Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday, 30 March Day of Prayer for Hebron orphans

Reprinted with Permission by Christian Peacemaker Teams

Hebron prayer concern
29 March 2008

Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron is calling for Christians around the world to make Sunday, 30 March a day of prayer for the orphans of Hebron. On 25 February 2008 the Israeli army raided all of the buildings and institutions funded by Islamic Charities and gave orphanages and boarding schools until April 1 to evacuate students. On 6 March 2008 the Israeli army again stormed storage buildings of Islamic Charities, confiscating food, children's clothing and kitchen appliances used to prepare meals for the orphans. 6000 children in Hebron are housed, fed, and educated in these centers.

Christian Peacemaker Teams will visit the orphanages and will resist the forced expulsion of children if the Israeli army carries out the order.

Pray for the children of Hebron and for all of those affected by the actions of the Israeli army. Pray that the Israeli civil administration will rescind the order.

CPT's prayer request comes after several updates in the past few weeks about the IDF's actions against several organizations and properties in Hebron connected to Islamic Charities, including orphanages and schools:

Hebron Special Update
February 25, midnight – Invasion and confiscation in Hebron

At midnight 25 February Israeli Special Forces in ten jeeps and two armed personnel carriers (APC) invaded the Palestinian-controlled area of Hebron (H1) and confiscated properties of the Islamic Charitable Society as well as adjacent properties. 3000 children attending schools funded by the society will be forced out of school The Hebron district Israeli military commander, Yehuda Fuchs, handed confiscation orders issued by General Gadi Shammi, the Israeli military commander of the West Bank, authorizing the Israeli military to confiscate several properties, including those of Abdel Khader Al Kasey, a Hebron resident who lives with his two sons and their families over four shops that the Israeli military plans to confiscate.

Al Kasey’s son, Issa, and Tarik Sharif, whose five year- old son received an eviction notice from his nursery school as part of the same military operation, visited the CPT apartment March 1, showed CPT the orders, and explained their situations.

The military order said the property confiscation was against the Islamic Charitable Society. The commander told Al Kasey they knew he was not with Hamas but they had orders to confiscate his shops. Commander Fuchs also told Al Kasey that none of the peace agreements applied because under emergency law the military can do whatever they want.

Al Kasey has until March 4 (one week after the order was issued) to appeal the confiscation. After March 4 the Israeli army can demolish or seal the shops. After April 1, anyone who enters the shops could face a five-year prison sentence.

Al Kasey showed CPT a copy of the lease. On February 1 he rented three of his shops to a merchant who needed a warehouse to store rice he was importing from Spain and Italy. The merchant, who has an Israeli ID, is appealing the confiscation.

While Al Kasey and his family have no connection with Islamic Charities, the nursery school that Sharif’s son Omar attends is funded by The Islamic Charitable Society. “Why are they targeting a nursery school?” asked Sharif. “Islamic Charities help children and old people. The army closed all of the offices and confiscated all of the equipment, even the buses that take the children to school. What will poor people do now?”

CPT has already seen some of the consequences of the attack on Islamic Charities. Last week we visited a woman in Hebron’s Old City who had no food for her baby. Our interpreter explained, “She used to receive food from the Islamic Charitable Society. Now they are closed.”

These events have been covered in the regionial press as well. According to the Beirut Daily Star:

In late February and again early this month, Israeli soldiers descended upon this Palestinian city, welding shut the gates of a private school now under construction, closing two bakeries and handing eviction notices to an array of offices and retail outlets – all the property of a 46-year-old charitable organization that runs schools, clinics, and orphanages for more than 5,000 needy or imperilled youngsters in and around Hebron.

The Israelis gave ... tenants at the Al-Huda Mall a little more than 30 days to clear out.

Then, on March 5 just before midnight, the IDF raided a warehouse in the Al-Harayek area of southern Hebron, a facility the charity uses to store food and other goods needed for the children in its care.

During the following nine hours, according to Abd Al-Kareem Farah, legal representative of the Islamic charity, the Israeli soldiers gutted the warehouse, removing banks of industrial refrigerators and freezers, along with clothing, books, shoes, and cleaning supplies.

As the Daily Star notes, the IDF claims legitimation for these actions by claiming a connection of these charities to Hamas:

"All of the foundation's resources are devoted to funding Hamas and Hamas' grip on the region ... and to strengthening the terrorist network in order to target Israel," according to the Israel Defense Forces press office. "The Islamic Charity (Society) has, among other things, delivered money to Hamas terrorist operatives and their families, trained youths based on jihad principles, supported the families of suicide bombers and incarcerated terrorists, and spread Hamas principles amongst the Palestinian population."

As has been mentioned in Ha'aretz's coverage of the IDF's actions, although GOI claims that the Hebron charities are connected to Hamas, the charities' directors assert that not only is there no connection, but that the charities have been established in Hebron long before the formation of Hamas, even before the 67 war (when Hebron was still under Jordanian sovereignty).

The Islamic Charity Movement in Hebron was established in 1962, long before the birth of Hamas, shortly before the beginning of the Israeli occupation. Since then the organization has established a ramified network of educational and welfare institutions, and has acquired a great deal of real estate all over the city, with the declared aim of providing assistance to the needy - mainly to local orphans and the children of the poor. The legal adviser of the movement, attorney Abd al-Karim Farah, young and energetic in an elegant suit and a well-kempt beard, who does not hesitate to shake women's hands and is now studying Hebrew at a local ulpan, says that in the early days of the occupation the Military Administration helped and encouraged the activity of the charitable movement. He himself is a product of its institutions.

Today the Islamic Charity Movement cares for 7,000 orphans and children in distress from Hebron and surrounding villages. There are 350 youngsters at its boarding schools and 1,200 pupils attending its three city schools; another six are in outlying towns. The children have lost one or both parents, or come from severely distressed homes. Only a small percentage are children of the fallen. The movement's institutions employ 550 people, assisted by hundreds of volunteers. Their monthly budget is 400,000 Jordanian dinars, over NIS 2 million. Attorney Farah says everything is supervised by accountants and the Palestinian Authority's welfare and education ministries. Also, the curricula in the movement's educational institutions are identical to those of the PA, according to Farah, who emphasizes that "everything is legal."

Most of its budget comes from donations from abroad - from Arab countries, and European and American agencies - but the charitable organization also has quite a number of independent sources of income: from buildings and modern commercial centers all over Hebron that it owns and leases to private tenants and businessmen, two bakeries, a sewing workshop and a dairy, whose products are used by the children in the institutions and are also for sale in the open market. The movement has a board of directors that is elected biannually and was headed by Dr. Adnan Maswadi, an ear, nose and throat specialist, who was recently released from detention in Israel and was forced to resign. About 30 additional employees are presently under arrest for belonging to the organization.

"I would like to emphasize," says Farah, "that our movement has no official connection with Hamas. Perhaps some of our workers belong to Hamas, just as in other institutions such as the municipalities, but there is no formal connection. Nor are there transfers of money to Hamas, as Israel claims. Our financial reports are open and transparent. We are in no way the infrastructure of Hamas."

Please keep all of the needy in Hebron who have benefitted from these charitable works for decades in your prayers.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Fourteenth Station: Jesus laid in the tomb

Reprinted with Permission by Christian Peacemaker Teams

The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb.
by Lorne Friesen

The Burial of Jesus: It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. Mark 15:42-47

The body no longer bleeds, the breath is gone, the skin is cold to the touch. Life is gone. Is this possible? Is it really happening? The One who loved so much, is now lifeless and cold. And so the body is prepared for burial. But it is not only the body that was buried. The many hopes and dreams that were inspired by Jesus must also be buried. The disciples had chosen to leave their old profession and their old perspectives on life. Now with the burial of the body, the disciples also found it necessary to bury their newly chosen way of life. All those who had followed Jesus these past years, now found themselves bewildered, confused and without direction, without a future.

War and military occupation have a similar impact upon people. According to the B’Tselem records for 2007, 373 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed as a result of the war of occupation. Families bury their loved ones with a clear knowledge that the death was needless and violent. But, families bury more than the body of their loved ones. Military occupation means that they must also bury many of the hopes, dreams, a normal, healthy way of life, when a military power occupies their land.

Palestinian families tell us that under the occupation they have lost much more than just their freedom. Many live with the fear of home invasions or even the demolition of their homes by bulldozers. The Palestinians have been robbed of their security and dignity. One Palestinian father said, “I am walking dead”. Israeli families tell us that they do not think they should have to live with the fear of attacks of rockets and suicide bombers. As people bury their loved ones, they also lay to rest their hopes and dreams for a future.

This is the stark desolation of Good Friday.

Thirteenth Station: Jesus taken down

Reprinted with Permission by Christian Peacemaker Teams

Thirteenth Station: Jesus is taken down from the Cross
by Jean Fallon

We stand beside Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as she holds her dead son in her arms, washes His face with her tears and mourns His short life. With this vision still before our eyes, in Palestine, we stand beside two other mothers, one Israeli and one Palestinian…

Who had not heard of the assassination of eight students in the Jerusalem Yeshiva by a young man, crazed with the killings of women and children in the Gaza. This latest assassination in the Israeli/Palestinian cycle of violence had a great impact on our CPT Team in Hebron. It had an even greater impact when our CPT Delegation received word that one of the eight was the sixteen-year-old son of Rivka, a kindly Settler woman who has regularly invited the Delegations to her Settlement home. In her sorrow, she invited the Delegation to come sit Shiva with her instead of their regular visit… deeply touched we all promised to come. We had just received this news when a Palestinian woman appeared at our door to tell us that, because of the murders in Jerusalem, her home had been invaded by the Israeli Occupation Forces, torn apart by the soldiers and her four sons taken away by them. She had no idea to where they had been taken, or, whether or not they were still alive… We could only stand with her in her sorrow and pain… We were, at least, able to call those who could help her in her search. Another Palestinian friend took her to this group, but before leaving we all stood and prayed with her that these lost sons would be restored to her soon. Mary is close indeed to the mothers of all the women who mourn because of the endless cycle of violence brought to this land by those with the real power to execute or spare all their sons.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Twelfth Station: Jesus dies

Reprinted with Permission by Christian Peacemaker Teams

The Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the cross
by Jan Benvie

“It was the third hour when they crucified him. … Those who passed by hurled insults at him… And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice,… ‘My God, my God why have you forsaken me?’ … With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.” (Mark 15: 25, 29-34, 37)

Jesus was mocked and crucified because He dared to speak out and challenge the powers. He was seen as a threat, He had to be silenced.


In the name of ‘security’ or ‘the war on terror’, many governments around the world have passed laws curtailing the rights of defendants. In April 2006 Amnesty International produced a report detailing the practice of rendition – “the transfer of people from one country to another by means that bypass all judicial and administrative due process” (part 1.1). In November 2007 Amnesty reported that approximately 300 detainees were still held without charge or trial by US authorities in Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp. Many who speak out against these unjust laws and practices are accused of supporting or appeasing terrorism.

Israel detains Palestinians without charge or trial in ‘administrative detention’. According to the Israeli Human Rights Group, B’tselem, Israel, in 2007, held a monthly average of 830 prisoners in administrative detention. Christian Peacemaker Teams, and other groups who speak out against the actions of the Israeli occupying forces in the Palestinian Territories, are accused of being anti Semitic.

Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me … will save it.” (Mark 8: 34-35)

We know that God did not forsake Jesus. Jesus overcame death and rose again from the tomb. Neither will God forsake us if we have the strength to take up our cross and follow Jesus. God will be with us as we speak out or take action against oppression and injustice, even when that means mockery or death.

Eleventh Station: Jesus nailed to the cross

Reprinted with Permission by Christian Peacemaker Teams

Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed to the cross.
By Lorne Friesen

They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. (Mark 15:22-24, New International Version)

The scene of Jesus being nailed to the cross is more painful than most are willing to comprehend. The use of crucifixion to execute those condemned to death was not only painful but also embarrassing and humiliating for the one being executed and their loved ones who helplessly stood by. Some of those being nailed to the cross will have screamed because of the excruciating pain. The words of Jesus from the cross indicate that he was clearly conscious of his surroundings, and was still able to speak words of compassion.

The gospel writers inform us that Jesus knew he would face death in Jerusalem. Jesus was not na├»ve; he understood the consequences of promoting the ‘Kingdom of God’, especially in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, Jesus made his journey to Jerusalem because he was committed to fulfill his divine mission. Jesus did not choose to be crucified. Rather, I believe that crucifixion was the consequence of faithfulness. Jesus was crucified, because people rejected his message and mission. Jesus chose to be faithful to his divine calling, to preach, teach and heal; the crucifixion inevitably followed. What a price to pay for faithfulness!

Jesus endured the cross, not for his well-being but for ours and all who suffer in the world. In the same way, God calls his faithful community to take upon themselves the brokenness of the world. The price of faithfulness today is still high, especially in places of military occupation and war. Courage is an essential quality if one is to confront the powers of death and destruction. It takes courage for men and women to speak about non-violent resolution to the occupation in the Palestinian Territories. Many Muslims, Christians and Jews, who have committed themselves to non-violence and stand in solidarity with victims of non-violence, find themselves targeted for death by the powers of destruction. As we remember Jesus’ faithfulness to endure the cross, let us commit ourselves again to remain faithful in the face of the violence that many people must endure daily.

Tenth Station: Jesus is Stripped

Reprinted with Permission by Christian Peacemaker Teams

The Tenth Station - Jesus is stripped before the crowd
by Jan Benvie

In a final attempt to humiliate Him, the Roman soldiers stripped Jesus of his clothing. Were they aware that they could have power over His body, but not His mind? Even in death He was still greater than they.

Our clothes are part of our identity. Stripped of our clothing we can be seen as worthless in worldly terms.

In Guantanamo Bay prison the US strips prisoners of any clothing that makes them identifiable as an individual human being. All prisoners must wear the same shapeless, orange jump suit.

In Abu Ghraib (Iraq) the US guards stripped prisoners naked in order to shame and humiliate them.

Throughout the world prisoners are regularly ‘strip searched’ for no good purpose other than to humiliate them.

At the numerous military checkpoints all over the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israeli soldiers attempt to humiliate Palestinians by making them lift up, or sometimes remove their clothing. Any ‘security check’ deemed necessary could easily be carried out using a metal detector wand.

Despite the threat of these searches Palestinians continue to travel throughout their land. Here in Hebron Palestinians continue to come to the Ibrahimi mosque, to their shops in the Old City souq, and to live in their homes near the Israeli settlements, even with the risk of degrading searches at checkpoints. They stand firm and steadfastly refuse to be stripped of their dignity.

Just as we are called to accompany Christ on his road to crucifixion, so too we are called to accompany those who are stripped and humiliated by the powers of this world.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ninth Station: Jesus Falls a Third Time

Reprinted with Permission by Christian Peacemaker Teams

The Ninth Station – Jesus Falls the Third Time Under the Weight of His Cross
by Jean Fallon

This time Jesus lies unmoving after falling the third time beneath His cross…Is He dead? The occupation soldiers kick Him, make Him stand and drag on. This time it is almost impossible for Jesus to get back up! It is the same in Palestine now, and hard as it is, let us continue on with Jesus. We see Him in the same Baqa’a Valley, Hebron. How can we continue to be silent witnesses?

For this Palestinian family the third time is different. The family refused to remain, sitting without hope! It is now 2000, and though cautious, they refused to give up or to leave their home in ruins… Still dazed, they worked together to rebuild their home. However, this time, instead of the Israeli military, the settlers themselves descended into the valley. The settlers enter the Palestinian family’s new home, destroy windows, rip out wiring and obliterate as much as they could. Left in the shell of their home when the families were finally allowed to return, once again they were under the crushing weight of their home thrice lost. In place of hope, they now knew fear… No longer are the families from the hilltop settlements above them, quietly watching their attempts to rebuild their lives and their homes, they are now on the attack to clear this area of Palestinians and to forcibly take over the whole of the Baqa’a Valley.

Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Women

Reprinted with permission by Christian Peacemaker Teams

The Eighth Station – Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
by Mary Wendeln

A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.' At that time, people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!' and to the hills, ‘Cover us!' for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?" Luke 23: 27-31

Jesus tells the women of today to weep for themselves and their children if their society continues on the path that it is on.

The reality is that all women living in Palestine and Israel bear the cross of division. Palestinian women, bear the possibility of home demolitions, substandard social and health services. Mothers fear home invasions or not knowing the whereabouts of their sons, detained by the Israeli army. Others fear that their sons may be wounded and blacklisted for throwing stones.

Israeli women bear the burden of a national policy of violence and injustice. All suffer from a national budget that prioritizes military power over human needs. Many live in fear of violence as the mothers who lost their sons in the Yeshiva seminary killings.

Jesus meets Israeli and Palestinian women working together and together they question why this is happening.

They meet us and ask how many times have we felt sorry for the victim and failed to question the policies that perpetuate this injustice? How many times have we failed to question our involvement in the injustice? How many times have we continued to talk about an injustice and failed to act?

Seventh Station: Jesus Falls a Second Time

Reprinted with permission by Christian Peacemaker Teams

Jesus Falls the Second Time Under the Weight of His Cross

by Jean Fallon

We see Jesus falling beneath the cross the second time. Despite the help of Simon of Cyrene, the cross has crushed Him once more, and He is beaten down by the Roman soldiers. Let us continue with the meditation of Jesus in Palestine now. We see scenes of Baqa’a Valley, outside of Hebron. The second time it is even harder for Jesus to get back up. It is even harder to stand by as witnesses in helpless frustration.

Rebuilt by Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICHAD), once again a Palestinian family sit dazed and crying before their fallen house, utterly crushed and unrecognizable. Not too far away, another Palestinian family experiences the same trauma. For them, it is their third demolition! It is still 1998, and both families had built their homes once more with a renewed hope that now lay in ruins. Their future also lay in ruins. Just before sunrise, the Israeli military had come in the name of the State of Israel, gun and demolition orders at ready, driving out the families, forcibly holding them back while the bulldozers smash their houses… Left in the piles of rubble, the families sit crushed with nothing left but the weight of their homes twice and thrice lost. .

It means nothing that these Palestinian families have held the land for generations. Above them still, on the top of a hill the settlements continue to expand, clearing this area of Palestinians and taking their land.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sixth Station: Veronica wipes Jesus' face

Reprinted with Permission by Christian Peacemaker Teams

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

Let us try to imagine Veronica as she steps out from the jeering, mocking crowd. Was she afraid as she walked past the hostile, armed soldiers? It was not appropriate for her, as a woman, to touch a man, but Veronica refused to be constrained by social norms. She saw the suffering, bleeding Christ, and she was moved by compassion and mercy to step forward.
In the 15th century many Jewish and Muslim families fled Christian persecution in Spain, and came to build a new life together in Hebron. For hundreds of years, until 1929, these families lived together in harmonious co-existence.

In 1929 Muslim rioters attacked and killed 67 Jews in Hebron (and wounding many others). Although most people chose to either participate in the riots or simply stand by and watch, some Muslim families sheltered and saved hundreds of their Jewish neighbors.

Just across from the CPT apartment, in a building now evacuated and requisitioned by the Israeli military, the Muslim Shaheen family saved their Jewish neighbors, the Mizrahi family.

Rioters were at the door, sure that there were Jews in the house. The Hajji (elder woman of the family) went to the roof of her home, tore off her veil, and tore her clothes (a shameful act in Islam), swearing to those below that all who were in the house were her family. The rioters, horrified to be the cause of dishonor to such an old, respected woman, left the area. The Mizrahis were saved.

In the face of such violence and hatred, Veronica and the Hajji refused to stand silently by.

Do we?

Fifth Station: Simon carries the cross

Reprinted with Permission by Christian Peacemaker Teams

Simon of Cyrene is made to carry the cross

Simon was an innocent bystander in the crowd. We know from the accounts in the gospels of Luke and Mark that Simon did not step forward to take the cross. Different Bible translations tell us that the soldiers of the occupying Roman army ‘grabbed’, ‘seized’, ‘laid hold upon’ him, then ‘compelled’, ‘forced’ him to carry the cross.

In wars and conflicts, the bystander in the crowd is still made to carry the cross of suffering. Yet, how often are the peacemakers ridiculed and mocked when they speak out against the arbitrary loss of life?

In the first two months of 2008, Israeli security forces killed 146 Palestinians in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and Gaza Strip. Like Simon, at least 42 were bystanders, who “did not participate in fighting when killed”.

Between 28 February and 3 March, at least half of the 108 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military in Gaza, were civilians. On 6 March, a Palestinian gunman entered a Yeshiva (a Jewish religious school) and killed 8 students, at least four under 18 years of age.

Just as the Roman soldiers ‘seized’ and ‘grabbed’ Simon, those with military power target the bystander. On 27 February the Israeli military targeted the civilian Interior Ministry in Gaza, damaging nearby buildings and killing a six-month-old baby. The same day, Palestinian military groups in Gaza targeted the Israeli town of Sderot, killing a 47 year old civilian.

We know that Jesus was not ‘compelled’ or ‘forced’ to take up the cross. We too are called to willingly take up the cross by speaking out against war, by saying that the death of any one person is too much, that violence leads to violence, it will never lead to peace.

Note: B’tselem is an Israeli human rights organization

Fourth Station - Meeting his mother

Reprinted with Permission by Christian Peacemaker Teams

Jesus meets his mother on the way to his execution

Let us recall Jesus meeting His mother as He carries His cross. She was unable to stand by quietly and see her innocent son accused, condemned and on His way to execution. Not only did she reach out to her son beneath His cross, she must have spoken out to the soldiers and tried to tell them of His innocence. Let us continue with the meditation and think of Jesus in contemporary Palestine.

Here in Hebron we see mothers of six Palestinian youths accused of breaking and entering a settlement enclave in the Old City. Their mothers know their innocence and we witness these women trying to stop the police from taking their sons to the Israeli police station, where anything can happen to them. They rush to the Israeli soldiers to tell them their sons were at home all day. They reach out and actually hold back the military armored personnel carrier in which their sons have been placed. In the face of hostile settlers with guns pointed at them, their courage inspired those who could do so to join with them and ask for mercy.

08-01-27 A Mother’s Anguish: Palestinian mothers and Dianne Roe getting in the way of Israeli paddy wagon taking away Palestinian teenagers after being detained for three hours. For more photos, visit CPT

The Third Station - Falling

Reprinted with Permission by Christian Peacemaker Teams

Jesus Falls the First Time Under the Weight of His Cross
By Jean Fallon

We see Jesus falling the first time beneath the weight of the cross... the full weight of the Roman Empire! It is someone crushed and un-recognizable, beaten down by soldiers of the Occupying Roman Forces and the unseen power behind Jesus' condemnation. Let us continue the meditation, Jesus in Palestine now. We see scenes of several years ago in the Beq'qa Valley, Hebron. Standing with the Christian Peacemakers Teams we are like the crowd, forced to stand by as helpless witnesses.

August 1998: members of two Palestinian families sit dazed and crying before their fallen homes, now utterly crushed and unrecognizable! For one family, this is the second time! The remains of their houses, built with such hope on their own land, now represents a bleak future for themselves and their children, and all that is left of their life savings. The Israeli Occupation Forces, enforcers for the Occupiers, (the State of Israel), had come, guns at ready, just before sunrise, driving the families outside... with them come bulldozers, demolishing the houses in a total of five minutes. Left are heaps of rubble and the families, sitting in the cold, with nothing but the heavy weight of their lost homes.

These Palestinian families have held the land for generations, but above them on the top of a hill are ‘Settlements’, the unseen power demanding this action to clear this area of ‘Arabs’ in order to take over this whole area.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Palm Sunday Procession on Both Sides of the Wall

Holy Week began with the annual Palm Sunday procession. Members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams joined Palestinians on the first leg of the journey from Bethany to the Wall. Internationals, Israelis and Palestinians on the other side of the wall continued the procession from Bethphage through ancient gates into Jerusalem. These reflections from CPT and from Reformed Mission Workers, Marlin and Sally Vis, are reprinted with permission.

Al Eizariya/Bethany Palm Sunday Procession
17 March 2008

AL EIZARIYA/BETHANY – On Palm Sunday, 16 March, Palestinians and internationals, Muslims and Christians, gathered at the Lazarus Gate checkpoint to commemorate Palm Sunday and highlight the travel restrictions the Israeli government imposes on Palestinians through the use of permits and Israel’s separation barrier. Most Palestinians from the West Bank cannot travel to Jerusalem.

Palestinians and internationals processed in the path that Jesus traveled from Bethany to Jerusalem. Participants carried olive branches, palm leaves, and signs reading, “Stop the Wall” and “Where could Jesus go?” When they arrived at the Lazarus Gate the group worshipped together.

Nora Carmi of Sabeel said, “Today, what we are doing is re-living this memory [of Jesus] and challenging the authorities in the same nonviolent, peaceful way, that Jesus did . . . A few soldiers with their guns and their tear gas, are not going to stop us from praying.”

Israeli border police arrived and threatened to fire tear gas at the worshippers, but they continued with some Scripture readings. While the group were completing their event on the grounds of a local religious community, the border police came and again told the worshippers to disperse.

After the service, many internationals continued on to Jerusalem to be a witness at the regular Palm Sunday procession for the Palestinian Christians who could not travel to Jerusalem.

Palm Sunday Pictures
March 17, 2008

Yesterday was the yearly first Palm Sunday walk - first because Orthodox Palm Sunday is a couple of weeks away. The walk begins at Bethphage (House of Figs) and proceeds down through Lion's Gate and into Saint Anne's Church located just inside the city walls.

The walk starts just on the other side of this wall, which separates biblical Bethany from the Mount of Olives. This picture was taken from the Bethany side of the Separation Barrier, just five minutes from tradition's site for Lazarus's tomb.

And here they come - the procession proceeds down the Mount of Olives toward the Old City, let by four Israeli soldiers. Tourists often remark about how odd it is to have soldiers in full battle gear leading the Palm Sunday procession, but for locals these soldiers are just part of the landscape. They are there as a presence for the purpose of keeping order, but it does serve to put in perspective Palm Sunday in contemporary Jerusalem. You have to wonder where the soldiers were on the first Palm Sunday walk, the one Jesus led seated on the back of a donkey. Roman soldiers were there of course, watching the crowd as it made it's way toward the city of Jerusalem. These Roman soldiers worried over the crowd as well, wondering if the motley crew made up mostly of children was planning celebration or revolution. Imagine their relief when Jesus led the crowd into the Temple through the Beautiful Gate and not toward their stronghold, the Antonio Fortress, by the then Sheep's Gate. I know, it's confusing, but stay with me.

And there they go, into the Old City, and because the Beautiful Gate is no longer there, and the Golden Gate, near where Beautiful Gate once stood was closed by one of the Muslim sultan's, the crowd passes through the gate that would have led up to the Antonio Fortress, where Pilate was no doubt staying for the dangerous time of the festival of Passover. Was Pilate watching too? Who is watching this crowd? Are they dangerous too? It could be that we are a danger to the principalities and powers. At the very least, we should be. Right? Not because we would revolt, but because we follow that first parade marshal who came riding on a donkey, unarmed except for a divine, internal resolve to redeem the world by the only means possible - his own self. And if it meant suffering, then so be it. And if it meant death, then so be it. And if there was something more to come, something transcending suffering and death, something like resurrection, well then, so be it as well. A man on a donkey rode into a city rife with corruption at every level, sold out completely to violent solutions to every problem, conflicted and factioned, and the man on the donkey knew by then that only the children would understand the significance, because only the children were willing to follow a man on a donkey rather than a man with a sword.

Who is following the man on the donkey today? And where is the man on the donkey leading us?

The Second Station: Carrying the Cross

Reprinted with Permission from Christian Peacemaker Teams

Jesus Takes Up His Cross
By Joy Ellison

When the chief priests and the guards saw [Jesus] they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him." ... They cried out, "Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your king?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. John 19: 6, 15-17

For 40 years, Palestinians have born the cross of military occupation. Palestinians have lost their land, their homes, their olive trees, their cultural traditions, and their lives. Throughout these 40 years, people around the world, but especially Christian Zionists, have offered their support to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. Because the unconditional support our governments offer the state of Israel, we are complicit in the suffering of the Palestinian people.

"The Way of the Cross in Occupied Palestine": The First Station

Reprinted with Permission from Christian Peacemaker Teams

CPT Palestine Lenten Campaign
Join in the "Way of the Cross in Occupied Palestine," a Lenten campaign to raise awareness of the suffering of the Palestinian people living under Israeli military occupation. These short reflections connect contemporary parallels to the themes found in the Stations of the Cross, a tool used for reflection on the suffering and death of Christ.

As this reality of violence runs parallel to the suffering of Christ, the campaign encourages participating churches to engage in direct actions that highlight the violence and injustice of life under military occupation in Palestine.

The First Station – Jesus stands condemned by Pilot by the word of his enemies
By Jean Fallon

As we recall Jesus standing before Pilot, who represents the Occupying Roman Forces, and the full weight of the Roman Empire, let us meditate on a scene happening now in Hebron.

Six Palestinian youths, around 15 or 16, the oldest 18 and 19, stand before the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) … accused by a settler woman of breaking and entering her home. Not knowing what would happen to them, they stand with their arms raised, hands on metal doors, legs apart and some of them still in the thin clothing they were wearing at home when the IOF came to arrest them,. For close to four hours of standing in the cold, they endure a heckling crowd of settlers, being blindfolded, handcuffed and finally taken away to the police station where police continued to question and finally released them after midnight. At a checkpoint on their way home, a soldier tore up one of their IDs.

Six teenagers… whose actual ‘crime’ was discovered to be; breaking through a fence into an open square near the settlers’ housing area to look for scrap metal. Even though their Palestinian families gave witness on their behalf they were condemned by the word of a settler, with two now facing a hearing and the rest with their names on the Israeli police list of potential ‘terrorists’.

For a photo of this incident,click here