a time for peace

– standing against occupation

come Obama, change my life

This plea from Israel appeared in CounterPunch on November 6, 2008 – it’s too good not to share!

By Edna Canett, of Machsom Watch, an Israeli group of women who monitor the checkpoints on the Jerusalem side.

Obama my dear, they tell me that you are going to change the world. Do me a favor, come and change my life personally.

Come to Israel, grab its stupid leadership by the throat and take its foot off the neck of another people. Come and force us to do what is clear, and written, and fitting, and necessary, come and get us out of the Territories, if necessary do it with a smile that reveals million-dollar teeth. If necessary bare your teeth and force us to do it.

Make it so that I don’t have to get up in the morning – I who hate to get up early, to go to the checkpoints, to watch and to weep. Make it so I will not have to see 19-year-old children who have been duped into believing that they are defending the home front by pointing rifles at five-year-old children.

Make it so that when my daughters take a shower for half an hour I don’t have to think about Ayad’s family from Awarta that puts buckets under all the washbasins in order to reuse the water which is more precious than gold. Because the settlements need the West Bank’s water more than the Palestinians do.

Make it so that when I sit in a traffic jam I don’t have to think about the vast numbers of cars that are standing at the entrance to Tul Karem while each one is checked by soldiers and dogs because there has been a warning that they’re about to blow up Tul Karem.

Make it so that when my sister urgently rushes to the hospital to give birth and when I rush my husband to the hospital practically with red lights flashing, I don’t have to think about the women giving birth and the heart patients and the wounded people who are stopped at the entrance to Nablus because their vehicle has no permit to enter.

Make it so that when I see a soldier in uniform on the street I do not wonder what he did last night. What house he entered in a “Straw Widow procedure”,* what boy he beat up in the alleys of Hawara because he smiled the wrong way.

Make it so that in the morning I don’t hear the satisfaction in the voice of the radio newsreader who relates that the IDF has killed six terrorists.

Obama my dear, this autumn I did not go to the olive harvest. It didn’t work out. Please make it so that I will not suffer from pangs of conscience because I am not doing enough. That I am living my own good life, pursuing my career, while for the other people just to get home safely is a career in itself.

Please relieve me of this pain that I have all the time deep in my belly. It never lets up, I can never really enjoy life, children, friends or work, because my mind is preoccupied with the image of the shepherd in Baq’a standing by the locked gate and shivering with cold because the redhead with the key has not showed up, and the bound blindfolded boy, and the three-year-old girl who got hit on the head by the carousel at the checkpoint, and the barriers of dirt and the concrete blocks that stop the lives of so many people from flowing smoothly.

 Come, Obama, come and save us from ourselves.

 And if that is what they mean when they say you are not a friend of Israel, then don’t be a friend. We have already had friends who arm us and justify every horror we carry out and save us from the international courts. Be a true friend. Save us from ourselves. And don’t do it for the world, do it only for me, so I can have peace. You owe it to me. I do not believe in God but still I prayed for you.

 *The IDF practice of forcibly occupying private Palestinian homes temporarily, for tactical purposes – translator

Edna Canetti wrote this for MachsomWatch. The piece was translated from Hebrew by George Malent 

November 12, 2008 Posted by | children, Israel, Occupation, Palestine, peace, women | 2 Comments

neve shalom/wahat al-salam…

…/Oasis of Peace is a village southeast of Tel Aviv that is an intentional community made up of Jews and Palestinian Arabs, all with Israeli citizenship. Since the 1970’s 50 families have come to live in this small area, families who are devoted to peace and living in respectful relationship as both the healthiest way to bring about peace between people, and as a model for the rest of Israel/Palestine. I spent some time with them last week… walking the streets, meeting the residents, visiting the schools, and seeking out their spiritual center.  These are folks who are committed to finding solutions to the problems that arise between those who are fundamentally different yet who have so much in common. And it is working.

Children come to the Peace School from the village and all around this agricultural area.  The schools teach both Hebrew and Arabic and they do it well because the teachers are native speakers!  The students learn the histories, traditions, and cultures of both people and they share their thoughts and feelings about one another with mutual respect. Their families are neighbors and their parents speak well of one another.  Could it be so easy to live as friends??

The pluralistic spiritual center is located on the edge of town, on a beautiful hillside. The entrance is a courtyard of a Meeting, Prayer and Study House with space for Muslim prayer on one side and Jewish synagogue teaching on the other, with a small kitchen they share so they can offer hospitality to everyone who finds a way to their door.  Plus there is a separate House of Silence a bit further down the path. Around these structures are lovely nature paths for hiking or strolling that I enjoyed as I prayed and listened for God’s presence.  Could it be so easy to find peace??

There are plans to expand the community to include up to 140 families here. But they are trying to determine how to add families who will fit well into the life of peace that can sometimes get difficult when something happens in the larger countries of Israel and Palestine.  It is really not as easy at it appears at first glance.  But these folks are committed, with every part of their daily lives, to making peace become the reality now and for their children.

At a time when Israeli-Palestinian relations seem to be at a new low, here is a village whose people still believe their engagement together in peace programs and intentional living can offer the hope needed so badly in the Mid-East.  Jesus says, “Blessed be the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)  May these children always know the blessings of their God as they work for peace!

salaam/shalom/peace – Pastor Pat

November 3, 2008 Posted by | children, Israel, Occupation, Palestine, peace | 2 Comments

whose house?

The call came in just after a long, early morning at the checkpoint.  I had taken my shower and was getting ready to go to the baptism of the daughter of a friend here.  Scott knocked on my door and said, “Don’t get too comfortable – no time for a nap.  There’s a house in Husan that’s been occupied by the army.”  And off we went… That’s how it happens here, the IDF decides to make a move and a whole network of people’s lives are interrupted.  

On the ride out to the village, we gathered information.  It seems that a motorist on one of the apartheid settler roads complained that a rock had struck their car in the area of this small village.  They didn’t see anyone throwing anything, but they wanted to make an insurance claim, so charges had to be filed.  And that gives the army a way in…

Husan is an unusual village because the people here have relatively good relations with the nearby settlement folk – some of the residents work in the settlement and the settlers often do some shopping in Husan. But not this weekend.

At 2 am Saturday morning, the army rolled into town and took occupancy of one of the most prominent homes, forcing a family of fifteen out into the streets, without any notice.  They raised the Israeli flag, covered the front porch with camouflage mesh netting, and blocked the front with their oversized vehicles. They don’t suspect any member of this family – it’s just a nice house, in the center of town, right across from the mosque. So the family had to go.  

Fortunately, an uncle lives in the village, so at least they weren’t stuck out in the street.  Unfortunately, all their belongings are now out of reach.  In fact, it’s fairly certain their home will be thoroughly searched and turned upside down, simply because the soldiers are bored as they watch a community where not much out of the ordinary happens – at least until the army comes to town.

When we got there, a group from the International Solidarity Movement was sitting watch with some of the family in the (now closed) shopping strip next door to the home. Ta’ayush, an Israeli peace group had been there, as well as Haaretz, the Israeli news agency.  Neither had been able to help much, but they were told the IDF has a one-week order of occupation.  It doesn’t say in the order what the family who lives here is supposed to do for the next week or what is going to be done to rebuild the relationships in this town. Tonight, we got a call asking us to come in the morning and be with the children as they walk to school tomorrow – trust has been broken and everyone is afraid it will only get worse.

So now we wait for the sunrise, watching the clouds carefully, and praying for peace, a peace that sometimes seems to be a bit further away each day.  Please pray with us!

Salaam/Shalom – Pastor Pat

October 26, 2008 Posted by | Israel, Occupation, Palestine, peace | 1 Comment

a simple day…

Yesterday was a good day, a day of surprises, a day that is a good example of the life I live here.  We expected to go to Al-Walejah, a near-by village, to harvest olives so we had to be up early to have time to dress, eat, and get to the meeting point in Bethlehem, where we were told a bus would meet us to take us out to the village.  We were to get to “in front of the courthouse” on Hebron Road by 8:00.  Unfortunately, none of us knew where that was – and, as it turns out, neither did the taxi driver!  Fortunately, the guys who we were meeting knew where we had been dropped off and came to rescue us!  So, on to the harvest… well, not quite…

First, we had to wait for others to arrive, so we went into an office to wait and it turned out it was the headquarters of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society – which meant we spent about an hour getting an introduction to their work around the Bethlehem area and the West Bank.  They sponsor mobile units that travel all over the West Bank, offering primary care to villagers who have no medical facilities in their town.  Dentists and doctors with specialties (gynecology, ophthalmology, oncology, etc) volunteer hours each week in 26 clinics.  Together these programs reach 1.5 million patients in the West Bank each year – even though they are often prevented from reaching the one who need them the most.  In recent years, seventy-two women have delivered their babies at the wrong side of the checkpoints, and many of the newborns didn’t survive.  The doctor talking with us said, “they are living in tragedy, yet bringing hope.”

Grateful for this new contact, we were now ready to pick some olives…Joining with a few others we began out journey to the village.  We met at the home of the group leader and waited for a larger bus that took us down into the fields on a road that was so narrow and steep the driver drove the last mile or so backwards to be sure he could get the bus back up the steep grade. Then we trekked to the field… but no! First we were taken on a tour to see an olive tree whose underground trunk was 25 km around and whose carbon-test results date the tree at well over 3000 years!

Finally, 2.5 hrs after we started our journey, we reached the field and began harvesting with about 35 internationals and 25 Palestinians.  About 12:30 lunch was served – bread to be dipped into bowls of the greenest olive oil I have ever seen, fresh hummus, home-made yogurt cheese with more oil, piping hot falafel balls, and grape molasses. And, of course a fire was started for Arabic coffee and mint tea!

About 3:00 we finished for the day and found our way home – stopping at the market stand for fruits and veggies.  After a quick shower and dinner, we headed to Manger Square in the Old City of Bethlehem for a huge, 5-screen showing of “Identity of the Soul,” a multi-media presentation with readings by the beloved Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian National poet extraordinaire who died last August in Houston TX, after a critical heart operation there.  It was an ironic end to a day that began with volunteer doctors trying hard to serve/save their people.

The “Identity of the Soul” was an amazingly sophisticated, intellectual, multi-media presentation from a people living in oppression, with little medical care and up to 65% unemployment, who depend on protection from internationals to pick their olives – reminding me once again how difficult it is to define these people and this situation in which they struggle to find their identities!  So we ended our day over a last cup of coffee… a bit more confused but glad for the gifts of the day!

peace/salaam – Pastor Pat

October 19, 2008 Posted by | Israel, Occupation, Palestine, peace, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

on the road

This weekend, I’ve been in Hebron, a busy city in the southern part of the West Bank, where I stayed with the EA Team who serve there – and I visited the tombs of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, shopped in the Souk (market) in the Old City that has been devastated by the Occupation, and met some of the fanatical settlers that have moved in and are causing such unrest in this Muslim city.  On Shabbat, after their family dinner, they go out for a stroll tohurl rocks into Palestinian houses and intimidate everyone they meet. Midweek, they focus their attacks on young girls walking to school or on farmers trying to work in their fields.  Settlers are by far, the scariest people in Israel-Palestine – even the IDF soldiers are too afraid to stop them! The Hebron Team has a difficult job as they confront religious fanaticism every single day.  I’m still processes my encounter with a settler who threatened me with an enormous gun (AK-47?) and demanded I honor Shabbat and stop using a camera to record his bad behavior! I got the whole thing on tape as I scurried behind the human line of internationals! 🙂 

While I was there, we also traveled south to Susiya, a village south of Yatta, whose Bedouin-type community is being targeted by other settlers.  The EA Team travels down every Friday and spends the night in this rather primitive village to offer protection to them from different settlers who are doing everything they can to force the people off their land, again, especially on Shabbat. Saturday, a group from Ta’ayush (Israeli peacemakers) came down with a water tank truck and we supported the Palestinians who needed to enter a newly declared “military zone” to access a Palestinian well. After a rather volatile beginning with the army, police and settlers getting involved, the army declared a military emergency and all of the internationals were thrown out of the village, but the water was transferred to the village cistern. After hiding out for a couple hours in the hills, we met up again and celebrated the victory on our trip back to Hebron.

How people (sadly, most of whom are from America) who have chosen to live in the Holy Land of Israel because of their religious beliefs, can use those beliefs and their understanding of their place as the chosen ones of God to cause such hardship and hurtfulness, especially on Shabbat, is hard for me to understand.  That they get away with it, is unconscionable – not only for the Israeli military and government who do nothing to stop them, but also for the many wealthy American Zionist Jews and Christians who actively support this kind of behavior.

Today, though I am saddened, I am also glad to be here doing something to balance the American reputation, and having a chance to return good for evil on behalf of a God who loves us all – and simply wants us to do the same, especially on the day God gives us to rest and focus on our relationship with God and each another.

peace/salaam – Pastor Pat

October 6, 2008 Posted by | Israel, Occupation, Palestine, peace, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

prayers for peace

Last Thursday, while visiting Sabeel, a grassroots liberation theology movement in Jerusalem, we learned that they invite Friends of Sabeel all around the world to pray every Thursday at noon (local time) so that a wave of prayers covers the Earth for hours – all asking for God’s peace and justice to reign here on our part of the vast universe.  We shared Holy Communion and joined our voices in unity with Christians all over the world.

Each Friday evening, we join the Caritas Sisters as they pray along the Wall near our apartment.  It is a gentle, peaceful end to a hectic day/week – particularly during Ramadan!  As the sun sets, we walk in the shadow of the Wall, opening our spirits and lifting our pleas for peace up to the Holy One. At the same time, all across this conflicted land, Jewish women are lighting the Shabbat candles and murmuring their prayers, while Muslims are preparing to break their day-long purification fast at an “iftar” meal. Together, in our own ways, we turn toward God, grateful for our many blessings and mindful of our humble dependence on the Almighty One.

Saturday afternoon, we joined many members of the “Church Related Organizations” in an ecumenical Peace Day Prayer Event at the Wall near Rachel’s Tomb. An Orthodox priest, a Muslim sheik, and I (!) spoke of the need for peace and justice in this land and then we offered prayers in eight different languages (I heard english, arabic, spanish, german, italian, african dialect, french…).  Finally, a group of dancers performed Debke, lifting up their prayers physically – it was so amazing!

Sharing prayers unites us, strengthens us, reminds us of a Great God who is already working to bring peace, and brings joy to our hearts as we remember that what we see and experience is not all there is.  Even in the dark shadow of the Wall, the Light of Christ in His community shines brightly, and we are filled with the goodness and grace of our God.

Please add your prayers to all of these whenever you can, and know that while we often pray as a last resort, praying should be the first thing we do, because calling for God’s guidance will allow us to make a difference, as God’s will and ways fill our minds and hearts and bodies so that all we do is filled with peace, justice and grace, wherever we are!

peace/salaam – Pastor Pat

“I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. 
Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!”  
– Psalm 116:1-2

September 22, 2008 Posted by | Israel, Occupation, Palestine, peace, women | 4 Comments

a brief historical grounding

Until Woods and I traveled to Israel-Palestine last January, I knew very little about what was happening here.  With family, job, self-development, volunteer work, and the general tasks of living taking up most of my time, information had a hard time making an impact on me – even critical information!  Perhaps others are the same – which means many of you may not know much about this particular situation, except for the occasional headlines from the flare-ups. Over the next few weeks I want to share both the current conditions here, as well as my personal experiences. I am not an expert, but I am learning so much that I think is important to share. 

A tiny bit of current history is helpful, even if very, very sketchy.  Two major events: first, in 1948 Israel declared itself a state and at the time of the cease fire in 1949, they took over the land for Israel. Their borders became known as the internationally approved “Green Line.”  Jordan held the land west of the Jordan River – the “West Bank”; and Egypt held the Gaza Strip. Then, in 1967, Israeli launched a militarily successful preemptive strike against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Thus began the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza that continues to this day.  
 
From the creation of the State of Israel (which Palestinians call the Nakba – “the disaster” or “catastrophe”) and the current Occupation, multiple, huge problems have been created, which I will share in more detail in the weeks ahead:  Palestinian Refugee Camps (from 1948); Settlements of civilian Israeli’s on the Occupied West Bank (which are illegal according to international law); Restriction of Movement of the Palestinians (including the Checkpoints and road closures all over the West Bank); and the Separation Wall (much of which is being built deep in West Bank land); in addition to the breakage of personal and political relationships between peoples, the huge humanitarian issues, and the economic devastation that has resulted for the Palestinians.
 
Those of us serving in or on behalf of the West Bank are working in response to the worsening conditions as Israel both refuses to accept responsibility for those under their Occupation, and refuses to respond to various international high court decisions that they must withdraw to the pre-1967 borders.  I am here because local churches have called on the World Council of Churches to send them help in handling the humanitarian need.
 
While I am still processing so much, one thing is very clear for me. The Occupation must end. If there is any international standard of morality civilized people hold (and I believe there is), this Occupation breaks it in every way.  I don’t know how all of this will be solved, but I know it must start with the end of this illegal Occupation by the Israeli’s.  
 
I hope that by sharing this journey on this blog, and introducing you to the internationals and Palestinians and Israeli’s I am working beside, I can offer you new insights into the situation that I am discovering.  If you have questions or thoughts to share, please respond in the comments section. Thanks!
Peace/Salaam – Pastor Pat

September 2, 2008 Posted by | Israel, Occupation, Palestine | 4 Comments