”If your son didn’t come home from school and you heard he was arrested, who can you call? If your husband is from the West Bank and you have Jerusalem residency, how will you get the permits necessary to live together? If you are on your way to university abroad and are denied exit from the West Bank, how will you get to your studies?”
These are examples of the questions asked by thousands of people who turn to the work Jessica Montell does at HaMoked each year. Since September of 2017, Montell has served as Executive Director of the human rights NGO HaMoked, which assists Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation, and the severe and ongoing violations of rights occupation causes. The organization provides free legal aid, works to change government and military policy, and upholds universal human rights principles. Read more
By Suzann Mollner, Executive Director of Beirut and Beyond
Early one morning last month, I was sitting at breakfast with Israeli and Palestinian women…as one does in Washington D.C. I was jetlagged and struggling to be alert; we all were for that matter. Somehow the topic of visiting all of them in Israel/Palestine came up. They knew I had been banned by Israel, which means I cannot enter Palestine, but they were formulating a plan. Both of the Israelis at the table told me to give their names as contacts, and said that I could stay with them. And a Palestinian chimed in, “and once you’re in…you’ll be with us.” Gesturing, “come on.” Meaning, you’ll be well taken care of by us Palestinians, but she knew I knew that.
I’m not sure they know how healing this 2-minute conversation was for me. Partly because they were trying to rectify a wrong done to me. Partly because they saw me. Partly because these are the very people caught in the everyday ins and outs of the Israel/Palestine conflict. The occupation of the West Bank directly affects their lives, and peacemaking has a real cost for them. But in that moment, they were thinking about how to get me, an American, in so we could be together. Read more
Shireen Awwad Hedva Haymov
The importance of women in leadership positions in the Messianic Jewish and Christian faith communities is often undervalued However, when the voices of women are uplifted and heard, incredible strides are made towards peace and reconciliation. This is the reality these two inspiring women, Hedva Haymov and Shireen Awwad have been working diligently toward. Despite come from diverse backgrounds – Hedva, an American-born Israeli Messianic Jew, and Shireen, a Palestinian Christian living in Bethlehem – they both have found shared faith and passion for advancing peace in the Holy Land. Read more
As a peace builder and faith leader within the Messianic Jewish community, Lisa Loden works to promote reconciliation between the Israeli Messianic Jewish and Palestinian Christian communities, and a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As an expression of her faith and passion, Lisa immigrated to Israel in 1974 and co-founded a Messianic congregation Beit Asaph in Netanya, Israel. Since then, Lisa has been involved with several ecumenical organizations and initiatives. Read more
Sahar Vardi, an Israeli peace activist from Jerusalem, has been working to promote peace and justice in Israel/Palestine since the early age of thirteen. Influenced by her father, who refused military service during the first intifada, Sahar was exposed to the realities on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In 2003 Sahar would accompanied her father to a small village located near Jerusalem. There, they planted olive trees and painted murals on the school of the neighboring village. She continued to visit the village throughout the second intifada as Israel’s separation wall was being built. In this village, Sahar was deeply impacted by the interactions she had within the community by connecting with those around her on a personal level. Seeing the construction of the wall and the effects it had on the village, Sahar notes that this was the beginning of the politicization process, as despite being merely fifteen minutes away, her and the people she knew in the village were living almost entirely different realities. Read more
Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. So the servant returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.
Luke 14:16-18a, 21-24
In chapter 9 of Luke’s gospel, Jesus sets his mind to go to Jerusalem. The rest of the gospel is focused on this journey towards his death and resurrection, and all that he does in between must be read in light of this. While at dinner with some people, he tells the parable we read today, about a man who invited many people to join him at his banquet table. When they would not come, he sent his servant out to the streets to invite all the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame—all those marginalized by society. After the servant had done so, there was still room at the table, so the man ordered him to go back out and compel more people to come, so that his house might be filled. All are welcome at the banquet table of God, regardless of their socioeconomic status, physical ability, race, religion, or nationality. The feast was prepared, and the man would not allow it to go uneaten. Read more
Glory to Him who journeyed His servant by night, from the Sacred Mosque, to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We have blessed, in order to show him of Our wonders. He is the Listener, the Beholder.
The last two Sundays of Lent we considered why Jerusalem matters to Jews and Christians. This week, we focus on Jerusalem’s significance for the Muslim community. It is believed that the prophet Muhammad traveled to Jerusalem during his Night Journey, around the year 621 A.D. According to Islamic tradition, this was not only a physical journey, but also a spiritual one. On this journey, Muhammad traveled to a mosque where he prayed and was then taken up into heaven. The mosque Muhammad prayed at is now believed to be the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque or Haram al-Sharif, and is subsequently the third holiest site in all of Islam. Furthermore, the shrine of the Dome of the Rock marks the location of Muhammad’s ascent into heaven. Read more
Last year, I traveled to Israel/Palestine with BelPres members, Overlake Christian Church members, and a Muslim couple. Our primary purpose was to learn about multiple perspectives on the current conflict there. Our good fortune was to have Rev. Dr. Mae Cannon (Churches for Middle East Peace, Washington D.C.) as our sponsor and guide. She arranged for us to meet with people from Israel and Palestine to hear what life is like and to learn how things became so very complicated ‘first-hand.’
Our two guides, an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Muslim from the West Bank, were wonderfully qualified to provide rare, multidimensional views of two ongoing, diverse perspectives. They were with us throughout the trip explaining their respective histories. Together, Israel and Palestine are about the size of New Jersey, so we covered a lot in 11 days. There are two stories to share. Read more
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.”
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
The season of Lent is a time for solemn reflection, prayer, and repentance, leading up to Holy Week, when Jesus returned to Jerusalem, was crucified, buried, and resurrected. We enter into the season of Lent this Ash Wednesday, many of us wearing ashes on our foreheads, reminding us that it is from dust that we came, and to dust we will return. During this season, it is appropriate for us to reflect on ourselves and our world, both of which are broken and in need of repentance. As we do so, we pray with hopeful anticipation for peace and justice. Read more
Washington, D.C., February 7, 2018: On Wednesday, 102 representatives, led by Rep. Peter Welch (VT) and Rep. David Price (NC), released a letter to President Trump urging the Administration to reconsider the recent withholding of funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) aid to Palestinian refugees.
On January 19th, the Trump Administration made the determination to withhold $65 million of its $125 million scheduled payment to UNRWA, the sole UN agency working with Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. The U.S. has for many years been a main contributor to UNRWA’s humanitarian projects which include vital services such as education, healthcare, and the provision of basic humanitarian care for Palestinian refugees. CMEP strongly believes that removal of this funding undermines U.S. and Israeli security interests and will do significant harm to the Palestinian population; particularly to, children, many of whom already live below the poverty line.
Kyle Cristofalo, Government Relations Director for CMEP, states: “Defunding UNRWA has the effect of politicizing aid and undermines U.S. credibility in the region. CMEP stands behind the 102 representatives who are calling for the Administration to reverse this dangerous decision, and urge others to lend their voice and support to this cause.”
CMEP strongly opposes the Trump Administration’s recent decision to withhold UNRWA funding in that it increases the hardship of the Palestinian people and further hinders the ability to reach a comprehensive peace solution. CMEP stands in support of the Welch-Price letter, and supports the United States’ commitment to security in Israel as well as the safety and dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians. We strongly urge President Trump to heed the advice of the Welch-Price letter and fully reinstate U.S. aid to UNRWA.
Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a coalition of 27 national church denominations and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Evangelical traditions that works to encourage US policies that actively promote a comprehensive resolution to conflicts in the Middle East with a focus on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. CMEP works to mobilize US Christians to embrace a holistic perspective and to be advocates of equality, human rights, security, and justice for Israelis, Palestinians, and all people of the Middle East.