack of building permits and ongoing home demolitions, the inability to be united with family members or spouses who do not have Jerusalem residency, and the continuous need to prove their center of life is in Jerusalem, from their taxes to school attendance to workplace. In Hebron, participants learned about the consequences local Palestinians face due to the Israeli settlement in the middle of the old city, restricting their travel, making their main business district a ghost town and subjecting both children and adults to harassment and physical attacks from ideological settlers. Participants were also invited to join in a Catholic mass that takes place weekly as a form of nonviolent protest against the threat posed by the Israeli separation barrier to divide the Cremisan monastery and its olive groves from the rest of West Bank town Beit Jala."  Please read the full article at this link.

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