Updates May 2011



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  We seek to keep you literally "updated" on movement in terms of truth and justice in the Middle East in general with a particular eye on Palestine.  The links below will take you to various articles and websites that offer the perspective of leaders in the religious, NGO, and human rights communities. Additionally, Al-Bushra, ever vigilant, provides links to regular reporting as well as opinion pieces by journalists. The dates given here indicate when the link was posted; the most recent posting is at the top. Check the article itself for the date of publication.  

Comments made over the years by Israeli leaders


31 July 2011 15:48:26 -0700


May 31, 2011

Sabeel North America | Wave of Prayer for Thursday, June 2, 2011


Each Thursday at noon in Jerusalem, Sabeel holds a Communion service that is open to the community. It is a time to join together to celebrate the Eucharist, to discuss how the scriptures apply to our lives today, and to pray for the specific needs of this region. Following the 2006 Sabeel International Conference, the Friends of Sabeel coordinators met and discussed the idea of "Waves of Prayer." The premise is that in their respective time zones, individuals and groups around the world will pray together at 12:00 on Thursdays, in solidarity with Sabeel in Jerusalem and with "Friends of Sabeel" worldwide. Starting in Australia, passing through Palestine, and on around the world we will pray for Peace with Justice and focus on specific issues each week.    


Wave of Prayer for Thursday, June 2, 2011


► With this week's commemoration of the 1967 War marking Israel's invasion and control of East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Golan Heights and the West Bank, and especially with the Jewish celebrations for Jerusalem Day, which marks the "unification of Jerusalem" in violation of International Law, set to take place in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, we remember in prayer all those who became refugees during this Naksa, or "setback," and those who continue to suffer under forty-four years of illegal Israeli occupation. Our prayers and actions remain for a just resolution based on the 1967 borders, which has long been the basis for negotiations to ensure peace for everyone in this land.

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May 30, 2011

America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly| Mideast Speech: Still Wary After Obama Speech

From CNS, staff and other sources
President Barack Obama’s call for Israeli and Palestinian states based on Israel’s 1967 borders met with a largely wary response from Palestinian Christians. While the Palestinians welcomed the president’s proposal, made in speeches on May 19 and 22—which includes mutually agreed-upon land swaps—they doubted that Israel would easily back away from Palestinian territory it has occupied for nearly 44 years.

Sami Awad, executive director of the Holy Land Trust and a promoter of nonviolent resistance against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, said: “It was like every other president, he pushes the envelope a bit more than the previous president. That’s not enough.” The plight of Palestinian refugees, he said, must be recognized and solved.

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May 30, 2011

America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly| Arab Spring

President Barack Obama signaled a major change in U.S. policy in his speech on May 19 about the Arab Spring, articulating the primacy of American values over U.S. interests in the region. “It will be the policy of the United States,” he declared, “to promote reform across the region and support transitions to democracy.”

The speech was a good start, perhaps even the inauguration of a new age in diplomacy, equivalent to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 that ended Europe’s wars of religion or the post-Napoleonic arrangements of the Congress of Vienna in 1815. But much will depend on determined implementation of the clearest commitments made in the speech for aid to Egypt and Tunisia and the handling of later crises across North Africa and the Middle East.

For Christians in the Middle East, the president’s endorsement of religious freedom as one of the universal rights at the core of U.S. policy is welcome....

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May 28, 2011

Ann Haften, a Texas Lutheran's Voice for Middle East Peace | Actions taken by the ELCA Metro Washington DC Synod

The ELCA's Metro DC Synod Assembly considered and passed two resolutions related to this issue on May 7. A workshop on Kairos Palestine on the Friday evening before was well attended:

Investment for Positive Change in Palestine - This memorial requests action of the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly to encourage various expressions of the ELCA “to consider making positive economic investments in those Palestinian projects and businesses that peacefully strengthen the economic and social fabric of Palestinian society.”

Kairos Palestine Response - Reception of the “Kairos Palestine document” is resolved by this action and affirmation of its belief that "The mission of the Church is prophetic, to speak the Word of God courageously, honestly and lovingly in the local context and in hte midst of daily events.” An invitation to Bishop Munib A. Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, to speak with our synod members will be extended by this resolution.

Memorialized actions for consideration of the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly include encouraging discussion of the Kairos Palestine document in other parts of the ELCA and review of how investment fund management within the ELCA including the ELCA Foundation and ELCA Board of Pensions.

Nathan Rich heads up the ELCA Metro DC Synod Middle East Working Group:




May 28, 2011

World Council of Churches | World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel

29 May - 4 June 2011

Joint action for just peace convened by the World Council of Churches

The World Council of Churches invites member churches and related organizations to join a week of advocacy and action for a just peace in Palestine and Israel. Congregations and individuals around the globe who share the hope of justice shall unite during the week to take peaceful actions, together, to create a common international public witness.

During the most recent World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, from 29 May to 4 June 2010, churches in more than 20 countries around the world sent a clear signal to policy-makers, community groups, and their own parishes about the urgent need for a peace settlement that secures the legitimate rights and future of both peoples. Participants planned their activities around the following three principles:

1. Praying with churches living under occupation, using a special prayer from Jerusalem.

2. Educating about actions that make for peace, and about facts on the ground that do not create peace, especially settlements in occupied territory.

3. Advocating with political leaders using ecumenical policies that promote peace with justice.

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May 21, 2011

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America | Obama speech resonates with ELCA Mideast principles, says presiding bishop

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), said he appreciated President Barack Obama's May 19 speech on the Middle East and agreed that "the status quo" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unsustainable.

Hanson also said the speech contained principles that resonate with those in previous ELCA statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the region.

Hanson made the comments in a May 20 public statement in response to Obama's speech delivered at the State Department in Washington, D.C.

Regarding developments throughout the Middle East and North Africa, Hanson said the ELCA upholds "the right to self-determination so that the God-given dignity of all people is respected and recognized. This principle, though, must be fully realized everywhere, without exception, so that peace, justice and development will be possible."

In addition to his statement, Hanson was among 29 Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders who sent a letter to Obama today offering support for "strong, sustained U.S. leadership, in coordination with the Quartet, to press for agreement on a two-state peace agreement before it is too late." The religious leaders urged Obama to visit Jerusalem and the region soon to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to restart negotiations.

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May 18, 2011

Zenit | UK Charity Director a Witness to Mideast Violence

Reports Christians' Hope for Pilgrims

BETHLEHEM, MAY 17, 2011 (Zenit.org).- War is never far away, a resident in south Lebanon told the U.K. director of Aid to the Church in Need, who was in the Middle East to witness Sunday's clashes between Palestinians and Israelis.

Masses of Palestinian protesters headed for the Israeli border at different locations Sunday, where they were met with gun fire on the Syrian border with the Golan Heights, and the Lebanon and the Gaza Strip borders. Perhaps nearly two dozen Palestinians were killed and dozens more injured.

Aid to the Church in Need U.K. Director Neville Kyrke-Smith was in the area visiting Christian communities supported by the Catholic charity.

"It has been a very tense past few days and you could feel that tension in the outlying streets of Bethlehem," he said.

Every May 15, there is an annual heightening of tensions as Palestinians mark Nakba (“Catastrophe”) Day, the creation of the Israeli state. Israel celebrates its independence day a few days earlier. This year, the hostility was particularly notable as the Arab spring sweeps through the region, and Palestinians aim to seek statehood at the United Nations in September.

Kyrke-Smith described heightened security in Israel as well as the West Bank, saying that he was stopped at three check-points between Bethlehem and Jericho.

"The Israeli forces were obviously concerned after uprisings and incursions on their borders. They had brought in some heavy security," he said.

Kyrke-Smith also reported the quick clean up by Palestinian armed forces in preparation for Monday's visit to Bethlehem of Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Napolitano announced that Italy is joining several other European nations that have upgraded Palestinian representation to diplomatic status, giving its representative the role of ambassador.

Meanwhile, Kyrke-Smith noted a plea from a nun in the region: "Help keep the frontier open," she said. "Please come," referring to the importance of pilgrimages to the Holy Land as a form of solidarity for the Christians there.



May 16, 2011

Zenit | Benedict XVI Calls for Peace in Libya, Syria

VATICAN CITY, MAY 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI spoke today of the rebellions in Libya and Syria, calling for peace and solutions to the conflicts.

The Pope mentioned the two nations today before praying the midday Regina Caeli with crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square.

"I continue to follow the armed conflict in Libya with great attention," he said. "This conflict has caused a great number of victims and suffering above all among the civilian population. I renew a pressing call that the path of negotiation and dialogue prevail over that of violence, with the help of international organizations that are seeking a solution to the crisis."

The Holy Father also assured his prayers and support for Christian efforts to help the population, "in particular through consecrated persons present in the hospitals."

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May 12, 2011

America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Of Many Things: Catholic attachment to Holy Land differs from that of the Jews, but it is a special place all the same by Drew Christiansen, SJ

Four issues ago (4/11) Rabbi Daniel Polish contributed a heartfelt piece to these pages on Jewish attachment to Israel (“A Spiritual Home: What Christians Should Know About Jewish Identity”). “When Jews visit Israel, its landscape and historical sites speak in more intimate terms,” he wrote. “It is the embodiment of the Jews’ collective past, situating us in our history and evoking its meaning.” Rabbi Polish was eager to explain “Jews’ spiritual attachment to Israel” to America readers because, as he wrote, “To me as a Jew, Christian discussion of Israel seems to exist in the realm of social issues and foreign policy deprived of spiritual significance.”

It is true, as Rabbi Polish wrote, “The two communities stub their toes on a single issue, the State of Israel.” But the problem, I would argue, is not the State of Israel but the policies at certain times of particular governments of Israel as they affect the native Christian communities in the Holy Land. Some of those policies are the same policies that pain Rabbi Polish and many other American Jews. But differences over government policy, when they do exist, should not obscure the spiritual attachment Catholics too have for Israel.

Catholic attachment to the Holy Land, including Israel, differs from that of Jews, for in Christ all lands are holy. All the same, Israel has a special place in the Christian tradition. Christian attachment to the Holy Land, including Israel, it begins with reverence for Jews’ roots in the land together with a commitment to Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people. All the same, we hold a spiritual attachment to the land and its people, both Christian and Jewish. And sadly, Catholic attachment to the native Arab Christians is a stumbling block in our relations with many Jews. Let me begin, at least, to explain those ties.

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May 11, 2011

World Council of Churches | Palestinian agreement sign of hope Tveit says


The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, has said the recent agreement reached between two Palestinian movements, Fatah and Hamas, holds not only the hope and promise for a healing process within the Palestinian community but also creates the atmosphere for a seeking "a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Israel/Palestine".

"The signing of this agreement, for an interim unity government and fixing a date for a general election in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2012, is a significant milestone and promise to forge a Palestinian consensus for lasting and just peace in the region," Tveit said in a statement released today from the WCC offices in Geneva, Switzerland.

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May 9, 2011

Zenit | Mideast Expert Named to Roman Rota

VATICAN CITY, MAY 9, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI has named an Israeli expert on the Church in the Holy Land as prelate judge of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

The appointment of Franciscan Father David Jaeger was announced today.

Father Jaeger is a canon law professor at the Pontifical University Antonianum, and a consultor for the Congregations for Eastern Churches and for the Clergy, and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

David Jaeger was born to Jewish parents in Tel Aviv in 1955. He became a Christian in his late teens and joined the Catholic Church. He was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1986.

He is the only native-born Israeli ordained a Roman Catholic priest in the world.

Father Jaeger received a doctorate in canon law in 1989. In the 90s, Father Jaeger served as pastor of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Austin, Texas, and was on the Tribunal for the Diocese of Austin, and then on the ecclesiastical appeals court for the state.

He specializes in Church-state relations, particularly in the Holy Land, and he was instrumental in negotiating the 1993 Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel.



May 8, 2011

World Council of Churches | Worldwide action for peace in Palestine and Israel coming up

As part of a week-long series of events to promote a just peace in Israel and Palestine, Palestinians and Israelis will be praying for peace in front of several Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the separation wall and in houses of worship in Jerusalem and across Palestine.

They will be part of a worldwide effort to affirm the human dignity and rights of all peoples through the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, an initiative of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the World Council of Churches (WCC), taking place from 29 May to 4 June 2011.

The aim of the week for peace is to encourage concerned communities and individuals to make a common witness by participating in worship, educational events, and acts of advocacy in support of a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis.

“With the Palestinian-Israeli peace process at a standstill, people of faith are increasingly searching for ways to express their support for a just and lasting peace for all in Palestine and Israel,” says the Rev. John Calhoun, the convenor of the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel. “The WCC has set aside this period of seven days to encourage churches and individuals to worship and pray, to educate and be educated, and to take action in support of a peaceful and just end to the occupation of Palestine, in accordance with United Nations resolutions.”

The common focus of this year's events is Jerusalem....

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May 1, 2011

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs | Christianity and the Middle East: The Vanishing Church in the Holy Land

The Vanishing Church in the Holy Land

By Sir Jeffery M. Abood, KHS

The recent Middle East Synod (see Jan./Feb. 2011 Washington Report, p. 42) has helped focus the churches' attention on the vanishing Christian population in the Holy Land.

For two thousand years, Christian communities have thrived there. Yet, over the last 60 years, their population has gone from their historical level of around 18 percent to less than 2 percent today. Never have the Christian communities in the Middle East been as close to extinction as they are now. According to Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, "the future of the Church in the Holy Land is now in doubt unless fellow Christians around the world step up efforts to help them."

So why are these communities, long rooted in the historic land of their faith, now choosing to leave? And what does that mean for Christianity in the land where Jesus was born and preached?

First, when we speak of the Holy Land today, we generally mean Palestine and Israel. Oddly enough, the Christians living there seem almost like strangers to most of us. Many Westerners are not even aware that there are Christians in the Holy Land. Certainly many are also not aware that when we talk about the Christians there, we mean the Palestinians. Whether they live in Israel, the West Bank or Gaza, these Christians are all Palestinians (with the exception of recent immigrant worker communities) and have been living there for 2,000 years. They live as a double minority: as Christians in a largely Muslim culture, and as Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation.

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