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January Action Focus:
Support Middle East Peacemaking
and Dianne Lee
Supporting peacemaking initiatives in the Middle East is so important at
this time, especially with the political opening provided by the election of
Mahmoud Abbas as the new leader of the Palestinians. With the Epiphany focus
on Bethlehem for Christians, the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha (marking
Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son Ishmael), and the Jewish festival of Tu
B'Shvat (celebrating the midwinter rebirth of trees), this is also an
appropriate time for people of faith to put into practice the full meaning
of their worship.
We can support peacemaking initiatives in the Middle East in many ways -
through olive oil purchases, donations for planting olive trees, economic
and political action options, solidarity with international peacemakers,
prayer and on-going education.
Purchase extra virgin olive oil crushed manually by the farmers of Palestine
to help the farmers and the needy children living in the refugee camps
inside Palestine. The oil can be
In St. Louis, the Center for Theology and Social Analysis has partnered
with the Palestine Children's Welfare Fund
to make Palestinian olive oil available to the St. Louis community. To
purchase through CTSA, email
or call 314-647-4812. CTSA sells 8oz bottles for $6.00. The olive oil
contains no chemicals or preservatives. Only love and peace are added.
3. Stand against the bulldozing of Palestinian homes and other unjust
Amnesty International, the Jewish Voice for Peace, Human Rights Watch,
SUSTAIN, the US Campaign to End Israeli Occupation, and Progressive Portal
have publicly called on Caterpillar, Inc. to immediately halt the sale of
bulldozers to Israel. Caterpillar equipment is used by the Israeli military
to destroy Palestinian homes, orchards, greenhouses, and sometimes lives.
Since 1967 Caterpillar bulldozers were used to destroy almost 12,000
Palestinian homes, leaving more than 70,000 traumatized and homeless.
US taxpayers, not the Israeli government directly, are paying Caterpillar
for these bulldozers. Caterpillar bulldozers are sold to Israel under the US
Foreign Military Sales Program. These bulldozers are retrofitted
specifically for the purpose of conducting illegal home demolition in
violation of human rights.
Contact your Congressional representatives; tell them to ask for an
investigation of the US purchase of Caterpillar equipment for Israel.
Visit the STOP CATERPILLAR website
to join the CAT boycott.
Make a donation to the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions,
a non-violent, direct-action group originally established to oppose and
resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories.
4. Political actions for a just peace.
Although it may seem futile at times, it is imperative that voices calling
for peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land be heard by those in power,
especially in the United States. Israel cannot sustain its military
occupation and arbitrary settlement expansions without the financial and
political support it receives from the United States. While the US
government may have less influence with the Palestinians, it must likewise
urge them to pursue nonviolent alternatives.
It is in our own national self-interest to deal with the sources of
terrorism as well as the threat of terrorism. The continuing military
occupation of Palestine, the separation wall, the home demolitions and more,
plus the corresponding destruction of hope, have all led to the intifada and
spawn more terror. Many Jewish people see that such a change is in the
national self-interest of Israel as well. Among these Jewish voices is
Shamai Leibowitz, a prominent Israeli human rights lawyer, an Orthodox Jew,
and a former tank gunner in the Israeli Defense Forces serving in the
In additional to our emails and letters to political leaders, we might
Educating ourselves and others on these issues (see websites below)
Participating in solidarity demonstrations, e.g., with “Women in Black”
The difficult issue of divestment from Israel has been raised by some Church
bodies and leaders and needs careful consideration before acting. At
least one thoughtful Jewish peace activist sees divestment as
“punishing Israel for terrorism
5. Support Christian Peacemaker Teams and the International Solidarity
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) offer an organized, nonviolent
alternative to war and other forms of lethal inter-group conflict. CPT
provides organizational support to persons committed to faith-based
nonviolent alternatives in situations where lethal conflict is an immediate
reality or is supported by public policy. For months, CPTers and other
internationals have been escorting Palestinian children past the Israeli
settlement outpost of Ma'on as the students walk to school. Twice these
internationals were attacked. You can support CPT through prayer, financial
donations, sponsorship of a CPT volunteer, or by joining the "Campaign for
The International Solidarity Movement
is a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation
of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and
principles. ISM volunteers also accompany children, assist with the olive
harvest, and maintain an international presence at checkpoints and at
protests against the separation wall. ISM volunteer in St. Louis,
is available for presentations. See her Christmas 2004 reflection in #7
6. Distribute and say Pax Christi's "Muslim, Jewish, Christian Prayer
(Contact Pax Christi,
for copies of this prayer card).
"O God, you are the
source of life and peace. Praised be your name forever. We know
it is you who turn our minds to thoughts of peace. Hear our prayer in
this time of war.
“Your power changes hearts. Muslims, Christians, and Jews remember,
and profoundly affirm, that they are followers of the one God, children of
Abraham, brothers and sisters; enemies begin to speak to one another; those
who were estranged join hands in friendship; nations seek the way of peace
“Strengthen our resolve to give witness to these truths by the way we live.
Give to us: understanding that puts an end to strife; mercy that quenches
hatred; and forgiveness that overcomes vengeance. Empower all people
to live in your law of love.
7. Pray over these 12/04 reflections from Dianne Lee, an ISM volunteer
“One year ago I traveled with three friends from St. Louis to Palestine.
We spent Christmas Eve in Bethlehem and attended midnight mass at the Church
of the Nativity. As we left Manger Square it was dark, the sun had not
risen on Christmas 2003 yet, near the Bethlehem checkpoint, men on
Caterpillar bulldozers were already at work plowing under ancient olive
trees, while others were grading the earth in preparation for construction
of the separation (apartheid) wall.
Now it is Christmas, 2004, and the wall surrounds Bethlehem, isolating its
citizens, both Christians and Muslims, from Jerusalem
and the rest of Palestine.
“On December 26, 2003 we stood in solidarity with the people of Mas'ha as
the Israeli army opened fire on unarmed Israeli, Palestinian, and
international demonstrators trying to open a gate in the apartheid wall
separating the villagers from their own land, their olive groves and
orchards. I accompanied a young Israeli, unconscious from gunshot wounds,
and an injured American woman, one of my travel companions, from the clinic
in the neighboring village of Bidya, where the Israeli's life was certainly
saved, to a hospital in Peta Tiqwa, Israel. The young Israeli, Gil
Na'amati, will never fully recover from his wounds. He participated in the
demonstration at Mas'ha three weeks after his discharge from the Israeli
army. During his years of military service, he was stationed in the West
came to understand that the military occupation and the construction of the
wall were fueling a spiral of violence, death and destruction throughout
Palestine. His first public act after leaving the army was to take part in
the non-violent demonstration at Mas'ha in
protest of the separation wall.
“We visited mothers and children in Qalqilia, Ramallah, Jayous, Nablus, the
Balata Refugee Camp, and in Bethlehem. All of the mothers spoke of
despair. There was little hope and much fear as they tried to imagine what
the future held for their children. The children were amazingly resilient,
smiling and welcoming us, asking our names, and posing for photographs. In
Qalqilia, the boys shared dreams of college, of becoming engineers or
doctors. All of this as we stood in front of a sniper tower where armed
Israeli soldiers kept watch and a 25 foot high concrete wall, covered with
poignant, defiant graffiti. The children displayed a large banner with the
words "The wall deprives 6500 farmers from their land" scripted in both
Arabic and English.
“As we celebrate the Christmas season singing carols, exchanging gifts with
loved ones, relaxing at parties, and catching up with old friends, let us
remember the people, especially the children, of Palestine. Thirty-seven
years of military occupation, the
of Palestinian land, arbitrary home demolitions, and the ongoing collective
punishment of every Palestinian does not make Israelis secure in their
neighborhoods but does cause the needless suffering of millions of innocent
people. 652 Palestinian children
were killed by Israeli military forces from September 29, 2000, the
beginning of the second intifada, to November 20, 2004… During the same
period 117 Israeli children died, most were killed by a Palestinian suicide
bomber. 769 dead children, 1,538 heartbroken parents, countless grieving
relatives and friends, and none of these children were a threat to their
killers. How many more children must die before US citizens, politicians,
and faith communities say NO MORE? Please act now -
Visit the Remember These
Children website and then act.
Call or write your elected officials.
Share what you learn with others in your faith community.
Pray for hope and peace in Bethlehem, not just at Christmas, but in every
‘Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above the deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark street shineth, the ever-lasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight’
Salaam, Shalom, Peace – Dianne Lee
8. For more information, contact these additional websites: