Standing Unwavering and Resolute

Together for the Protection of Our Presence

In recent times, we’ve witnessed a series of events that have disrupted the harmony of the Christian presence in the Holy Land. One such event is the controversial deal involving a portion of properties in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem. These occurrences are part of a broader pattern of recurring attacks on Christian churches, cemeteries, clergy, nuns, pilgrims, and Christian gatherings across various regions in our lands. This situation leads us to believe that there is a deliberate Israeli policy aimed at targeting our historical existence, institutions, rituals, and spiritual symbols. This policy is occurring within the context of the occupation’s efforts to assert control over Jerusalem, to Judaize sacred lands, and to intimidate and displace Christians.

The current deal is set against a backdrop of ongoing political realities and the mounting pressures imposed by the Israeli occupation on the freedom to worship. As Palestinian Christians, we perceive the Israeli authorities as being lenient in holding those responsible for attacks on Christian and Islamic properties accountable. We also note their reluctance in safeguarding the freedom of expression, and their imposition of restrictive and provocative measures during non-Jewish religious observances. These actions represent clear violations of our heritage, existence, and historical legacy. They stand in opposition to the cultural, religious, and spiritual diversity that characterizes the holy lands, and are in conflict with the principles enshrined in human rights and international law.

The challenges that have accumulated in Jerusalem’s neighborhoods, including restrictions on Christian observances during holidays and on Muslims at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as alterations to the character of Palestinian neighborhoods, reveal a long-term Israeli strategy aimed at undermining the presence of Jerusalem’s inhabitants. This strategy involves taking over our neighborhoods in Jerusalem, intimidating its residents, reshaping the city, and altering its identity. This agenda sidelines the indigenous population and disregards their rights and freedoms. It occasionally even excludes Jews who dissent from the prevailing Israeli regime.

Jerusalem carries deep symbolic significance for the three major monotheistic religions and their various denominations. Its heritage is one of embracing diversity, respecting multiplicity, and upholding spiritual and humane values. Rooted in our Christian and Palestinian heritage within this land, and recognizing the significance of preserving our historical existence, safeguarding our sacred sites, and maintaining our traditions, we collectively appeal:

  • We call upon all Patriarchs and Church leaders, urging them to cooperate with us. It is imperative that we work hand in hand to protect our sacred sites. The targeting of any Christian or Palestinian spiritual symbol has an impact on all of us. Let us dutifully uphold the message of Christ by safeguarding our sanctities and the gatherings that have existed since the early days of the Church. Let us protect our legitimate human right to exist. By engaging in constructive and open dialogue inspired by our faith, we can avoid succumbing to policies of intimidation. Let us stand firm, believing that the Holy Spirit unites, consoles, and guides those who follow the path of truth.
  • We call upon our congregations, families, and Christian communities within our land, we recognize that our destinies are intertwined. The trials faced by one of us reverberate through all. Our response must be one of unity, resilience, steadfastness, and faith, modeled after the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. He taught us to love one another and to reject injustice and discrimination. Generation after generation since the early Christian community, we’ve kept the flame of faith alive and practiced our rituals. We’ve never and will never accept encroachments on our properties or their erosion. We believe that Jerusalem’s essence accommodates diversity, where we overcome all challenges.
  • We call upon our Palestinian and Arab brethren of diverse backgrounds; we emphasize the importance of collaborative efforts to safeguard the freedom of worship and protect the sanctities, guided by principles of brotherhood, dignity for all, and the imperative of preserving the cultural landmarks of East Jerusalem.
  • We call upon our brothers and sisters in churches worldwide. We sense a rising threat of displacement of Christians from the Holy Land. More than two thousand years ago, a message of love emanated from this land. Sustaining the Christian presence is vital to Jerusalem’s legacy. We appeal to you to engage earnestly and ardently in efforts to defend the freedom of worship in the Holy Land. Let us follow in the footsteps of the early Christians, both men and women, and have faith that God is with us.
  • We call upon our fellow believers within the Armenian Apostolic Church, both within the country and around the world. We share your concerns for Jerusalem and the Armenian Quarter. We urge His Beatitude Patriarch Nourhan Manougian to engage in dialogue with us and share additional details about the deal. It is time to move from reproach to action. The loss of any part of the Armenian Quarter, with its centuries-old history, could sound an alarm for the entire Christian presence in the city. We hope for measures to be implemented that protect the Quarter’s residents and the city itself, preserving its identity and the freedom of its inhabitants by annulling the deal. Our hope is that we will leave a legacy and a legacy for generations to come, with history commemorating these endeavors.
  • We call upon the Israeli authorities, as they bear the responsibility for security and safety in occupied East Jerusalem in accordance to international law and conventions. We call upon them to fulfill their duty of safeguarding our institutions and historical presence. The ceaseless attacks on our sanctities must stop, and protection for our sanctities and establishments must remain steadfast, without yielding to expansionist agendas. Jerusalem does not belong exclusively to any religion or faith; we are entitled to security and peace in our homes, neighborhoods, properties, and places of worship. This right is legally legitimate. We also address Israeli citizens and groups opposing current Israeli policies, encouraging them to take action and exert pressure to secure freedom of worship for all.
  • Lastly, we turn to the international community, urging you to assume your role with integrity and steadfastness. Support our cause and engage actively in efforts to end the occupation, and pressure Israel to uphold international law and human rights.

Standing unwavering and resolute, we lend our support to the endeavors of honorable young leaders who strive to protect our neighborhoods, sanctities, homeland, and historical legacy. We are dedicated to safeguarding all neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Let us endorse the movement to protect the Armenian Quarter and achieve justice and transparency. We call on maximum participation in weekly activities aimed at preserving the Armenian Quarter. We also call for the support of various initiatives designed to bolster the New Gate area and Jaffa Gate.

We are an integral thread in the cultural tapestry of Jerusalem, determined to remain deeply rooted in our land. Uprooting us from our historical heritage and the establishments that have endured for centuries is both unacceptable and implausible. Our commitment to our faith and rituals is unwavering. From this land, the divine message of love was launched, and it is on this land that we are determined to experience freedom, dignity, and lasting peace.

Aliqa Centre for Religious Studies
Arab Catholic Scouts Jerusalem
Arab Orthodox Club
Bethlehem Bible College

Caritas Jerusalem
Dar Al Kalima University
Four Homes of Mercy
Kairos Palestine
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
The Arab Educational Institute / Pax Christi
The Arab Orthodox Societies
The Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches
The International Christian Committee
The Pontifical Mission Jerusalem
Wiam Centre
YMCA – Palestine
YWCA – Palestine

“الكفّ عن تسييس الدين وتديين السياسة” حلقة تشاوريّة إقليميّة عن الدين والشأن العامّ لارنكا 13-14 حزيران / يونيو 2023

البيان الختامي

في شراكة استراتيجيّة بين مجموعة «نختار الحياة»، وجامعة «دار الكلمة» (فلسطين)، و«ملتقى التأثير المدنيّ» (لبنان)، ومؤسّسة «مسارات للتنميّة الثقافيّة والإعلاميّة» (العراق)، ومركز «السبيل» المسكونيّ للاهوت التحرّر (فلسطين)، وبمشاركة 21 خبيرةً وخبيراً في اللاهوت والجيو-سياسيّ والعلوم الإنسانيّة من فلسطين، ولبنان، ومصر، وسوريا، والعراق، عُقِدَت في لارنكا يومي ١٣-١٤ حزيران / يونيو 2023 حلقة تشاوريّة إقليميّة بعنوان: «الكفّ عن تسييس الدين وتديين السياسة».

توزّعت أعمال هذه الحلقة على جلساتٍ خمس. الجلسة الافتتاحيّة أدارها القسّ الدكتور متري الراهب، وعَرَضت فيها المؤسّسات الشريكة رؤيتها والتزاماتِها في الشأن العامّ. أمّا الجلسة الأولى تحت عنوان «كيفيّة التعامل مع الخيارات السياسيّة التي يتحكّم فيها الدين»، فأدارها زياد الصّائغ، وتحدّث فيها المحامي الدكتور محمد فريد مطر، والدكتورة خلود دعيبس. الجلسة الثانية تحت عنوان «الأديان وحقوق الإنسان – إقصاء أم تدبّر بنّاء؟» أدارها الأب الدكتور خليل شلفون، وتحدّثت فيها الباحثة شادن نويهض هاني والدكتور جورج ثروت فهمي. الجلسة الثالثة في اليوم الثاني حملت عنوان «كم من الدين يمكن أن يتحمّله الفضاء العامّ؟» أدارتها إلهام مرشي، وتحدّث فيها الدكتور إيهاب بسيسو والدكتور سيمون كشر. ثمّ كانت جلسة مناقشة للبيان الختاميّ أدارتها سوسن بيطار، وجلسة ختاميّة أدارها ميشال نصير، وناقش فيها المشاركاتُ والمشاركون أفكاراً لاستراتيجيا مستقبليّة وخارطة طريق.

في هذا السياق، وبالاستناد إلى المداولات، خلُصَ المشاركاتُ والمشاركون إلى ما يأتي:

أوّلاً: إنّ العلاقة المتبادلة بين الدين، كلّ الأديان، والسياسة في منطقتنا العربيّة قائمة على جدليّة شديدة التّعقيد، ما يقتضي تفكُّراً عميقاً في المساحات المشتركة التي تجمَع بينهما. إنّ تصويب هذه العلاقة الجدليّة لا يستقيم سوى بالعكوف على تشييد عمارةِ نهضةٍ في المنطقة العربيّة أساسُها قِيام دولة مواطنة يسودها القانون والدستور، وتُحتَرَم فيها الحرّيّات والتعدّديّة وكرامة الإنسان، ويسمو فيها الخير العامّ على سياسات النفوذ والاستبداد والاستقطاب بكلّ أشكاله.

ثانياً: انسجاماً مع القيم الكونيّة لحقوق الإنسان، نرى أنّ ثمّة صلةً في المفاهيم بين الأديان وهذه الحقوق، وتلاقياً في انحياز كلٍّ منهما مبدئيّاً إلى الخير العامّ (خلافاً لاستخدام هذا المفهوم أحياناً على غير مقاصده). لكن وبفعل التِباساتٍ في الرؤية والاستراتيجيا والسلوك، هناك ما يستدعي إعادة تظهير واضحة المعالم لمضامين هذه الحقوق، وأشكال تحقّقها، ونُظُم صونِها، مع فَهم لطبيعة المخاطر التي قد تشوب نبلَ مَقاصدها. وتالياً من الواجب استعادة حقيقة ارتباطهما معاً بالسياق الذي يتفاعلان معه لصالح صون القيم، حيث الفرد والجماعة يتكاملان ويتضامنان في الفضاء العامّ.

ثالثاً: إنّ الفضاء العامّ بقواه المجتمعيّة الحيّة معنيّ باستمرار النضال من أجل سيادة الدستور والقانون لصون الكرامة الإنسانيّة وسلام المجتمعات. هذه القوى مدعوّة إلى الحوار مع المؤسّسة الدينيّة لضمان حرّيّة الفرد والتعدّديّة بكامل امتداداتها الدينيّة والثقافيّة والمجتمعيّة والإثنيّة واللغويّة.

بالاستناد إلى كلّ ما سبق، تلتزم المؤسّسات الشريكة، كما المشاركات والمشاركون في الحلقة التشاوريّة الإقليميّة، متابعةَ التعاون ضمن مسارات فعّالة تُسهم في تطوير رؤية نهضويّة تخدم كلّ إنسان في منطقتنا العربيّة المأزومة والمكلومة، والتي تتطلّع إلى مستقبل أفضل. لارنكا 14/06/2023

A reflection on the latest round of violence in the Holy Land by Justice and Peace Commission

Bloodshed follows bloodshed

A reflection on the latest round of violence in the Holy Land

Justice and Peace Commission (16.5.2022)

The Lord has an indictment against the inhabitants of the land.

There is no faithfulness or loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land.

Swearing, lying, and murder, and stealing and adultery break out;

bloodshed follows bloodshed.

Therefore, the land mourns, and all who live in it languish

(Hosea 4:1-3)

اللغة العربية يتبع



The killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin on May 11, 2022 shocked us all. Gunned down, and she is not the last victim in the ongoing violence in the Holy Land. A daughter of our Christian community, she was well-known throughout the region as a news reporter for Al-Jazeera and thousands turned out to mourn her. The police brutality at her funeral has left us stunned. However, these past two months have seen much violence in the Holy Land most of it not reaching the headlines. Bloodshed has followed bloodshed, claiming the lives of Israeli Jews, Palestinian Arabs and others too, all victims of a conflict that grinds on, taking its grim toll. We mourn all the victims of this unending bloodshed, Jewish Israelis, Palestinian Arabs and others who have died. We continue to cry out that violence is wrong and will not bring a solution but only more violence.

At the same time, we also express our anxiety about what the future holds. The political authorities who decide the future in Israel-Palestine as well as the most important segments of the international community seem unwilling to reflect in truth and with courage about what is happening in the Holy Land. Consequently, they cannot act to root out the causes of this violence. In our attempt here to understand the root of this violence, we in no way seek to justify it, however understanding is the only way to begin to find a way out of this deadly cycle.

1. What has happened recently?

In the past two months, forty-five Palestinians, sixteen Israelis and two migrant workers have been killed in what has been termed “a new cycle violence”. And the violence continues… This violence, although predominantly taking place in Palestine, still under Israeli occupation, has manifested inside Israeli territory too, where fifteen Israelis who have died were killed in attacks carried out by Palestinians in retaliation for Israeli violence. Indeed, it is important to point out that this violence is part and parcel of the ongoing conflict.

2. Why are people dying?

As long as the conflict between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs continues, as long as there is no justice, no equality and no peace in the Holy Land, no sincere engagement to end the conflict, death will continue to be victorious. As long as a regime of military occupation continues to be imposed on those who live in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and as long as a regime of discrimination continues to be administered within the State of Israel, there will be no end to the cycle of violence. As long as local political leaders advance their own personal interests and ignore the cries of the widows, the orphans, the mothers and fathers in mourning, all who live in this land languish, as the Prophet Hosea says. As long as the international community shirks its responsibility for the situation in Israel/Palestine, the cogwheels of this seemingly unending conflict will continue turning.

3. What are the causes of the violence?

When Palestinians attack Israeli Jews, many advance interpretations of their motivations. They attribute the violence to Palestinian, Arab or Islamic ideologies that reject Israel, Israelis and even Jews. However, these acts of violence must be analyzed first and foremost within the context of the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict.

It needs to be repeated with unequivocal clarity: the root cause and primary context of the violence is the occupation of Palestine, an occupation that has gone on for fifty-five years.

The violence of the occupation includes land expropriation, administrative detention, the withholding of building permits, house demolitions, the restriction of movement, the stifling of political, social and economic development and the ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip.

In particular, the tensions in the holy city of Jerusalem continue to aggravate the situation and escalate the levels of tension. These tensions include the constant threats to the status quo in the Haram al-Sharif (also known as the Temple Mount), the stifling restrictions on access to the Holy Places (for Christians this was again underlined this past Orthodox Saturday of Light, Holy Saturday), and the ongoing attempts to claim properties in occupied East Jerusalem, resulting in the eviction of people from their homes to be given to settlers, particularly in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.

The massive and violent reprisals by the Israeli security forces against the family and sometimes against the whole neighborhood or town of alleged Palestinian perpetrators of violence creates new resentment, hatred and desire for revenge and provide fertile soil for new attacks against Israeli Jews. Many of the perpetrators have relatives and friends who have fallen victim to the violence inherent in the occupation. Similarly, certain attempts by the Israeli forces to “prevent” new attacks, in fact exacerbate the conditions that are leading to acts of violence as bloodshed follows bloodshed.

It is glaringly outrageous that much of the violence of which Palestinians are victims originates from Israeli settlers and their vigilante groups, who have expropriated Palestinian lands and live illegally in the territories occupied by Israel. In some parts of the West Bank, settlers dominate entire areas, imposing a reign of lawlessness and terror on Palestinian families, neighborhoods and villages, preventing the inhabitants from travelling freely, working their lands, pasturing their flocks and living ordinary lives. Rather than defining their acts as crimes, or even in some cases as terrorism, the settlers are too often aided and abetted by the Israeli military. This is particularly true in the city of Hebron and its southern environs and the city of Nablus and its environs.

Furthermore, although not unprecedented, the fact that Palestinian citizens of Israel are carrying out attacks on Israeli Jews underlines the alienation that many Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel feel in a state in which they are citizens but which is defined as a “Jewish” state. These attacks are a sign of despair in the face of ongoing discrimination against Arabs in Israel itself and the regime of inequality. Furthermore, these acts are also a cry of rage against those attempting to erase the Palestinian identity of the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.

Unfortunately, as long as Palestinians resort only to verbal protest or non-violent actions (when the Israeli authorities authorize this), the international community ignores the Palestinians and gives the impression that everything is normal, promoting “normalization” with the Israeli state despite the ongoing conflict. Sadly, only when violence erupts, the international community wakes up and takes note.

4. A wider context of injustice

The so-called “Abraham Accords” that were formulated and triumphantly promoted by the US Trump administration certainly add to the sense of frustration and despair at the heart of the latest rounds of violence. Israel has now signed so-called “peace” accords with countries with which Israel has no conflict. These accords pursue common regional interests like opposition to Iran and economic and military collaboration. However, the accords blatantly ignore the real conflict in Israel/Palestine and the rights of the Palestinians. For the Palestinians, this adds insult to injury, reinforcing their feeling that, in the eyes of Israel and the powerful in the international community, they do not exist. Real peace can only be made between Israel and Palestine.

Another piece in the contemporary puzzle in order to understand the latest round of bloodshed is connected to the situation in Eastern Europe. As soon as Russia invaded the Ukraine, the international community, led by the United States, condemned the invasion and far-reaching sanctions were imposed by many countries including the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom in order to pressure the Russian regime to withdraw from Ukrainian territory and cease its aggression. Many Palestinians compare these recent events with the decades of conflict in their own homeland. Israel has occupied Palestinian territory since 1967 and has imposed a discriminatory regime of inequality on Palestinians within Israel since 1948. However, those most vocal in condemning Russian aggression have done little to denounce Israeli occupation and discrimination. This double standard has only sharpened Palestinian frustration and despair.

Conclusion: Seeking peace and pursuing it

Two and a half millennia ago, the prophet Ezekiel called out against the princes of the land, “Put away violence and oppression, and do what is just and right. Cease your evictions of my people” (Ezekiel 45:9).

Today we call on the authorities in Israel to seek out the reasons for the violence that engulfs us all. Responding to violence with violence, a logic of never-ending reprisal, is not the answer. Israel and Palestine have the same rights: the rights to security, freedom, dignity and self-determination. Violence will not end until these rights are realized for both Israelis and Palestinians equally.

Israel is on a quest for “peace” where peace cannot be found. Israel seeks peace with the regimes of Arab countries but not with the people of the region. Real peace will only be realized when the Palestinians can affirm that their rights have been implemented. Peace will begin when the Palestinians proclaim that they are no longer at war with Israelis. Only then will a new chapter begin in the region.

It is the Psalmist who reminds us: “Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry” (Psalm 34:12-15).

لجنة العدل والسلام

التابعة لمجلس رؤساء الكنائس الكاثوليكية في القدس

أفكار ورؤية في واقع العنف في الأرض المقدسة

١٦ أيار ٢٠٢٢

“فَإنَّ لِلرَّب ِّدَعوَى عَلَى سُكَّانِ الأرضِ، إذ لَيسَ فِي الأرضِ حَقٌّ

وَلا رَحمَةٌ وَلا مَعرِفَةٌ لله، بَل قَد فَاضَتْ اللعنَةُ وَالكَذِبُ وَالقَتلُ وَالسَّرِقَةُ وَالزِّنَى،

وَالدِّمَاءُ تُلَامِسُ الدِّمَاءَ،

لِذَلِكَ تَنُوحُ الأرضُ وَيَذبُلُ كُلُّ سِاكِنٍ فِيهَا” (هوشع ٤: ١-٣).

مقتل الصحفية شيرين أبو عاقة في جنين في ١١ أيار ٢٠٢٢ كان هزة للجميع. اغتيلت، وليست الضحية الأخيرة للعنف السائد في الأرض المقدسة. هي عضو في جماعتنا المسيحية، ولها شهرة واسعة في المنطقة، ومراسلة للجزيرة. توافد الألوف لتشييعها. وكان تدخل الشرطة الوحشي في جنازتها أمرًا أذهل الجميع. منذ أكثر من شهرين شهدنا عنفًا متزايدًا في الأرض المقدسة ولو أن بعضه لم يصل إلى مقدمة الأخبار. وزاد العنف وصارت “الدماء تلامس الدماء”، كما يقول النبي، وسقط ضحيته يهود إسرائيليون وفلسطينيون عرب وغيرهم، كلهم ضحايا صراع ما زال يطحن ويفترس ضحاياه. نبكي كل الضحايا في هذا العنف الذي لا ينتهي، يهودًا إسرائيليين، وفلسطينيين عربًا وغيرهم. وما زلنا نصرخ ونقول إن العنف خطأ ولن يأتي بأيّ حل، لن يأتي إلا بمزيد من العنف.

في الوقت نفسه، إنا نعبر عن قلقنا تجاه المستقبل. فإن السلطات الإسرائيلية التي بيدها قرار المستقبل في إسرائيل وفلسطين، وكذلك الكبار في الأسرة الدولية، يبدو أنهم لا يريدون أـن ينظروا نظرة حقيقية وشجاعة في ما يحدث في الأرض المقدسة. ولهذا فهم لا يقدرون أن يروا أسباب هذا العنف. نحاول في هذا التحليل أن نرى هذه الأسباب، لا للتبرير، لكن لأن فهم الأسباب ومعرفة الجذور هي الوسيلة الوحيدة التي تؤدي إلى إيقاف دائرة الموت هذه. 

١        ما الذي حدث في هذه الأيام؟

          قتل، في الشهرين الماضيين، خمسة وأربعون فلسطينيا، وستة عشر إسرائبليا، وعاملان من المهاجرين في إسرائيل كانا في الموقع، في ما سمي “بدائرة العنف الجديدة”. هذا العنف حدث بصورة رئيسة في فلسطين، الواقعة حتى الآن تحت الاحتلال الإسرائيلي، وظهر أيضًا في داخل إسرائيل، حيث قتل خمسة عشر إسرائيليا بهجمات نظمها الفلسطينيون ردًّا على العنف الإسرائيلي. من المهم الإشارة إلى أن هذه الهجمات داخل إسرائيل هي جزء لا يتجزأ من الصراع المستمر ولا يمكن فصلها عنه.

٢        لماذا يموت الناس؟

          طالما استمر الصراع بين الإسرائيليين اليهود والفلسطينيين العرب، وطالما أنه لا يوجد عدل ولا مساواة ولا سلام في الأرض المقدسة، ولا التزام مخلص لإنهاء الصراع، سيبقى الموت هو المنتصر. وطالما استمر فرض نظام الاحتلال العسكري على الذين يعيشون في القدس الشرقية والضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة، وطالما استمر نظام التفرقة والتمييز داخل دولة إسرائيل، لن تكون هناك نهاية لدائرة العنف. وطالما أن القادة السياسيين المحليين يقدِّمون مصالحهم الشخصية ويتجاهلون صرخات الأرامل والأيتام والأمهات والآباء الباكين أحباءهم، فإن كل الذين يعيشون في هذه الأرض “سيَضعُفون ويَذبُلون”، كما يقول النبي. وطالما أن الأسرة الدولية تتنصَّل من مسؤوليتها تجاه الوضع في إسرائيل وفلسطين، ستستمر مجنزرات هذا الصراع في سحق الأحياء وإراقة الدماء إلى ما لا نهاية.

 ٣        ما هي أسباب العنف؟

           في كل هجوم فلسطيني على اليهود الإسرائيليين، يحلِّل المحلِّلون ويقدِّمون تفسيراتهم وتبريراتهم. وينسبون العنف إلى أيديولوجيا فلسطينية عربية أو إسلامية، ترفض الاعتراف بإسرائيل، والإسرائيليين واليهود أيضًا. على أن أعمال العنف هذه يجب أن تحلل أولا وقبل كل شيء في إطار الصراع الإسرائيلي الفلسطيني.

          لا بد من التأكيد والتكرار بوضوح لا لبس فيه: العلة الأساسية والأولى للعنف هي الاحتلال العسكري في المناطق الفلسطينية، وقد مضى عليه أكثر من خمس وخمسين سنة.

          وعنف الاحتلال يعني مصادرة الأراضي، والاعتقال الإداري، ومنع تصاريح البناء، وهدم البيوت، وتقييد حرية الحركة، وخنق التنمية السياسية والاجتماعية والاقتصادية، والحصار المستمر على قطاع غزة.

          وخاصة الوضع في القدس، المدينة المقدسة. فالتوترات فيها تؤدي إلى تصعيد مستويات التوتر في كل مكان، وأولها التهديدات المستمرة للوضع الراهن في الحرم الشريف (الذي يسميه الإسرائيليون باسم جبل الهيكل)، والقيود الخانقة المفروضة أمام الوصول إلى الأماكن المقدسة المسيحية (لا سيما في يوم سبت النور الأرثوذكسي، هذه السنة، في كنيسة القيامة)، والمحاولات المستمرة لمصادرة بيوت الناس وإخراجهم منها، وتسكين المستوطنين اليهود محلهم، خاصة في الشيخ جراح وسلوان.

          علاوة على ذلك، فإن الأعمال الانتقامية الواسعة والعنيفة التي تقوم بها قوات الأمن الإسرائيلية ضد عائلة المقاومين، وأحيانًا ضد الحي أو البلدة بأكملها، لا تسبب إلا مزيدًا من الاستياءً والكراهية والرغبة في الانتقام، فهي أرض خصبة لهجمات جديدة ضد الإسرائيليين. مع العلم أن كثيرين من منفِّذي الهجومات لهم أقارب وأصدقاء سقطوا ضحايا للعنف الناجم عن الاحتلال الإسرائيلي. وكذلك، بعض الإجراءات التي تقوم بها القوات الإسرائيلية لـ “منع” اعتداءات جديدة، لا تؤدي في الواقع إلا إلى تفاقم الظروف، وإلى مزيد من العنف، وتصبح كلمة النبي صحيحة: “إراقة الدماء تلامس إراقة الدماء”.

          وإنه لأمر مشين للغاية أن الكثير من أعمال العنف التي توقع الضحايا بين الفلسطينيين، سببها هم المستوطنون الإسرائيليون، الذين صادروا الأراضي الفلسطينية، ويعيشون بشكل غير قانوني في الأراضي التي تحتلها إسرائيل. في بعض أجزاء الضفة الغربية، يسيطر المستوطنون على مناطق بأكملها، ويفرضون وضعًا من اللاقانون، والإرهاب، على العائلات والأحياء والقرى الفلسطينية، فيمنعونهم من السفر بحرية ومن العمل في أراضيهم ومن رعي قطعانهم ومن أن يعيشوا حياتهم العادية. والجيش الإسرائيلي، بدلًا من ردعهم، وبدلًا من تعريف أعمالهم على أنها جرائم، وفي بعض الحالات هي إرهاب صارخ، يساعدهم ويحميهم في اعتداءاتهم. هذا صحيح بشكل خاص في مدينة الخليل والمناطق الواقعة جنوب المدينة، وفي منطقة نابلس، وغيرها.   

          علاوة على ذلك، الواقع ان مواطنين فلسطينيين في إسرائيل يقومون بهجمات على إسرائيليين يهود، وليس الأمر جديدًا، يعني عزل العديد من المواطنين العرب الفلسطينيين عن الدولة التي هم مواطنون فيها، إذ تُعرِّف نفسها بأنها دولة “يهودية”. هذه الهجمات هي صرخة يأس في وجه التمييز المستمر ضد العرب داخل إسرائيل، وفي وجه نظام عدم المساواة. وأعمال العنف هذه هي أيضا ردة فعل وصرخة غضب أمام الذين يحاولون مَحْوَ الهوية الفلسطينية للمواطنين العرب الفلسطينيين في إسرائيل.

          وإنه لمن المؤسف جدًّا أنه حين يلجأ الفلسطينيون إلى الاحتجاج بالكلام فقط أو بالأعمال غير العنيفة (حين تسمح السلطات الإسرائيلية بذلك)، فإن المجتمع الدولي يتجاهل الفلسطينيين ويتصرف وكأن كل شيء طبيعي، ويعزز “التطبيع” على الرغم من استمرار الصراع. يبدو للأسف أن الأسرة الدولية تستيقظ فقط عندما تندلع أعمال العنف.

 ٤        مزيد من الظلم

          الاتفاقات المسماة “باتفاقات إبراهيم” والتي روجت لها الإدارة الأميركية في عهد ترامب، زادت الشعور بالإحباط واليأس في قلب موجات العنف الأخيرة. وقَّعَت إسرائيل الآن على عدد من اتفاقات السلام مع بلدان ليست خصمًا لها. هذه الاتفاقات تسعي لتحقيق مصالح مشتركة في المنطقة، منها معارضة إيران، والتعاون الاقتصادي والعسكري. لكنها تتجاهل بوقاحة الصراع الحقيقي في إسرائيل وفلسطين وحقوق الفلسطينيين. هذه الاتفاقات في نظر الفلسطينيين، ما هي إلا زيادة الإهانة على الإهانة، وتراكم الظلم على الظلم، وتثبِّت شعورهم بأنهم، في نظر إسرائيل وكبار الأسرة الدولية، إنهم لا يوجدون. مع أن السلام الحقيقي لا يمكن أن يتم إلا بين إسرائيل وفلسطين.

                     قطعة أخرى من اللغز المعاصر لفهم الجولة الأخيرة من إراقة الدماء لها صلة بالوضع في أوروبا الشرقية. حالما بدأت روسيا غزوَ أوكرانيا، أدان المجتمع الدولي بقيادة الولايات المتحدة الغزو، فورًا، وفُرِضَت عقوبات واسعة وشديدة على روسيا من قبل العديد من الدول، بما في ذلك الولايات المتحدة والاتحاد الأوروبي والمملكة المتحدة، ذلك من أجل الضغط على النظام الروسي للانسحاب من الأراضي الأوكرانية والتوقف عن العدوان.

في الأراضي المقدسة، قارن فلسطينيون كثيرون هذه الأحداث في أوروبا الشرقية مع عقود من الصراع في وطنهم. فقد احتلت إسرائيل الأراضي الفلسطينية منذ عام ١٩٦٧ وفرضت نظام تمييز وعدم مساواة على الفلسطينيين داخل إسرائيل منذ سنة ١٩٤٨. ومع ذلك، فإن أولئك الذين شددوا في إدانة العدوان الروسي، لم يفعلوا شيئًا يُذكر للتنديد بالاحتلال وبالتمييز الإسرائيلي. ازدواجية المعايير هذه لا تؤدي إلا إلى زيادة الإحباط واليأس الفلسطيني.

           الخاتمة: اسع إلى السلام واطلبه.

          منذ ألفي سنة ونصف، تنبأ النبي حزقيال على رؤساء الأرض قال: ” كُفُّوا عَن العُنفِ وَالِاغتِصَابِ، وَأَجرُوا الحَقَّ وَالبِرّ، وَارفَعُوا عَن شَعبِي تَعَدِّيَاتِكُم، يَقُولُ السَّيِّدُ الرَّبّ” (حزقيال ٤٥: ٠).

          نحن اليوم ندعو السلطات الإسرائيلية إلى النظر في أسباب العنف الحقيقية. طلنا ضحايا لهذا العنف. والرد على العنف بالعنف، ‘نما هو منطق انتقام لن يتوقف أبدًا، وليس الرد الصحيح. لكل من إسرائيل وفلسطين الحقوق نفسها: الحق على الأمن، والحرية، والكرامة، وتقرير المصير. ولن ينتهي العنف إلى أن تتحقق هذه الحقوق.

          إسرائيل تبحث عن السلام حيث لا يوجد السلام. إسرائيل تبحث عن السلام مع الأنظمة الحاكمة في البلدان العربية، ليس السلام هناك. إنما السلام مع شعوب المنطقة وفي قلوب الناس. والسلام الحقيقي يبدأ عندما يعلن الفلسطينيون أنهم حصلوا على حقوقهم. يبدأ السلام عندما يقول الفلسطينيون إن حربهم مع إسرائيل انتهت. إذاك فقط يبدأ زمن جديد في هذه المنطقة.

يقول المزمور: “مَن ذَا الَّذِي يَهوَى الحَيَاةَ وَيُحِبُّ الأيَّامَ لِيَرَى فِيهَا الخَيرَاتِ؟ مِنَ الشَّرِّ صُنْ لِسَانَكَ، وَمِن كَلَامِ الغِشِّ

شَفَتَيْكَ. جَانِبْ الشَّرَّ وَاصنَعْ الخَيرَ، وَابتَغِ السَّلامَ وَاسعَ إلَيهِ. عَينَا الرَّبِّ عَلَى الأبرَارِ وَأُذُناَهُ إلَى صُرَاخِهِم” (مزمور ٣٤: ١٢-١٥).

Le sang versé succède au sang versé

Réflexions sur la dernière vague de violences en Terre Sainte

Commission Justice et Paix de Sabeel, le 16mai 2022

Le Seigneur est en procès avec les habitants du pays

Car il n’y a ni sincérité ni amour du prochain ni connaissance de Dieu dans le pays.

Imprécations, tromperies, assassinats, vols, adultères se multiplient ;

Le sang versé succède au sang versé.

Aussi le pays est-il désolé et tous ses habitants s’étiolent.

(Osée 4.1-3)

L’assassinat de la journaliste palestinienne Shireen Abu Akleh à Jénine le 11 mai 2022 nous a tous choqués. Tuée par une balle, elle n’est pas la dernière victime d’une violence qui se poursuit en Terre Sainte. Fille de notre communauté chrétienne, elle était très connue dans toute la région comme journaliste d’Al-Jazeera, et des milliers de gens sont venus la pleurer. La brutalité de la police à ses obsèques nous a laissés stupéfaits. Pourtant ces deux derniers mois nous ont fait vivre beaucoup de violences en Terre Sainte, et le plus souvent sans que cela fasse les gros titres des journaux. Le sang versé a succédé au sang versé, arrachant à la vie des juifs israéliens, des arabes palestiniens et d’autres aussi, tous victimes d’un conflit qui nous broie, sombre bilan. Nous pleurons toutes les victimes de ces effusions de sang ininterrompues, Israéliens juifs, Palestiniens arabes, et tous les autres morts. Nous continuons à crier que la violence est un mal et n’apportera pas de solution, mais seulement plus de violence encore.

En même temps, nous disons notre anxiété sur ce que l’avenir nous réservera. Les autorités politiques qui décident de l’avenir en Israël-Palestine, comme aussi les plus importantes composantes de la communauté internationale ne semblent pas vouloir se préoccuper en vérité et avec courage de ce qui est en train de se passer en Terre Sainte. Et à cause de cela elles ne peuvent pas non plus agir pour éliminer les causes de cette violence. Dans le présent essai pour comprendre les racines de cette violence, nous ne cherchons absolument pas à la justifier. C’est seulement en la comprenant que nous pourrons commencer à trouver une voie de sortie de ce cycle mortel.

1. Que s’est-il passé récemment ?

Au cours des deux derniers mois, quarante-cinq Palestiniens, seize Israéliens et deux travailleurs migrants ont été tués dans ce qu’il a été convenu d’appeler « un nouveau cycle de violence ». Et la violence se poursuit… Cette violence, bien que se déroulant surtout dans la Palestine encore sous occupation israélienne, s’est aussi manifestée à l’intérieur du territoire israélien où quinze Israéliens ont trouvé la mort, tués lors d’attaques menées par des Palestiniens qui ripostaient à la violence israélienne. Il est important de signaler que cette violence fait partie intégrante du conflit en cours.

2. Pourquoi les gens meurent-ils ?

Aussi longtemps que le conflit entre juifs israéliens et arabes palestiniens se poursuivra, aussi longtemps qu’il n’y aura ni justice, ni égalité, ni paix en Terre Sainte et pas d’engagement sincère pour mettre fin au conflit, la mort continuera à être victorieuse. Aussi longtemps qu’un régime d’occupation militaire continuera à être imposé aux habitants de Jérusalem-Est, de la Cisjordanie et de la Bande de Gaza, et qu’un régime discriminatoire continuera à être appliqué à l’intérieur même de l’État d’Israël, le cycle de violence ne connaîtra pas de fin. Aussi longtemps aussi que des leaders politiques locaux privilégieront leurs intérêts personnels en ignorant les cris des veuves, des orphelins, des mères et des pères endeuillés, tous ceux qui vivent dans ce territoire vont s’étioler, comme dit le prophète Osée. Tant que la communauté internationale fuira ses responsabilités envers ce qui se passe en Israël-Palestine, on ne sortira pas de l’engrenage de cet apparemment interminable conflit.

3. Quelles sont les causes de cette violence ?

Lorsque des Palestiniens s’attaquent à des Juifs israéliens, beaucoup proposent des interprétations de ce qui les motive. Ils attribuent la violence à des idéologies palestiniennes, ou arabes ou islamiques qui rejettent Israël, les Israéliens et même les Juifs. Mais il faut commencer par analyser ces actes de violence et avant tout les replacer dans le contexte du conflit Israël-Palestine qui perdure.

On doit le redire clairement et sans équivoque : la cause fondamentale et le contexte principal de la violence est l’occupation de la Palestine, une occupation qui dure depuis cinquante-cinq ans.

La violence de l’occupation inclut l’expropriation des terres, la détention administrative, le refus d’accorder des permis de construire, les démolitions de maisons, les restrictions imposées aux déplacements, l’étouffement du développement politique, social et économique, et la poursuite du siège de la Bande de Gaza.

En particulier les tensions dans la ville Sainte de Jérusalem continuent d’aggraver la situation et de faire monter le niveau des tensions. Parmi les raisons de ces tensions, il faut citer les menaces permanentes sur le statu quo du Haram al-Sharif (connu aussi comme Mont du Temple), les restrictions étouffantes du droit d’accès aux lieux Saints (pour les chrétiens cela a encore été le cas ce dernier samedi Saint du calendrier orthodoxe, pour la cérémonie du Feu Sacré), et les revendications constantes de propriétés à Jérusalem-Est occupée menant aux évictions répétées de gens hors de leurs foyers pour donner ceux-ci à des colons juifs, tout particulièrement dans les quartiers de Sheikh Jarrah et de Silwan.

Les représailles massives et violentes des forces israéliennes de sécurité contre la famille et parfois contre tout le voisinage voire toute la ville de Palestiniens accusés d’être les auteurs d’actes de violences créent de nouveaux ressentiments, de la haine et un désir de revanche, et produisent le terreau pour de nouvelles attaques contre des Juifs israéliens. Beaucoup de ceux qui s’y livrent ont des parents ou des amis qui ont été victimes de la violence inhérente à l’occupation. De même certaines tentatives des forces israéliennes de vouloir « prévenir » de possibles nouvelles attaques ne font qu’augmenter les conditions pouvant mener à des actes de violence, de sorte que « le sang versé succède au sang versé ».

Il est absolument scandaleux que beaucoup de la violence dont sont victimes des Palestiniens provienne de colons israéliens et de leurs groupes d’autodéfense qui ont exproprié des terres palestiniennes et qui vivent tout à fait illégalement dans des territoires occupés par Israël. Dans certaines parties de la Cisjordanie, les colons contrôlent des zones entières et imposent un régime d’illégalité et de terreur aux familles palestiniennes, à leurs quartiers et à leurs villages, empêchant les habitants de se déplacer librement, de travailler leurs terres, de faire paître leurs troupeaux et tout simplement de mener une vie normale. Au lieu que leurs actes soient qualifiés de crimes ou même, dans certains cas, de terrorisme, les colons ne sont que trop souvent aidés ou même encouragés par l’armée israélienne C’est tout particulièrement le cas à Hébron et dans la zone située au sud de la ville, et aussi à Naplouse et ses environs.

En outre et bien que ce ne soit pas la première fois, le fait que des citoyens palestiniens d’Israël se livrent à des attaques contre des Juifs souligne la profonde aliénation que ressentent de nombreux Palestiniens qui vivent en Israël, dans un État dont ils sont des citoyens mais qui se définit comme un État « Juif ». Ces attaques sont un signe de désespoir face à la discrimination continue envers les Arabes en Israël-même et envers le régime d’inégalité qui leur est imposé. Ces actes sont aussi un cri de rage contre ceux qui tentent de faire disparaître l’identité palestinienne des citoyens arabes palestiniens d’Israël.

Malheureusement, aussi longtemps que les Palestiniens n’ont recours qu’à des protestations verbales ou à des actions non-violentes (quand les autorités israéliennes les autorisent à y recourir), la communauté internationale ignore les Palestiniens et donne l’impression que tout est normal, en faisant la promotion de la « normalisation » des relations avec l’État d’Israël malgré le conflit en cours. Il est triste de constater que c’est seulement quand la violence éclate que la communauté internationale se réveille et prend acte.

4. Un contexte d’injustice plus étendu

Les soi-disant « Accords d’Abraham » qui ont été formulés et triomphalement promus par l’administration Trump aux États-Unis ont certainement encore accru le sentiment de frustration et de désespoir qui est au cœur des derniers rounds de violence. Israël a maintenant signé un soi-disant accord de « paix » avec des pays avec lesquels Israël n’avait aucun conflit. Ces accords concernent des intérêts régionaux communs comme l’opposition à l’Iran et une collaboration économique et militaire. Mais ces accords ignorent entièrement le conflit réel en Israël-Palestine et les droits des Palestiniens. Pour les Palestiniens c’est ajouter l’insulte à la blessure et renforcer leur sentiment qu’aux yeux d’Israël et des puissants de la communauté internationale ils n’existent pas. Une paix réelle ne peut se faire qu’entre Israël et la Palestine.

Un autre élément du puzzle contemporain qu’il est important de prendre en compte pour comprendre le dernier round de sang versé est lié à ce qui se passe en Europe de l’Est. Dès que la Russie a envahi l’Ukraine, la communauté internationale, emmenée par les États-Unis, a condamné cette invasion, et des sanctions importantes ont été imposées par de nombreux pays dont les États-Unis, l’Union Européenne et le Royaume Uni afin de faire pression sur le régime russe pour qu’il se retire du territoire ukrainien et mette fin à son agression. Beaucoup de Palestiniens comparent ces récents évènements aux décennies de conflit qu’ils vivent dans leur propre patrie. Israël occupe le Territoire palestinien depuis 1967 et impose un régime discriminatoire d’inégalité aux Palestiniens citoyens d’Israël depuis 1948. Mais ceux qui élèvent le plus la voix pour condamner l’agression russe n’ont pas fait grand-chose pour dénoncer l’occupation et la discrimination israéliennes. Cette attitude de deux poids deux mesures n’a fait qu’aggraver la frustration et le désespoir des Palestiniens.

Conclusion : Rechercher la paix et ne pas arrêter de la poursuivre

Il y a deux millénaires et demi, le prophète Ezéchiel a élevé la voix contre les princes de son pays : « Rejetez la violence et la rapine, pratiquez le droit et la justice. Cessez vos exactions contre mon peuple » (Ézéchiel 45.9). Aujourd’hui nous demandons aux autorités d’Israël de chercher les raisons de la violence qui nous submerge tous. Répondre à la violence par la violence dans une logique de riposte sans fin n’est pas la réponse. Israël et la Palestine ont les mêmes droits : les droits à la sécurité, à la liberté, à la dignité et à l’autodétermination. La violence ne cessera pas tant que ces droits ne seront pas réalisés pour les Israéliens comme pour les Palestiniens, à égalité.

Israël est en quête de « paix » là où on ne peut pas trouver la paix. Israël recherche la paix avec les régimes de pays arabes mais pas avec le peuple de la région. La paix réelle ne sera réalisée que lorsque les Palestiniens pourront affirmer que leurs droits ont été mis en œuvre. La paix commencera lorsque les Palestiniens proclameront qu’ils ne sont plus en guerre avec les Israéliens. C’est alors seulement qu’un nouveau chapitre s’ouvrira dans la région.

C’est le psalmiste qui nous le rappelle : « Quelqu’un aime-t-il la vie ? Veut-on voir des jours heureux ? Garde ta langue du mal et tes lèvres des médisances. Évite le mal, agis bien, recherche la paix et poursuis-la ! Le Seigneur a les yeux sur les justes et l’oreille attentive à leurs cris » (Psaume 34.13-16).

Solidarity statement with Rev. Frank Chikane

Dear Friends,

Please find attached a joint solidarity statement with Rev. Frank Chikane, the Moderator of the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs from Kairos Palestine, Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Christ at the Checkpoint, East Jerusalem YMCA, YWCA of Palestine, The Joint Advocacy Initiative, and Film Director and Producer of “ The people’s Patriarch” Film. 

Sabeel Jerusalem

Kind greetings

5th Sunday in Lent

Philippians 3: 4b-14 & John 12:1-8

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer.

I am thankful to God for the privilege I had in serving this Cathedral and especially the Palestinian congregation in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

I am thankful to Archbishop Suheil for his usual warm welcome and kindness whenever I come back to visit.

I am also thankful to Dean Husam for inviting me to preach.

I also want to thank you, friends for coming to visit Jerusalem at this time and I pray that your Lenten experience be a blessed one.  May your visit be a pilgrimage, a time of spiritual stimulation and renewal!  May it be a time for the strengthening of your faith and the deepening of your love of God and love of neighbor!

The reading from Philippians is rich with ideas for our Christian life and especially during the Lenten season:  Paul, the writer experienced much suffering for his faith in Christ.  But he said, “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  For Paul, Christ is the pearl of great price.  Everything else is of a lesser value, it is rubbish, trash. To Know Christ and to follow him is to find true life’s meaning in his love and service.  What an amazing commitment Paul had.  It puts many of us ministers of the Gospel to shame. 

One of Paul’s great statements in the reading today is, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his suffering by becoming like him in his death that I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”  In Lent we need to reflect on these words.

In the Gospel reading, we are introduced to an episode about Jesus’ visit with his friends, Lazarus and his two sisters Martha and Mary.

Jesus arrives with his 12 disciples to Bethany.  Martha invites a number of people and puts out a splendid dinner, in his honor.  After all, he raised her brother from the dead.  Many times we show our admiration, respect and love for friends around the dinner table.  Through food, fellowship, and discussion, we express our genuine love and friendship.  Palestinian hospitality is not new.  The early church encouraged it.  The writer of Hebrews, “Do not neglect hospitality.” 

Mary on the other hand, expressed her love through anointing Jesus’ feet, and wiping them with her hair using a very expensive perfume.  Judas Iscariot, one of the disciples, did not like it.  For him, it was a waste of money.  It could have been sold for three hundred dinars and distributed to the poor. On the one hand, if Judas’ concern was genuine, it would have been an important concern to consider.  On the other hand, Judas was not thinking of the poor.  The poor were a cover up for his greed and love of money.

What Mary did was an act of love.  Love cannot be measured with money.  Genuine Love surpasses the material.  Jesus accepted and appreciated Mary’s act of love.  At the same time, Jesus said, to Judas and the disciples, the poor you will always have with you, but you do not always have me.  Even today, we do things in the church and outside the church out of genuine love for Christ.  Some people might still criticize us as a waste of money; but it is an act of love.  At the same time, we must not neglect our responsibility for the poor and oppressed. 

So how can we express our love and devotion to Christ today?

Let us remember what Christ said, if you do it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters you do it to me.  It is worth reflecting on the fact that God who made the heavens and the earth “does not envision a world of scarcity.”  We humans made and created the scarcity.  The presence of the poor among us reflects our failure, as humans, to eliminate poverty.  It is estimated that half of the world’s population, more than 3 billion people are poor. (less than $2.50 a day.  1.3 billion people, live in extreme poverty, less than $1.25 a day.) A small fraction of what the countries of the world spend on the purchase of arms and war equipment if used in the proper way, it would eradicate poverty.    Oxfam estimates that it would take $60 billion dollars annually to end extreme global poverty.  This amount is less than one fourth of the income of the top 100 richest billionaires.  Today, hunger is the number one cause of death in the world.  According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty.  We are all guilty. It is a crime against our brothers and sisters.  In the reading of “Forward Day by Day,” for today, Canon Pastor Glenice Robinson-Como of Christ Church Cathedral in Houston, Texas wrote, “God does not ask us to simply give to charity; God requires that we pursue justice.  Charity offers temporary relief: justice seeks solutions.” (April 7, 2019)

Dom Helder Camara was an archbishop in Brazil.  He used to say, “When I give food to the poor, people call me a saint.  When I ask why they are poor, they call me a Communist.”  It is important for the church to condemn the unjust economic structures that keep the poor, poor; and make the rich, richer.  Our world, including our land, Palestine/Israel needs a better just and equitable economic system. 

I don’t have statistics about occupied Palestine. In the state of Israel, however, poverty is not much spoken about, but it exists.  Last year in 2018, over 21% of the Israeli population was living in poverty.  The more alarming statistics show that almost 30% of children in Israel are living in poverty, one in every 3.   The poor are especially, the single mothers, the elderly, the Jewish Orthodox communities, and Arab Palestinians Israeli citizens.  Israel is rated at the bottom of the list of OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries in terms of poverty.

The same applies to the political situation in our country.  Friends don’t let your visit to the holy sites blind you from seeing the injustice that is rampant in our land.  It is easy to come and visit the holy sites and return home and miss the political and economic injustice.  The Palestinians, Muslims and Christians, are living under the occupation of the government of Israel.  This occupation is illegal under international law.  Israel has stripped the Palestinians of their land.  Many of the Palestinians living in the refugee camps around Bethlehem, in Jerusalem, on the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip used to be simple small farmers.  They lived of their land.  The Israeli settlements are built on Palestinian land confiscated by the Israeli government.  All the settlements are illegal under international law. 

Every Friday, for the last year, after the Muslim noon prayers, the people of Gaza have been demonstrating non-violently calling for their Right of Return (according to international law) to their villages and land.  Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed, especially women and children, by Israeli snipers and army fire.  The Wall you see in your travel is illegal. Our people are imprisoned behind the Wall.  Our people cry out for the end of the illegal occupation.  They cry out for liberation.  They want to see the establishment of their own Palestinian state living in peace alongside the state of Israel.  We want Israel to live in peace; our people, the Palestinians want to live in peace, but peace can only be built on justice as defined by international law and United Nations Resolutions.  Without justice there can be no enduring peace.

Friends, we are grateful for your visit.  But, again, don’t let your visit to the holy places blind you from seeing the living stones of the land suffering from the injustice imposed by the Israeli government.   Pray for all the people of the land – Jews, Muslims and Christians.  Pray for the liberation of the oppressed.  Become engaged in advocacy on their behalf.  Work for justice and peace.  Jesus said, when you do it to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you do it to me. 

Jesus calls us to be peacemakers. He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers…” It is by being peacemakers that we all become children of God. 

Friends, may God embolden us and give us the courage to stand on the side of the poor and oppressed and work for their liberation.

And to God alone be glory and honor, Amen.


Canon Naim Ateek

Israel Nation-State Law

Henry Siegman, a former National Director of the American Jewish Congress said, “Israel has crossed the threshold from ‘the only democracy in the Middle East to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.’”

We have always viewed Israel’s democracy with great skepticism, but now, its Nation-State law validates its apartheid status.

On Thursday, July 19, 2018 the Israeli Knesset passed its Nation-State law with a vote of 62 to 55.  For its supporters, the law reflects Israel as a strong state that defines its identity as Jewish.  For those who oppose it, it validates Israel as an apartheid state.  The truth is that Palestinian Israeli citizens have been living under Israeli discriminatory laws since Israel’s establishment in 1948.  They have always been treated as second-classcitizens or worse.  What the new Nation-State law has declared is this:  what Israel practiced against its Palestinian citizens for 70 years it has now enshrined as aBASIC law.  Practically speaking little haschanged, for what was de facto racism has now become de jure.  I hope the racist implications will become clearer for many people, not least demoting the Arabic language which insults over 20% of Israel’s population.

I am certain that many individuals and organizations have already detected the inherent problems in the law.  The angle that concerns me is the religious and the theological.  The law contains some religious overtones that could have deeper political and religious implications:

  1. The Nation-State law begins with:“The Land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people in which the state of Israel was established.”

What do we mean by the “the land of Israel?” Many people might not be aware of the Talmudic religious meaning of this name.According to the Talmud, the Land of Israel includes not only today’s Israel and Palestine but also the whole of Sinai, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and parts of Turkey.  Furthermore, in all talmudic interpretations, the land of Israel includes Cyprus. (Shahak: 1994)

By not identifying specific boundaries, it stands to reason that the writers of the law intended to keep it vague,fluid, and open to expansion.  It is also clear from the wording that the Land of Israel is larger than the state of Israel.  The state is built on one small part of the Land of Israel only.

  1. “Jerusalem,” the new law says, “complete and united, is the capital of the state.”

Where are Jerusalem’s boundaries?  And what does “complete” mean?  It is important to keep in mind that according to international law, East Jerusalem is part of the occupied West Bank and illegally occupied by Israel.  It also must be remembered that Jerusalem is equally holy and equally special not only to Jews but to Christians and Muslims.  Without shared sovereignty over Jerusalem, peace will never prevail.  As worded, the new law shuts the door to peace.  Israel needs to sober up if it is serious about living in peace in the Middle East.

  1. “The right to exercise national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

slams the door shut on the Palestinians right to self-determination according to international law.   Without self-determination that gives the Palestinians their right to freedom, sovereignty, and human dignity, Israel will never enjoy peace or security.

  1. “The state will be open for Jewish immigration and the ingathering of exiles.”

The “ingathering of exiles” is another article in the new law that has religious overtones and can be quite contentious.  To begin with, it is noteworthy that immigration to Israel is restricted to Jews.What is more critical, is whether Jews who live in the United States, Canada,UK, and around the world are in exile. Do they consider themselves living in exile?  Are Jews who are free to choose where to live considered in exile?   The only exiled people I see around are the Palestinian refugees who, according to international law have “The Right of Return” to their country. “Ingathering of exiles” is an archaic religious expression.  It is anachronistic and devoid of meaning, except perhaps, for an imaginary nostalgia that some religious Jews might feel.  It is also significant for the big number of Christian Zionists who believe that the “ingathering of exiles”would expedite the Second Coming of Christ. Do the majority of western Jews living outside Israel, including many rabbis as well as secular Jews, believe and accept thisarchaic religious terminology?

Three final remarks:

  1. The Nation-State law defines with precision a number of matters including, the name of the state, its symbols, its language, its capital’s name, as well as other matters. However, three very important matters are not defined.
  2. The borders of the Land of Israel.
  3. The borders of the state of Israel.
  4. The boundaries of the city of Jerusalem.

Does this fact strike us as strange or is it pregnant with much more sinister connotations?I believe it reflects devious and dangerous intents.  How can Israel enact a basic law for its state that has no fixed borders?  Let the reader ponder the implications!

  1. Israel was admitted to the United Nations as a member state on the premise of its Declaration of Independence which states in part: “The State of Israel…will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions, and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.we…call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to return to the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the State, with full and equal citizenship and due representation in its bodies and institutions -provisional or permanent.”


Actually, Israel has never applied its Declaration of Independence, nevertheless,twice in the Declaration the words “full equality”are mentioned: “will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens…”Later on,in a clear reference to the Arab inhabitants of the state it reads, “…and play their part in the development of the State, with full and equal citizenship…”


In light of these words from the Declaration of Independence, and in light of the new Nation-State law, the pertinent question is whether the new law has changed the character of the state of Israel.


It is worth mentioning that the Declaration of Independence was written by largely militant secular Zionists, while the recent Nation-State law was written by largely militant religious Zionists.  In light of the apparent discrepancies between the Declaration and the Law, does Israel still “dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.…”?


  1. It is worth keeping in mind the words of the prophet Micah (6:8), “He has told you O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

As human beings who believe in democracy for all, we condemn Israel’s new Nation-State law.  We call on all our friends to study its racist implications and to resist it through all available nonviolent means.

Naim Ateek, Chair of the Board

August 8th, 2018

Israel nation state law



Sabeel Christmas Message from Jerusalem 2017

Dear Friends,

During this Christmas Season, we pause to give thanks and praise to the gracious and loving God for the coming of Jesus Christ through whom we have come to know God’s true nature of LOVE.  In Christ we know that God’s love extends to all people and embraces all.  We know that God wills for people to live in justice and peace with one another.  God’s love for humanity culminated in the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem today is desperately in need of the manifestation of God’s love. Jerusalem’s fate is being decided by the powerful, by those who can, who do not realize “what makes for peace”. They do not realize that their power cannot bring peace to the city of Jerusalem.

During this Christmas season, and at the end of another year, it is appropriate to renew our commitment to the work of justice and peace for our Palestinian people by focusing on three essential qualities of our Christian life, namely, FAITH, HOPE and LOVE.

*Our life in the world demands faith.  Faith, not only in God, but also faith in ourselves and others, that together with determination and diligence, we can persevere in striving for justice and liberation for the Palestinian people.  We also need faith to fight despair, apathy and disappointments.  We need faith to realize that we are not struggling alone, but we are laboring with God for the achievement of peace with justice for all the people of our land.

*Our life demands hope.  Hope that is not dependent on the ups and downs of the daily changing circumstances. Hope, that is anchored in God, who working in us, will ultimately give us victory over injustice and oppression, and will vindicate truth over falsehood and deceit.

*Our life demands love. Love, not for the gods we create and worship, but the love of the living God; the God who calls us in love to serve one another. Love, especially for our brothers and sisters who are oppressed and suffering from the policies and greed of their fellow human beings, as can be seen in unjust politics and economics.

Amid life’s vexing uncertainties, we come to Christmas seeking refreshment and renewal.  There is something about a baby with his mother in a humble setting that stirs within us deep thoughts and feelings of faith, hope, and love.  May God’s love and peace shown at Christmas sustain us throughout the coming New Year.

Sabeel wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from your brothers and sisters in Palestine


Naim Ateek

Chair of Sabeel Board

اللغة العربية

Sabeel Weihnachtsbotschaft aus Jerusalem

Balfour Declaration Centenary Service

St. George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem

A Liturgy of Penance and Hope

Nov. 2, 2017, 5 pm

Thank you, Amos Trust, for taking this initiative and planning this important service that laments the past and looks in hope to the future. In particular, I would like to thank Canon Garth Hewitt, the founder of Amos Trust, and its present director the Rev. Chris Roseand all the friends that have come from the UK to join usand who had a hand in the planning and organizing of this service.

In a special way, I would like to thank all those who walked all or part of the way from England to Jerusalem — over 3000 miles!  Thank you for the strong message of solidarity which your march conveys.  Thank you for your courageous stand with our Palestinian people and against all the injustice and suffering that the Balfour Declaration has caused to our people.  What you have done as British citizens is an amazing gesture of solidarity and an expression of yourcommitment to exposing the deceptions and lies thathave happened and the need for the implementation of truth and justice now.  I want to assure you that we value what you have done and we thank you.

I am very thankful for your apology.Palestinians have been demanding an apology from the British government.  Sadly, prime ministers and presidents, generally speaking, do not have the humility nor the moral courage and integrity to admit the crimes and wrongs perpetrated by their governments.  I was extremely saddened when President Obama visitedHiroshima,but did not offer an apology to the Japanese peoplefor the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people when America rained destruction and annihilation through its atomic bomb.  I am reminded when Josef Ben Eliezer came to our Sabeel international conference in 2008 and told us his story, when he,with other Israeli soldiers, in 1948 drove out the people of Lyddafrom their homes, at gun point, beating them and robbing them of even the little money they had.  He told us his story and he apologized and asked for our forgiveness.  Thank you,Chris,for offering an apology.  I know that you represent many British people who feel that the Balfour Declaration reflected an imperial and colonial spirit.The British government failed to see the Palestinian Arabs, the indigenous people of the land, as human beings.  They saw us as less than humans, a lesser breed that they could dispense of.

Thank you for taking a moral and a Christian stand. The apology is not only an expression of your sorrow and lament for the wrongs your country has committed against our people,itarises from your Christian faith that expects us to confess the wrongs and the injustices that have been committed against our brothers and sisters.In a theological sense, the sin of Balfour was his failure to practice the love of neighbor.

The past hundred years have brought unimaginable suffering on our people.  Thousands upon thousands of Palestinians have been killed,and many more injured.  Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been dispossessed from their land and property and made refugees, as my family was, when we were evicted at gun point from our hometown Beisan.  We were stripped of our rights and of our God-given human dignity.  Balfour made it possible for the Israeli government to dominate, dehumanize, and discriminate against the Palestinians.Even today,many conscientious Jews callwhat Israel is doing to the Palestinians a form of apartheid, worse than what was experienced in South Africa.From one perspective,many of the crimes that Israel committed against our people were a ramification of the Balfour Declaration.  Israel’s injusticeslowed Palestinian progress and shattered their dreams.  Yet, thank God that, in spite of it all, the Palestinians have persevered and will ultimately vanquish the injustice through the power of nonviolence and the support of the international community.

One of the great tragedies of the Declarationis the fact that Balfour, as a Christian Zionist, believed that he was doing God’s will by making it possible for Jews to return to their ancient homeland.  He saw himself as a second Cyrus, the Persian king who allowed Jews to return to Palestine from exile.  It seems that that kind of Restorationism, Messianism, end-of-the-world theology, and second coming of Christ theology were largely based on a poor and questionable interpretation of the Bible.

Frankly, I cannot deduce any positive element from the Balfour Declaration.  The second part is as bad as its first part when one studies it carefully through the eyes of its victims, the Palestinians.

Therefore,friends, help us to make the comingyears focus on Palestine.  Help us to put a stop to all Israeli injustice and oppression against our people, the Palestinians.

We ask you to urge the British government to recognize Palestine as a state as soon as possible.  Once that happens, many other countries will follow suit.

Make Britain support the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state in accordance with international law so that Palestinians will have their national and political rights as well as their civil and religious rights protected.

Make the British government stop Israel’s settlement policy and its encroachment on Palestinian land.

Britain needs to make amends to the Palestinians by standing with them and supporting them as they build their state.

You, our friends, need to work diligently against Christian Zionists’abuse and misinterpretation of the Bible.

It is time for Palestine.  Biblically speaking, God is glorified in the work of justice.  Jesus has called us to be peacemakers and when we are engaged in making peace based on truth and justice, we are indeed children of God.

Thank you again for coming.  Let us work together for the achievement of justice, peace, and reconciliation.   Amen

Canon Naim Ateek

Chair of Sabeel Board, Jerusalem