‘No zero-sum solution’ to Israeli-Palestinian conflict

US interfaith leaders dedicated to being partners in building peace

Wearing cassocks, Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani and Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori lead the interfaith delegation through the streets of Jerusalem's Old City. Walking behind, from left, are •Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA); Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA); •Mohamed Elsanousi, director of external relations for Finn Church Aid; •Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester; •Rabbi Leonard Gordon, interreligious relations chair for JCPA; •The Rev. Charles K. Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop; and Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for ISNA. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Wearing cassocks, Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani and Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori lead the interfaith delegation through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City. Walking behind, from left, are Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA); Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA); Mohamed Elsanousi, director of external relations for Finn Church Aid; Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester; Rabbi Leonard Gordon, interreligious relations chair for JCPA; the Rev. Charles K. Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop; and Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for ISNA. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

[Episcopal News Service] In seeking a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, people of faith need to be effective partners committed to hearing multiple narratives, say members of a broad U.S. interfaith delegation, led by Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, during a weeklong pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The 15-member delegation of Jews, Christians and Muslims engaged in a series of high-level political and religious meetings in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, including with former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and current Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, to hear a wide range of perspectives on peace, religion and politics and to share their own views about the role the three Abrahamic faiths must play in helping to shape a better world.

The group heard deep concerns, frustrations, and strong sentiments of distrust in the midst of a stalled peace process, but they were encouraged by countless signs of hope and optimism and they were galvanized to be part of the solution together.

They also met with leaders of grassroots initiatives – the Shades Negotiation Program, EcoPeace and Roots – that bring together Israelis and Palestinians to hear and learn from one another’s narratives, and to build a peaceful society in which everyone can prosper.

“We’ve built bridges this week,” said Jefferts Schori, “and we’re going to keep traveling those bridges, and exploring the chasms beneath them, and looking over the guard rails for new possibilities, until God’s shalom and salaam and peace prevail in the Land of the Holy One and throughout the oneness of God’s creation.”

However, she said, “this cannot be a zero-sum game” in which one side’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss. “When we can back off from ‘what are they going to take from us,’ we might begin to find the answers.”

Along with Jefferts Schori, the group’s co-leaders were Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), and Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Together, they represent about 15 million Americans.

“We have experienced the land and its people as they understand themselves. We leave with a sense of hope that people of faith, on the ground and in America, can truly be part of the solution,” said Gutow. “We heard from Israelis and Palestinians that our presence as religious leaders from three different faiths coming here at such a difficult time gives hope that our dream can come to fruition.”

Syeed said that there is no other solution “but to come up with an end to the present stalemate. It weighs heavy on everyone living in the Holy Land. We will continue to press our people and our government to resume the efforts for negotiations between the parties and help to build mutual trust and confidence. Faith leaders and congregations will continue to pray for success and do whatever we can to support these efforts.”

The visit was planned in response to Resolution B019, passed by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2012, that called for positive investment and engagement in the region and recommended that the presiding bishop develop an interfaith model pilgrimage that experiences multiple narratives. That resolution reiterated the Episcopal Church’s longstanding commitment to a negotiated two-state solution “in which a secure and universally recognized State of Israel lives alongside a free, viable and secure state for the Palestinian people.”

ISNA and JCPA also endorse that vision of lasting peace in the Holy Land through an agreed two-state solution.

“When talking about peace, there is a tendency to look at the obstacles,” said Peres, 91, welcoming the delegation to a 45-minute meeting in Jaffa, Israel, at the Peres Peace Center, which he founded in 1996 to build peace through socio-economic cooperation and development.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres (center) welcomes the interfaith delegation Jan. 20. From left are Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America; Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; and •Alexander D. Baumgarten, director of public engagement and mission communication for the Episcopal Church.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres (center) welcomes the interfaith delegation Jan. 20. From left are Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America; Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; and Alexander D. Baumgarten, director of public engagement and mission communication for the Episcopal Church. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

“Great things in life cannot be achieved unless you close a little bit your eyes. You cannot fall in love and you cannot make peace unless you close a little bit your eyes. With open eyes you will see all the problems and you will be blind to the opportunities,” said Peres, who twice served as Israeli prime minister – once in the mid-80s and again in the mid-90s – and recently retired as president, largely a ceremonial figurehead role.

Peres, who won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the peace talks that led to the Oslo Accords, said that he believes “there is no separation between God and the spirit … In our land we want religions really to come together. The characteristic of a nation must be multi-cultural and multi-spirited.”

At the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah two days later, Hamdallah shared his desire for peace and reconciliation and described it as an “inspiration” that such a diverse group of religious leaders from the U.S. would visit the region and engage with the people and the issues head on.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah welcome the delegation to the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah on Jan. 22. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah welcomes the delegation to the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah on Jan. 22. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

U.S.-led peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders broke down in May 2014, with both sides blaming the other for failing to make adequate concessions on issues such as borders, the status of refugees, the sharing of Jerusalem, and the construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

Then in July 2014 in the Gaza Strip, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against the militant Islamic movement Hamas after a surge in rocket attacks. The Israel-Gaza conflict, which erupted following the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers, and the retaliatory abduction and murder of a Palestinian youth, resulted in the death of more than 2,100 Gazans, mostly civilians, and 73 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged war crimes by Israel in the Palestinian Territories. Israel and the U.S. have strongly criticized the move, saying it undermines chances for a negotiated peace deal.

In early January, Israel retaliated by withholding the transfer of $127 million in tax revenues to the Palestinians.

“There’s a serious commitment not to resort to violence,” Hamdallah, who succeeded Salam Fayyad as Palestinian prime minister in June 2013, told the interfaith group. “We condemn all violent activities anywhere, whether in France or Israel, anywhere. We believe that these people who say they are representing Islam, they are not Muslims. Our theme is to achieve our goals through peaceful means.”

But Hamdallah told the religious leaders that he doubts whether the Palestinians could reach an agreement with the current Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Other leaders throughout the week told the interfaith group that it is difficult to see how a peace deal could be reached between Netanyahu and Abbas because the two sides have become so entrenched in their positions.

One senior Israeli official, who asked not to be named, said that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process “involves negotiations between two traumatized people, two people scarred by their past and fearful about their future. The essential aim in negotiation is to not only write your own victory speech but to write the other person’s as well.”

He said that the only way to shift from a zero-sum negotiation involves not just tolerating the other side “but being invested in their desired outcome just as you are in yours.”

The grave error in negotiations, he said, is that people “believe they must be involved in bringing the messiah, or in bringing justice and peace in some cosmic sense. Think a little bit less about bringing the messiah and a little bit more about making people’s lives better.”

During the meeting with Hamdallah, Syeed said that people of faith in the U.S. and around the world were hopeful when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry helped to restart the peace negotiations in 2013 but that they were troubled when those talks broke down a year later. Speaking on behalf of the interfaith delegation, Syeed said: “This is a unique alliance – Muslims, Christians, Jews together, having the same vision, having the same commitment, and expressing our solidarity.”

While much of the meetings centered on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the stalled peace process, and the role of religion, some of the conversations turned to more philosophical and reflective topics and included a number of lighter moments and shared laughter.

“The optimist and pessimist are passing away the same way, so why spend your life as a pessimist?” Peres said. “It’s not the brain that provides us with thoughts and dreams. It’s the other way around. It’s thoughts and dreams that cause the brain to adapt…

“Science has changed the way that people view the world. Science can overcome violence, so you don’t need wars. Science doesn’t have borders, so you cannot establish borders in science. Science cannot be controlled,” Peres added.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori expresses heartfelt gratitude to former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres for his hospitality and wisdom. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori expresses heartfelt gratitude to former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres for his hospitality and wisdom. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Jefferts Schori, a former oceanographer, told Peres that “it is a great blessing to hear you talk about the gift of science and it is leading us to new places. People of faith come with a different kind of knowing and I do not believe that it is different to the kind of knowing that science can offer. But when they come together they invite people to look far more deeply into the heart of reality, to see the connections that emanate from the center and that we cannot survive without one another. It is the driver for peacemaking.”

In other high-level political meetings, the group met with U.S. Ambassador to the State of Israel Daniel Shapiro; U.S. Consul General Michael Ratney; Ruth Calderon, an academic and a member of the Knesset, the Israeli government’s parliament; and Kholoud Al-Faqih, judge of the Sharia Court of Ramallah and the first female sharia judge in the Palestinian Territories.

The interfaith groups meets with U.S. Consul General Michael Ratney. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

The interfaith group meets with U.S. Consul General Michael Ratney (seated to the right of the U.S. flag). Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Al-Faqih spoke to the group in Ramallah about her personal and professional journey, which involved eight years of determination and repeated visits to legal decision-makers until they finally accepted her pleas to enter the judicial training process. It has led to her being ranked by CEO Middle East magazine as number 10 of the 100 most powerful Arab women in the world.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori offers words of encouragement to Kholoud Al-Faqih, judge of the Sharia Court of Ramallah and the first female sharia judge in the Palestinian Territories. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori offers words of encouragement to Kholoud Al-Faqih, judge of the Sharia Court of Ramallah and the first female sharia judge in the Palestinian Territories. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Jefferts Schori relayed the biblical parable, told by Jesus to his disciples, of the persistent widow seeking justice from a judge. “What she does is go and knock on his door every day and bother him until she gets justice,” Jefferts Schori said. “You have done the same thing. You are a wonderful example to us. Thank you.”

Shapiro, who has served as ambassador since July 2011, welcomed the group during a meeting in Tel Aviv, Israel. “The fact that all of you – busy people in your communities – took the time to come and engage in a deep way, is really something I strongly appreciate. It’s a tough set of issues, but it won’t get less tough without people of goodwill throwing themselves into it,” he said.

U.S. Ambassador to the State of Israel Daniel Shapiro (front, second from left) meets with the interfaith group in Tel Aviv.

U.S. Ambassador to the State of Israel Daniel Shapiro (front, second from left) meets with the interfaith group in Tel Aviv. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

“There are unfortunately other approaches. Some people turn away from it altogether. Some people choose to attack one side or the other and make it about a point-scoring exercise. Neither of those approaches is going to achieve our goals, which is a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians,” he added. “An approach that says we need to come, we need to listen, we need to engage, we need to help create linkages between ourselves and both sides and, of course, across the divide, is to me the only approach that has the chance of succeeding.”

Calderon, a Yesh Atid party member who has served as a member of the Knesset since 2012, said that she believes that religion is often “much more creative than diplomacy.”

Ruth Calderon, a member of the Israeli Knesset, addresses the interfaith group in Tel Aviv. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Ruth Calderon, a member of the Israeli Knesset, addresses the interfaith group in Tel Aviv. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

“This is the place of God, so how can we think that it’s ours or theirs? The whole talk about whom does it belong to always makes me uncomfortable because we know it belongs to God,” she told the group in Tel Aviv. “If I can say that there is one thing that God has taught me it’s that I don’t own things. I’m here on rent, maximum, and that is so simple for us to understand, but so difficult for us to say in parliament … I think there is in the religious language a way to solve the most painful problems … One of the things that I’ve learned in the last three years in parliament is that you cannot leave it to politicians.”

JCPA’s Gutow thanked Calderon for challenging the group to think about what it is that God would want. “If we take that as the measure of how we look at things, I think we’ll really come up with something beautiful.”

In connecting with grassroots organizations, the group met with leaders from the Shades Negotiation Program, which provides future Israeli and Palestinian leaders with constructive problem solving skills and resources to identify and create opportunities for a peaceful and prosperous future in the region.

The interfaith group traveled to Gush Etzion, where the leadership of Roots comprises Palestinian leaders from adjoining villages with Israeli settlers who, despite disagreement on some core issues, believe it is imperative for the communities to put aside political retrenchment and divisive actions and rhetoric in order to begin sowing the seeds necessary to make an eventual peace agreement take hold.

introduces the leadership of Roots in Gush Etzion. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, introduces the leadership of Roots in Gush Etzion. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

“Without building trust, the suspicions between us will suffocate the political peace agreements,” said Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, a project coordinator for Roots.

Their grassroots organizing includes engaging local leaders, non-violence workshops and religious dialogue.

“We know that there is great disagreement over many issues – over the facts of the past and even about the reality of the present – but we believe that effective dialogue is the secure place for argument and deeper understanding,” according to Shaul Judelman, a project coordinator who has lived in Gush Etzion for the past 13 years. “It is in this space that solutions can be built.”

And in Tel Aviv, the interfaith group heard from EcoPeace Middle East, which brings together Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists through cooperative efforts “to protect our shared environmental heritage. In so doing, we seek to advance both sustainable regional development and the creation of necessary conditions for lasting peace in our region,” according to the organization’s website.

The initiative has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the demise of the Jordan River, which is drying up and has been polluted with untreated sewage over the course of the past 50 years.

“The problems we saw seemed intractable and a two-state solution felt like a faraway dream,” said Gutow. “But when we met with people on the ground, we saw people who believed in that dream and were in an effort to find a solution to the problems in the land.”

Other members of the delegation were:

Episcopalian

•    Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
•    The Rev. John E. Kitagawa, rector of St. Philip’s in-the-Hills Episcopal Church in Tucson, Arizona
•    The Rev. Charles K. Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop
•    The Rev. Margaret Rose, deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations
•    Alexander D. Baumgarten, director of public engagement and mission communication
•    Sharon Jones, executive assistant to the presiding bishop

Jewish

•    Rabbi Leonard Gordon, interreligious relations chair for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs
•    Ethan Felson, vice president and general counsel for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs
•    Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, director of social justice and interfaith initiatives for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington

Muslim

•    Dr. Muhammad Shafiq, director of the Hickey Center for interfaith studies and dialogue at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York
•    Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America
•    Mohamed Elsanousi, director of external relations for Finn Church Aid

— Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Comments

  1. James Michie says:

    Sadly perplexed, I read nothing in this story about a visit to Gaza by Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, Surely, if any Palestinian territory was in need of at least a day-long visit, it was Gaza devastated this past summer, with more than 2,100 Palestinians, 546 of them children, indiscriminately massacred and thousands more wounded/injured in Israel’s 51-day onslaught. Yet 100,000 Gazans remain homeless or living in the ruins of their bombed-out homes six months after that war on Gaza. As an Episcopalian in touch almost daily with Gazans vie email and Skype, I can say with all certainty to Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, that a visit by her to the Gaza hospital funded by American Episcopalians and bombed by Israel during the war would have meant a great deal to all those Gazans who continue to suffer imprisonment by Israel’s eight-year-long siege/blockade, along with Israeli-engineered severe shortages of food, potable water, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, fuel for transport and heating and destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure, including only three to six hours of electricity during any day. The Presiding Bishop might be interested to know that, within the last two weeks, six Palestinian babies died from hypothermia–they froze to death for lack of heat in the frigid weather. You missed an all too obvious and much needed chance to visit war-torn Gaza and its people, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori. Perhaps next year?

    • Michael M. Eisman, Ph.D. says:

      Of course, the thousands of rockets that were aimed and fired at Israel has nothing to do with this at all! What was Israel to do? Let there be thousands of Israeli casualties to satisfy your desire for parity. If there had been no Palestinian (Hamas etc.) rockets fired at Israel there would have been no response. The Palestinians brought this on themselves.

  2. Nazreen Kadir says:

    Not a word about ending occupation? Ending Gaza seige? Who are these folks representing?

  3. William A. Flint, PhD says:

    History teaches us that the church has a poor record when it comes to war. It appears to be too little to late. At least the scriptures are realistic when saying there will be wars and rumors of wars but the end is not yet. People of faith can have hope.

  4. George McGonigle says:

    What are we doing to evidence our support of Episcopalians/Anglicans living in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Pakistan? Has the PB sent a mission of support involving notable Episcopalians/Anglicans as the Most Rev. Edmond Browning did at the time of the first Intifada. I was among a small group of Bishops and others who went to Israel at that time. Our presence at this critical time for our sisters and brothers in that tortured part of he world was most appreciated. I believe we provided encouragement when it was most needed.

  5. I was a priest on the clergy pilgrimage in Palestine at the same time as the PB’s trip. We stayed in the same (Palestinian run) hotel in Jerusalem and ran into that group at lunch in Ramallah. On our trip our Palestinian guides decided not to take us to Hebron due to the danger and the dicey nature of even being let in/out. Gaza is decidedly more dangerous.

    The makeup of the PB’s trip was peace activists from our church and the Islamic and Jewish communities. Everyone on that trip realizes that Gaza is the site of the worst of the horrible conditions that Israel is imposing on Palestinians. They were trying to get in more meetings and foster more dialogue rather than reconfirm facts already in evidence. Such an agenda dictates thier time would be spent in Jerusalem and Ramallah.

    I am no shill for the PB, but I think folks might be reading with their filters too firmly in place on this one. The presiding bishop is quite well-informed on the Palestinian issue. It seems to me that she had a very ambitious agenda: assemble a group from the three Abrahamic faith traditions to go together to try to foster understanding and encourage sides to resume talks. She deserves two thumbs up on this one in my book.

    • Donna Hicks says:

      Sorry, Matt Marino, that the group with whom you traveled didn’t get to Hebron on your pilgrimage.

      The contrasts between the Hebron settlers – some of the most ideologically radical – Israeli military and law enforcement and the Palestinian community (which has a strong presence in nonviolent resistance work) would have afforded the perfect place for members of the interfaith pilgrimage to practice their dialogue and listening skills.

      • James Michie says:

        A RESOUNDING SHOUTED AMEN TO THAT! Thank you, Donna. For the Presiding Bishop to have skipped over Hebron as well as Gaza speaks volumes to the failure of today’s Episcopal Church to compassionately acknowledge and witness the Apartheid and the forced, at-gunpoint military occupation of Palestine. Would that there could be a Presiding Bishop today living the legacy of the courageous and determined John E. Hines, Presiding Bishop in the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, the late John E. Hines stood with Nobel Laureates Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu in non-violently opposing racism, apartheid and marginalizing of populations. Archbishop Tutu repeatedly has called upon the U.S. and the Episcopal Church to engage in non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against extreme-right Israel. Where does the current Presiding Bishop stand on these issues? She is opposed to BDS. Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori prefers “positive investment” in the Holy Land; and this, even after Israel this past summer massacred 2,200 Palestinians, 546 of them children, injured 11,000 more, and rendered more than 100,000 Palestinians homeless in the devastation of Gaza. Thousands of Gazans continue to this day living in the rubble of their bombed-out homes. I hope and pray that, after PB Jefferts Schori retires later this year, the church hierarchy will elect a Presiding Bishop more to the liking of the late John E. Hines.

  6. Rev. Vicki Gray says:

    I’ll keep this short.

    Having walked Hebron’s Shuhada Street and the alleys of five refugee camps, having visited demolished Bedouin villages in the Negev,having experienced the determined optimism of the kids in Jenin’s Freedom Theatre and Nablus University, having experienced first-hand the grossly unequal distribution of water on the West Bank, having witnessed the destruction of Gaza, having spoken with victims of that bombing, having worked with Israeli Jews such as those in ICAHD, B’tselem, and Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah, and having prayed with Christians in the completely surrounded village of Taybeh, I know a Potemkin village Israel/Palestine-style when I see one. Based on ENS’ reporting thus far, tha’s just what the folks on this tour were treated to. One wonders what they were there to witness to.

    All in all, an embarrasment to the Church…so many silences. And, as Rabbi Leo Baeck once said, “There is nothing so sad as the silence.

  7. Janet Jones says:

    I am dismayed to read this item because it treats the conflict as though it were between neighboring peoples of equal strength rather than an indigenous people resisting a brutal military occupation. Stones against tanks. Nonviolent protests met with violence, attempts to appeal to UN and ICC met with threats and withholding of funds. I question how much the PB knows about the realities, when the description of the context of the current conflict is the standard media version – Israel responding to attacks. No mention of the stepped-up violence Palestinians were responding to. No mention of almost 70 years of efforts to “transfer” Arabs out of their homeland or of almost 50 years of brutal occupation, which people have a legal right to resist.

  8. Whit Johnstone says:

    The Presiding Bishop’s actions do not amount to support for Likud or Benjamin Netanyahu. She met with the leader of the progressive Isreali opposition, not with a representative of the Likud government. She did meet with the sitting Prime Minister of the state of Palestine, which Likud and the US do not recognize.

    Embracing the “boycott, divestment, sanctions” campaign wholeheartedly would ruin our interfaith relationships with Jewish congregations in the United States, as has happened with PCUSA. In addition, it’s just wrong. Israel has as much of a right to exist as Palestine does.

  9. Regardless of the limitations of a news report, I can assure you from conversations with members of that group in Ramallah and Jerusalem that they are each quite aware of both the power inequalities present and the endless litany of Israeli human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza. Whit is correct, sometimes what you say behind a closed door and what you report in the media are not one and the same. Consider the make-up of the group: progressive Jews, Muslims, and pro-2 state solution Epsicopalians. They were staying, not in high-end Israeli junket hotels, but mid-market Palestinian run accommodations. This was not a wine and dine photo-op. The ability to read between the lines here is helpful.

  10. William A. Flint, PhD says:

    Israel is a nation on two accounts. Primary is that Israel is God’s chosen people through whom all the world was blessed in the Person of Jesus the Christ, Son of David. Secondary look at Nazi Germany. These People have endured hardships none of us living today can imagine. Yes, the desire is peace, but not at any price. Just my opinion. While many in this Church may not agree, I will always stand beside Israel and its right to exist and defend itself. Never Again!

    • Chris Cleveland says:

      Thank you Dr. Flint for having the courage and conviction to stand with Israel. I have been very sad and distressed to see the continued oppression of the Jewish people and the majority in the Church siding almost exclusively with the “poor Palestinians”. Not this liberal lgbt Anglican! Israel is the ONLY lgbt affirming presence in the Middle East. I will always support the Jewish nation of Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign nation and defend her borders. I pray for the day the Church is a true friend to the Jewish people again in word and deed.

  11. Rev. Vicki Gray says:

    Frankly, Matt, trying to read between the lines is getting old, as is the dichotomy between what we might be saying behind closed doors and what we should be saying to the media. Even in just secular terms, integrity demands that that the two be one and the same. And, as a Church, are we not required to speak the truth clearly…something about a candle and a basket? Did we not all vow to seek justice and respect the dignity of every human being?

    And, yes, Whit, Israel has every right to exist – and prosper – but it has no right occupy another people and deny them justice and dignity. That is what BDS seeks to redress and there are many Jews – over forty rabbis – who support the effort, because they too have internalized Micah 6 and seek an Israel blessed by Shalom – a peace based on justice and encompassing the well-being of all. I’m proud to be working with them to that end.

  12. Larry Hartman says:

    Auschwitz 70 year closing this week. How, how can the Jews of today be so forgetful? How do they justify the way they have (1948) till now slaughtered Palestinians, penned them up and stolen their land? Does the world not care or are we reliving the Old Testament?

    • William A. Flint, PhD says:

      A good question to ask is this: When God gave the land to the Hebrew Peoples what was the geographic territory God gave to Israel? How does that territory compare to modern day Israel? If I recall it was God who gave the Hebrews the land and that Promised was for ever. Just a thought.

  13. William, I too support Israel as a homeland and safe-haven for Jews. However, this situation has come about precisely because “never again” is being used to see and treat Palestinians as rats rather than humans…just like Nazi Germany once did to them. There is room for the Palestinians. Supporting one does not equate to opposing the other.

    Vicki, Thank goodness I am not the PB and do not have to navigate all of the things unseen that she is privy to and navigates. I applaud your ability to be articulate and passionate in your support of Palestinians. In our time in the Holy Land my favorite times were not meeting with important people, or seeing important works, but time spent in the homes of Palestinian Christian friends drinking coffee and/or wine. That those humble, faithful, persevering Christians can endure is a testament to God’s grace.

  14. Newland Smith says:

    Thanks for this excellent article about the interfaith pilgrimage. I do have one comment. The interfaith group “heard from the EcoPeace Middle East group which brings together Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists”… [ working] … to protect our shared environmental heritage …[and seeking] … to advance the creation of necessary conditions for lasting peace in the region.” Yet no mention was made of Israel’s control of the water resources in the West Bank. B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories said in an article dated July 3, 2008, “many Palestinians … [in the West Bank] … who are connected to the water supply reported disruption because Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, which also controls the water supply to Palestinian areas, reduces the supply to Palestinian towns and villages in order to meet the increased need of Jewish settlements.” Mark Zeitoun in his book, Power and Water in the Middle East : the hidden politics of the Palestinian-Israeli Water Conflict (I.B. Tauris, 2008) writes that “Israel has implemented a policy of stringent restriction on Palestinian access to water. Palestinians are denied all access to the Jordan River which is the only significant surface water source in the region.” (p. 84?) General Convention 2012 Resolution B019 called for the Presiding Bishop “to develop an interfaith model pilgrimage.” Well and good. But I do not see how such a pilgrimage, let alone the EcoPeace Middle East group, will stop the State of Israel’s control of the water supply to Palestinians in the West Bank.

  15. Rev. Vicki Gray says:

    Thank you, Matt.

  16. Julian Malakar says:

    Surely it is praise worthy taking initiative in finding peaceful solution to the age old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, epicenter of all religious conflict, by US Interfaith leaders. I would also urge interfaith leaders to take active urgent initiative in bringing down misinterpretation of individual faith’s holy books that encourage hatred and violent, gruesome attitude towards non-believers of respective faith. This is fundamental level field necessary to make a meaningful bridge building over three different Abrahamic faiths. This would be basis for rapport building among Israel and Palestine that would lead forming permanent two states solution. Christians and Jews believe that God of Abraham hates killers no matter what faith they belong. Our majority Muslim brothers and sisters must also believe this common character of our God the Almighty, Merciful and Benevolent; so that minority terrorists Muslims can’t hijack Islam from majority believe and kill innocent people around the world. PEACE!

  17. William A. Flint, PhD says:

    I am afraid that one day the Episcopal Church will wake up and it will find itself with fewer and fewer members. These are critical times and the enemies of Christianity are everywhere. Of all the nations of the Middle East only Egypt states Israel has the right to be a nation. There are numerous fundamentals at play in the Middle East and none of us really understand how these fundamentals effect the events of Middle Eastern peoples and nations. Beware what pearls of Christian Faith you throw to the swine. My last comment on this subject. The Nazis convinced good Christians that the Jews were evil and to blame for all their problems……I see that attitude raising its ugly head again.

  18. Daniel Anderson Toler says:

    I stand with Israel and so far my whole parish does as well. It my not be a popular view but people will get over it.

    • Edel Smith says:

      Yes, we should remember the roots of our Christian faith are Jewish.

      Cut off these roots, and our faith has no roots and dies. It becomes worthless.

  19. Carolann Martys says:

    I know a lot of people don’t like to be confused with facts, but here are a few: There are 1.3 million Israeli-Arabs living in Israel, making up 20% of the population. Many are the descendents of Palestinian Arabs who chose to remain in Israel in 1948. Hebrew and Arabic are Israel’s two official languages. There are five official Arab political parties. Israel-Arabs were elected to the first knesset in 1949 and have continued to play an active role in political life. They have won as many as as 12 of the 120 Knesset seats in a single election. All Arab municipalities receive government funding for education and infrastructure. The following Israeli Arabs hold high-level positions: Salim Jurban, selected a permanent member of Israel’s Supreme Court (2004); Nawaf Massalha, deputy Foreign Minister; Ali Yahya, Walid Mansour and Mohammed Masarwa, who held ambassadorships; Major general Hussain Fares, commander of Israel’s border police; Major General Yosef Mishiav, head of homeland security as Israel’s Home Front commander; Bedouin Ismail Khaldi, appointed Israeli Consul to San Francisco in 2006, amongst others.
    Columnist Dr Talal Al-Shareef wrote in the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quids in 1999: “Israel has proved that for fifty years its real power is in its democracy, guarding the rights of it citizens, applying laws (equally) to the rich and poor, the big and small…and in the participation of the nation in the development of institutions according to ability and efficiency and not according to closeness to the ruler.”

  20. The Very Rev. Anthony Thurston says:

    It’s clear to me that the oppressed have become the oppressors. I am also disappointed that representatives of Sabeel apparently were not involved in the discussions that took place. I have two friends, an American doctor and his wife, who spend 4 months each year working at a hospital in Jerusalem that mostly treats Palestinians. In their travels, they are shocked, appalled and have been deeply moved by how horrible the conditions are for Palestinians who are very much oppressed by the Israeli government.

    • William A. Flint, PhD says:

      What you are not saying is that Palestinian militants have launched thousands of rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip as part of the continuing conflict in the region. Not a day goes by in Israel that these attacks are not felt in the various regions of the country. A rocket or mortal shell has no respect on whether the people effected are Palestinian or Jewish, they kill and injure without regard to person. The American new media does not report these attacks, but those who live in Israel are all to familiar with the daily occurrences. High school students returning from a visit to the Holy Land recount the sounds of rockets and mortar attacks while on their tour. Their guide said it is a daily thing and not to worry they will not be traveling to the hot zones affected. As i said earlier there are numerous fundamentals at play in the Middle East and none of us really understand how these fundamentals effect the events of Middle Eastern peoples and nations. The Middle East is not like the neighborhoods we experience in The United States of America. It is a whole other reality.

  21. Kathy Sheetz says:

    I am saddened by the lack of knowledge of the occupation by these members. When Israel is the occupier, it is Palestine who has a right to defend itself against a brutal occupier. Let me point out that 50 some Israelis have sadly died from the home made, WW1 era Gazan rockets the militants make and fire over the fence in Gaza…..
    most are kitchen pipes and fertilizer…..It is a little more than an SOS compared to the more than 5000 deaths in Gaza during the same 12 years…Or another comparison is the siege on Warsaw….As a nonviolent activist, I abhor any violence…but silence regarding an oppressor is violence too. That is why so many Jews are speaking out today…never again for anyone…indeed…sorry about my Episcopal brothers and sisters ignoring the Kairos document of the Christains in Palestine

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