Sunday, January 10, 2016

"I Refuse to Serve in the IDF!"

This Sunday, [January 10, 2016] there is a call to stand in solidarity with a woman inducted into the IDF (Israeli Defense Force).

Here's the story: Tair Kaminer, a 19-year Israeli, got a call up order, requesting her to show up at the Israeli Army Induction Center ("Bakum") in Tel Hashomer, east of Tel Aviv, on 12pm, Sunday, January 10, 2016.

She does intend to show up at the stipulated time and place, but not in order to embark on the two years of obligatory military service required of girls under Israeli law. Instead, she will inform the recruiting officers of her refusal to become part of an army of occupation and oppression, whereupon, most likely, she will be sent to the military prison [From: Hanna Beit Halachmi , the publicist for Gush Shalom (Adam Keller and Uri Avnery).]

Here is her story:

Why I Refuse - Tair Kaminer's statement

My name is Tair Kaminer, I am 19. A few months ago a ended a year of volunteering with the Israeli Boy and Girl Scouts in the town of Sderot, on the Gaza Strip border. In a few days, I will be going to jail.

An entire year I volunteered in Sderot, working with children living in a war zone, and it was there that I decided to refuse to serve in the Israeli military. My refusal comes from my will to make a contribution to the society of which I am a part and make this a better place to live, from my commitment to the struggle for peace and equality.

The children I worked with grew up in the heart of the conflict, and went through traumatic experiences from a young age. In many of them, this has generated a terrible hatred - which is quite understandable, especially in young children. Like them, many of the children living in the Gaza Strip and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in an even more harsh reality, learn to hate the other side. They, too, cannot be blamed. When I look at all these children, at the next generation of both sides and the reality in which they live, I can but see the continuation of trauma and pain. And I say: Enough!

For years now there’s no political horizon, no peace process anywhere in sight. There’s no attempt of any kind to bring peace to Gaza or to Sderot. As long as the violent military way holds sway, we will simply have further generations growing up with a heritage of hate, which will only make things even worse. We must stop this - now!

This is why I am refusing: I will not take an active part in the occupation of the Palestinian Territories and in the injustice to the Palestinian people that is perpetrated again and again under this occupation. I will not take part in the cycle of hatred in Gaza and Sderot.

My draft date is/was set for January 10th, 2016. On that day I will report to the Tel Hashomer Induction Center, to declare my refusal to serve in the military, and my willingness to do an alternative civil service.

In conversation with some people I care about I’ve been accused of undermining democracy, though my refusal to abide by the laws which were enacted by an elected Parliament. But the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories live under the rule of the Government of Israel, though they had no voice whatsoever in electing that government. I believe that as long as Israel continues to be an occupying country, it will continue moving further and further away from from democracy.Therefore, my refusal is part of the struggle for democracy [and is] not an anti-democratic act.

I have been told that I am avoiding my responsibility for the security of Israel. But as a woman who regards all people as equal - and all their lives as equally important - I cannot accept the security argument as applying to Jews only . Especially now, as the wave or terror continues, when it becomes clear and evident that the military cannot ensure protection to the Jews, either. It is very simple - one cannot create an island of security in the midst of an oppressive occupation. True security can be created only when the Palestinian people live in freedom and dignity, in their own an independent state alongside Israel.

There were those who worried about my personal future in a country in which performing military service is held to be of supreme importance in the fabric of daily social intercourse. Caring for my future prospects, they suggested that I do serve in the army, regardless of my opinions - or at least that I don't make my refusal public. But through all the difficulties and worries, I chose to declare my refusal openly, for all to hear. This country, this society, are too important to me - I cannot and will not agree to keep silent. That was not the way I was brought up, to care only for myself and my private concerns. The life I had until now has been about giving and social responsibility, and such I want it to continue.

Even if I must pay a personal price for my refusal, this price will be worthwhile if it to helps place the occupation on the agenda of Israeli public discourse. Far too many Israelis don’t directly feel the occupation, and they tend to forget about it in their daily lives - lives that are eminently safe in comparison with those of Palestinians, or even of the Israelis who live in the Western Negev (Gaza border area)
.
We are told that there is no way other than the violent military way. But I believe that this is the most destructive way, and that there are others. I wish to remind all of us that there does exist an alternative: negotiations, peace, optimism, a true will to live in equality, safety and freedom. We are told that the military is not a political institution - but the decision to serve in the military is a highly political one, no less so than the decision to refuse.

We, the young people, must understand the full implications of such a choice. We need to understand its consequences for our society. After having deliberated these issues, I took the decision to refuse. I am not scared of the military prison - what truly frightens me is our society losing its humanity.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Forward into 2016

Dear Friend,

A new group of 40 Western Seminary students has left this weekend for I/P, under the direction of Marlin and Sally Vis and our (emerging) KWM Board President, Travis West, a professor of Hebrew at the Seminary.
Your/our Board will be gathering to chart our future on Monday, January 18. Pray we will have clarity, forward momentum and energy to persist in bringing about greater justice (with love) to the indigenous people of the land, the Arab Palestinians.
For years, I have been reading the outlook of Robert Cohen, a Jewish activist in the UK (marrried to an woman, who is an Anglican priest). Below is his New Year's "Manifesto".
Read it and stay tuned to our efforts to continue the struggle into 2016. Several of you have made year-end donations to the KWM cause and for that we give you hearty thanks. We are a 501c3 corporation (Checks to 296 Timber Lake Dr, E, Holland, MI, 49424).

My five point 2016 manifesto as a dissident, rebellious and awkward Jew

January 3, 2016 by Robert A. H. Cohen

I’m setting out my stall for the year as a digital Jewish activist focusing on Israel/Palestine.
Whether I like it or not, my religion, identity and cultural inheritance means this particular conflict is my problem. I can either attempt to ignore it (not easy) or do something about it (also not easy).
So, here’s my personal manifesto as a dissident, rebellious and awkward Jew in 2016.

1. Challenge the deniers –
I hear and read the following sentiments a great deal:
Jews committing atrocities? No way! How could that be? Maybe the odd fanatic or hothead but every nation has that problem. Israel has the most moral army in the world and we are the only democracy in a tough neighbourhood. All we have tried to do is build a nation to give us safety and security. And all we have received in return for our efforts is hatred and terror.

A Jewish State insisting on enduring innocence and eternal victimhood looks less and less tenable as each year goes by. As does the uncritical support of Israel by Jewish communal and faith leaders around the world. But it’s still a remarkably tenacious mind-set.
I’m reminded of this quote from Martin Luther King:
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

As the evidence keeps stacking up that something is rotting in the soul of Judaism the denial gets deeper and deeper. And that makes the possibility of taking a new direction harder by the day.

So this year I will continue to call out the truth deniers, the Israel right or wrong brigade, the head in the sand people, the innocence & victimhood junkies. I will keep reminding them that there is an occupation, there is a siege, there is stolen land, there is one law for them and one for us, there is collective punishment, there are stateless refugees that we created. There maybe two sides in this but only our side has political and military power and international protection. Israel may be a democracy but it’s a partial one and a failing one.

I will keep repeating all of this in the hope that the failed consensus continues to crumble
2. Pursue peace with justice –
There’s a lot of talk about wanting peace, especially on the Jewish side of things. I’m thinking of all those pro-Israel rallies organised by Jewish leadership groups where the crowds hold placards saying: Yes to Peace/No to Terror. There you have the whole false dichotomy in a single slogan. We are peace loving, they are hateful. They teach their children to hate, we teach ours to love. If that’s your starting point for making peace and your framework for the conflict then peace is a very long way off and you have some serious homework to do. If you think that Jews are not culpable for what has happened to the Palestinian people you are not ready to make peace.

So I will write with the aim of pursuing a just peace, one that will undoubtedly mean compromises on both sides, but a peace that means more than merely ‘quiet’.

3. Support Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) –

If you’ve spotted a better non-violent means of shifting the political dynamics on Israel/Palestine (even just a tiny bit) then let me know urgently. There’s been no diplomatic peace process worthy of the name for the last dozen years or more. Containment, creeping annexation and slow-motion ethnic cleansing are Israel’s preferred policy approaches. Remember, BDS is a tactic not a religion. It may just work in this situation, don’t bother trying it with ISIS. And by the way, campaigning for human rights for Palestinians is not anti-Jewish, but denying a people human rights certainly is.
So I’m sticking with this strategy…it’s better than knives, guns and suicide bombs. You can read more on my argument for Jewish BDS here.

4. Occupy Judaism –

Perhaps it’s all over for the Judaism that stood for kindness, justice and walking humbly with God. We seem to have swapped all our ploughshares for shiny swords. I hope not but the signs aren’t good. However, we have a mighty big Jewish storehouse of ethical thinking and prophetic action gifted to us across the millennia. We will need to draw on it to find our way back (and forward) from the current moral cul-de-sac we have run down. Judaism mixed with nationalism has brought us to this point in our history, I like to think that Judaism will also show us a way out. I will keep reminding myself and others of that fact.

5. Keep a sense of proportion and a sense of humour

It’s rather bleak out there right now with no sign of things improving in 2016. In fact I suspect things will get a lot worse before they ever get better. So I’ll be looking for things to celebrate. Small successes, minor victories. Hopefully these things make a difference, eventually. And if there’s occasionally something to smile and laugh about that’s important too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Season's Gift from Kairos W. Michigan (KWM)

Dear Friend,
Enclosed is the link to Mark Braverman's address at Christ Memorial on November 9, 2015.

https://vimeo.com/christmemorialchurch/review/145540278/40d1f7c134

It is a two-fold blessing:

1) The first 12 minutes is an explanation (by Mike Spath, our partner from Fort Wayne), of the Kairos movement. His short, potent & informative overview of the historical antecedents to our movement can be used to explain Kairos W. MI to your friends, your church, your church mission's board, for group study (in a class for discussion); or, to archive for later use.

2) Mark's address is just under an hour. It's a personal, comprehensive, and uncompromising call for dismantling the Zionist vision of an ethno-centric Jewish state that intentionally marginalizes the indigenous Palestinians. Not very popular; nor politically correct--he and we understand that.

Mark Braverman is a brave, modern Jewish prophet who addresses the blind-spots of the current Israeli Nation. The Kairos movement seeks to energize and mobilize American ecumenical/evangelical churches to advocate and take actions for justice for the Arab Palestinians. We think this will mean taking steps to advocate with our government to insist on American values when granting aid to the Israeli State.

For those of you still with this post, my wife Sharon and I left for Australia on the day Mr. Braverman left town for Kalamazoo. This is my first attempt to be in touch with you since our return a few days ago. (Our youngest daughter and her husband have our two youngest grands, 14 and 10 and live in Melbourne, Australia. We had a great time!

Your Kairos W. MI Board will be assessing Mark's visit and be making decisions about how we proceed from here. Faithfully yours, (Rev.) John Kleinheksel for KWM

John for Kairos West Michigan ()
From indifference to any truth; from cowardice that shrinks from new truth;
from laziness content with half truth; and from the arrogance that thinks it knows the whole truth,
O God of Truth, deliver us!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Report on Fr Chacour's Visit!

What an afternoon and evening in West Michigan, USA, with a visit from Fr. Elias Chacour two days ago! (All Blood Brothers books were sold out!)

134 Hope and Western Seminary students (and a smattering of community folk) gathered at the College; and 275-300 people of all ages came to hear and meet him this gentle but forceful spiritual giant at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in the evening.

What a Kairos moment, given the crisis for Christian schools in Israel/Palestine as we sought to listen and learn. Joan Deming introduced Abuna's story (go to www.pilgrimsofibillin.org for more on the Mar Elias Educational Institutions (MEEI). A Free-will offering of around $500 was donated to POI (Pilgrims of Ibillin).

Thank you to St. Francis (and Fr Charlie Brown) for hosting the evening event and making Fr Chacour's presentation there available on YouTube (Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pknbPKioftU (Many of us had trouble hearing the presentation, so this is the way to really listen in).

Hearing the discouraging update by Fr Chacour, many were led to ask, "What can I/we do?"

Joan Deming, Executive Director of Pilgrims of Ibillin, is suggesting the following letter be sent to Israeli US Ambassador Ron Dermer, which I strongly urge you to write:

Date ______________________

The Honorable Ron Dermer, (Israel’s Ambassador to the United States)
Embassy of Israel
3514 International Drive N.W.
Washington D.C. 20008

Dear Mr. Dermer,

I am writing to object strongly to the deep subsidy cuts imposed by Israel’s Ministry of Education on Christian schools in the State of Israel, mostly in the region of Galilee. After many years of incremental cuts, the current level of support for these schools is untenable at just 29% of what government schools receive. The cuts have left these excellent Christian schools in dire financial condition, threatening their continued existence, while the comparable “religious and unofficial” Jewish Schools have 100% of their financial needs met by Ministry of Education subsidies.

The forty-seven Christian Schools of Israel are among your nation’s finest schools, and graduates of these schools give exceptional service and leadership as citizens within Israel and around the world. The students enrolled in these schools deserve equal respect and support with all other Israeli students. The schools they attend merit full support – not in the form of one-time bonuses or favors, but as dependable subsidies, equal to all other schools.

As an American and a Christian who cares deeply, together with many other American citizens, about all the people of the Holy Land, I see this crisis of increasingly restricted funding as unnecessary and punitive against the Christian minority in Israel. I would like to believe that Israel, as a democracy and a country that proclaims religious freedom for all citizens, is better than these funding cuts indicate.

Therefore, I strongly request that the Israeli Ministry of Education immediately comply with the law and restore government funding for all Christian Schools to levels equal to the subsidies given to all other “religious and unofficial” schools in Israel.

Respectfully submitted,


__________________________________________
United States of America


We are considering convening a group of persons interested in pursuing the matter of justice for Christian schools in Isr/Pal. Let me know if you are interested in being a part of such a conclave! There are things we can do if we have the mind and will to do it!

Kairos West Michigan is gearing up for a visit to W. Michigan of Mark Braverman, the principle author of Kairos USA, an American response to the Call for Help from our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters. Those dates will be Monday and Tuesday, November 9 and 10, 2015. Set those dates aside and watch for more details.

Thirty-one new people signed up to receive news from Kairos W. MI (KWM).

Thank you to Joan Deming (Pilgrims of Ibillin, Abuna's US affiliate), Michael Spath, our partner from Ft Wayne, and to Fr Chacour for this sobering reminder of injustice in Isr/Pal. Thank you to Western Seminary and Hope college for your encouragement, participation, and financial support. Thank you to our supporting churches (First Methodist Peace with Justice Committee, Hope Church, and Third Church, Holland, MI). We are definitely looking to expand the number of supporting congregations, interested persons and related groups.

Momentum towards a genuine movement of the spirit/Spirit is growing. Thank YOU for being a part of it! Faithfully yours, JRK

John for Kairos West Michigan
From indifference to any truth; from cowardice that shrinks from new truth;
from laziness content with half truth; and from the arrogance that thinks it knows the whole truth,
O God of Truth, deliver us!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Fr Elias Chacour to Visit Holland, Michigan!

Dear Friend!
Plan on attending events surrounding Abuna (Fr) Elias Chacour's visit to W. Michigan!

We can say for sure he will be address us (and answer questions) at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Holland on Thursday evening, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. We are hoping for an additional venue at either HOPE College or Western Theological Seminary that afternoon. Further details will follow once plans are finalized. Fr Chacour models a reconciling spirit that draws Arabs and Israelis, Muslims, Jews and Christians together, not as adversaries, but as fellow human beings with the dignity to which all humans are entitled. His Mar Elias Educational Institutions (MEEI) have educated thousands of Christian, Muslim and Jewish, Arab and Israeli children and youths in modeling a better way forward.

I'm enclosing several pieces from today's newsletter from Pilgrims of Ibillin, (the American affiliate of Fr Chacour's life-long ministry) telling of a two week visit in Chicago-land by 12 students from the Mar Elias High School, and an interview with Emil Haloun, a teacher at the school. Joan Deming, the American Executive Director of "Pilgrims of Ibillin" will also be our guest on Sept. 17 along with Michael Spath, our partner from Fort Wayne, IND.

Fr Chacour is a Palestinian Arab Israeli Christian, one of the 20% "citizens" in Israel who are Arab Palestinian. Thus his witness is a bit different from those living in what is known as the "West Bank" or "Gaza". He will be candid and forthcoming in answering our questions about the possibility of peace in our region. Please join me in seeking greater understanding of how we can move forward toward Shalom/Salaam! JRK for Kairos West Michigan

First Ever Mar Elias Peace Tour
Winning hearts and minds in the USA

This summer, Pilgrims of Ibillin welcomed fifteen Mar Elias High School students and recent graduates to the US for a 2-week visit – in a new cooperative venture with the school Abuna Elias Chacour founded in Ibillin. The students and their teacher, Emil Haloun, stayed with families in Grosse Pointe and Ann Arbor, MI; in Oshkosh and Madison, WI; and finally visited Chicago, staying in dorms at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Everywhere they went, they shared stories of their families and school and villages, their hopes and dreams, and their experience as Arabs living within the State of Israel. They left a trail of new friends and a vision of possibilities for peace in their holy homeland. (They also enjoyed their first-ever celebration of an Independence Day on July 4, rode bikes, sailed and swam, went to museums and a concert and Shakespeare play, and visited with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim students, -- to say nothing of shopping and being wide-eyed tourists.)

The students blogged about their trip, and would love to have you read about their journey online. Please visithttp://mareliaspeacetour.org/our-travel-entries/. Their trip is also featured in the July Pilgrims’ Post print newsletter.

We are confident that these amazing young people from Mar Elias served as bridges of peace and international understanding, and raised awareness in the United States about Israeli-Palestinian history. They planted seeds of hope, while also making new friends and sharing in a lot of new experiences. Thank YOU, friends of Pilgrims of Ibillin, for helping make a key difference. Your generosity and prayers helped it happen.


A Teacher's Witness:
Emil Haloun answers an audience question after a student presentation, Peace Tour, July 2015

Q: “Does religion contribute to the problem or help solve it?”

Emil: “People in Israel are becoming more radical, not less. And our message at Mar Elias, therefore, is really unique, and unfortunately rare. Most schools convey indirectly a message of segregation, as opposed to building bridges of connection.

I will tell you something based on my experience. I also teach part time at Haifa University and there my students include a mix of Jewish, Arab, and overseas students. Among the students, I am always privileged to teach those who have graduated from Mar Elias High School. And I tell you truly, there is something different about our students. They come to college aware of what society is comprised of, unlike others who are really blind to what is going on around them. As a small example, many Muslim university students are for the very first time encountering not only Jewish students but even Christians. So just imagine what our school is trying to create in the midst of this conflictual and negative atmosphere in Galilee and elsewhere.

And this is related to your question about whether religious differences can cause harm. We are trying to take this reality and make something beautiful. I mean, can you tell who is Muslim and who is Christian here? No way! And we were hosted by American families, but we came here to meet them as human beings -- not to meet "the Americans" or "the Muslims" or "the Jews." A few days ago, we visited the Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee. There we met with Jewish students from Israel, and for them, that was the very first time they were speaking with an Arab student. So realize how many walls we have in that small, holy piece of land, smaller than the size of New Jersey. So, schools like Mar Elias, where I teach and these students study, are much needed in these uneasy circumstances.”

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Demonstration @ Susiya TODAY

Dear Friend,
Adam Keller is an associate of Uri Avnery (Gush Shalom). Here is his "on the ground" account of what happened in Susiya today, the Palestinian town the whole international community is now aware of, the epitome of what is happening "on the ground" in I/P. JRK

A traffic jam in the middle of the desert

The rendezvous was scheduled for 11:30 am, outside the Arlozorov Street Railway Station in Tel Aviv. I arrived at 11:35. "Three buses have already been filled, but don’t worry – the fourth bus will soon arrive" said the organizers’ representative. "There will be a place for anyone who wants to go to the protest in Susiya."

It is long since there was such a wide response to a call for a demonstration in the wild West Bank. Among the passengers could be seen quite a few long-time activists who had however not been seen in recent years. Why did the case of Susiya evoke so much attention, in Israel and throughout the world? (Circulating on the bus was the current New York Times op-ed page, featuring a moving personal story of a Susiya resident - Nassar Nawajah). This tiny threatened village is in every way worthy of support and solidarity - but in the past, quite a few instances of no less outrageous injustice have been perpetrated and met a virtually complete indifference and silence. One can never know in advance which particular case will become the focus and symbol of a struggle.


Little more than an hour's drive separates the vast metropolitan Tel Aviv from the godforsaken hamlet of Susiya in the middle of the desert. First the travel is along congested intercity highways – then, through back roads which become ever more narrow and in bad repair, the further one continues to the east and south. Somewhere, without noticing, the Green Line is crossed into the territory where there is not even a semblance of democracy, where the landscape is predominantly brown rather than green - apart from the occasional green patch of a settlement, which had the privilege of being connected to the Israeli water system.

At the end of the trip, the narrow road forks, and the sign to the right side says "Susiya" - but nevertheless, we turned to the left. The sign erected by the military authorities refers to the other Susiya – the Israeli settlement Susiya, which claims to be the continuation of a Jewish village of the same name which existed on this location during the Roman and Byzantine period. "Come and see Susiya - an ancient Jewish town" says the sign on the road we had not taken.

The Jews who lived here 1,500 years ago had lived in caves. In the Twentieth Century, Palestinians had been living in these same caves, until in 1986 the army came to expel them and turn the caves into an archeological site managed by the settlers. The Palestinians had to move to miserable shacks erected on what was left of their land. Is it possible that they actually were the descendants of those who resided in those caves in the Fifth Century? At the beginning of the Zionist Movement David Ben Gurion brought up that at least some of the Arabs in this country are descendants of Jews who lived here in the past, and who at some time were converted to Islam and started speaking Arabic. In 1918 Ben Gurion even published an entire book on this subject, in cooperation with the future President of Israel Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, including detailed historical documentation to support this theory. But before long it became clear that, even if some of the Palestinians’ ancestors had been Jewish, at present they have no interest whatsoever in being Jewish or promoting the Zionist Project. So, Ben-Gurion and his colleagues lost interest in further promoting this issue.


In the direction of Palestinian Susiya there was no road sign. For the Israeli authorities, it simply does not exist. "The competent military authorities take the position that there had never existed an Arab village named Susiya" stated on the Knesset floor Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, of the Jewish Home Party. "Palestinian structures were built without permits on that location, and were demolished during the 1995-2001 period. Illegal construction continued, against which demolition orders were issued. In May 2015 the Supreme Court rejected a petition by the Palestinians for an interim injunction against the demolition of these structures."

There are no road signs, but it is not difficult to find Palestinian Susiya, with the Palestinian flag painted on rocks along the road. Four buses arrived from Tel Aviv and three from Jerusalem, plus quite a few private cars, and a minor traffic jam was created in the middle of the desert. "Pay attention, it is now the hottest hour of the day, it's one of the hottest places in the country, and there is almost no shade" warns the young woman in charge of my bus. "Please be sure, all of you, to cover your heads and take water with you. For those who have not brought it with them, we provide bottled water". On a low ridge above the bus could already be seen a human stream winding its way towards the rally.

The concrete cover of a rainwater collection cistern has become a makeshift podium, with several loudspeakers and a Palestinian flag flying. When the group from our bus arrived, the speeches were already under way, in a mixture of Arabic, English and Hebrew. "67 years after the Palestinian Nakba, it is still going on! They want to expel the residents of Susiya from their land! Are we going to let them do it?" cried former Palestinian Minister Mustafa Barghouti, eliciting a loud chorus of "No! No!"."After the Apartheid regime in South Africa fell, Nelson Mandela said that the fight is not over, the next part is the Palestinian struggle. We are here, we are struggling. We will go on struggling until Palestine is free!" (Chanting in Arabic and English "Free Palestine! Free Palestine! Free, free Palestine! "

Susiya resident Nasser Nawaj'ah, a leader activist of the struggle, spoke in Hebrew to those who came from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem: "Welcome to Susiya, all of you, welcome to Susiya, the fighting Susiya which will not give in! Our struggle is already going on for decades. In 1982, they erected the settlement of Susiya on our land. In 1986, they expelled us from the caves and turned them into an archaeological site of the settlers, then we moved to the farmland, all what was left to us. In 2001, they destroyed everything and drove us away, but we came back and set up our village again. You are most welcome here, we are grateful for the solidarity and support of all those who have come here. You are the other face of Israel, the face which is different from what we see of the soldiers and settlers who come to us every day. You give us hope, the hope that we can still live together, Palestinians as Israel's neighbors in peace."

He was followed by Professor Yigal Bronner, who teaches history of India at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is a prominent activist of the Ta'ayush Movement, which is active already for many years in support of the residents of the South Hebron Hills. "We are here in Susiya. What is Susiya? Not much. Some cisterns which the army had not filled with dirt, a few sheep which the settlers have not yet stolen, some olive trees that have not yet been cut down. What is Susiya? Susiya is 350 people who hold on to the land, clinging and clinging and holding on and not giving up, because it's their home. Quite simply, this is their home. Opposite us is the other Susiya. The Susiya which is armed and surrounded by a fence, which is connected to to water and electricity and sewage and has representatives in all the corridors of power, and it wants to grab what little is left of this Susiya where we stand. Susiya against Susiya, this is the whole story. The Palestinian Susiya has no soldiers and no police and no representatives in the Knesset and in fact it does not have the vote. But it has us. We are here to stand with Susiya and we will not leave. We will do everything we can to be here and prevent the destruction. And if does take place, we will be here the next morning to rebuild, together with the residents. Susiya is not alone! "(Chanting of "Susiya, Sussiya do not despair, we will end the occupation yet!" in Hebrew and "Yaskut al Ikhitlal", "Down with the Occupation" in Arabic.
"It is very important that you all came here, it is important to continue the struggle. There will be here another demonstration next Saturday, and on August 3 at 9:00 am there will be the hearing on the appeal of Susiya at the Supreme Court. It is very important to be there! Susiya is not alone! Susiya is not alone!"

After the speeches - the march to the edge of the ridge. "For anyone who feels badly affected by the heat and sun, there is a tent with shade and plenty of water. Don’t get hurt unnecessarily. And now – forward!"

Together with the Palestinians, locals and those who especially came, we all moved ahead to the rhythmic beating of the "Drummers Against the Occupation", and the heat did not seem to reduce their energy and enthusiasm. Above the crowd were waving the placards of "Combatants for Peace", one of the demonstration's organizers, with the caption "There is Another Way" in Hebrew, Arabic and English.  "Though shalt not rob thy fellow" read the big sign carried by Rabbi Arik Asherman, who already for many years did not miss any demonstration, "Rabbis for Human Rights" being another of the protest initiators. Other Biblical slogans: "Have we become the like of Sodom, did we assume the face of Gomorrah?", "Save the poor his robber, protect the miserable from the heartless despoiler" "Zion shall be built on Justice", "Each shall sit in content under his vine and his fig tree."

A five years old Palestinian girl held upside down a large sign in Hebrew reading "No more land grab!". One of the Israelis drew the attention of a woman in traditional Palestinian dress, apparently the grandmother. The granddaughter, laughing, turned the sign in correct direction before the press photographers arrived at this part of the march parade. Near was walking a strapping young man wearing a T-shirt of the FC St. Pauli soccer club of Hamburg, Germany, whose fans are known for their fight against racism, and next was a woman whose shirt proclaimed "Stop the Pinkwashing!", protesting the cynical use made of LGBT people by the government international PR apparatus ("Hasbara"). The text on the bag of a veteran Jerusalem activist referred to the elctions earlier this year: "We did not succeed in throwing Netanyahu out, which is very harsh and painful, but at least let him keep his paws off Susiya!"

At the end of the march, dozens lifted with great effort a 30-metre long sign reading: "Susiya is Palestinian, and Palestinian it will remain!". When the buses on the way back passed the official sign about "The ancient Jewish town" we could see it at the top of the ridge above the road.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Action Alert!


Dear Friend,
I'm requesting you to take action against the planned demolition of yet another Palestinian village.
Many groups are urging this action (CMEP - Churches for Middle East Peace; JVP - Jewish Voices for Peace; IPMN -Israel/Palestine Mission Network; and End the Occupation - (Anna Baltzer and others).
The Presbyterian appeal (which I am forwarding) is based on a report by David Etherington, who works there in the WCC Ecumenical Accompaniment Program and Kate Tabor, who works as a mission co-worker in Bethlehem. I have met Kate Tabor @ the IPMN conference last October and trust her.
Ethnic cleansing is still taking place. Our State Department has warned the Israelis against demolishing Susiya, but the warnings go unheeded because there are never any consequences when our policies are ignored.
In your message, urge the State Department to start putting teeth into our expectations (or use the form provided for you in the link).
Rather than find ways of living WITH their Palestinian neighbors, the present Likud-led government is insisting on putting up parallel Jews-only settlements. Friends, this goes contrary to our deepest held values, as Christians and Americans.
I'm re-reading Elias Chacour's BLOOD BROTHERS, in preparation for his visit to West Michigan on Thursday, September 17. There will be an appearance aimed at HOPE College and Western Theological Seminary students (but open to the community too); and an evening appearance at 7:00 p.m. at St. Francis de Sales Catholic church in Holland, MI. Archbishop Chacour is a Melkite Catholic whose forebears reconciled with Rome many centuries ago. He is 78 years old now and in retirement. Our partner Michael Spath and Pilgrims of Ibellin director Joan Deming will be bringing Abuna (Father) Chacour to Michigan and Indiana and other places in the US this September.

I'm attaching my review of the excellent documentary by Jews for Jews and all of us: "1913: Seeds of Conflict", which you can now see in its entirety at this link: http://video.pbs.org/video/2365519134/
Back to Archbishop Chacour's book, BLOOD BROTHERS. It is a heart-wrenching, arresting personal account of how he and his family were stripped of their home and land. It is an inspiring account of how he wrestled with the demons of counter-violence and began to insist that his love for Israeli Jews was as strong as his love for his own Palestinian Christian and Muslim countrymen. He refuses to be an enemy, no matter how he is treated. Friends, this is kind of empathy and grace is uncommon and yet sets the standard for us in our efforts for peace, justice and love in our region. The Mar Elias Educational Institutions are the result of his vision: the embodiment of a reconciling movement in the heart of the Israel/Palestine quagmire.
Thank you for tracking with us @ KUSA - West Michigan. And thank you to our emerging Board of Directors who are taking ownership of this movement! Faithfully yours, (Rev.) John Kleinheksel Sr (JRK)



Action Alert: Stand in Solidarity with Susiya



“Living with all things ‘Under Military Occupation’ burdens ones heart, one’s soul, one’s life. My heart breaks, my heart cries for the struggle, the struggle for all here in this land, Palestinians and Israelis alike, Muslims, Jews and Christians all living in struggle in differing levels of intensity. I believe that this conflict, this occupation and subjection of another’s land and life is eroding the soul of all.” -- Rev. David Etherington, serving in the Palestinian village of Susiya with the Ecumenical Accompaniment program of the World Council of Churches.

The burden of the decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is felt from Gaza where on the one year anniversary of a devastating war the tiny enclave still lies in ruins, to the Cremisan Valley near Bethlehem where a court victory to stop building the separation wall on private Palestinian land has now been undone by a more recent court decision. As pressure steps up on a number of fronts, the Village of Susiya is a salient example of where advocacy is urgently needed.

To answer the need, the Rebuilding Alliance and partners are sending a message to government leaders telling them, “I care about peace, I care about Susiya.” Please join them today by contacting your elected officials.

Villagers in Susiya have already suffered a history of displacement. A 2015 UN report recounts, “In 1986, the Israeli authorities declared the main residential area of Susiya an archaeological site and evicted all of its residents. Most of those who relocated to what was later designated as Area C were displaced again in the context of two waves of demolitions, in 2001 and in 2011, on grounds of lack of building permits.”

The same UN report notes that the illegal Israeli settlement of Susya, located next to the Palestinian village, “has a population of nearly 1,000, some of whom live in an unauthorized outpost erected in 2002 in the old community centre that was declared an archeological site.”

While the situation in Susiya is not unique, it is particularly urgent because in May the Israeli court refused to issue an order prohibiting demolitions during an appeal which is scheduled to be heard on August 3rd. As Rabbis for Human Rights explains, “The judge’s decision is de facto permission for the State to realize the demolition orders in the village, that has stood in its present location for 30 years.”

Additional causes for concern, as noted by Etherington and others, are recently arrived bulldozers near the village and a visit by the Israeli authorities who photographed and documented structures in the village.

While the occupation grinds on, advocates for Susiya are hoping that this village can stand as an example of the success of peaceful action. Etherington quotes a villager, “…today, when we cry out, the world hears us, many around the world hear our struggle and…stand in solidarity with us and our struggle.”

Stand in solidarity with Susiya – and stand up for peace for Israelis and Palestinians -- by contacting your members of Congress today to say, “I care about peace, I care about Susiya.” Ask them to raise this issue with the US State Department and with the Israeli Embassy.

--
John for KairosUSA-West Michigan Community ()
From indifference to any truth; from cowardice that shrinks from new truth;
from laziness content with half truth; and from the arrogance that thinks it knows the whole truth,
O God of Truth, deliver us!