Skip to content
ELCA Blogs

Peace Not Walls

Special Action Alert: Support U.S. Funding of Augusta Victoria Hospital

Support U.S. Funding of Augusta Victoria Hospital! Take action today.

Background

President Joe Biden visited Augusta Victoria Hospital on July 15 as part of a two-day presidential visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Biden’s visit to the hospital was the first visit of a sitting U.S. president to East Jerusalem. The president announced a $100 million multiyear commitment toward the East Jerusalem Hospital Network (EJHN), of which AVH is a member.

Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) is the first and only hospital to provide radiation therapy for cancer patients in the Palestinian territories and the only medical facility in the West Bank offering pediatric kidney dialysis. AVH faces ongoing cash flow problems as a result of the inability of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to pay on a regular basis the fees for cancer patients it refers to the hospital.

The hospital has received vital support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in recent years (nearly $57.42 million in cancer-related machines, lab equipment and training) that has raised the level of cancer treatment available through AVH for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

In his address, the president emphasized that the United States will continue to work with Palestinian leaders, the Israeli government and international partners to ensure that the EJHN remains “sustainable, available, and is able to provide the high-quality care” that Palestinians deserve. He later announced in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, that several Arab Gulf states would provide another $100 million to the EJHN.

“Palestinians and Israelis,” he noted, “deserve equal measure of freedom, security, prosperity and dignity. And access to health care when you need it is essential to living a life of dignity for all of us.”

Upon the occasion of the president’s visit, Bishop Ibrahim Azar of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land shared a letter with Biden about the wider context and effects of the occupation, highlighting the plight of Palestinian Christians.

In her thank you letter to the president for his visit, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton said that, as a Christian theologian, she agreed with his comment that “hope springs eternal.” She said that many “found our hope for peace with justice in the Holy Land bolstered by your visit last week in support of the East Jerusalem Hospital Network. It confirmed that we must recommit ourselves to recognizing the inherent dignity of each person, as God does, and to standing with and caring for the well-being of one another — as your father said, ‘no matter what their circumstance.’”

Many members of Congress visit Palestine and Israel in August — encourage your members of Congress to visit AVH to see firsthand the important work being done and the hospital’s partnership with the U.S. government through USAID.

Contact your member of Congress to support Augusta Victoria Hospital today.

President Biden visits Augusta Victoria Hospital

The United States President Joe Biden visited the LWF-operated Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) on the morning of Friday July 15. The visit was part of a two-day presidential visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Biden’s visit to the hospital is the first visit of a sitting US president to East Jerusalem. The US President announced a USD 100 million multi-year commitment toward the East Jerusalem Hospital Network (EJHN), of which AVH is a member.

The six chief executive officers of the EJHN members were invited as well as ELCJHL Bishop Ibrahim Azar.  Several AVH medical staff and the LWF Representative, Sieglinde Weinbrenner, attended.

The President in his address emphasized the United States will continue to work with Palestinian leaders, the Israeli government and international partners to ensure that the EJHN remains “sustainable, available, and is able to provide the high-quality care” that Palestinians deserve.

Palestinians and Israelis, he noted, “deserve equal measure of freedom, security, prosperity and dignity, and access to health care when you need it, is essential to living a life of dignity for all of us.”

White House Transcript of President’s remarks

LWI story about the visit

Recorded video of the visited to AVH

Upon the occasion of the visit of President Biden to Palestine and Israel, ELCJHL Bishop Ibrahim Azar, shared a letter with the president about the wider context and effects of the occupation, highlighting the plight of Palestinian Christians.

ELCA Bishops Write to Congress about Augusta Victoria Hospital Funding

 

On May 18, ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton and 44 ELCA synod bishops wrote to Congress about their concerns related to the funding of Augusta Victoria Hospital. Read the full letter here: ELCA Bishops’ letter to Congress concerning US funding for Augusta Victoria Hospital.

In the letter they ask for the Members of Congress to “support the transfer of $120 million to USAID to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people in 2022. These allocations are needed to cover the PA’s debt to AVH and the other East Jerusalem hospitals.”

Ask your Members of Congress to restore funding for Augusta Victoria Hospital and the other East Jerusalem hospitals (This form will give you a sample letter you can personalize and send).

Many Members of Congress visit Palestine and Israel in August — encourage your Members of Congress to visit Augusta Victoria Hospital to see first-hand the important work being done and the hospital’s partnership with the U.S. government through USAID. To schedule a visit to the hospital, contact LWF Representative Sieglinde Weinbrenner at sieglinde.weinbrenner@lutheranworld.org

 

Join Bishop Eaton in speaking out about Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing

May 19, 2022

Presiding Bishop Eaton wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to express her “profound shock and sadness concerning the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin, the West Bank, on May 11 and the deplorable disruption of her
funeral procession on May 13.”

Bishop Eaton calls for an independent international investigation of Akleh’s killing and says “the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America reiterates its call for the United States to monitor and track gross human rights violations committed by Israeli armed forces and police and to ensure that U.S. military and financial assistance provided to the government of Israel be used in accordance with internationally recognized human rights standards. Instead of issuing statements, the U.S. government must take specific, concrete actions against Israeli impunity when these standards are not upheld.”

Letter from Bishop Eaton to Secretary of State Blinken on the killing and funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh

Join Bishop Eaton in taking action by writing to Secretary of State Blinken here. (The action alert will give you sample language that you can edit and personalize).

ALAMEH, ELCJHL, and WCC respond to killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

Association of Lutherans of Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage (ALAMEH)

“The Association of Lutherans of Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage are calling on our church to be informed of the reality regarding war crimes against Palestinians. We cannot tolerate or stay silent regarding the crimes of the Israeli occupation. We are requesting that our church and US government hold the Israeli government accountable for this and other unjust violence committed against the Palestinian people. We are also asking that an independent international (not Israeli) investigation be implemented right away.”
Association of Lutherans of Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage statement on the death of Shireen Abu Akleh

 

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL)

“The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land expresses deep heartbreak and devastation at the murder of cherished Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh. Shireen’s voice proclaimed the truth about the occupation, persecution, and oppression of the Palestinian people that is so often suppressed by Western media and perceptions.
In the wake of her death, the reception of her mourning and funeral by Israeli occupation forces was cruel and unacceptable. A day of grieving that was meant to be a peaceful last goodbye from the Palestinian people to Shireen was stained with disgracing her body, attacking those in mourning, and an overall show of disrespect and brutality.”

Statement on the death and funeral of Shireen Abu Aqleh from the desk of Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar

 

World Council of Churches (WCC)

“The World Council of Churches calls for an independent international investigation of the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on 11 May, given the grave implications of this event,” said Sauca. “Those responsible for Abu Akleh’s death must be held accountable to the full extent of the law.”

“No fewer than 86 Palestinian journalists have been killed since 1967, the year in which Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza – with 50 of them having been killed since 2000,” said Sauca. “Ms Abu Akleh had reported on events in Palestine and Israel since 1997, and had earned respect among viewers worldwide.”

World Council of Churches statement on killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

 

Heads of Churches of Jerusalem speak out on Illegal Seizure of Little Petra Hotel

On April 4, 2022 the Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches in Jerusalem released this statement:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.” (Psalm 122:6–7)

The seizure of the Little Petra Hotel by the radical extremist group Ateret Cohanim is a threat to the continued existence of a Christian Quarter in Jerusalem, and ultimately to peaceful coexistence of the communities of this city. The Heads of Churches have repeatedly warned of the illegitimate actions of extremists, who have followed a pattern of intimidation and violence.

In occupying the Greek Orthodox Church’s property, the Little Petra Hotel, Ateret Cohanim has committed criminal acts of break-in and trespass. They act as if they are above the law, with no fear of consequences.

This issue is not about the individual properties, but about the whole character of Jerusalem, including the Christian Quarter. The Little Petra Hotel stands on the pilgrim route for the millions of Christians who visit Jerusalem each year. It represents Christian heritage, and speaks of our very existence in this place.

Israeli radical extremist groups like Ateret Cohanim are already targeting and hijacking our beloved Old City of Jerusalem and imposing their illegitimate and dangerous agenda on all sides. We refuse this and we say: this will lead to instability and tension at the time when all are trying to de-escalate and build trust, to build towards justice and peace. Acts of coercion and violence cannot lead to peace.

Statement by the Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches of Jerusalem on the Illegal Seizure of the Little Petra Hotel

An article about the situation, including a video of Heads of Churches (including ELCJHL Bishop Azar) visiting Little Petra Hotel can be found here.

Heads of churches in Holy Land voice objection to Mount of Olives being included in national park

 

After heads of churches in the Holy Land voiced their objections to a proposal to expand Jerusalem Walls National Park to include property owned by several churches in the city, Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority announced on February 21 that it was freezing the plan.

The text of the Feb 18 letter from Patriarchs about the Mount of Olives can be found here.

The Feb 23 World Council of Churches article about the situation can be found here.

 

Statement on the Current Threat to the Christian Presence in the Holy Land

 

On December 13, 2021 the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem issued a Statement on the Current Threat to the Christian Presence in the Holy Land.

 

Tell the President: Increased settlement activity undermines peace prospects

Take Action Today

While considerable attention was rightly being given last month to the Israeli government’s attacks on six prominent Palestinian human rights groups, Israel was also stepping up its plans to expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

On Oct. 24 the Israeli Housing Ministry published tenders for new construction of 1,418 homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and despite objections from the State Department, on Oct. 27 the Israeli Civil Administration also advanced plans for 3,130 settlement units in 25 settlements in the West Bank. Axios reported, “Senior Israeli officials admit that the U.S. position on settlements was tougher than they had expected, but note that the criticism is coming mainly from the State Department, with the White House not weighing in publicly for now.”

Also last month, pressure increased on Palestinians living in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Israeli settlers have sought to evict Palestinian residents. The Israeli Supreme Court issued a proposed agreement to settle the dispute by Nov. 2, but the Palestinian residents rejected the court’s proposal. In another development, Israeli authorities started holding hearings to advance the construction of the E-1 settlement, a long-pending project, which, if built, would disconnect East Jerusalem from the West Bank and create two dis-contiguous areas, splitting the northern section from the southern section of the West Bank.  Settler violence during the olive harvest season (now underway) goes on mostly unchecked by Israeli forces, evidence of state collusion that B’Tselem has described as “a major informal tool at the hands of the state to take over more and more West Bank land.” Documentation of this pattern is a further example that underscores the need for and importance of reliance on local human rights organizations for objective and accurate documentation and analysis.

Altogether these illegal, unilateral actions intensify pressure on Palestinians, their families, their homes and their lands under occupation, in contravention to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949), by “altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem” (United Nations Security Council resolution 2334 [2016]).

They also undermine further prospects for a negotiated final status agreement that respects the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.

TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION AND URGE PRESIDENT BIDEN TO SPEAK DIRECTLY TO THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT, STATING THAT THESE OR OTHER UNILATERAL STEPS ARE ILLEGAL UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW AND MAKE THE PROSPECTS FOR ACHIEVING A NEGOTIATED FINAL STATUS AGREEMENT MORE DIFFICULT.

Advent Pilgrimage in Palestine

 

Join us this Advent Season on the WAY to Bethlehem: Prepare, Journey, Arrive, Witness

Are you looking for an Advent resource for your home or church? The Advent Pilgrimage in Palestine is up and ready for you to use!

Advent Pilgrimage in Palestine: a four-week virtual pilgrimage from the ELCA’s Peace Not Walls and Young Adult Ministry teams featuring young adult voices from the ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. 

What is “the way to Bethlehem,” as Advent practice, and as Christian engagement in Palestine? What does it mean for us as Christians, and for the church, to be called to resist the injustice of “the way things are” in favor of following the disruptive and transformative way of the Lord? What does it mean for us to be “on the way”?

This resource is available to everyone, regardless of age. You can use this resource as an individual or as a leader for a group gathering during Advent.

You can register here for the Monday Nov 22 Opening Webinar and to receive the resources directly.

All of the resources are here: explore the tabs to find the elements you want to use.

You will find:

Videos: five 5-minute videos (an intro and then 1 video for each week of Advent focused on a specific word and Biblical text)

Bible Study: includes Biblical text, discussion questions, centering and closing prayers for each gathering

Leaders Guide: suggestions for how to structure the group meeting time

Contributors: bios of the video presenters

Leader Webinar recording

What’s next: Ways to learn more and connect with advocacy opportunities through Peace Not Walls