If you pray. . .

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Wave of Prayer: This prayer ministry enables local and international friends of Sabeel to pray over regional concerns on a weekly basis. Sent to Sabeel’s network of supporters, the prayer is used in services around the world and during Sabeel’s Thursday Communion service; as each community in its respective time zone lifts these concerns in prayer at noon every Thursday, this “wave of prayer” washes over the world.


Sabeel Wave of Prayer

for January 8, 2015

As a new year begins, we take time to remember the events of the past year. The difficulties, the tragedies, and the hardships are fresh in our minds, especially as we think of Syria, Iraq, Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem. Lord, please remind us of your daily mercies, your grace, and your promise of peace.  Lord in your mercy…

The 2014 year marked the United Nations “international year of solidarity with the Palestinian people”; however, it ended with the UN Security Council failing to pass a resolution to end Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian land within two years.  Israel has now withheld millions of dollars in revenue owed to the Palestinian Authority (PA). This is collective punishment by Israel for Palestine recently taking the non-violent, legitimate step of joining the International Criminal Court (ICC). Merciful God, we pray that the international community will truly be in solidarity with the Palestinian people by having political will, speaking truth to power, and standing up for justice and peace. Lord in your mercy…

The weather in Palestine and Israel is expected to reach very cold temperatures this week, with predictions of snow.  During this time we think of our brothers and sisters in Bedouin communities who are being displaced and are unprotected from the weather elements and those in Gaza who are displaced, homeless, and living in inadequate housing after Israel’s massive military offensive this past summer.  Lord, give them your strength and warmth to endure the storms.  Lord in your mercy…

Lord, we pray for your blessing upon the celebrations of the Orthodox Christmas this week.  We also ask for your guidance in the New Year as our Sabeel programs begin anew.  We pray for inspiration and creativity in our activism and ministries.  Lord in your mercy…

Lord, we pray alongside the World Council of Churches for the countries of Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.  Lord in your mercy…

Christmas Lutheran Church, Bethlehem

Christmas Lutheran Church, Bethlehem

A Christmas Greeting from Jerusalem

(My friend Samia Khoury from Jerusalem sent her greeting by email this morning.)

palestine-apartheid-wall-23One of the well-known Christmas songs “I’ll be home for Christmas” which my generation remembers for being first recorded by Bing Crosby in the forties, was on the program of the Christmas concert we attended at the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies – Brigham Young University.

As I listened to the beautiful tenor singing it, I could not help but think of all those who won’t be able to make it home for Christmas, by no choice of their own. And that is when the song becomes so meaningful when you think of the many soldiers serving on foreign land, the refugees, the prisoners, and the many young Palestinians who have been denied their right to come home or be united with their families because of absurd laws under a military occupation.
Pope Francis touches the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank in the West Bank city of Bethlehem
So I hope all of you who are gathering with your families for Christmas, will indeed feel grateful for this blessing without having to worry about check points or denied entry.

Have a joyful Christmas and best wishes for peace and good health throughout the New Year.

Samia

"Home for Christmas" in Bethlehem.

“Home for Christmas” in Bethlehem.

“. . . reveals a deliberate and systematic plan. . . “ (Peige Desjarlais)

Being senescent is not as continually jolly as I hoped when I began writing this blog.

Bethlehem, 1880

Bethlehem, 1880

I may say I’m senescent, but no one under 65 may. I heard on TV news yesterday that the “elderly” Aretha Franklin is coming to town. She’s 72. She ain’t elderly regardless what the 20-year-old copy writer says!

Does everyone in their senescence have memories lodged in their minds that won’t go away?

The past two weeks I’ve written daily—as usual. But my mind goes to an uncomfortable memory I can’t shake, August, 2003. I haven’t been able to write about it.

A few years back a friend asked me to remove her from my email “contacts” or stop sending her mass-mailing messages. She did not want any more of my “political” messages.

Since that day I have wondered how anyone who is able to think logically (which my friend certainly is) can say the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people by the Israelis is “political.”

Ethnic cleansing—the appropriation of the land of a people and dislocating them, usually accompanied by mass murder of civilians propelled by the belief that one nation has the right to the land of another—is not a matter of politics. It is a matter of morality.

My guess is we’d have to search hard to find an American who would say the “Caliphate” founded on religion declared in Syria and Iraq is a good thing. If someone thought so, they would not say it. They would be ostracized—or worse! We’d have to search hard to find a single American who would say the Russian annexation of Crimea is a good thing. If someone thought so, they would not say it. They would be ostracized—or worse!

But the Israeli annexation of the West Bank and Gaza, its declaration that its state founded on religion extends from the Jordan to the Mediterranean is, in the thinking of Americans, somehow justified.

This does not raise a political question. It is a simple question of right versus wrong.

The erroneous political commentary is that Israel has a right to defend itself, most recently to punish Hamas for kidnapping and killing three Jewish boys. Never mind this is “. . . an arbitrary starting point. Just one day before the kidnappings, a Palestinian man and a 10-year-old child were killed in Gaza by an Israeli airstrike. Why wasn’t that the starting point of the violence? Has the media [and thus the American people] internalized Israel’s narrative to such an extent that they only see Israel as ‘responding’ to violence rather than initiating it?” Always?

Americans want the State of Iraq somehow to rise up and defend itself.

America is willing to destroy Russia’s economy to bring an end to the civil war in Eastern Ukraine.

Why does that thinking not apply to Israel and its inch-by-inch, illegal settlement-by-illegal settlement ethnic cleansing of the homeland of the Palestinian people—the ethnic cleansing** that began in 1948 and has continued unabated until July 30, 2014? If we want the people of Iraq to defend themselves against ISIS and the Ukrainians to defend themselves against Russia, why do we not want the Palestinians to defend themselves against aggression?

The falsity of the reasoning leading to Israel’s right to defend itself is proven by the fact that no one follows the logic to its rational end, that the Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves.

All peoples have a right to defend themselves
The Palestinians are a people.
Therefore the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves.

Deir Yassin Massacre, 1948

Deir Yassin Massacre, 1948

Anyone who repeats the illogical and time-worn assumption that only Israel has a right to defend itself is repeating propaganda, not logic, and certainly not Truth. (This is not an idea original with me. Fortunately those with far more authority than I are of the same mind.)

The only reason to say one people has the right to defend itself and another doesn’t is that we have chosen sides—not that the idea is either logical or moral. It is either propaganda or nonsense—or both.

I have friends who think that the problem in Gaza is Hamas. They cannot (or will not?) understand that the problem pre-dates Hamas. Hamas did not exist at the time of Israel’s 1967 conquering of all of Palestine. The problem is not (and never has been) Hamas. The problem is Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians—bordering now on GENOCIDE in Gaza.

The formation of Hamas was a reaction to the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people; Hamas is not the cause of the “conflict.” Hamas is the result of the “conflict.”

That August day in 2003 I stood with a group of Americans at the edge of an olive orchard behind the home of a Palestinian family. Much of the orchard had been uprooted, and access to the rest was restricted by chain-link fences topped by coils of razor wire. The fence enclosed a gouge in the earth about ½ mile wide with a newly-constructed divided highway running down the middle. This highway was restricted to Israeli citizens (Jewish) and military, even though it was in Occupied Palestine.

When I returned to a place near that farm six years later, our group could not get to the farm because it was on the other side of the Apartheid Wall Israel had finished in the interim.

Some will object to my use of “Apartheid.” Dictionary.com defines the word as “any system or practice that separates people according to race, caste, etc.” Once one has seen the Wall and the system of Jewish-only highways dissecting Palestinian land and connecting the illegal Israeli settlements, one has no qualms using the word “Apartheid.”

And so, because Israel has a right to protect its Apartheid system, it has the right to destroy the homes of 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza, to bomb hospitals, to destroy the only power plant in Gaza, and to murder over 1000 Palestinians—so far—mostly civilians, 1/3 of them children. They have the right. The Palestinians have no rights.

Anyone who can contemplate that carnage or see the Apartheid Wall without revulsion has no moral compass.

** “Ethnic cleansing is a crime under international law, defined as the intention to create an ethnically homogenous territory through the expulsion of an ethnic or religious group. It is often related to, but not the same as, the crime of

Bethlehem, 2014

Bethlehem, 2014

genocide. The United Nations defines acts of ethnic cleansing as the “separation of men from women, the detention of men, the explosion of houses” and repopulating homes with another ethnic group. Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, like other members of the dubbed “new historians”, counters the dominant Israeli narrative that the Palestinians fled voluntarily or under the orders of Arab leaders of surrounding countries. His study of Israeli military archives reveals a deliberate and systematic plan by the Zionist militias to ethnically cleanse the Arab population of Palestine by occupying villages and their homeland and some 530 Arab villages were destroyed and depopulated along with other urban centers. A society descended from people who settled the region as far back as the Canaanites was destroyed in a matter of months in the process of making the borders of the Jewish state.”
From:
Desjarlais, Peige. “Excavating Zion: Archaeology and Nation-Making In Palestine/Israel.” Totem: The University Of Western Ontario Anthropology Journal 21.1 (2013): 1-14.

A Meditation on “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

Christmas Lutheran Church, Bethlehem

Christmas Lutheran Church, Bethlehem

Many years ago—in the ‘80s (seems long ago in the short span of my life)—I wrote monthly a little column about church music in the newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, The Episcopal Times, edited by Barbara Braver. (Whew! I do have some memory left; it did exist, and Barbara was the editor.)

For the December edition one year, I wrote a wonderfully elitist and snobbish piece on the sentimentality of the tune we’ve all known since before we were born for “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Its altered harmonies and that silly raised second on the fourth note of the melody are simply too much for a real musician to bear.

Of course, what I forgot when I wrote the pompous little stuff-shirt article was that I was in Phiips Brooks country (Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Boston, from 1869 until 1891, when he was elected Bishop of Massachusetts). Brooks wrote the words, and his organist while he was at Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia, Lewis Redner, wrote the tune.

It’s the only time in my life enough people read what I wrote to give me hell for it. Barbara Braver received letters for months afterward asking who I thought I was attacking a Boston icon.

Little did I know that one summer about 20 years later I would be in the crypt of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem with a group (mostly) of Lutherans from Texas singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” in one of the great spiritual moments of my life.

So much for elitism.

(This, by the way, was my second trip to Bethlehem, the first with the Inter-Faith Peace Builders—part of the Fellowship of Reconciliation—in 2003, shortly after the fragile end of the Second Palestinian Intifada.)

Somewhere on some flash drive I have many pictures of the more recent trip. Many of them are from Bethlehem where we stayed for the largest portion of the ten days or so we were there.

One of the pictures that still startles me is of a young man in a car with a make-shift bloody bandage around his leg. The driver of the car stopped to tell us what we had just witnessed before he sped off to the hospital. We were on the rooftop garden of the building that houses the community center of the Dheisheh Refugee Camp on the south edge of Bethlehem (I’m pretty sure you didn’t know there is a refugee camp in Bethlehem for Palestinians whose homes were destroyed in 1948 as a result of the Nakba—yes, their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren still live there.)

On the other side? Bethlehem.

On the other side? Bethlehem.

While we were there, the IDF (Defense? Force—one of the great oxymorons in world affairs) had discovered a Palestinian “terrorist” living in, or at least staying in, a home on the street below. They, of course, had to arrest him (or her), and sent several armed vehicles. There was some sort of altercation (I’m remembering all of this through old-man thinking), and shots were fired. The man whose picture I have was, I think, an innocent bystander.

But everyone was taking it in stride. Business as usual in the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank.

“O Little Town of Bethlehem. . . the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

That same flash drive has several pictures of me standing (dwarfed) by the Apartheid Wall as it bisects Bethlehem. I don’t even need to comment on that.

. . . in July 2004 the [International Court of Justice] determined that the Israeli government’s construction of the segregation wall in the occupied Palestinian West Bank was illegal. Even Thomas Buergenthal, the American judge who cast the lone negative vote. . .acknowledged that the Palestinians were under occupation and had the right to self-determination. . .the wall ravages many places along its devious route that are important to Christians. In addition to enclosing Bethlehem in one of its most notable intrusions. . . (Carter, Jimmy. Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006 (193-194)

We, the protectors (or is it the servants) of the Apartheid system in the Occupied Territories of Palestine, and in all of Israel and Palestine, have very little right to pretend to be the “meek souls” we will so mindlessly and carelessly sing about in our most sentimental goose-bumpy way for the next few days. Phillip Brooks, the great abolitionist preacher, would be horrified.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous Gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.