Saturday, December 15, 2012

Beer, people, and peace

"What is the difference between a terrorist and a theologian?" Yusef Daher from the World Council of Churches asked us this morning while discussing Christians in Jerusalem.  "You can negotiate with a terrorist." It was a very funny moment in a very serious conversation.  Yusuf shared with us the conditions in Jerusalem for Christians.  Many find it difficult to remain in Jerusalem because they feel lost in the conversation.  There are only about 8,000 Christians in Jerusalem most of them are Palestinian.  To give them a voice the WCC decided to unite with local Christians and have them define the issues on the ground.  Two things came to the fore. Housing rights and the occupation of east Jerusalem.  After a couple years of conversation their conclusion was to love their enemy but fight evil.  This philosophy led them to love Israel but fight non violently the occupation. Their full philosophy can be found in a document called, Kiaros Document.

Next we met with Danny Seidemann. He is American by birth but he transferred his citizenship to be an Israeli after college. He has worked very closely with US and Israeli governments on trying to work through their political relationship.  He is very passionate about the health of Jerusalem and Israel.  He believes in a strong two state solution but it must include the rights to exist politically and religiously all three major religions.   His major concern at the moment is an area known as E1 that if developed will sever the West Bank in two and thus put an end to the two state possibility.  Just last week development on E1 was approved for the first time. He believes that if Israel developers this area it will isolate Israel globally from its supporters and give cause for a conflict.

In the afternoon we traveled to a town in the West Bank known as Taybeh, it's Biblical name was Ephraim.  It is the only mostly Christian town in the West Bank with three churches, Catholic, Orthodox, and Melkite.  We toured a home that would be a very good model of a home Jesus would have been born and lived in.  We also visited the only brewery in the Middle East, owned and operated by Palestinian Christians. The town is very beautiful and is surrounded be amazing views full of olive trees and shepherds.

Finally we traveled to Ramalah the defacto capital of Palestine. We met Sam Badour an American businessman who resides in Ramallah because he is married to a Palestinian and is of Palestinian descent.  Sam shared with us the difficulties involved in living under occupation in Palestine. You have to have a variety of IDs.  First you have an ID that classifies you as a Palestinian. This one makes it illegal to cross over into Israel without a permit, even though he is American.  You can only get a day permit for business or to go to the doctor and you have to cross back before 7pm.  He has a second ID that has a magnetic strip so he can apply for permits more often. It involved having a background check that took 8months to prove he was not a violent threat.  He also shared how the economic system in Palestine is micromanaged by Israel. He went into great detail here because of his business pursuits.  Suffice to share here all economic development in Palestine goes through Israel and they make it difficult.  Finally he shared how politics affect nearly every action here and how actions affect politics.  His talk was powerful and informative.

Today was a very full day that once again emphasized the beauty and wonder of this ancient world, with the reminder that this beutifiul and ancient world has had many broken moments in its history and its present is no different.  Jerusalem has been sacked 38 times in history!  There are many things that can be done.  Most common Israeli and Palestinians desire peace accomplished non-violently.  May the leaders of this world come together to try and accomplish this goal.

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