The crisis in Israel and Palestine 2023
Former President Barack Obama – “If there’s any chance of us being able to act constructively to do something, it will require an admission of complexity and maintaining what on the surface may seem contradictory ideas that what Hamas did was horrific, and there’s no justification for it. And . . . that the occupation and what’s happening to Palestinians is unbearable . . . If you want to solve the problem, then you have to take in the whole truth, and you then have to admit nobody’s hands are clean – that all of us are complicit to some degree.” *“Pod Save America” November 4, 2023
Calls for Prayer
United Methodist Karios Response A Call to our Church in a time of Moral Reckoning
United Methodist Committee on Relief – Please join us in offering continued prayers for safety, comfort and peace for those in the Holy Land.
In early October, Global Ministries issued a joint statement with the World Methodist Council and the Methodist Church in the United Kingdom, which you can read here. On Friday, Nov. 11, The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church issued a call for peace, which you can read here.
To date, UMCOR has awarded three emergency grants to local partners in Israel and Gaza. They are using the funds to procure and distribute hygiene kits for internally displaced people, provide psychosocial treatment and counseling to women and children, and offer telemedicine services for mothers and children in need of follow-up care, but without safe access to a clinic.
You can give to UMCOR’s international disaster response and recovery efforts at: https://advance.umcmission.org/p-641-umcor-international-disaster-response-and-recovery.aspx.
Reflections on Palestine/ Israel Ongoing Conflict
Rev. Michael Miller is a retired United Methodist Pastor in Minnesota who has led tours to the Holy Land. His July 2023 sermon is Titled “Becoming Woke.” The sermon begins about 30 minutes into the worship service.
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) urgently raises concerns regarding the sustainability of the
Christian community in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza in light of Israel’s ongoing military and
settler violence. Before October 7, the Christian community in Gaza included less than 1,000 people from several denominations, including Orthodox, Latin Catholic, Episcopalian, and Protestant traditions. Israel’s continued ground invasion of Gaza and relentless bombing campaign has indiscriminate effects and threatens to completely eradicate the Christian community in Gaza. The bombing of St. Porphyrius Orthodox Church, for example, killed 18 Christians and left many more injured. Presently, hundreds of Christians are sheltering in the Holy Family Catholic Church.
Pastor Alex Awad is a retired missionary to the Holy Land. In this April 21, 2022 discussion, he reflects on current conditions in Palestine.
United Methodists In Palestine Webnar January 12, 2023
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) Condemns Escalating Violence in Jerusalem
and West Bank and calls on US Government to Engage January 28, 2023
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) condemns the violence and attacks being reported over the last two days in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). We grieve the loss of both Israeli and Palestinian lives and call on the US government to do everything possible to bring an end to the violence. Unless the core causes of the conflict are addressed, violent acts perpetrated by both sides will continue.
On Thursday, January 26, the Israeli military conducted a raid in Jenin which resulted in the deaths of at least nine Palestinians. According to the New York Times, the raid “was aimed at apprehending members of an Islamic Jihad group” who had planned attacks against Israelis. The Palestinian Authority has called the killings a massacre and has threatened to cut off security coordination with Israel. One of the Palestinians killed was a 61-year-old woman. Another Palestinian, Jawad Bouaqneh, was shot and killed as he attempted to give first aid to one of the alleged militants. These deaths have brought the Palestinian death toll at the hands of the Israeli military in January to 30 people, including at least five under the age of 18 years old. This all comes after 2022 was the most violent year against Palestinians since 2008.
On Friday, January 27, a Palestinian gunman opened fire and killed seven Israelis who were observing Shabbat near an East Jerusalem synagogue. Of those killed, there were five men and two women, making this one of the deadliest attacks on Israelis in years. The gunman was shot and killed by Israeli police. The Israelis responded and arrested 42 people in “connection with the deadly shooting.”
In addition to these incidents, escalation between Israel and Gaza included rocket fire from Gaza and airstrikes from Israel. As of the evening of January 28, no deaths had been reported.
On Monday, January 30, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to have meetings in Israel. Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) condemns the recent violence and expects the U.S. government to start addressing ongoing core contributions to this conflict, including, but not limited to, the decades-long occupation of the Palestinian people in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. The U.S. cannot afford only to respond when violence occurs but instead must call on Israel to stop their policies that limit the human rights and dignity of Palestinian people within their borders and in the oPt. The US government must also acknowledge the exponentially disproportionate power dynamics between Israeli state violence and Palestinian resistance.
CMEP’s executive director Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, says, “I am absolutely horrified by the news of these most recent tragic events. I cannot imagine what the families of those who’ve lost loved ones must be going through. May these events be a wake-up call to the Biden Administration. I hope the U.S. government stops ignoring what’s happening in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The U.S. can no longer keep its head in the sand and remain disengaged from this conflict. Violence will only continue until the core causes of the conflict are addressed.”
CMEP calls on the Biden Administration to not just respond with words but to lead in efforts of de-escalation. The Middle East will not stay silent until human rights abuses and other oppressive policies are addressed, including, but not limited to:
- The decades-long occupation of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.
- The continued annexation of Palestinian land and the ongoing expansion of settlements on land designated to become the future state of Palestine.
- The more than 16-year blockade of more than two million people living in Gaza.
- Collective punishment targeting associates and family members of individuals accused of attacks against Israelis.
- The discriminatory treatment and repressive laws toward Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians living in the oPt.
The U.S. has a responsibility to engage because of our extensive investment in Israel, including the billions of dollars invested in military support and foreign aid. The Biden Administration should also press the Palestinian Authority (PA) to take responsibility, engage in legitimate human rights cooperation and protection, and condemn the recent attacks on Israelis. If the Biden Administration does not take action in response to recent and ongoing violence, including Israeli state violence against Palestinians, they will be de facto offering their blessing to continued escalations.
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) will continue our efforts to educate American Christians and others about these realities and to advocate for a just and durable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in which Israelis and Palestinians might realize the vision of a just peace, which advances security and self-determination for all Israelis and Palestinians.
“The US diplomatic mission to the Palestinians in Jerusalem has been redesignated and will report directly to Washington ‘on substantive matters’, indicating an upgrade in ties before a planned visit by the US president, Joe Biden. What had been called the Palestinian Affairs Unit (PAU) was renamed the US Office of Palestinian Affairs (OPA) under the move. Before becoming the PAU, it had been the US consulate in Jerusalem and a focus of Palestinian statehood goals in the city. Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, outraged Palestinians – and delighted many Israelis – by formally closing the consulate and redesignating it as the PAU within the US embassy that was moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2018.”
Israel’s Supreme Court upholds Greek Church sales to far-right group, ending legal battle. June 9, 2022
Top court backs earlier district court ruling rejecting retrial bid. Patriarchate vows to continue supporting Palestinian tenants who face potential eviction
On Wednesday, May 11, 2022 Shireen Abu Akleh, a high-profile Palestinian-American journalist, was shot and killed while covering a raid conducted by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the West Bank city of Jenin. Abu Akleh was wearing protective gear prominently marked with the English word “PRESS” when she was shot. Ali Samoudi, another journalist with Abu Akleh, was shot in the back during the same attack. Samoudi said the group of journalists Abu Akleh worked with that day had made Israeli forces aware they were present to cover the incursion. He also stated that in the attack, one bullet missed, the next one struck him in the back, and the next shot hit Abu Akleh. She was taken to the hospital soon thereafter and pronounced dead.
Experts laud US recognition of Jordanian responsibility for Temple Mount
“US President Joe Biden told Jordan’s King Abdullah that his administration supports Jordanian custodianship over Islamic holy places in Jerusalem‘The President affirmed his strong support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and cited the need to preserve the historic status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. The president also recognized the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s crucial role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem,” according to a readout of Friday’s (May 13) meeting between the two leaders in Washington issued by the White House.”
Israeli government and court at odds over Jewish prayer at flashpoint shrine
“Israel reaffirmed on Sunday (May 22) a long-standing arrangement with Muslim authorities that prevents Jewish prayer at a contested Jerusalem holy site, pushing back against a lower Israeli court that questioned the legality of police action against violators. Al Aqsa mosque compound, which Jews revere as a vestige of their two ancient temples, is a flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Under the decades-old ‘status quo’, Israel allows Jews to visit only if they refrain from religious rites.”
Recently, several human rights groups in Palestine have been designated as Terrorist Organizations. Meanwhile, there is little evidence to proved this is true. Israel hasn’t given us evidence linking NGOs to terror, Irish FM says
“Israel hasn’t shown Ireland or the European Union credible evidence to prove that there is substance behind its decision last week to designate six Palestinian nongovernmental groups as terror entities, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday (November 2). ‘We have asked for, as has the EU, the evidence basis for designating those NGOs,’ he explained as he sat with the paper in the Inbal Hotel, just before heading to meet with President Isaac Herzog. But ‘we have not gotten any credible evidence to link the NGOs to terrorism, certainly not that I have seen,’ said Coveney who has also served as his country’s defense minister since 2020.”
October 23, 2021 Israel moves to ban six Palestinian rights groups it accuses of terrorism, prompting international outrage
“Israel designated six leading Palestinian rights organizations as terrorist groups on Friday, in the latest blow to activists who say space for dissent in the occupied territories has steadily shrunk amid intimidation by Israeli and Palestinian authorities alike. The announcement was swiftly condemned by watchdogs in Israel and internationally, who say the designations are unsubstantiated and are attempts to muzzle prominent critics of the Israeli government.”
October 26, 2021 Biden administration issues harshest critique yet on Israeli settlement building
Times of Israel
“The US on Tuesday (October 26) gave what appeared to be its harshest public critique of Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank since US President Joe Biden took office. ‘We are deeply concerned about the Israeli government’s plan to advance thousands of settlement units on Wednesday, many of them deep in the West Bank,’ State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a press briefing, four days after Israeli authorities published the agenda for an upcoming meeting of the Defense Ministry body that authorizes settlement building. ‘We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements, which is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and restore calm. And it damages the prospects for a two-state solution.’”
October 27, 2021 Israel moves ahead with plans for some 3,000 settler homes
“Israel moved forward on Wednesday (October 27) with plans to build some 3,000 homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, projects that have drawn strong criticism from its U.S. ally. An Israeli defense official said a planning forum of Israel’s liaison office with the Palestinians gave preliminary approval for plans to build 1,344 housing units and its final go-ahead for projects to construct 1,800 homes. The United States had already voiced strong opposition to the plans to advance the settlement units in the West Bank, saying such moves would damage prospects of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
October 2021 Tent of Nations
Daoud Nassar’s farm is located six miles southwest of Bethlehem, in what is referred to as Area C. It has been a family farm for more than 100 years. The peace project Tent of Nations is located on the 100-acre farm; it is a center where internationals visit and local empowerment programs for women and girls are run. The family registered the property during the Ottoman period and again during the British Mandate; they updated their land documents in a Bethlehem court in 1987 and 2000.
In light of the family’s obvious care to ensure that their documentation is up-to-date, it is hard to believe that since 1991, the farm has been at risk of confiscation and demolition. The Israeli government demands that the family re-register the property, and the family has tried to do so since 2006, but the process gets stalled and they are told they must start all over again. Link to Story.
A Letter from Bethlehem
The following is an open letters to the world’s Christians appealing for help from the Christian community, in the birth place of Jesus. No one can possibly understand the situation in the Holy Land as much as those who live there.
Open Letter to the Christian Community from Clergy in Bethlehem in the West Bank of Palestine – July 7, 2020
Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed (Jeremiah 22:3)
We are writing this letter in our capacity as spiritual leaders of various Christian
communities in the Bethlehem Area. The Israeli Government is planning to annex more occupied Palestinian land. According to the information they have released, this process could begin on July 1st. For Palestine, Bethlehem and particularly for its Christian population, this new process of annexation will be particularly catastrophic.
Soon after the occupation of 1967 Israel annexed over 20,000 dunums of land in the northern parts of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, for the construction of illegal colonial settlements. This severely hindered our capacity to grow as communities. They have already annexed one of the most important Christian religious sites of Bethlehem, the Mar Elias Monastery, and separated Bethlehem from Jerusalem for the first time in the two-thousand years of Christian history in Holy Land.
One of the only areas left for our expansion, as well as for agriculture and simply for families to enjoy nature, are the valleys of Cremisan and Makhrour, both located to the west of our urban areas and are under the current threat of annexation by Israeli authorities. This will affect the private property of hundreds of our parishioners. In the Cremisan Valley we also conduct spiritual activities. There is a school run by Salesian Nuns in addition to a historic monastery. The western Bethlehem countryside is also in danger, where some of our parishioners have been farming for generations, and this includes the Tent of Nations in Nahhalin. At the same time, and in accordance to the
original maps of the US Plan, there are threats against the eastern part of Bethlehem, including the Ush Ughrab area of Beit Sahour, where there has been plans for years to build a children hospital to serve the local community.
Our biggest concern is that the annexation of those areas will push more people to emigrate. Bethlehem, surrounded by walls and settlements, already feels like an open prison. Annexation means the prison becomes even smaller, with no hopes for a better future.
This is land theft! We are talking about land that is largely privately owned and that our families have owned, inherited and farmed for hundreds of years.
Most of our parishioners have lost hope in earthly powers. They feel hopeless and helpless, evident in the words a parishioner this month as he watched his land devoured by Israeli bulldozers preparing the way for more wall expansion: “It is devastating. You see bulldozers destroying your land and you can do nothing. No one is stopping them.”
Our parishioners no longer believe that anyone will stand courageously for justice and peace and stop this tremendous injustice that is taking place in front of your eyes. The human rights of Palestinians have been violated for decades. Hope is a pillar of our faith, yet is being challenged due to the actions of those who claim to care about the Christians in the Middle East. In practice, annexation could be the final straw when it comes to a viable Christian presence in Palestine, as well as the national aspirations to live in freedom, independence, dignity and equality in our homeland in accordance with
Nobody can claim that they did not know the consequences of annexation for Palestine in general and Bethlehem in particular. We feel the burden of history upon our shoulders to keep the Christian presence in the land where it all started. As we continue to put our hope and trust in God, we call upon the leaders of this world to stop this severe injustice. We remain committed to peace with justice, and find strength in the support of many around the world, specially the support of many churches. We hope that the world takes decisive and concrete actions to stop this injustice and provide the conditions to restore hope for a future of justice and peace that this land deserves.
Fr. Yacoub Abu Sada – ‘The Theotokos’ Melkite Church Bethlehem
Fr. Issa Musleh – Forefathers Greek Orthodox Church Beit Sahour
Fr. Hanna Salem – Catholic Church of the Annunciation Beit Jala
Fr. Bolous Al Alam – St. Mary Greek Orthodox Church Beit Jala
Rev. Ashraf Tannous – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation Beit Jala
Fr. Suheil Fakhouri – Our Lady of the Shepherds Melkite Church Beit Sahour
Rev. Munther Isaac – The Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church Bethlehem and The
Evangelical Lutheran Church Beit Sahour