Skip to content
ELCA Blogs

Peace Not Walls

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.

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.

 

ELCA opposes designation of Palestinian HR groups as terrorist organizations

 

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America joins 14 other Churches and church-based organizations in a letter to Secretary of State Blinken to express concerns about the recent Israeli decision to label key Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations as “terrorist organizations.”

“As Churches and church-based organizations we unequivocally reject this move and call on you to both
demand its immediate reversal and to insist on protection for Palestinian civil society and human rights
defenders.”

Read the full letter here.

Advocacy Summer School

 

Through advocacy, the ELCA community can create lasting, systemic change. If you want to get involved in faith-based advocacy, but aren’t sure where to begin, sign up for Advocacy Summer School. The five-part online series is being offered by ELCA advocacy, in collaboration with ELCA Peace Not Walls.

The first session will take place on August 11. It will paint a picture of what advocacy is and how advocacy is shaped with a faith foundation, especially as members and affiliates of the ELCA. Future sessions will cover ways to carry out advocacy work and specific policy issues where the Lutheran community can make an impact.

Sign up for one session or all five to learn about how we can lift our voices together to advance the common good. Each virtual session will include a 30-minute virtual presentation followed by an optional question & answer session for 15 minutes.

**NOTE** you have to register for each session to receive a unique zoom link for each session.

SESSION 1: Wed. Aug. 11 at 2 p.m. EDT

Wondering about how advocacy fits into our Christian and Lutheran presence in policy discussions? Session 1 of Advocacy Summer School will paint a picture of what advocacy is and how advocacy is shaped with a faith foundation, especially as members and affiliates of the ELCA. With discussions, examples, and ways to connect, register for “What is faith-based advocacy?” today!

Register here for SESSION 1: https://bit.ly/1B-ELCAAdvocacySummerSchool

 

SESSION 2: Wed. Aug. 18 at 2 p.m. EDT

If you want to be part of moving the needle on a policy matter, Session 2 of Advocacy Summer School can demystify and encourage your participation in the process. Knowledge from ELCA advocacy and Capitol Hill staff as well as state and personal experiences will help you understand this access point with policy decision makers. Register for “How do I approach policy makers?” soon!

Register here for SESSION 2: https://bit.ly/2B-ELCAAdvocacySummerSchool

 

SESSION 3: Wed. Aug. 25 at 2 p.m. EDT

Gaining attention for your advocacy aims can amplify your efforts. Tips for using op eds, letters to the editor, event attention and social media are among topics highlighted during “How Do I Use Media for Impact?”, Session 3 of Advocacy Summer School.

Register here for SESSION 3: https://bit.ly/3B-ELCAAdvocacySummerSchool

 

SESSION 4: Wed. Sept. 1 at 2 p.m. EDT

Hear from ELCA Peace Not Walls network members, partners and staff for a faith-centric update on what is happening in the region and with Lutheran affiliated ministry. This issue-specific Session 4 of the ELCA Advocacy Summer School series will help update your appreciation of current issues as we walk alongside our siblings in the Holy Land.

Register here for SESSION 4: https://bit.ly/4B-ELCAAdvocacySummerSchool

 

SESSION 5: Wed. Sept. 8 at 2 p.m. EDT

The human journey of children of God lurches many of us on a passage as immigrants. Hear about root causes and experience of individuals and ministries, including the ELCA AMMPARO strategy – an acronym that mirrors the word “amparo” in Spanish that means the protection of a living creature from suffering or damage – and ways policy intersects with immigration pressures. This issue-specific Session 5 of the ELCA Advocacy Summer School series will highlight current realities.

Register here for SESSION 5: https://bit.ly/5B-ELCAAdvocacySummerSchool

ALAMEH statement on recent violence in Jerusalem and Gaza

The Association of Lutherans of Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage (ALAMEH) issued a statement today regarding the situation in Palestine and Israel.

ALAMEH encourages us to learn more about the situation: “If you want to help, the first step is to become informed. Seek out Middle Eastern members of your community who have a direct connection to the Holy Land. Engage your heart and mind, and take the time to read and understand beyond the headlines. Then contact your elected
representatives and make your voice heard.”

Read the full statement here: Statement of ALAMEH concerning the recent violence in Jerusalem and Gaza

COVID-19: “Tree of Life” initiative launched by Palestinian bishop

Prompted to remember those who have died of the virus, Bishop Azar launched a memorial to plant an olive or native tree for every person lost to COVID-19. The Tree of Life initiative was announced in December and launched in late March. The initiative is managed the Environmental Education Center, an educational ministry of the ELCJHL.

Read the full Lutheran World Federation story here.

2021 Easter Message from ELCJHL Bishop Azar

As we approach Holy Week, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land’s Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar shares his Easter message based on Mark 16:3 “Who will roll the stone away for us?”.

Read the full Easter message here.

Take Action: Restore funding to UNRWA and bilateral assistance to Gaza and the West Bank

Urge the Biden administration to restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and bilateral assistance to Gaza and the West Bank. Send a message to the White House today. (See sample letter below)

On Jan. 20, Joseph R. Biden Jr. was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States. The day marked the end of four unconstructive years of U.S. foreign policy under Donald Trump with regard to Israel and Palestine. President Biden now has the opportunity to round a corner in U.S. policy and support a just peace for the people of the region.

Trump’s policies supported the further entrenchment of Israel’s occupation, for example by backing the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied territories, cutting all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)—the U.N. agency that supports 5.7 million Palestinian refugees across Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan—and ending assistance to other U.N. and humanitarian actors operating in the West Bank and Gaza. This assistance had been used to fund education, health care (such as through the East Jerusalem Hospitals Network, of which Augusta Victoria Hospital is a member), and other basic essential services for Palestinians.

President Biden needs to take decisive action to change the course of U.S. policy in Israel and Palestine, and to renew efforts to relieve the humanitarian crisis there. UNRWA, one of the largest health care providers in Gaza, said in November that the agency was facing its “worst financial crisis ever” and would be unable to pay full staff salaries without additional donor funding. COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly in the occupied territories because Palestinian health infrastructure is weak and maintaining hygiene and social distancing requirements is difficult. This makes humanitarian assistance critical.

President Biden’s campaign platform stated that he would “restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, consistent with U.S. law, including assistance to refugees.” His administration needs to make good on this promise by authorizing the resumption of funding to support UNRWA and by working with Congress to restore funding at least to the previous level of $225 million for bilateral humanitarian and development programs in the West Bank and Gaza.

Furthermore, President Biden must hold Israel accountable to its international obligations as an occupying power and strongly urge Israel to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are equally and fairly provided to Palestinians living under its occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. So far, Israel’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan covers only citizens of Israel, excluding the nearly 5 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip under Israeli military occupation. As noted in a joint statement signed by the Middle East Council of Churches, Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention specifically provides that an occupier has the duty of ensuring “the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.” This duty includes providing support for the purchase and distribution of vaccines to the Palestinian population under its control.

Take Action Today: Urge President Biden to restore funding to UNRWA and bilateral assistance to Gaza and the West Bank, and ask him to strongly appeal that Israel provide COVID-19 vaccines to all residents living under its control.

This week, as the White House transitions, you can reach President Biden by email — copy and paste the sample letter below into the White House “Contact Us” form.

Dear President Biden,

Congratulations on your inauguration as the 46th President of the United States. I hope that your administration will round a corner in U.S. foreign policy with regard to Israel and Palestine.

It is critical that your administration pursue a different course than the past four years of the Trump administration and restore funding to UNRWA and humanitarian relief agencies in the West Bank and Gaza. This funding is essential and even more urgent as COVID-19 continues to spread, with Palestinian health services unequipped to manage the outbreak. The Lutheran World Federation’s Augusta Victoria Hospital (which Dr. Jill Biden visited on March 10, 2010) and others in the East Jerusalem Hospitals Network need this vital assistance from the United States.

In order to stop the spread of COVID-19, it is also vital that Israel be held accountable to its international obligations as an occupying power, ensuring that COVID-19 vaccines are equally and fairly provided to Palestinians living under its occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. So far, Israel’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan covers only citizens of Israel, excluding the nearly 5 million Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention specifically provides that an occupier has the duty of ensuring “the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.” This duty includes providing support for the purchase and distribution of vaccines to the Palestinian population under its control.

I therefore ask you to: authorize the resumption of funding to support UNRWA; work with Congress to restore funding at least to the previous level of $225 million for bilateral humanitarian and development programs in the West Bank and Gaza; and strongly urge that Israel provide COVID-19 vaccines to all residents living under its control.

Thank you,

ELCA joins letter to President Elect Biden on Israel and Palestine

On December 11, 2020 the ELCA joined 16 Christian denominations and organizations in calling for the incoming Biden administration to change the course of U.S. policy and undertake renewed efforts to bring peace to the Holy Land. The letter requests that the administration take six concrete steps to “build towards a future where human rights violations are ended and there is equality between Palestinians and Israelis.”

Read about hose six steps in the complete December 2020 Biden Transition Letter here.

ELCA joins letter to Administration on COVID-19 and the Middle East

On March 25, 2020 the ELCA joined other churches and church organizations in a letter to the Trump Administration about COVID-19 and the Middle East.

Generally the letter says, “We urge you to lift sanctions that negatively impact civilian populations and other restrictions that impair governments’ abilities to respond to the health crisis. This includes financial sanctions that impact the ability of countries to import much-needed medical supplies and equipment.” The letter lifts up specifics about Iran, Syria, and Gaza.

On Gaza, the letter states: “The U.S. should end its support for the blockade of Gaza and immediately press Israel to ensure that medical supplies and technology are provided to Gaza, that patients needing treatment outside of Gaza are given the permits necessary for extended periods of treatment, and that family members, especially parents accompanying children, are also granted permits to travel.”

Here is the full Letter to Administration on COVID-19 and the Middle East