How would you describe the mission of our partner in Bethlehem?
Kairos Palestine is a movement that calls the international community to learn what is happening in Palestine and to “stand by the Palestinian people who have faced oppression, displacement, suffering and clear apartheid for more than six decades.” This movement is based on the document, A Moment of Truth, A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering. It was published in 2009, written by a group of Palestinian Christians clergy and laity. (See the complete document on the website.
How do you fit into their mission? We are Global Ministries long-term volunteers working on a project, Factswatch Palestine, to help develop a tool for lobbying and advocating for the Palestinian cause under Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory. “The overall goal… is to develop a long term device and future movement that can operate and serve as a resource for Palestinian Civil Society.” Our contribution is in media coordination and communication strategies. Grounded in visits to Bethlehem and the Palestinian Occupied Territory we work at home in New Hampshire using the internet, email, Facebook, a web site, and other social media to network with Palestinian and international NGO’s and to develop a data base of relevant resources. These resources will serve to facilitate the credibility of the voices of Palestinians and their partners as they speak to the oppressive situation: its reality and advocacy toward solutions.
What led you to engage in this calling?
A Global Ministries trip to Palestine and Israel in 2009 with Dr. Peter Makari led us to apply in 2010 to the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. This program was developed by the World Council of Churches and is supported by Global Ministries. We lived for three months in Palestine, John in the rural village of Jayyous and Faye in Bethlehem. Our accompaniment with Palestinians involved observing and writing about their daily experiences at the checkpoints, at schools, on farms and at medical facilities. We observed incursions of the Israeli military into villages at night to arrest teenage boys. We saw the results from Israeli settlers illegally seizing Palestinian land. It also included accompanying children through checkpoints to and from their schools, and farmers to their land. We witnessed their efforts to develop a viable economy.
At each of our presentations since our return home people would always say, “I did not know this was happening over there.” In the last two years restrictions on movement have increased for Palestinians, they continue to lose homes to demolitions and invasions of Israeli settlers. Yet through all of this aggressive Israeli and conservative religious media deny the reality of daily oppression in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Is there a passage of scripture that carries special meaning in your daily work?
Faye chooses: Luke 24, Matthew 14 and John 21
These scriptures where Jesus breaks bread with his disciples or feeds a multitude or cooks breakfast on the beach for seven disciples suggest ways to experience the gospel message he preached. Engaging in the act of hospitality provides an opportunity where important issues and ideas can be shared. Offering a cup of water or tea or coffee after a dusty walk or sharing what looks like scant resources of bread and fish to those sitting in the sun to hear a lecture can do more for changing opinions than any act of violence. We meet each other while gathered around the table or sitting on stools ready to hear what the other has to say. This is accompaniment.
John chooses: Joshua 5: 13 – 15
In this little fragment of Scripture, Joshua is all puffed up and ready to do battle, convinced that God has chosen to be on the side of his people, the Israelites. So when Joshua is walking toward the mighty city of Jericho with his army at his back and meets a man on the road blandishing a sword, Joshua is ready to fight. “Are you for us or for our enemies,” he challenges?
This man, who turns out to be the captain of the army of God, rebuffs Joshua’s challenge. Joshua is hardly ready for the man’s answer, “I am neither.” (REB & NRSV)
Joshua is stymied. He is unprepared for such an answer. Perhaps he can entice this captain of God’s army onto his side. Joshua bows low in homage and says, “What have you to say to your servant, my lord?”
Well, here’s where it gets even more complicated. This captain of God’s army replies, “Remove your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
What on earth does this mean? Is Joshua not the leader of their army? Is this not now the land of the Israelites? Apparently not! It seems it is God’s land. Joshua is invited to take off his sandals and to be a part of this holy land of God, but not the owner of the land. It means that Israel and the people of all the other tribes are dwelling in God’s holy land together. All are under the blessing of God who brings the rain, who sprouts the seed, who provides the harvest. None are excluded, all are chosen.
What are some of the challenges facing yourself?
Challenges for us include the security check points, particularly when traveling in and out of Israel and between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In our work we must constantly seek to understand the non-violent movements of resistance by our partners such as advocating for BDS and their struggle to avoiding normalization. We are always in a learning curve as we work with modes of electronic communication. And there is never enough time to read and absorb all of the material that comes to us each day.
What is a lesson you have learned from our partner that you feel should be shared with churches in the U.S.?
Palestinian Christians understand themselves as direct descendants of the first century Christians. “Our land is God’s land,” they say. “Therefore, it must be a land of reconciliation, peace and love… God has put us here as two peoples, and God gives us the capacity, if we have the will, to live together… making (the land) in reality God’s land.”
The Kairos Document, speaking first to the local Palestinian churches and then to the international Christian community, proclaims that “our Christian word in the midst of (occupation) is a word of faith hope and love.” It strongly asserts that to follow Jesus is to practice non-violent resistance in the effort to bring justice to Palestine and Israel.
These Palestinian Christians; living in a world of economic, military and political powerlessness live in hope without a glimmer of positive expectation.
Which books have influenced your understanding of your country, work, or theology:
Palestine and the Arab- Israeli Conflict. Charles D. Smith, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013
A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, Naim Stifan Ateek, Orbis Books, 2008
Palestine Inside Out, an everyday occupation; Saree Makdisi, W. W. Norton & Co, 2008
The Lemon Tree, an Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East; Sandy Tolan, Bloomsbury, 2006
Who Speaks for Islam, what a billion Muslims really think; John L. Esposito & Dalia Mogahed,
Gallop Press, 2007
Occupied with Nonviolence, A Palestinian Woman Speaks; Jean Zaru, Fortress Press, 1989
Kairos for Palestine, Rifat Odeh Kassis
Which films that have influenced your understanding of your country, work, or theology:
Favorite recipe for local food:
Fattoush (salad with toasted pita)
2 loaves of pita, leftovers
1 bunch of parsley
1 bunch of green onions
1 green pepper
juice of 2 lemons
fresh or dried mint
salt, pepper and sumac to taste
Peel cucumber and crush garlic. Chop the vegetables. Break the bread into small pieces, toast them and set them aside. (To enhance the taste, fry the pieces of bread in olive oil). Toss the chopped vegetables until well mixed. Add lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, sumac and oil. Toss the bread with the above ingredients and mix well. Serve immediately.