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    Articles, stories, photos and video about keeping faith in the Holy Land and creating a peaceful, just environment where all humans can flourish.

    Join the World Week for Peace in Palestine/Israel Sept. 22-28

    Posted on September 19, 2013 by Julie Brenton Rowe
    Grafitti from the Separation Barrier

    Graffiti from the Separation Wall near Bethlehem.

    The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the World Council of Churches invites member churches, faith-based communities, and civil society organizations to join together in 2013 for a week of advocacy and action in support of an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine and a just peace for all in Palestine and Israel. Congregations and individuals around the globe who share the hope of justice shall unite during the week to take peaceful actions, together, to create a common international public witness.

    The theme of the week in 2013 is: “Jerusalem, the city of justice and peace.”

    As part of the most recent World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, from 28 May to 3 June 2012, churches in at least 25 countries around the world sent a clear signal to policy-makers, community groups, and their own parishes about the urgent need for a peace settlement that ends the illegal occupation and secures the legitimate rights and future of both peoples.

    During World Week for Peace 2013, participants will organize and join in events and activities around the following three principles:

    1. Praying with churches living under occupation, using a special prayer from Jerusalem and other worship resources prepared for the week. Note that Tuesday of this week falls on  Sept 24, the date of the monthly prayer vigil called for by ACT Palestine. 
    2. Educating about actions that make for peace, and about facts on the ground that do not create peace, especially issues related to the city of Jerusalem.
    3. Advocating with political leaders using ecumenical policies that promote peace with justice.

    Find more information and resources at the PIEF webpage, including:

    • The Jerusalem Prayer from the Churches in Jerusalem
    • The liturgy “Jerusalem, the City of Justice and Peace,” written by Palestinian Christian laity and clergy for Sunday 22 September
    • Proposed common action and advocacy for Sunday 22 September, based on the theme: “To pray, you need a military permit!”
    • A resource on Jerusalem created by our international working group, with information, theological reflections, and advocacy suggestions for each day of the Week
    • Testimonials from the Wall Museum near Rachel’s Tomb, a project of the Sumud Story House of the Arab Educational Institute
    • A policy paper on Jerusalem, published March 2013 by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung office in East Jerusalem

    Easter Message from Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

    Posted on April 2, 2013 by karin

    In their Easter message, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem “call upon all Christians from around the ecumenical world to come and visit with our churches and walk with the living stones of the Holy Land  in the footsteps of our risen Lord.” If you are interested in responding to this call take a look at Peace Not Wall’s resources for traveling to the Holy Land.

    Below is the full text of the Easter message:

    “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.
    Come and see the place where he lay.” Matthew 28:6

    We, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, bless our faithful people in this region and the people of God everywhere in the name of the risen Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

    Each year the Church calls us to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through Divine Liturgies and Paschal ceremonies and gatherings. The Church in the Holy Land offers what no other church around the world can offer – Pilgrimage in the land where it all happened. Through many prayers, fasts, and holy journeys, this land we call Holy became a fifth gospel. Indeed, our Easter greetings come from the heart of the City of Hope, Resurrection and the Empty Tomb.

    As Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, we call upon all Christians from around the ecumenical world to come and visit with our churches and walk with the living stones of the Holy Land in the footsteps of our risen Lord. And for those who are not able to make their pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we appeal to them to hold the peoples of this land in their prayers, particularly the Christian presence that keeps dwindling and faces existential challenges throughout the Middle East.

    The holy fire on Holy Saturday and Easter Vigil remind us, and the entire world, of the ‘Light of the Risen Lord’, which illumines the whole world, even in the darkest places of the earth. Our world today is full of false idols that separate people from the light of Christ and the truth of his Gospel. The Christian presence here in the Mother City of our faith continues to serve as a beacon of light of the risen Christ, which the first disciples witnessed here at the empty sepulcher in Jerusalem.

    As a continued witness of the resurrection, the Church in the Holy Land urges all people of faith and goodwill around the world, especially those in authority, to strive for justice and peace among the nations. In particular, pray with us for the situation in Syria; in Lebanon; in Palestine and Israel; in Egypt; in Iraq, and wherever there is political unrest. Pray for all victims of violence and oppression, for prisoners, for those who live with the lack of security, and those who are displaced and refugees, especially here in our land.

    May the light of the risen Lord shine upon the whole world and in our region, and may we all be raised with Christ into life victorious. Alleluia, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed.


    Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
    Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarchate
    Patriarch Norhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate
    Very Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land
    Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
    Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
    Aba Fissiha Tsion, Locum Tenens of the Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
    Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate
    Archbishop Moussa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate
    Bishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
    Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
    Bishop Pierre Melki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
    Msgr. Joseph Antoine Kelekian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate

    Taken from Independent Catholic News website

    President Obama to visit Israel and Palestine next month- take action to help shape his itinerary

    Posted on February 19, 2013 by karin

    Ask President Obama to meet with religious leaders when he visits the Middle East next month; call for a halt to settlement activity; ask his delegation to visit Augusta Victoria Hospital

    President Obama is scheduled to visit Israel, Palestine and Jordan next month, his first such visit as president. The president has often sought out the views of U.S. religious leaders through his White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and other meetings. It will be important for the President to hear the voices of faith leaders during his visit to the region as well. The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land consists of leaders of the three Abrahamic faiths, including Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and President of The Lutheran World Federation.

    As you may be aware, the Council’s long-awaited study of the “Portrayal of the Other” in Palestinian and Israeli school books was recently released and generated much discussion, some of it critical. However, the Council’s researchers utilized identical, standardized scientific methods for this work. Now, as much as ever, the Council needs support from us and U.S. leaders for this effort as well as its overall mission to advance the sacred values of each faith, “to prevent religion from being used as a source of conflict, and to promote mutual respect, a just and comprehensive peace and reconciliation between people of all faiths in the Holy Land and worldwide.”

    Please contact the White House and ask President Obama to meet with the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land during his visit.

    As noted in a report issued late last year by the United Nations (U.N.) on the humanitarian impact of the Israeli settlement policy on Palestinians, since 1967, Israel has established about 150 settlements (residential and others) in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; in addition to some 100 “outposts” erected by settlers without official authorization. Three new settlements were approved in 2012 by retroactively ‘authorizing’ such outposts. More than 500,000 people live in these settlements, which are against international law. Additionally, in 2012, one Palestinian was killed and approximately 1,300 injured by Israeli settlers or security forces in incidents directly or indirectly related to settlements, including demonstrations.

    Furthermore, a recent U.N. report states that: “The establishment of the settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem is a mesh of construction and infrastructure leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The settlements have been established and developed at the expense of violating international human rights laws and international humanitarian law, as applicable in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory] as notably recognized by the 2004 ICJ [International Court of Justice] Advisory Opinion.”

    Repeated warnings by U.S. officials to stop the growth of settlements have fallen on deaf ears, as settlement expansion has advanced at an accelerated rate and could render a viable two-state solution virtually impossible.

    Please contact the White House and ask President Obama to urge him to demand, during his visit, a halt to all settlement activity.

    The Lutheran World Federation has operated the Augusta Victoria Hospital for the benefit of Palestinian refugees since 1950. The ELCA and other churches around the world have been strong supporters of this effort to meet human need and be a sign of hope over the years. In addition, the U.S. government has supported the hospital’s work, particularly in the field of oncology through significant grants for crucial equipment. In March 2010, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice-president, visited the hospital during her husband’s visit to Jerusalem.

    Please contact the White House and ask President Obama to have one or more members of his delegation visit the Augusta Victoria Hospital.

    Click here to write to President Obama now

    Click here to share your concerns for the President’s upcoming trip with Secretary of State John Kerry

    Click here to share those concerns with your members of Congress

    New Report by OCHA on Conditions for Palestinians in Jerusalem

    Posted on January 3, 2013 by Julie Brenton Rowe

    A UN report by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was released in December that focuses on key humanitarian issues in Jerusalem, including:

    - Around 293,000 Palestinians currently reside in East Jerusalem, in addition to 200,000 Israeli settlers who reside in the settlements which have been constructed and expanded since 1967, contrary to international law (end of 2011, ICBS).

    Approximately 4 million Palestinians from the remainder of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) are prohibited from entering East Jerusalem without Israeli-issued permits, which are difficult to obtain.

    – Access to East Jerusalem is controlled by a combination of physical and administrative obstacles. Palestinians who are able to obtain permits can only use four of the 16 checkpoints along the Barrier.

    Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem lack a secure legal residency status. Between 1967 and mid-2010, around 14,000 Palestinians had their Jerusalem residency revoked by the Israeli authorities.

    Approximately 55,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are physically separated from the urban centre by the Barrier; they must cross crowded checkpoints to access health, education and other services to which they are entitled as residents of Jerusalem.

    - 35% of land in East Jerusalem has been confiscated for Israeli settlement use; only 13% of East Jerusalem is zoned for Palestinian construction, much of which is already built-up.

    - At least 33% of all Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem lack Israeli-issued building permits, which are difficult to obtain, potentially placing at least 93,100 residents at risk of displacement, which has a psychological impact. Since 1967, the Israeli authorities have demolished some 2,000 houses in East Jerusalem.

    – There is a chronic shortage of classrooms in East Jerusalem: 1,100 additional classrooms are required to accommodate Palestinian children and many existing facilities are substandard or unsuitable.

    Bishop Younan’s Video Christmas Greeting

    Posted on December 20, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe

    ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan, President of the Lutheran World Federation, gives a Christmas video greeting from Jerusalem:

    Don’t forget the simulcast Christmas service between Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and the National Cathedral in Washington, to be broadcast at 10 am EST here.

    Givat Hamatos: newest Israeli settlement in southeast Jerusalem slated for final approval

    Posted on December 3, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe
    Typical Israeli settlements, one above and one below a Palestinian village.

    Illegal Israeli settlements are scattered throughout the West Bank, housing more than 500,000 Jewish settlers. Often, land will be taken from Palestinian villages like the one shown in mid-photo for settlements like the one in the foreground and the one on the hill.

    The Jerusalem Municipality is expected to give final approval for a new settlement called Givat Hamatos near Bethlehem and Beit Safafa. It will be the first completely detached settlement built within the Green Line since Har Homa near Bethlehem. Givat Hamatos A, one of four stages, will have 2,610 housing units. The approximately 4,000 units in the full plan include around 800 units for Palestinian homes built inside Beit Safafa.

    According to an article in the Jerusalem Post, it was slated for approval by the Jerusalem Municipality two weeks ago but then tabled when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came to town to mediate the Gaza conflict. Approval is now expected in a few weeks.

    This comes at a sensitive time when Israel has just announced plans for 3,000 new settlement units in the eastern part of Jerusalem, including going ahead with previously frozen plans to develop the controversial E1 territory. If developed, E1 would virtually cut the West Bank in two and, some say, make a two-state solution impossible.

    But veteran Jerusalem activist Danny Seidemann said that Israel’s plans for 7,770 new settlement units around Bethlehem (in Gilo, Har Homa and Givat Hamatos) in the southeast of Jerusalem would be “just as devastating” as E1 because it would cut off Jerusalem from Bethlehem.  Listen to his interview with NPR’s Morning Edition.  Seidemann states:

    Under [the] Geneva [Accord], a two-state solution is still possible, where Beit Safafa will be Palestinian, but if Givat Hamatos were to be built it would no longer be possible. In the absence of geographical connection, there will be no political connection, and the loss of a two-state solution jeopardizes Israel’s existence.

    Jerusalem City Councilor Elisha Peleg (Likud), who is on the Local Planning and Building Committee, said:

    I don’t think any European country or the US would like it if we got involved with their internal matters. They don’t have a right to do this. These places are in full Israeli sovereignty. We have to be strong and to continue to build in Jerusalem as much as possible, in order to create facts on the ground that we’re not giving up on Jerusalem.

    Israel has stated that settlements are designed to achieve its long-term security  and to provide needed affordable housing for its natural growth.

    Former President Jimmy Carter leads “The Elders” to Jerusalem

    Posted on October 28, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe

    A delegation from the group “The Elders” visited Palestine recently to see and hear about the situation on the ground and see the work of the Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem.  The Elders is an independent group of respected leaders who work together for peace and human rights. Founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007 and chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Elders work to find solutions to some of the world’s most challenging political issues.

    Members from the group visited with LWF President Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL and a roundtable of others he had assembled to hear more about faith and life under occupation.  Read more about this visit.

    President Jimmy Carter led the group to the LWF Jerusalem campus.  Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and Gro Harlem Brundland, former Prime Minister of Norway and former Director-General of the World Health Organization, were a part of the group.

    Members of The Elders speak with Dr. Tawfiq Nasser on a tour of the Lutheran World Federation's campus in Jerusalem

    Members of The Elders, led by former President Jimmy Carter, visit Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem. Photo by Anna Johnson.


    Dr. Tawfiq Nasser, CEO of Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH), and Rev. Mark Brown, the Regional Representative of the Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem and the Middle East, received the guests and spoke about the work of the Lutheran World Federation in areas of education and health, as well as the issues of access to healthcare facing Palestinians.  Dr. Nasser and Rev. Brown emphasized the role of Augusta Victoria Hospital as a specialty care facility providing treatment for Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. In some cases, such as specialized cancer treatment and juvenile dialysis, AVH is the only place in the West Bank where such care is provided.

    The delegation visited the $4.9 million medical linear accelerator provided by USAID and housed in a radiation-safe facility built with support from the Norwegian Government, as well as the hospital’s Specialized Center for Child Care, where they met young Palestinian children receiving dialysis or cancer treatment at AVH.

    In a statement on The Elders website about their visit, Prime Minister Brundtland stated:

    “As a medical doctor, I was particularly affected by our visit to Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, a Palestinian model of excellence for the entire region which faces enormous difficulties in treating those people nearest to it from the West Bank – never mind Palestinians from Gaza – due to Israeli travel restrictions. It tragically illustrates the direct human impact of the present deadlock.”

    – From the LWF Jerusalem story – Read full LWF story


    LWF delegation visits Jerusalem programs fortifying Palestinian health care and job training

    Posted on October 1, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe

    Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem is the only facility available in the West Bank for pediatric dialysis and state-of-the-art radiation oncology treatment.

    At Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) in Jerusalem, they are used to hearing appreciation from grateful parents and patients.  AVH is the only place in the West Bank that offers some services, such as pediatric kidney dialysis and state-of-the-art radiation oncology treatment.   They also enable  patients and staff coming from the West Bank to get there more easily through a unique bussing program that gets through the numerous and time-consuming checkpoints more efficiently.  

    The Lutheran World Federation’s (LWF) delegation, which included President Bishop Dr. Munib Younan, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, and General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, recently visited the LWF’s hospital and their Vocational Training programs in Jerusalem.  

    Junge said “the Augusta Victoria Hospital is owned by the whole LWF communion. That means 143 member churches in 79 countries all over the world, representing more than 70 million Christians. The work of the hospital staff is a beacon of hope and what it represents for the entire communion cannot be overestimated,” he said.

    Students work at one of the Vocational Training programs of the LWF near Jerusalem.

    The unemployment rate among Palestinian young people aged 18 to 24 is almost 40 percent. Despite these disappointing figures, recent surveys by the LWF’s vocational training program show that 75 to 80 percent of those graduating from the LWF-run centers are employed in areas related to their training.

    Junge noted that the vocational training program serves as a witness of the crucial role of churches as part of civil society. He encouraged governmental agencies to recognize the importance of education as a means of empowering young people as full citizens who help to build society.  Read more about the LWF Delegation visit   |   Visit the LWF’s Jerusalem program website

    Homefront – video vignettes of Palestinian displacement in Sheikh Jarrah

    Posted on June 27, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe


    JustVision has compiled 4 eight minute vignettes of those involved in the home evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem.  There has been a recent concerted effort to evict Palestinians from their homes to make room for the expansion of the Israeli settlement presence there, despite homeowners having paperwork proving their ownership.   “Homefront” is ideal for adult education sessions to highlight the slow and steady displacement of Palestinians for the purpose of expanding the Israeli settler presence in the Holy Land, especially Jerusalem.  Read more about Homefront and other Just Vision resources.