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Home arrow Blog arrow November 2009 arrow November 12, 2009

November 12, 2009
November 12, 2009: Two priests at the same place living in two different worlds  
Reflection on the Sabeel Fall Witness Trip
October 29 through November 6, 2009
 
By The Rev. Richard K. Toll, D.Min., D.D.
Chairman, FOSNA

November 11, 2009
 
Since 1983 I've been traveling to the occupied territories, taking groups from my parishes to stay at St. George's in East Jerusalem. I have participated in many Sabeel events, and have experience the first and second intifadas at close quarters.  Throughout this time I have assumed and hoped that for the sake of Israel and the Palestinians that a final peace solution would come into being.  I fought for support of a two-state solution at the national convention of the  Episcopal Church USA in 1991 and helped win the resolution even though there  was intense opposition by visitors from the Jewish Federation who informed us "You cannot tell Israel what to do". That statement was as true then as it is now.

 
After all these years it is obvious that Israel has no desire for a two-state solution as outlined by the terms of international law and based on 1967 borders and the sharing of Jerusalem.
 

The Sabeel witness visit this past month showed us new major expansion of settlements on the West Bank, more than I ever imagined since my most previous visit there in November 2008. Confiscations of land, destruction of villages, more by-pass roads and construction of the wall has shaken off the entire population of Palestinians.  And the wall also separates Palestinians in one neighborhood from Palestinians nearby. The wall is so very ugly in the Bethlehem area especially and is used to choke off any hope for the thousands of Palestinians who live there.
 

We observed families being evicted from their homes in the Sheik Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem
[READ MORE: August 8, 2009 ], and the machinery of ethnic cleansing continues.  Our trip was aptly entitled "The Ongoing Nakba." [ Read more...] 


Evictions and land confiscation are visible everywhere and moving at a fast pace.
 


I used to hope Israel would come to its senses because it is insane to think what they're doing will solve the problem in a peaceful way.  It's obvious they do not want a peaceful solution and have a military solution for everything. 

It is also insane that the U.S. government continues to support Israel in view of a continuing arrogance and contempt for international law and human rights. Most recently, our government's refusal to uphold the UN's Goldstone Report on Israel's devastating war on Gaza is a sign Washington's policy with regard to Israel's occupation is not changing, as we had hoped it would.
 

I was very saddened by what we witnessed on our trip, by the extremes of the Israeli right and the unconditional support of the American government. Our U.S. policy allows Israel's aggression to continue, making us as much at fault as Israel, since we have enabled that nation its belligerence without consequences.
 

For the sake of Israel, Palestine, the U.S. and the entire world, I hope very soon all parties will come to their senses.
 

As for Sabeel, we will continue our work in Hope for Justice and Peace in God's world.





"HOPE has two children. The first is ANGER at the way things are. The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it."-St. Augustine

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. ... Genius will not. ... Education will not. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."- Calvin Coolidge





Dear Reader:
This chapter is based on an actual email conversation I had with an Episcopal priest. He gave up talking to me after my third email to him and is now in Jerusalem working with the Holocaust Memorial.

Excerpted from KEEP HOPE ALIVE

Chapter 16: A CONFRONTATIONAL CONVERSATION


"Father Paul, you cannot possibly be telling me that an Episcopal priest has been taken in by fundamentalist theology?" Terese incredulously asked the new assistant to the rector at St. Joan of Arc Episcopal Church in Orlando, who also served at the noon mass every Wednesday.


Father Paul Hendricks was a passionate evangelist on a mission to convert every Jew he encountered to become a Christian. Terese had kept her silence for the first six months she had been listening to his Wednesday noon sermons, but finally broke her silence after the rest of the parishioners had departed.


Paul sighed and shook his head. "Look, Mrs. Hunter, I read your op/ed in the newspaper about Israel and Palestine, and we both agree we want peace; we just go about it differently."


"Father, let me say that the fastest growing cult in the U.S.A. is the cult of Christian Zionism. Approximately 25 million U.S. Christians believe as you do, and I am most depressed to see that the simple answers of fundamentalism have reached their tentacles into the thinking man’s church. You just preached for thirteen minutes on Genesis 12:3--‘I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse: and in you all the families of the world are blessed’--as if God meant blessings to be political power and military might. Father, surely you understand that the belief of the ancient Israelites, who held that they were chosen, as if they were somehow special from others, as if God esteemed them above others, is just basic primitive nationalism. Come on, Father, looking down on one’s enemies to foster one’s own tribal interest and praying to God to smite one’s enemies is what the ancients did. Isn’t it about time we moved beyond that limited thinking?"


Father Paul clenched his fists and held them behind his back, as he suppressed a simmering rage. He stood nine inches above Terese’s upturned head, and with a slick smile and condescending tone told her, "Mrs. Hunter, you are very misled. The text is understood to mean a blessing to Abraham’s lineage--"


Terese cut in. "Agreed! And Genesis 12:3 was promised even before Ishmael, the father of the Arab nation, and Isaac, the Jew, were born! And what about the very first mention of Israel? Jacob was renamed Israel for having wrestled and struggled with God. That is how I understand Israel; everyone who struggles and wrestles with God is Israel, too. Israel means more than a geographical location, Father Paul."


"Mrs. Hunter, the modern state of Israel is the fulfillment of the prophetic scriptures, and God’s covenant with Israel is eternal, exclusive, and will not be abrogated. I refer you to Genesis 12:1-7, 15:4-7, 17:1-8; Leviticus 26:44-45; and Deuteronomy 7:7:8."

 

"And Father, I refer you to Matthew 5:43-45, which does not only critique Genesis 12:3; it blows it apart, for Christ commanded, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despite-fully use you, that you maybe children of your Father."


The two had reached Paul’s SUV and he silently prayed he could make a swift escape, but Terese had positioned herself at the driver’s door, and if he were to open it swiftly, she could be easily moved aside. Father Paul entertained the thought for more than a moment, but remained mute and still, as the tiny woman exploded with a torrent of words.


"Look, blind allegiance to the Israeli government has allowed them to become a big bully, and isn’t God always on the side of the oppressed? My sense is that you Zionists see the political state of Israel as a replacement for Christ, at the center of the Christian faith, and that certainly is not Christianity!


"How do you take Genesis 12:3 to literally mean that blessings equal land and political power, yet ignore God’s promise in Genesis 21:17-20 to ‘make a great nation out of Ishmael’s descendants and that ‘God was with the boy.’ Yet your way of thinking allows the growing apartheid wall to continue, and supports occupation and oppression of people that God also made promises too.”


"Mrs. Hunter, why don’t you make an appointment and we can discuss this further? I really have to go."


"Okay, I can take a hint, but let me leave you with this: when religion and politics are in bed together, everybody gets screwed! The Israeli government is using you Zionists as apologists in support of their agenda of illegal occupation and settlements in the West bank, Golan, and Gaza, on literal biblical grounds taken out of context. Your blind allegiance to every act of Israel, understood as being orchestrated by God and which should therefore be condoned, supported, and even praised, makes me want to puke! And I wonder about the true motives of Christians who actually relish the idea of Armageddon and love to speculate on who gets ‘left behind.’ Christ was very clear that there will be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth by those who were so sure they were in, but get left out. God has always been on the side of the oppressed, and your uncritical endorsement and justification for Israel’s racist and apartheid policies are an abomination."


The stunned and silent priest watched in relief as Terese turned, flipped her braid, and walked away.



"If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever.  Use a pile driver.  Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again.  Then hit it a third time - a tremendous
whack...And never, never, never, never, ever, never give up." - Sir Winston Churchill

 



 
   
 
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"HOPE has two children.The first is ANGER at the way things are. The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it."-St. Augustine

 "He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust." - Aquinas

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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

" In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."-Mother Teresa


“You cannot talk like sane men around a peace table while the atomic bomb itself is ticking beneath it. Do not treat the atomic bomb as a weapon of offense; do not treat it as an instrument of the police. Treat the bomb for what it is: the visible insanity of a civilization that has ceased...to obey the laws of life.”- Lewis Mumford, 1946



The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright



“Any nation that year after year continues to raise the Defense budget while cutting social programs to the neediest is a nation approaching spiritual death.” - Rev. MLK
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