Ashrawi: “Israeli Violations Against Churches Are Attacks Aimed At All Palestinians”

Dr_Hanan_Ashrawi-e1519621632648Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) denounced the latest Israeli decision targeting churches and their property in occupied Jerusalem, and said that such violations not only target holy sites, but are attacks against all Palestinians.

She said that freezing church assets in occupied Jerusalem, and the illegal decision to impose taxes on church property, are very serious violations targeting holy sites in occupied Palestine.

“These churches and their lands have existed in the holy land centuries before the Israel occupied Palestine, including Jerusalem – The Palestinian identity and heritage include the oldest and contiguous Christian presence in the holy land,” Dr. Ashrawi added, “Israel is now violating international laws, and basic religious rights, in addition to violating the status quo of the holy sites.”




Why Pence should listen to Christians in the Middle East, not just in the Bible Belt

PALESTINIAN-RELIGION-CHRISTIANITYVice President Pence visited my home country of Jordan during his much-anticipated (and delayed) tour of the Middle East, including stops in Israel and Egypt. The trip is designed to draw attention to the plight of Christians in the region, a key concern for many evangelical supporters of President Trump.

I was born and raised in a Christian family in the Middle East, and as an adult, I continue to live out my faith by providing trauma counseling to refugees, including Muslims, Christians and those of various other beliefs. Given my own upbringing and my work with refugees, I’m deeply concerned about Christian persecution abroad. I believe Pence and the current administration have the chance to actually help the church in the Middle East.

Here are four ways Pence could use his visit to make a difference.

1. Acknowledge Palestinians’ connection to Jerusalem.

While the United States does not recognize Palestinian statehood, the Trump administration should do more to acknowledge that Palestinians — including both Christians and Muslims — have a historic connection to Jerusalem.


Palestinian Christians and Muslims living in the Holy Land. A Christmas Message to Vice-President Mike Pence

160714131551-17-mike-pence-0714-restricted-super-169Mr. Vice President:

As you celebrate Christmas with your family and listen to the gospel story of the birth of Jesus, I hope you will read and reflect on the following piece I wrote a few years back.

I want you to open your eyes to the situation facing Palestinian Christians and Muslims living in the Holy Land. And I want you to understand why the Arab Christian leadership in Palestine was so troubled by your blindness to their plight that they refused to meet with you.

Christmas: Then and Now

Two thousand years ago, Palestine was subject to a harsh occupation, much as it is today. In some ways, though, the conditions back then allowed the residents of occupied Palestine greater mobility than the current inhabitants of that land.

As we are told in the bible story, Joseph had to take his expectant wife from Nazareth, where they were living, to Bethlehem, their ancestral village, in order to fulfill a requirement imposed by the authorities to register as part of a nationwide census. Today, of course, all of that would be impossible.

In the first place no Palestinian originally from Bethlehem could ever have moved to Nazareth. The occupation and closure of the West Bank makes that sort of movement impossible. Furthermore, Israeli law prohibits an Arab from Nazareth from marrying a Bethlehemite and bringing their spouse across the Green Line to live with them in Israel.

Additionally, while thousands of Palestinians in Bethlehem, both Muslim and Christian, can see Jerusalem from their homes, they can not go to the Holy City to pray. And Arab Christians from Jerusalem, likewise, can not easily go the Christmas services in Bethlehem to pray alongside their co-religionists at the seasonal event.


‘We are one’: Palestinian Christians and Muslims unite against Trump’s Jerusalem call

gaza2JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Less than an hour after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Palestinians protested by turning off the lights on the Christmas tree outside Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

It was a timely reminder that while headlines focused on Islamist calls for uprisings and Trump’s references to Jewish historical ties, the president’s words also stirred deep feelings among the Palestinians’ small Christian community.

Coming out of the Sunday service in his Assyrian Catholic church in Jerusalem, Fredrick Hazo accused Trump of “dragging all the world into trouble”, and called on the U.S. leader to reverse his decision.

“We are united – Christians, Muslims, we are one,” said the 59-year-old Palestinian musician, standing in an alley in the heart of the Old City, surrounded by shops selling religious trinkets.

He was frustrated by the politics, but confident the delicate balance the three faiths kept in the holy city would prevail. “In this sacred place, God is protecting us all. We are guarded by his angels in Jerusalem,” Hazo added.

Christians make up around just one percent of the Palestinian population in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – though they punch above their weight in local and national politics.

Back in July, Hazo protested alongside Muslims against Israel’s installation of security scanners at the nearby al-Aqsa mosque – Islam’s third holiest site – after two Arab-Israeli gunmen shot dead two Israeli police officers at the site.

Trump’s Jerusalem Plan Is a Deadly Provocation

The decision to recognize the city as Israel’s capital increases the odds of violence because it deepens Palestinian despair.

lead_960For Donald Trump, Muslim barbarism is a political strategy. It inspires the fear and hatred that binds him to his base. Muslim barbarism is so politically useful, in fact, that, when necessary, Trump creates it.

During the presidential campaign, he invented mobs of Jersey City Muslims who had celebrated 9/11. After the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, he invented a conspiracy in which “many, many people, Muslims living with them, in the same area” had been in on Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik’s plot. This February, he invented a terrorist attack in Sweden, which he blamed on the fact that Sweden “took in large numbers” of you-know-whos. Just last week, he invented a Muslim migrant’s attack on a crippled Dutch boy.

But on Wednesday, Trump outdid himself. By announcing that America recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he didn’t just invent Muslim violence. He provoked it.

The U.S. consulate in Jerusalem is warning Americans to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank. The State Department is warning of violence at U.S. embassies. The violence may not come right away. As Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann told my colleague Emma Green, it’s usually “the real or perceived threat to sacred space”—especially the Temple Mount, which contains the Al Aqsa mosque—that triggers immediate bloodshed.


Jesus Was No Stranger to Persistent Hope


The following is an Easter meditation from Churches for Middle East Peace, an organization that promotes interfaith initiatives for peace in the Holy Land.  

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.”
Luke 24: 1-10

Early in the morning, a group of women, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others, walked to the tomb where Jesus had been buried. I imagine them walking in silence, some of them with tears running down their cheeks, others in a daze. Their eyes are still adjusting to the morning light. One of them is carrying the spices they had prepared the night before, to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. As they approach the tomb, they see the stone rolled away. This, in and of itself, would be cause for alarm. Who had been there before them? They cautiously walk into the tomb and find it empty. What happens next would cause anyone to be terrified. Two men in dazzling clothes (AKA angels) stood beside them and began to speak to them. These heavenly beings remind the women what Jesus had told them about how he would rise again on the third day. Immediately after their conversation, the women return to the eleven disciples and tell them everything that had happened. Hallelujah! What terrific news!

Jesus was no stranger to persistent hope. Jesus taught these women, and his disciples, what it meant to persistently hope. To have hope is more than a wish. It involves knowledge of something true, that hasn’t happened yet. It’s not a premonition, or some special kind of revelation. It’s the hope we carry with us even when circumstances seem dire. It’s the hope that propels us forward in the face of uncertainty and fear. This is the kind of hope exhibited by the women that morning. It seemed as though everything was lost. Their Lord had been crucified. What would happen to them, his followers? Still, they faithfully went to the tomb to honor him by preparing his body for burial. Although none of them expected to find the tomb empty, I imagine them replaying Jesus’ words on the walk to the tomb. What did Jesus mean when he said he would rise again on the third day? Maybe it was this wondering which propelled them to go to the tomb that morning.

Palestinian and Israeli women are often the most overlooked, yet effective peacemakers.


Can Israelis And Palestinians Change Their Minds?

mind changeNote:  Although not directly addressing the thematic content of this page, this article speaks to an issue that also lies at the heart of interfaith dialogue – are we able to change our minds about “the other.”  Read it with that in mind. 

What makes people change their minds? About the really hard stuff.

Covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the past three years, I’ve often wondered if people here ever do.

This conflict is frequently described as “intractable,” with neither side willing to give up their historical perspective or their entrenched positions to end it. And it does not take many interviews to hear repetitions of the same sweeping narrative repeated on each side. Palestinians from different places cite the same historical events to back their views. Israelis who have never met each other use similar turns of phrase.

“People have a lot of [psychological] resources invested in what they believe about the conflict,” says Thomas Zeitzoff, a political scientist at American University in Washington, D.C., who has researched Israeli and Palestinian attitudes.

He says the high political stakes and emotional involvement make it hard for Israelis and Palestinians to change their minds.

But there have been certain shifts – in public opinion and in individual beliefs – during the 68 years of Israel’s existence and almost half-century of the Israeli military control over Palestinian territories.

Why? Experts list a range of influences that – to varying degrees – can move or even flip deeply held views.

“You can point to major events, either in the world or people’s lives, changes in their social context, as well as changes in the kind of messages they get from politicians and other elite sources,” says Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor at Dartmouth College who researches politics and misperceptions.

Other factors include repeated exposure to a new idea, whatever the source, scientific research, and direct personal experience.

Four people – two Israeli and two Palestinian – told me their stories of personal, radical belief change related to the conflict. They not only changed their minds, but, a higher hurdle, their behavior.

Here are some triggers that led these people to see the world differently than they had before, even in the midst of a larger impasse.