Middle East Peace and Justice Events and Updates

Trip to Israel Blog
Rev. Joan Deming, Director of Pilgrims of Ibillin, the US based non-profit which supports several agencies in Israel/Palestine, including Mar Elias School, lead a trip to Israel October 18-31. Sign up to read her blog at livingstonespilgrimage.org and to find up to date information about our partners in mission.

2016 Mar Elias Graduation
Meet the 2016 graduates of Mar Elias High School, the school founded by Elias Chacour in the village of Ibillin, Israel. This winter, Abuna Chacour shared the good news that the state of Israel had published the results of final exam achievements of all Israel schools in four major topics: math, physics, biology and chemistry. Quoting Chacour, "Surprise: MEEI is rated first among all the schools." Congratulations to these graduates! Also pictured is Abuna Chacour as he addressed the students at graduation.

It has been announced that the top performing student in all of Israel is Mohammed Zeidan, from the Arab community of Kafr Amanda, and a graduate of Mar Elias High School. What an achievement! Find more here.


Follow Joan Deming's blog on her trip to the Middle East with the Pilgrims of Ibillin.



Rev. Kate Taber

PC(USA) Mission Specialist in Israel-Palestine

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/21-jerusalem-500x325.jpgSlice of Life in the West Bank
“Last week [when] a dear friend visited ... we planned a visit to the West Bank village of Yanoun, a site of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program and a place I hold dear for its beauty, simplicity, and hospitality. The day became a lesson in life here.

We found a route ... heading north out of Ramallah. Within five minutes, we hit a roadblock created by the Israeli military and took the only other turn available to us. About twenty minutes later, through back roads and villages, we made it to the main highway, just a kilometer or two away from that roadblock.

We eventually reached the sleepy village [of Yanoun where we admired its] almond trees and heard about the struggles of this village [that is] surrounded by ideological settlements populated by violent settlers. At one point, the villagers experienced such intimidation and violence, they evacuated the village and only returned on the promise that an international accompaniment organization would keep a 24/7 presence in the town.

After passing through checkpoint [after checkpoint throughout the day], we [arrived home and went to] a restaurant where we watched the sun set over the Old City. We drank wine and ate cheese, and saw the light reflecting off the Dome of the Rock. We talked about this place, our lives, and our hopes for both.” - From Kate Taber’s "Slice of Life in the West Bank." Friend Kate on Facebook for more.

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/IMG_1442.JPGWMPC Group Enjoys Turkish Cooking Class
A group enjoyed Turkish cooking classes at the Divan Center on March 5. We had a delicious lunch of beef and rice, a carrot and celery root salad, and kale soup with corn and pinto beans, ended with a dessert of baklava. It was all delicious. Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about various cooking dishes in Turkey and strengthen our relationships at the Divan Center.


"When an olive tree reaches a certain age, it develops a weathered and gnarly bark full of wrinkles that I hope my face will carry some day, wrinkles that testify to a life well lived.

If an olive tree, with good, solid roots, is cut down, if everything above ground is destroyed, it can come back. It might come back, but I don’t know what makes the difference.

I do know Jesus came back."
Read more of Rev. Abby King-Kaiser’s introduction to PC(USA) ministry in Israel-Palestine entitled “How I Found Resurrection in the Holy Land.”
Gnarled, very ancient olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane (photo taken during the WMPC 2014 Holy Land trip)

Watch a YouTube video of the "PeaceDrums" steel drum band and enjoy the music of ten students from the Mar Elias Middle School in Ibillin, Israel, (Christian and Muslim) and from the Leo Baeck School in Haifa (Jewish). They practice together, play together, and will be traveling together to Philadelphia this spring. What a joyous peace-making effort!

Soccer program in Palestine empowers young women
October 29, 2015 - Presbyterian News Service

"We started in 2009 with five girls who really had to fight for their right to play football [soccer in the U.S.] in their communities and families," said Rami Khader, the manager of the Diyar Academy for Children and Youth in Bethlehem, Palestine, and one of the initiators of the women’s football program. Read more...

New Political Unrest

Recently, a new wave of political unrest has resulted in more than forty Palestinian young people killed and over 1100 injured. These are not mere numbers, but young people with faces, names, and dreams. “To many international players, the lives of Palestinians are worthless while the life of an Israeli is precious.” This pattern evokes apartheid.

The most dangerous aspect is that young people from oppressed groups are "pushed to the point where they look for a life after death, no longer believing in a life worth living before death."

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/Raheb.jpgIn this context The Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, (Pastor, Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church, Bethlehem), shares three messages:

(to Jewish Israelis) For the sake of not only Palestine, but also Israel, the occupation has to end. Enough lives have been wasted.

(to the international community) Until Palestinian lives are as important as Israeli lives, the bloodshed will continue.

(to Palestinian young people) Cling to your dreams. Denial of your life and dignity with all its harshness should be "used to propel you to cling to life" and not allow anyone to waste it. Your life matters to God. Your life matters to those in the world who seek justice for all. Read more....

How much do YOU really know about life in and around Gaza?

Myth or Reality:
The Israeli-Palestine Conflict is primarily one of differing religious beliefs.

One of the many myths about the Israeli-Palestine conflict is that it is a conflict between religions. In reality it is a conflict over land. No one knows this better than Palestinian farmers. Palestinian farmers lose access to land, in large part, because of settlements. Almost 63 per cent of arable agricultural land in the West Bank is under complete Israeli military control. Read the full story in Rev. Taber’s February 2015 newsletter

Myth or Reality:
Agriculture, today, remains the core of Palestinian culture and West Bank/ Gaza lifestyle.

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/Israeli-Palestinian-Farmer.JPGAgriculture has long been a way of life in the West Bank and Gaza; it is the core of Palestinian culture and lifestyle. Most farms are very small, and it has increasingly become difficult for farmers to earn a sustainable living due to the growing number of obstacles posed by the occupation. Gaza's main water concern is not lack of access to water but rather lack of access to sanitary water. According to UN estimates, water from the coastal aquifer will no longer be fit for human consumption in 2016, and all pumping from it must therefore stop. Read the full story in Rev. Taber’s February 2015 newsletter

Walking, not where but, how Jesus Walked

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/KTabor.jpgKate Taber, PCUSA Facilitator for Peacemaking and Mission Partnerships, explains that “it feels audacious to proclaim God’s faithfulness in the middle of a city surrounded by military checkpoints, a 26-foot-high concrete wall, and highways that are off-limits to most congregants. A hymn like O God of Every Nation both requires and provides the courage and faith necessary to sing it in this context, where bombs do fall and power rules harshly”.

Yet here, where Christians are fewer than 2% of the population, where they are members of a people without citizenship or state, where they daily face discrimination, violence, incarceration, and displacement – here, Sunday morning is itself a mission. “If mission is how the Church participates in God’s work of healing the world, then here in Israel-Palestine, worship counts.” Read more...

Holy Fire Saturday
- What is it?
Palestinian Orthodox Christian scouts march in Jerusalem’s Old City in a parade as part of the celebration of Holy Fire Saturday, in which the light from a torch lit from Jesus’ tomb is spread throughout the world. Read more...

Consider a radical ‘new’ way to tour the Holy Lands

It is Kate Taber’s firm belief that “too often, U.S. Christians treat the Holy Lands as if it was a museum, displaying a historic God who used to be present here – two thousand years ago.” Instead of a travel itinerary consisting solely of historic sites, Kate recommends including a more authentic pilgrimage. But what would that look like?

Historic Sites

Authentic Pilgrimage

Visit Church of the Nativity, but also

Visit a Christian hospital caring for children

Sit in the Garden of Gethsemane, but also

Worship with a local Palestinian congregation

Visit Zacchaeus tree in Jericho, but also

Plant an olive tree at the Tent of Nations Farm

Experience the Galilee meal of loaves and fishes, but also

Feast with women of Aida Refugee Camp

Teach WMPC children about Jesus’ childhood, but also

Connect them to children living in the Holy Land now


Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City is the only Christian healthcare institution in Gaza and the oldest hospital in Gaza] The point Kate wants noted is that “God’s calling to the Church is not [only] to walk where Jesus walked, but [also]to walk the way Jesus walked.” Read more...

Homeless in the Holy Basin
A 79-year-old man and his family will likely be evicted from their home any day. It’s not an unusual story; his is but one of 50 families in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikn Jarrah facing this threat. Protest movements, consisting of Israelis, Palestinians, and internationals, are attempting to thwart evictions; however, the movement has “drastically dwindled as international attention to the issue has dried up.”

Sheikn Jarrah is a strategic location in Jerusalem because it is part of the Holy Basin surrounding the Old City. Settler movements target the Holy Basin “attempting to control more and more of the area . . . ensuring continued Israeli control . . . and preventing a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem . . .” Read more...

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/Jerusalem-skyline.JPGJerusalem - What about it?
What’s the big deal?
  • Israel often refers to Jerusalem as its “eternal undivided capital” while Palestinians see it as the religious, cultural, economic, and political capital of their future, promised state.
  • Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem do not have citizenship or voting rights in Israel despite the fact that Israeli policy considers East Jerusalem to be part of Israel.

What’s going on with Jerusalem’s religious sites?     

  • Jerusalem’s Old City contains both the Western Wall, sacred to Jews, and the Al Aqsa mosque compound, sacred to Muslims. The two are located close together, and Jews believe that underneath the Al Aqsa compound is the location of two ancient Jewish temples.
  • Since 1967, Israeli authorities have prohibited Jews from praying at the compound to avoid provoking Palestinians. Jordan administers the site in conjunction with local Muslim leaders, the Waqf. This agreement is referred to as the ‘status quo.”
  • Support has grown for the idea that Jews should have the right to worship at the compound and even that it should be destroyed in order to rebuild the Jewish temple.
  • With increased efforts of Jewish extremists, the Knesset considered putting the Al Aqsa compound under direct, unilateral Israeli control. The pressure to do so is increasing.
What’s happening now? 
  • Netanyahu had demonstrated a desire to clamp down on provocative visits to the compound by members of his own government, but that commitment has evaporated. Israel has re-introduced the policy of ‘dilution’ - keeping Muslim worshippers off the compound when Jewish provocateurs are there.
  • For the first time, “ Israel has removed Waqf guards from the compound . . . an unprecedented dismissal of Waqf authority . . . and a central tenet of the ‘status quo.”
  •  Violence has overflowed beyond Jerusalem.
  • “Netanyahu could de-escalate the current situation . . . [however] there is no voice, either in Israeli society or government, calling him to do so.”

Habitat Interfaith Build
A 2016 Habitat for Humanity Interfaith House will begin construction in April.

Our partners: Apex Mosque, Beth Meyer Synagogue, Cary Baha'i Community, Divan Center, First Presbyterian Church, Hudson Memorial Presbyterian Church, Hindu Society of North Carolina, Islamic Association of Raleigh, Kadampa Center for Tibetan Buddhism, NCSU Muslim Student Association, Raleigh Friends Meeting, Raleigh Mennonite Church, Raleigh Sai Center, St. Paul Christian Church, Temple Beth Or, The Sikh Gurudwara of North Carolina, Triangle Interfaith Alliance, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, White Memorial Presbyterian Church





Please contact Gloria Johnson for additional information about the project or Habitat.


The Institute of Islamic and Turkish Studies: North Carolina Events

Divan Center Events