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A Winding Journey With Many Stops The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes "sight-seeing." ~Daniel J. Boorstin

Holy Land Presentation Notes from Speakers

PALESTINE | Friday, 18 May 2007 | Views [820]

Musalaha (Dr. Salim)

- "Musalaha" in arabic means reconciliation

This is an organization that began in 1990 and is completely directed toward the Ministry of Reconciliation between Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews. Dr. Salim is one of the founders of the organization and he is an Israeli-Palestinian (a Palestinian that lives in Israel and has an Israeli passport) who is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and a dean at Bethlehem Bible College.

The goal of Musalaha is to bridge the gap between the people of this troubled land and to do so in a peaceful manner, by building relationships. He believes that through reconciliation

" The hope the Jewish people are seeking and the justice the Palestinians need, can both be reached."

"Relationships are necessary to promote reconciliation because they address the obstacles. The obstacles in this conflict are numerous and include but are not limited to: the complexity of the conflict, involvement of external powers, the imbalance of power between Israel and Palestine, all of these things HAVE to be dealt with."

Dr. Salim presented a stage program that he believes the reconciliation program goes through.

Stage 1: "the Hallelujah Stage" people are curious enough about the other that they agree to met for peaceful dialouge.

Stage 2: "The greivances stage" both sides take turns airing all the grievances that they feel toward eachother in a way that does not personally attack anyone involved (if at all possible)

Stage 3: 'the Committed Stage" those that remain through to this stage have proven that they are committed to the reconciliation process and are ready to further their understanding of the other.

Some obstacles that people run into here when trying to reconcile these two groups of people are immense. A major one is the fact that by the age of 5 most children, on both sides, have a clear idea of who the 'enemy' is. In order for there to be a reconciliation effort on a state level, this culture of hatred will need to be remedied.

He (Dr. Salim) also pointed out that how we understand God is often a direct cause of how we hold our attitudes toward others. The only option for us, as Christians, is to embrace the enemy.

Along with recongnizing the Christian response, one must also remember the location in which we are in. In the Middle Eastern world, religion is a primary identity factor. All of the religions present in this area have been guilty of using demonization and dehumanization to justify actions, killings and abuse of others in the name of God.

This conflict is an identity conflict and because it is, it is the hardest to solve. Conflicts that are formed in identity, formed in denial of an identity or formed in the denial of the right to identity for a group of people will never be without victimization on all sides of the conflict. This 'not my fault' mentality of the 'others' is something that is a real problem. It is the indifference toward the suffering of others that allows a justification for pain inflicted.

Dr. Salim also gave a very direct answer when asked, What can we, as Americans, do to help?

his answer was You are part of the problem. You have great power in America, you have more power then we do over here, and yet you do not use it. You elect officials who support Israel's actions, who fund their terrorism. You are part of a superpower and if you do not use your power to advocate on behalf of the people who suffer then you are participating in causing the suffering.

This was a really powerful moment for me. It is blunt and to the point. We are all part of the problem. It has been too long that Israel has been allowed to be in complete violation of about 15 International Laws. Why do we, the self-proclaimed police of the world, let them get away with this slow ethnic cleansing that they are pushing onto the Palestinian people? Why have we not held ourselves accountable and our leaders accountable for what we are spending millions upon millions of American dollars on?

I think we need to ask ourselves these questions, even though learning the answers might be painful.

* * * * * * *

Churches and Christianity in the Middle East Fr. Michael, Tantur Ecumenical Institute

Here is a breakdown of Christians in the Middle East.

In Israel:

The official religion of the state of Israel is Jewish. However in the 7.1 million people in the Israel population, 80% are Jewish (about 15% of that 80 are orthodox, or practicing Jews) 18% are Muslim (Sunni) and 2% are Christian (primarily Catholic or Greek Orthodox)

In the West Bank:

There are 3.5 million people living in the West Bank, less then 2% are Christian and the rest are Sunni Muslim.

In Bethlehem:

The population of Bethlehem is constantly changing but it is estimated that it is the location of 85% of the West Bank's Christians with the division being 70% Muslim and 30% Christian.

Christians have been consistantly leaving the Middle East for the last 100 years.

2 reasons that Palestinian Christians have been decreasing:

1. Family Size, the birth rates of Christian families are often smaller then their Muslim counterparts

2. Emigration, many times Christians have other options and are able to leave in times of trouble. So Palestinian Christians are leaving and Jewish immigrants are (illegally) settling in the West Bank

There are no Christians in the refugee camps here in Palestine because of the options that many of the Christians have versus the Muslims.

The Churches of the Middle East:

Oriental Orthodox (Armenian, Coptics, Syrrians, Ethiopian etc...)

Eastern Orthodox (The Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic Church)

Western Church (Roman Catholic affiliated)

The Evangelicals/Protestants (primarily Lutheran and Anglican)

notes:

-- Christians kill more Christians then Muslims and Jews do. Combined.

-- Christians have a shameful history of saying one thing and doing another. There has never been a Christian nation that has had forgiveness as a policy of state.

-- The new fundamentalist right wing of US politics have managed to influence many in the media by using religion.

"gather against Islam" "Muslims are driving the Christians out of the Holy Land" and other "crusader" language.

There is no future in the West Bank if situations continue as they are.

* * * * * * *

Wi'iam Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center Zoughbi Zoughbi, director

Merges traditional Western Mediation techniques with traditional Arabic reconciliation technique "Sulha".

Calls upon us to be: Be the voice of the people, the voice that will take all our experiences home and share them.

"The land belongs to all of us and we belong to the land."

" We believe in multi-level diplomacy; grassroots, community, social, systemic and international levels as we can."

"We seek to portray an image of hope and unity, of community building and not necessarily nation and state building."

They also do excellent work with women and youth. Women in this society are often the victims of much conflict because of 3 main reasons:

1. Patriarchal Society that oftentimes does not recognize a woman's postion of importance

2. They become vicitms of the projection of displaced anger of the men in their lives because of the current situation.

3. They struggle because of the wall, the occupation of Palestine and the unemployment and economic hardships that it has brought to their lives.

Youth work is also very difficult because how can you give a young person hope when the options for them are so severely limited. A Palestinian youth cannot even leave his or her town many times because any travel is regulated by the Israeli government and they would have to apply for permission to travel, even the 5 mile trip from Bethlehem to Jerusalem is often impossible because of the amount of paperwork and harassment the Palestinians have to go through to get past the checkpoint.

Zoughbi is married to an American woman and they have a 13 year old son. His son is an American citizen with an United States passport. But because he has a Palestinian parent it is enough to deny him entry and exit through Israeli checkpoints.

Goals for Youth:

1. Give them a heightened sense of character, hold them accountable for their lives.

2. Build global citizenship, let them know that they have brothers/sisters around the world

3. Not to let them have a monopoly on victimization and suffering. Everyone has a story. Share stories through out the world, learn and share with others.

" Wall will not isolate us from the world."

The use of the internet has been moderately helpful in allowing the youth to make new contacts around the globe and to communicate with eachother but it is not really prevelant enough or reliable enough on the West Bank to have made a huge difference.

The Center stresses that there needs to be a way out of the ghettos that the Palestinians are now confined to. They use the example of South Africa and collective responsibility to illustrate their point.

Process of SULHAH

- reserve judgement in diplomatic manner, hear both sides and guide people to create their own solution.

- recognizing a mistake has been made is the beginning of the solution and signifies that remorse and reparations and recognition of a problem have begun.

- delegations go out to have a table discussion, this allows for shadow-diplomacy and saving face to occur. Coffee is served and the drinking of the coffee when it is first hot and served is a must, otherwise it is an insult.

- this method of reconciliation is based on restorative justice rather then punitive justice

- mending fences and bridging the gap is the ulitmate goal.

- "Sometimes it is the ability of the mediator to empower the weak and bring the strong to their senses instead of their knees."

Their ultimate goal is to BE A SPONGE FOR OTHERS. They listen to others by heart and absorb everything they can, keeping in mind that it is necessary to both have a sponge as well as be a sponge.

* * * * * * *

Islamic Faith in the 21st Century , Dr. Abdul Abad

What is the meaning of Islam?

In arabic, Islam is translated as Peace or religion of peace

A common greeting is: Assalam Aleikum (Peace be upon you), reply: alekium salaam (And to you, may God's peace govern us)

What is the difference between a Muslim and a believer?

A Muslim is someone who does not hurt others by hand or by tongue.

A Believer is a rank higher than a Muslim and wants everyone to be like him, everyone is a brother to a believer.

The 5 pillars of Islam:

I. Be A Witness: One God, prophet is Mohammed.

II. Prayer 5x a day: (dawn, noon, afternoon, evening, night) facing towards Mecca when praying with 17 prostrations a day.

III. Alms Giving: give of your wealth to the poor, tithe $25/every $1000 once a year.

IV. Fasting: During the holy month of Ramaddan abstain from food/drink until sunset

V. Pilgramage: Go to Mecca and the other holy cities of Islam once in your life provided you are wealthy and healthy.

In Islam, everyone is in need of the 'other'. All of God's creation is dependent on differences. Every person is an individual and in Islam, respect of differences is recongnized.

In Islam, the words of Moses, the Prophets and Jesus are incorporated.

It is important in Islam, as well as Christianity, to separate the text from man. The Koran teaches peace, but not all who read the Koran and claim to be a Muslim are peaceful. The same is true in Christianity. Do not judge a religion by the fanatics that are present, they are present in every religion known to man.

"I am against aggressors, regardless of religion."

* * * * * * *

There are still presentations left that we have already had, the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICHAD), MCC Peace workers, BADIL Center for Palestinian Refugee Rights, and Ammal from the Nassar family but they are really long so I am going to wait to put those up for next time.

We are leaving Bethlehem tomorrow and going to spend another night in Jerusalem before we head to Nazareth and Galilee. I am not entirely sure what the internet capability will be there, so I will update when I can.

Tags: holy land, musalaha, notes from speakers, palestine, tantur ecumenical institute, wiam conflict resolution centre

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