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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pope calls Christians the most persecuted

Pope calls Christians the most persecuted

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday that Christians suffer more religious persecution than any other group, denouncing lack of freedom of worship as an "intolerable" threat to world security.

The message reflected a pressing concern by Benedict in recent months for the plight of Christian minorities in parts of the world, especially in the Middle East.

"Sadly, the year now ending has again been marked by persecution, discrimination, terrible acts of violence and religious intolerance," Benedict lamented in the message for World Peace Day, celebrated by the church on Jan. 1, but traditionally released in advance

He wrote that he was especially thinking of Iraq ",which continues to be a theater of violence and strife" as it aims for stability and reconciliation.

Benedict singled out the "reprehensible attack" on a Baghdad cathedral during Mass in October, killing two priests and more than 50 other worshippers, as well as attacks on private homes that "spread fear within the Christian community and (create) a desire on the part of many to emigrate in search of a better life."

The Vatican voiced concerns that the steadily flight of Christians from Iraq will effectively eliminate the ancient community there.

"At present, Christians are the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith," the pontiff asserted, and cited Christian communities suffering from violence and intolerance particularly in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Holy Land.

"This situation is intolerable, since it represents an insult to God and to human dignity" as well as "a threat to security and peace," Benedict wrote in one of the 17-page-long message's strongest passages.

He appealed to authorities to "act promptly to end every injustice" against Christians.

Benedict didn't cite countries, but in past years church officials have lamented that Christians — most of them migrant workers — are forbidden to worship in Saudi Arabia.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib said Benedict was right to be concerned about the state of Christians in the Palestinian territories.

"The Israeli occupation is making their life difficult and the Israeli occupation is responsible for the declining of number within the Christian community," he said.

Over the years, Christians in the West Bank have blamed the difficult economic situation and harassment by Muslims as reasons for increased emigration.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman sympathized with the pope's concerns.

"Israel shares the pope's preoccupation. The Christian presence is a blessing in Israel, and so it should be considered by other countries regarding their own Christian populations," Yigal Palmor said.

About 123,000 Christians live in Israel, while another 50,000 live in the West Bank and Gaza.

Benedict also criticized what he called "more sophisticated forms of hostility to religion, which, in Western countries, occasionally find expression in a denial of history and the rejection of religious symbols which reflect the identity and the culture of the majority of its citizens."

Benedict has been continuing a campaign launched by his predecessor, the late John Paul II, to reinvigorate Europe's "Christian roots."

The Vatican has criticized initiatives in some Western countries to ban crucifixes from public places, ranging from classrooms to courtrooms, including in predominantly Catholic Italy.

___

Associated Press Writer Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Intifada Lost ... a poem by Anne Selden Annab

Intifada Lost

Resistance....How can you not see
the crowds
and militancy growing
religious tyranny taking hold
taking over- taking all...

How can you not feel
your own hate boomerang back
the i'm rubber you're glue
globbing
momentum
and escape

The conflict changes
grows its own fangs and daggers
eviscerating life

builds its own prisons
and pyres

harp on half truths
celebrate cartoons
scorn diplomacy
alienate friends...

What kind of future do you see
as Islamists ascend and implode.


poem copyright ©2010 Anne Selden Annab

Did You Know ... a poem by Anne Selden Annab

photo credit: Picturesque Palestine
This Week in Palestine December 2010

A Palestinian Thobe

Did you know
when your fingers fumbled with the fabric
and your mind played with the design
Did you know
as you stitched and pulled
the threads
Did you know
as you danced with color
and shape
rhyming patterns
to repeat
close to her heart...
your heart
mother daughter sister aunt
Did you know
how long
this art would last
& how much it would be shared.


poem copyright ©2010 Anne Selden Annab
A Palestinian labourer collects cauliflowers during harvest on a field in the West Bank village of Al-Fara near Jenin December 15, 2010. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini (WEST BANK - Tags: AGRICULTURE)

Arab officials attend the emergency session of the Arab Initiative Follow Up Committee at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010. Washington abandoned efforts to restart the direct Israeli Palestinian talks and has begun a new round of mediated talks instead. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

A Palestinian municipality worker places a star on top of a tree before the annual lighting ceremony of a Christmas tree at Manger Square in the West Bank town of Bethlehem December 15, 2010. REUTERS/Ammar Awad (WEST BANK - Tags: RELIGION)

A Christian Palestinian man helps a school girl decorate a nativity scene at the Latin Church of Visitation in the West Bank village of Zababida near Jenin December 16, 2010.REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini (WEST BANK - Tags: RELIGION EDUCATION)

A Christian Palestinian school girl decorates a Christmas tree at a school in the Latin Church of Visitation in the West Bank village of Zababida near Jenin December 16, 2010 REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini (WEST BANK - Tags: RELIGION EDUCATION)

A Palestinian Roman Orthodox Christian priest prays inside an old cave, residents say is used as a church, in the West Bank village of Aboud near Ramallah, ahead of Christmas December 16, 2010. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman (WEST BANK - Tags: RELIGION)

Palestinian Roman Orthodox Christian children are reflected in a puddle of water as they march towards an old cave, residents say is used as a church, in the West Bank village of Aboud near Ramallah, ahead of Christmas December 16, 2010 REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman (WEST BANK - Tags: RELIGION)

A Palestinian Christian man stands in front of a mural depicting the Virgin Mary in the West Bank village of Aboud near Ramallah December 16, 2010. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman (WEST BANK - Tags: RELIGION)

A Palestinian labourer cleans candelabras in the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, ahead of Christmas December 16, 2010. REUTERS/Ammar Awad (WEST BANK - Tags: RELIGION TRAVEL)

A Palestinian man sells traditional Arab food as Palestinians cross through a checkpoint into the West Bank town of Bethlehem December 16, 2010 REUTERS/Ammar Awad (WEST BANK - Tags: RELIGION TRAVEL)

A Palestinian woman looks at a food stall after crossing through a checkpoint into the West Bank town of Bethlehem December 16, 2010.REUTERS/Ammar Awad (WEST BANK - Tags: FOOD RELIGION TRAVEL)

A Palestinian woman walks with a child past a shadow of a cross cast by the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, before Christmas December 16, 2010.REUTERS/Ammar Awad (WEST BANK - Tags: RELIGION TRAVEL)
A Palestinian carpenter carves a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus in a workshop in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, ahead of Christmas December 16, 2010. REUTERS/Ammar Awad (WEST BANK - Tags: RELIGION TRAVEL)

A Palestinian Roman Orthodox Christian girl looks at candles as they are lit inside an old cave which residents say is used as a church, in the West Bank village of Aboud near Ramallah, ahead of Christmas December 16, 2010. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman (WEST BANK - Tags: RELIGION)

A Palestinian Christian girl sits in front of a mural depicting Jesus in the West Bank village of Aboud near Ramallah, before Christmas December 16, 2010 REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman (WEST BANK - Tags: RELIGION)

Palestinian man carries blackboard FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010 file photo, a Palestinian man carries a blackboard from a school that was partially demolished by Israeli forces, in the village of Khirbet Tana near the West Bank city of Nablus. Children's chairs pulled out of a pile of rubble are all that's left of a schoolhouse that served 17 children of Palestinian herders in this encampment on a wind-swept West Bank plateau. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

Palestinians are seen near their belongings FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010 file photo, Palestinians are seen near their belongings after Israeli forces demolished structures in which they lived, in the village of Khirbet Tana near the West Bank city of Nablus. Children's chairs pulled out of a pile of rubble are all that's left of a schoolhouse that served 17 children of Palestinian herders in this encampment on a wind-swept West Bank plateau. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

In this photo taken Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010, Israeli project manager Gali Kahane sits in front of a computer in the office of Comply, an Israeli start-up that employs Palestinians, in Hod Hasharon, near Tel Aviv, Israel. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks may be stalled, but that hasn't stopped a small but steady trickle of Israeli technology companies from seeking to work with people on the other side of the decades-old conflict. Israeli CEOs say it's their way of bringing a little bit of peace to their troubled corner of the world, but they acknowledge the real reason being financial. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A Palestinian man dressed in a Santa Claus outfit and holding a Palestinian flag reacts to a sound grenade fired by Israeli soldiers, not seen, during a weekly demonstration against Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank village of Maasarah, near Bethlehem, Friday, Dec. 17, 2010. Israel says the barrier is necessary for security while Palestinians call it a land grab.(AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

A Palestinian man dressed in a Santa Claus outfit and holding a Palestinian flag protests behind Israeli soldiers during a weekly demonstration against Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank village of Maasarah, near Bethlehem, Friday, Dec. 17, 2010. Israel says the barrier is necessary for security while Palestinians call it a land grab (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

A Palestinian activist holds a Palestinian flag during a protest to show solidarity with Palestinian families against a Jewish settlement in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem December 17, 2010. REUTERS/Amir Cohen (JERUSALEM - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
An activist holds a signboard during a protest to show solidarity with Palestinian families against a Jewish settlement in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem December 17, 2010. REUTERS/Amir Cohen (JERUSALEM - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST IMAGES OF THE DAY)

News photographers run from an exploding sound and light grenade thrown by Israeli troops during a violent protest against Israel's security fence in the West Bank village of Bilin in this March 28, 2008 file photograph. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis/Files

A Palestinian labourer cuts the leaves of a cauliflower during harvest on a field in the West Bank village of Al-Fara near Jenin December 15, 2010 REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini (WEST BANK - Tags: AGRICULTURE)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The problem with Israel's Jewish 'refugee' initiative

The problem with Israel's Jewish 'refugee' initiative

The Israeli government's demand that Palestinians recognise exiled Arab Jews as 'refugees' is political point-scoring

Rachel Shabi While the US has given up pressing for a freeze on illegal settlement building, one Israeli minister has been cranking up the volume on an issue he apparently considers more pressing. The deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, recently launched a new initiative to demand that Palestinians "recognise Jews who exiled from Arab lands as refugees".

Ayalon's initiative is in alliance with Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), whose mission is to put this issue on the international agenda.

The idea itself has been in circulation pretty much since the 1970s when the Palestinian refugee issue was beginning to gain traction within the international community. Since then, it has resurfaced pretty much whenever there are peace talks – hence its return during this latest, wilted round of exchanges between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

As Ayalon puts it, the initiative is explicitly a response to the Palestinian demand for a "right of return to the land of Israel". The reasoning is: if Palestinians think of themselves as refugees, forced to leave their homes in the tectonic shifts that created Israel in 1948, so, too, were the Jews exiting Arab lands in the same seismology.

There are all manner of problems with this formulation. First, many Middle Eastern Jews dislike being called refugees. Some reject this label because they left Arab lands out of a pioneering desire to relocate to what would become Israel; some say they were uprooted from Arab lands, either by agitating Zionist emissaries, or by the shockwaves that Zionism sent through the Middle East.

Another thorn in the side of this argument is that Israel was created explicitly as a homeland for Jews, while for Palestinians, the homeland is the place from which they were exiled. That means there is no point in lauding Israel for "absorbing" the "Jewish refugees" from Arab lands, while chiding Arab countries for not doing the same with Palestinians – which seems to be the Jewish refugee claim's secondary reasoning.

There are undoubtedly compensation claims to be made by Jews whose properties and possessions were impounded when they left some Arab countries – Egypt, Syria and Iraq spring to mind – but it isn't clear why those seeking recompense would automatically wish Israel to represent them in this matter. In fact, many Jews both inside and beyond Israel have specifically declined the offer.

If Ayalon, or JJAC, or any of the other groups, were genuinely concerned for the history and legacy of Middle Eastern Jews, there might be better ways to express it. For instance, they might think about setting up heritage centres to commemorate Jewish life in Arab lands, or promote and celebrate their cultural, political and linguistic output, or address the ethnically-driven social imbalances that still exist in Israel between Jews of European and Arab origin. ...READ MORE

Solution to Palestine refugees imperative for peace - Chris Gunness of UNWRA

http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=342611
Solution to Palestine refugees imperative for peace - Chris Gunness
Published today 12:36
Palestinians receive food aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency at the refugee camp of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 13, 2010.[MaanImages/Hatem Omar]

UNRWA was established in 1949 under a UN General Assembly resolution that called upon the agency to assist and support Palestine refugees pending a just and lasting resolution of their plight.

As a temporary agency, the duration of whose mandate is tied to the resolution of the Palestine refugee situation, UNRWA looks forward to the day when its services will no longer be required, allowing it to fold its operations. The arrival of that day, however, is contingent upon a real peace process that bears tangible results for Palestine refugees in line with United Nations resolutions and with international law and practice.

The Arab Peace Initiative, inclusive of its call for a just and agreed solution on refugees, has been recognized by the UN and other members of the Quartet as part of the terms of reference of the bilateral peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, for his part, has referred to the API as one of the main pillars in the search for peace. United States and European Union leaders have commented upon the opportunity served by it. Not speaking to the API but addressing the need for a complete peace, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently remarked that there should be a just and permanent solution on refugees that meets the needs of both sides.

Consistent with the UN and it partners, UNRWA recognizes that the API is an important element in the pursuit of peace. As the agency with a unique remit for Palestine refugees, UNRWA must commend, in particular, the definitive and explicit commitment on the part of Arab states and Palestinian leaders to ensure that the refugees are included in a comprehensive settlement that would see the end of conflict, and is encouraged by the international acceptance of this imperative. As an agency that has witnessed--and been impacted by--the peace process, we feel it is most urgent that Palestine refugees, including those outside of the occupied Palestinian territories, be integrated into our collective vision for a just resolution of this protracted conflict.

The responsibility to ensure a negotiated end to the conflict lies with states and other political actors. That said, UNRWA is a stakeholder in the outcomes of any peace process. The agency is obligated to advocate for the realization and protection of the human rights of Palestine refugees. Promoting these rights is closely linked to achieving a just and lasting solution for refugees. This means, among other things, that refugees must be given the opportunity to exercise free and informed choices about any future dispensation. They should be granted comprehensive and adequate international support to ensure that their choices can be exercised in a voluntary and equitable manner. In keeping with UNRWA's mandate and its focus on promoting the well-being of refugees, the agency could serve as a facilitator and advisor to refugees, the United Nations and other entities engaged in formulating and implementing a future dispensation.

The API clauses on refugees appear to reflect these factors. The clauses will no doubt be clarified by the parties as they proceed in negotiations, taking into account other relevant terms of reference and real conditions and opportunities in the region. On that note, it is important to remind that the situation of the refugees across the region remains precarious--a fact we are witnessing daily. Left unresolved, the challenges refugees face could detract from the conditions conducive to peace. UNRWA is nevertheless hopeful that these challenges can and will be met with the combined commitment of the supporters of the API, thus enhancing the prospects for a just and lasting solution to the plight of Palestine refugees.

Chris Gunness is spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

This article was first published on bitterlemons.org

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tony Blair Urges Support for Palestinian State-Building at ATFP Event

Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Information: Ghaith al-Omari
December 15, 2010 - 12:00am

Tony BlairWashington, DC, Dec. 15 -- TRH Tony Blair, the Representative of the Middle East Quartet, called today for more international "support for [Palestinian] Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the state-building effort." He stressed that these efforts should continue and intensify in the context of seeking a negotiated two-state solution. Mr. Blair's remarks were made at a Washington event hosted by the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), attended by around 200 Administration officials, foreign ambassadors and members of the Arab-American community. He called for Palestinians to be supported in their efforts to develop and build institutions in not only Areas A and B but in Area C as well.

Mr. Blair is the former UK Prime Minister who as a representative of the Middle East Quartet works with the Palestinians to prepare for statehood as part of the international community's effort to secure peace. He said, "I am and always have been an advocate of Palestinian statehood," and pointedly asked, "what's the alternative?"

Mr. Blair stressed the need to treat the Palestinian Authority's institution-building program as a political project aimed at extending PA jurisdiction over more areas of the West Bank, improving accessibility to the Gaza Strip, and creating palpable benefits in East Jerusalem. He said, "This requires not only a top down effort but also a state-building effort that shows the process is not disconnected from people's lives." He added, "We do actually have a consensus of desire in the Middle East to reach this goal. The Arab Peace Initiative gives us the context in which we can reach peace. President Obama said this is a strategic interest for the United States and the whole of the world. We can never afford to give up. It is worth continuing, never yielding the ground to extremists who do not want peace, and continuing on until we get the deal done."

ATFP President Ziad Asali said, "We are honored by Mr. Blair's presence today and by his choice of ATFP as a forum to address the Arab-American and pro-Palestine community. We agree with his focus on the need to support the state-building program of the Palestinian Authority, in parallel with efforts to resume negotiations. The state-building program creates positive changes that improves the lives of Palestinians, and also generates momentum towards the creation of a Palestinian state. A convergence of the indispensible diplomatic track and the institution- and state-building track is the best path towards the realization of our American national interest in having two-states, Palestine and Israel, living side-by-side in peace and security."

World rabbis denounce edict forbidding Jews from renting homes to Arabs

World rabbis denounce edict forbidding Jews from renting homes to Arabs

Letter signed by 900 rabbis around the world describes ruling backed by many Israeli rabbis as a 'painful distortion' of Judaism

More than 900 rabbis from around the world have signed a letter expressing "great shock and pain" at a ruling backed by scores of Israeli rabbis forbidding Jews from renting or selling property to non-Jews.

The letter describes the ruling as a "painful distortion of our tradition" and a "desecration of God's name" and appeals to Israeli rabbis to "take a public stand and oppose those who misrepresent our tradition".

Most of the signatories are from the US, but they include rabbis from many countries, among them the UK.

The ruling, which originated with Shmuel Eliyahu, the municipal rabbi of the city of Safed, has caused controversy and division within Israel. It has also been strongly criticised by Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and president, Shimon Peres.

But it attracted widespread support among nationalist rabbis. It is mainly targeted at Arab citizens of Israel but also the country's growing refugee and economic-migrant community.

The global signatories, who describe themselves as Rabbis Against Religious Discrimination, address their letter to "our rabbinic colleagues in Israel" to whom they are turning "at a time of crisis".

It says: "The attempt to root discriminatory policies based on religion or ethnicity in Torah is a painful distortion of our tradition. Am Yisrael [the people of Israel] know the sting of discrimination, and we still bear the scars of hatred."

It adds that Jews in the diaspora "struggle to maintain a strong, loving relationship" with Israel. "Every day that challenge grows more difficult. Many of our congregants love Israel and want nothing more than the safety and security of the Jewish homeland, but for a growing number of Jews in America this relationship to Israel cannot be assumed."

The ruling provides "justification for anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment across the world"....READ MORE

Listening to Palestinians

Nancy Kanwisher

Posted: December 14, 2010 02:43 PM

Listening to Palestinians

Now that the Obama administration's efforts to reach an agreement between Israel and Palestine are finally moribund, it is worth stepping back to ask what is really going on in this troubled part of the world. Understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires not only a grasp of cold facts and statistics, but an understanding of the daily experience of the real people who live on each side. American news media heavily emphasize Israeli perspectives, but provide few opportunities to hear directly from Palestinians. To help counter this imbalance, I am posting video clips of some of the Palestinians I spoke with on a recent trip.

I begin with Joyce Ajlouny, who gave me a tour around Ramallah one morning. Joyce is the head of the Ramallah Friends School, a renowned K-12 coed Quaker school established in the 1800s. Her family is one of the original seven Christian clans that established Ramallah in the 1600s. Joyce's stories about her life were so riveting that I pulled out my camera, put it in video mode, and kept filming as she talked. Joyce was speaking informally and candidly just to me, but later I got her permission to share this video with a wider audience.

What does occupation mean?

I asked Joyce what living under occupation meant in terms of her daily life. In this clip, she begins by describing her early experiences of life under occupation (her brother being beaten up, her husband detained by soldiers in the middle of the night, her friend shot), and ends with a discussion of how the situation has changed since the Oslo accords of 1993 (Palestinians now control their educational system, but confiscation of water resources and land continue). Terraced hillside, olive trees, and new construction on the outskirts of Ramallah can be seen out the window as she talks:

What does Israeli settlement building mean?

The centerpiece of the Israeli occupation is the construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. These settlements are connected to Israel proper by a network of roads cutting through the West Bank--that only Israelis are allowed to drive on. Joyce pulled over at one vantage point outside Ramallah to show me a settler-only road (visible in the valley in the clip), the Israeli settlement of Dolev (on the upper hillside to the right; the further one to its left is Talmon), and a large agricultural area that is controlled by the settlement, all built on confiscated Palestinian land. Across the valley on the ridge at the left you can see the Palestinian village of Al-Janiya, one of the oldest villages in the Ramallah district, with historical ruins dating back to the Romans.

What are Palestinian refugee camps; how did they come to be, and what are they like today? During the 1948 Israeli war of Independence, which Palestinians call the "Nakba," or "catastrophe," over 700,000 Palestinians left or were expelled from their homes in what is now Israel, and never allowed back...READ MORE

Israeli barriers in Bethlehem are weighing heavily on holiday cheer.

Christian nuns watch a large Christmas lit at Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010. Tourists from all over the world are expected to flock to Jesus' traditional birthplace to celebrate the Christmas holiday this month. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

Bethlehem mayor lights town's Christmas tree, criticizes Israeli limits as holiday approaches

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — Bethlehem's mayor has lit up his town's main Christmas tree while complaining that Israel's limitations on access to his West Bank town are weighing heavily on holiday cheer.

Mayor Victor Batarseh and a Palestinian official threw a switch to light white bulbs strung around a tall, star-topped fir tree in front of the Church of the Nativity, marking the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

Part of Israel's West Bank separation barrier cuts through southern Bethlehem, blocking the road to Jerusalem, 3 miles (5 kilometers) away.

At his pre-Christmas news conference Wednesday, Batarseh said traditional carols call for peace and good will, but this is hindered by the Israeli barrier "that has cut the 2,000-year-old relation between Bethlehem and its twin city Jerusalem."


Franciscan monks pray inside the Grotto where many Christians believe the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, in the Church of the Nativity, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010. Tourists from all over the world are expected to flock to Jesus' traditional birthplace to celebrate the Christmas holiday this month. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill) Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity Play Slideshow

Churches for Middle East Peace: Join the 4th Annual Bethlehem Prayer Service at Washington National Cathedral



Join the 4th Annual Bethlehem Prayer Service
at Washington National Cathedral
Saturday, December 18, 2010

9:30 a.m. Gather

10:00 a.m. Worship Service

(Eastern Standard Time)
This is a joint simulcast service joining the
National Cathedral with
Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem

Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues, NW

Washington, DC 20016-5098


Are you in the DC area? Then please come join worshippers in the National Cathedral. If you are elsewhere, in the U.S. or around the world, we encourage to you gather with others in your community to watch the service live at www.NationalCathedral.org. In Bethlehem, Palestinian Christians continue to bear witness to their faith this Christmas, as they have done for generations. Once again, let us join our voices with theirs in seeking and offering hope for a better future.

Prayers, readings, and hymns alternate between Washington, DC and Bethlehem bringing together people of different lands, languages, and ethnic backgrounds in celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace.

Participants in DC include: The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church; The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; The Very Reverend Samuel T. Lloyd III, Dean of Washington National Cathedral; and The Reverend Richard H. Graham, Bishop, Metropolitan DC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

In Bethlehem, participants include The Right Reverend Suheil Dawani, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, the Right Reverend Munib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and President of the Lutheran World Federation, and the Rev. Mitri Raheb of Bethlehem's Christmas Lutheran Church.

Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a coalition of 24 national Church denominations and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions. It works to encourage U.S. government policies that actively promote a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ensuring security, human rights and religious freedom for all people of the region.Coalition members are: Alliance of Baptists, American Baptist Churches USA, American Friends Service Committee, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Armenian Orthodox Church, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Reformed Church, Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Franciscan Friars OFM (English Speaking Conference, JPIC Council), Friends Committee on National Legislation, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Maryknoll Missioners, Mennonite Central Committee, Moravian Church in America, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and The United Methodist Church (GBCS & GBGM).

Churches for Middle East Peace | info@cmep.org | 202-543-1222 | 110 Maryland Avenue NE | Suite 311 | Washington, DC 20002

Working together
Justice can prevail
Peace is possible

We recommend parking in the Cathedral’s underground parking garage. There is very limited parking on the Cathedral grounds and in the surrounding neighborhood.

Underground Parking Garage

Entrance: Enter via Wisconsin Avenue, at the traffic signal just south of Woodley Road.


Wishing Qalandiya Away By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH


Date posted: December 15, 2010
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

My eight-year old summed up her three "genie wishes" the other day in a way that made me want to cry and laugh all at once. The first wish, she said, was to have her grandfather cancer-free "forever". The second wish, she said, was that the "checkpoint" – she was referring to the Qalandiya crossing between Ramallah and Jerusalem - would disappear, again "forever". Eight year olds tend to speak in absolute terms where "forever" is basically as long as she is around to remember it. The third wish was the only one with any hint of childish desires. "I wish we would all grow wings," she said very matter of fact. Satisfied, she looked at her older brother, who only had one very specific wish. "I wish I had loads of money."

The sentiments made me tear up, not only because I knew my baby girl had developed a sense of compassion (in this case for her grandfather) but also because I understood the injustice that invoked wish number two. In what kind of world do we live in where a little girl felt she needed to spend her second precious genie wish on ridding her and her family of a military checkpoint? I thought wishes at that age revolved around having a castle, finding a prince or at least having Rapunzel-like hair? Or at least, like her older brother, to "have loads of money."

But this is the hard reality we Palestinians find ourselves in today. My daughter – or any other Palestinian child – should not have to worry about crossing a checkpoint to get home or whether her mother's permit will be renewed by the Israeli interior ministry. But these I realized, are tangible concerns for her, real fears that obviously take precedence over wishing for a castle or for her prince charming.

As the diplomatic wheel keeps spinning in place, it is hard not to think of the futility of the entire "peace process" while waiting in line at the checkpoint my daughter (and I) despise so much. It is not only a waste of time, an obstacle and a source of humiliation for Palestinians, but it is a strong political act of oppression Israel ensures is in place for the Palestinians to understand.

Take for example, the recent "scandal". Israeli authorities turned back three Palestinian firefighters scheduled to attend a ceremony to honor their participation in the firefighting efforts last week in Haifa. The ceremony, of course, had to be cancelled given that the guests of honor were not allowed to attend. Israeli army sources said it was a "bureaucratic mistake" that the permits were not issued, claiming work was underway to secure the men's permits as soon as possible.

Talk about humiliation. These are men who risked their lives to save the trees of Al Carmel, to "fight the good fight" alongside Israeli firefighters for the sake of the environment. To be turned back at a checkpoint because they're name was not on the "list" of those allowed in is beyond horrendous. Israel had no problem letting them enter when it wanted the Palestinian Authority's help in killing the blaze. Now that it is time to honor the men, the system of segregation is firmly back in place.

But back to the wishes of babes. It breaks my heart to know that our children are forced to deal with realities far older and far too harsh for their little bodies and precious souls. On a particularly bad day at Qalandiya, we had to walk half the distance to the checkpoint because the traffic was so backed up it would have taken us triple the time if we stayed in the car. Once inside the corrugated-iron covered checkpoint with its turnstiles and bulletproof windows there was even more to come. We waited and waited and waited as the soldiers inside made women take off their shoes and men their belts and jackets in the biting cold weather because they "beeped" through the metal detector. The soldier would bark orders through a microphone, then wait a few minutes before opening up the turnstile again for the next three "checkpoint-goers" and bark more orders. By the time my kids and I finally made it up to the window, we were all exhausted, frustrated and frankly ticked off at a system that allowed such oppression.

"Are these your kids?" the young pimple-faced soldier who barely looked out of her teens yelled at me.

"Yes," I answered curtly, not even wanting to make eye conduct. Like she didn't already know.

"Show me their 'koushan'," she spat. Their birth certificates. I keep a copy of them with me at all times in the event these absurd moments arise. I stuck the birth certificates to the window so the child-soldier could ensure that I was not smuggling children who were – God forbid – not my own or even worse, who were born in the West Bank, into Jerusalem. When she was finally satisfied, she allowed us through with a dismissive wave of the hand, like someone shooing away a fly. As we crossed the second turnstile back into civilization I realized that the only way to survive this on a daily basis is to rise above. This is not personal and it will not bring me down.

I can say that to myself but I cannot expect this same mature resolve from my children. For them, the checkpoint and Israel's system in place means that mommy can't drive a car in Jerusalem, that she is late from work every day because of the checkpoint and that in order to get home from Ramallah, this is a necessary evil that we cannot circumvent.

When I think of it like that, it is no wonder my little girl decided it was worth to ask her imaginary genie to eliminate the Qalandiya checkpoint. It may not be your normal eight year old girl's wish, but my daughter hardly lives in a normal eight year's old world. If I had a genie, I would surely have wished the same thing.

Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at mid@miftah.org.

MIFTAH: The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy
VISION

An independent, democratic and sovereign Palestinian state, which grants Palestinians their basic rights, preserves their dignity, and enjoys international recognition and respect.

MISSION

Established in Jerusalem in December 1998, with Hanan Ashrawi as its Secretary-General, MIFTAH seeks to promote the principles of democracy and good governance within various components of Palestinian society; it further seeks to engage local and international public opinion and official circles on the Palestinian cause. To that end, MIFTAH adopts the mechanisms of an active and in-depth dialogue, the free flow of information and ideas, as well as local and international networking.

My letter to the Washington Post RE Another chance for progress in the Middle East

RE: Another chance for progress in the Middle East
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/14/AR2010121406926.html

Dear Editor,

Obama has nothing to be embarrassed about regarding the Middle East and the current failure of talks to produce an end to the Israel/Palestine conflict: Israel is the one building the settlements and doing all it can to incite Palestinian despair and cynicism... and religious extremism.

As The Elders explain in their most recent missive to the world We need peace in the Middle East, not just process. "Without a strategy that can deliver a peace agreement based on a two-state solution, Palestinians will continue to live under Israeli occupation, millions of Palestinian refugees will continue to live without hope and Israel’s survival and security remain under threat. If there is no real progress, more violence is the likely outcome." http://theelders.org/media/mediareleases/peace-not-just-process (The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. )

Dr. Ziad Asali of the American Task Force on Palestine wisely points out in his recent article Giving up is not an option "A concerted effort must be made to shape expectations and to explain to people that the future is more important than the past and that sanity, let alone civility, must prevail in public discourse. History should be a guide to the future rather than a cave where one dwells."


Diplomacy- decency- human dignity matter... and so do basic human rights and international law.

Sincerely,
Anne Selden Annab

"The bottom line is that while Washington remains committed to Israel’s security, it is also committed, in its own interests, to Palestinian independence and an end to the Israeli occupation. In other words, the world’s only superpower and Israel’s patron is genuinely committed to securing the Palestinian national goal." Hussein Ibish

NOTES

Towards a two-state solution and regional peace

The Golden Rule... Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

Core Issues