The Israel-Palestine situation is definitely one of the most challenging and complex in the world today. We asked LPF board member Kathy Adam to step back and reflect a little on her own journey of understanding and action on the issues, and to share some especially helpful links to information -- including several on well-known Lutheran Palestinian pastor Mitri Raheb. Here is Kathy on her experience:
In 1998, my husband and I went to Israel on a “Footsteps of Jesus” tour. We were awed, walking where Jesus had walked over 2,000 years ago. Our spirits soared as we followed those footsteps…. At the same time, more and more questions arose for us about what was happening all around us.
For example, we were overwhelmed by the number of soldiers we encountered everywhere, Israeli Defense Forces heavily armed with automatic weapons. We didn’t yet understand the real scope of the situation in which we found ourselves. We were in the lands of Israel and Palestine. The Palestinians – a people I didn’t even know existed in the 20th century – were under occupa-tion since 1967 by the State of Israel. We discovered this was anything but a peaceful land.
Since 1998 I have visited the region five times to learn and observe. Sadly I have witnessed Palestinian homes bulldozed to make way for Israeli settlements, ancient groves of olive trees uprooted, Palestinian farmers and shopkeepers cut off by walls from their lands and livelihoods. I have talked with people who have had family members, including children, arrested and jailed and even tortured.
But during that first trip, having only our Sunday School Biblical knowledge to help us place the contemporary situation into perspective, we found ourselves lost in our limited understanding. I’m very grateful that our tour group was able to meet with Mitri Raheb, pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, right up the hill from the Church of the Nativity where it is said Jesus was born. He invited our tour group into a room with a circle of chairs one evening. It was then that the Biblical story and the contemporary situation started to come together for us.
We learned that for over 2,000 years, there has been a Palestinian presence in the land, and that for most of that time, Palestinians – mostly Christian and Muslim – lived side-by-side with Jews in relative peace. It was a political movement, Zionism, that from its origins at the end of the 19th Century has caused the problems that have become so severe ever since.
In the years since meeting Pastor Raheb, I’ve done all I can to inform myself about the region. Perhaps you too have read or heard Pastor Raheb, and been inspired by this visionary Lutheran advocate of peace with justice. It was no surprise to me that he recently received the prestigious Swedish Olof Palme Prize of 2015. He shares this award with Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, who campaigns for his country's withdrawal from Palestinian territories. They both received the award for offering “a glimmer of hope to a conflict that for too long has plagued and continues to plague millions of people and affects world peace.”
A few years ago I began volunteering with “Bright Stars of Bethlehem,” the US organization supporting the ministries led by Pastor Raheb in Palestine. I’m often encouraged by Mitri Raheb’s insight into the challenge of peacemaking: “We’ve been conditioning ourselves to run a hundred yards, but we are in fact in a marathon,” he says. “Our struggle is neither easy nor short, and we have to condition ourselves for the long challenge ahead. We need moments of joy and hope in the midst of all this hopelessness. Otherwise we won’t be able to continue our journey.”
Indeed, peace does not come easily in this part of the world, as with conflicts in so many other regions of the world. Nor does peace always come easily in our communities, or even in some of our close relationships. In our efforts to bring about peace in the various areas of life, we need moments of joy and hope. We also need resources to help us. I was impressed by the resources offered by LPF when I first explored them a few years ago.
More recently, I have been grateful for the opportunity to contribute to LPF’s efforts to share information about these issues and struggles. To help frame advocacy options. To help support this valuable and much-needed service. To offer resources and links through LPF blogs like this one, as well as posts on the LPF facebook page, program updates, and the rich variety of material on LPF’s website…
by Kathy Adams, LPF board member
by Kathy Adams, LPF board member
Here are some especially helpful, informative links on these issues:
Mitri Raheb, Bright Stars, Diyar Ministries
www.brightstarsbethlehem.org - Bright Stars of Bethleham (Christian,
Lutheran, working with all faith traditions in the Middle East.)
Diyar, umbrella organization of Bright Stars
Mitri Raheb Presentations
Olof Palme Prize Ceremony Speech - Parliament, Stockholm, Sweden
"A Tough Calling: the Joys and Struggles of Pastoring in Palestine" Calvin College
"Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMJ49iivAjg
|www.cmep.org – Churches for Middle East Peace (22 national Christian denominations and organizations)
https://www.elca.org/en/Our-Work/Publicly-Engaged-Church/Peace-Not-Walls - ELCA Middle East information and advocacy program, Peace Not Walls
www.fosna.org – Friends of Sabeel North America, Christian organization
www.sabeel.org – Palestinian Christian Liberation Theology Organization
Jewish and Secular Sources
B’tselem.org – Israeli information center for human rights in the occupied territories. (Israeli, Jewish organization)
www.annainthemiddleeast.com - Anna Baltzer’s (Jewish American woman) web page. Very articulate Jewish American woman.
www.JVP.org – Jewish Voice for Peace (Jewish group that welcomes people of any belief who want peace with justice in Palestine and Israel)
www.ifamericansknew.org – If Americans Knew (secular organization, very well researched information.)
Video: Mitri Raheb | Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes