Israel - Palestine
Palestinians and Israelis Will Talk Again This Week
Palestinian and Israeli negotiators will meet again for the first time in more than a year in an effort to revive stalled peace talks. They will meet in Jordan along with the Jordanian officials and representatives from the U.S., Russia, the E.U. and the U.N. There is no expectation on any side of significant progress because of the issue of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank as well as in East Jerusalem and Palestinian demands for a settlement freeze. King Abdullah of Jordan has intervened in the process over the last few months because of his interest in a moderate Palestinian state being established in the West Bank and the Gaza and does not want to encourage any thoughts of a Palestinian state being established in Jordan instead. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his administration fear that any Palestinian state in the West Bank would ultimately be taken over by Islamists.
Such talks are crucial to the wellbeing not only of the Middle East but of the whole world. Please pray for all those involved in these peace talks and that they will be guided and helped by the Lord into a process of real reconciliation and healing of this longstanding feud between the two peoples.
Breaking the Cycle: Musalaha Reconciliation Training for Israelis and Palestinian Women
By Salim J. Munayer, Musalaha Director
“Musalaha’s women’s leadership committee recently decided to discuss forgiveness at their annual fall women’s conference. We spent time discussing what forgiveness is (a unilateral decision, an intentional process) and what it is not (a feeling, forgetting/avoiding, exoneration/excusing). …We also discussed the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Reconciliation entails the restoration of trust and a commitment to a relationship where both sides are willing to be vulnerable and allow the relationship to grow into something different than it was in the past; forgiveness can occur without reconciliation, but reconciliation cannot occur without forgiveness.
We also discussed intergroup forgiveness, redeeming violence and suffering, confronting issues, and bearing one another’s burdens. We then began to discuss intergroup forgiveness with each other, as we were divided into two groups of Israelis and Palestinians for separate discussion. We asked the Israelis to write how they have been hurt by the Palestinians, and then we asked them to write a list of how they think they have hurt the Palestinians. We asked the Palestinians to do the same – to write how they have been hurt by the Israelis, and how they think they have hurt the Israelis. Both sides honestly took time for self-reflection and self-criticism and came up with long lists of hurts and offenses.
We then brought the women back together to discuss this. Both sides brought up the issues of safety and security; both sides acknowledged the fear of the other. The Palestinian side expressed hurt at the imbalance of power, the misuse of Scripture for political purposes, the distortion and de-legitimization of Palestinian identity, and of land confiscation, among many other things. The Israeli side perceived that they hurt the Palestinians by treating them like second class citizens politically, socially, and through a flawed justice system, by being unwilling to listen to or believe their stories and history, and by confiscating property, to name a few. The Israeli side expressed hurt at the fear they live in due to Palestinian aggression, by the lack of understanding of their interpretation of Scripture, by Palestinian maps that make no mention of Israel’s existence, and by the fact that anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are not denounced in Palestinian society, among other things.
The Palestinian side perceived that they hurt the Israelis by violence, through challenging Messianic Jewish theology, for those living in Israel refusing to declare their Israeli identity, and by downplaying the Holocaust, to name a few. It was striking to see that, many times, each side had correctly articulated how the other side had been hurt by them. This session was eye-opening, and the women were sincere and honest with each other, and they truly heard and acknowledged one another’s hurts…
This conference was a breakthrough for our women. The women felt heard and better understood, and they felt their hurt was acknowledged. This does not mean that they necessarily agree with each another, but that they learned to better listen to one another. The other side’s acknowledgment of one’s hurt is part of the forgiveness process, and it helps in the healing process. They left excited by the furthering of their relationships and the newly found openness they achieved as they were vulnerable with one another. The women are taking this teaching back to their own congregations, as they saw the fruits of acknowledgement and forgiveness in this conference. It was a huge step in our journey of reconciliation, and we truly feel that we were able to better understand and live out.”
Please pray for a growing reconciliation movement to arise between Israelis and Palestinians and that the cycle of hatred and mistrust will be broken.
Pray for Christians in the Gaza Strip
On 25th February an explosive device was thrown at the home of a doctor who works at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital, run by the Anglican Church. The bomb was thrown towards the parking area of his home and damaged a relative's car. Nobody was injured but the family has been badly shaken by the incident and subsequent threats made against him and his family.
The Christian community in the Gaza Strip is deeply impacted by this attack.
In addition to the pressures that they share will all the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, they feel very vulnerable as a small Christian community in an area controlled by Hamas and other strongly Islamic groups. There is growing pressure against them, for example to stop any activity in which boys and girls participate together. There are an estimated 3,000 Christians amongst the 1.6 million population of the Gaza Strip (i.e. 0.2%). Many Christians have moved to the West Bank or further afield, and many of those that remain wish to leave.
The Director of the Palestinian Bible Society issued a call to prayer today (i.e. 4th March) in which he stated: "As I look into Gaza, my heart is broken over this place. I feel that there are serious attempts by the enemy to darken this place by taking out the light and salt of it. I invite you today to stand with the persecuted body of Christ in Gaza by praying for them and keeping them lifted in front of the throne."
Palestinian Christians request our prayers that:
a. The doctor and his family will know the peace, presence and protection of Jesus at this time. Likewise for all Christians in the Gaza Strip
b. Church leaders in the Gaza Strip will be sustained in their ministry by Father, Son and Holy Spirit
c. Officials will act to provide effective protection; and will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him
Israeli-Palestinian Tensions Escalating
“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly delayed his March 23 trip to Moscow following a bombing at bus stop in central Jerusalem that injured as many as 34 people. The bombing follows a series of recent mortar and rocket attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip reaching as far as the outskirts of Ashdod and Beersheba, as well as the March 11 massacre of an Israeli family in the West Bank settlement of Itamar. Netanyahu, already facing a political crisis at home in trying to hold his fragile coalition government together, now faces a serious dilemma. There were strong hints that Netanyahu may hold a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow to restart the peace process and avoid becoming entrapped in another military campaign in the Palestinian territories, but that plan is now effectively derailed. Though the precise perpetrators and their backers remain unclear, a Palestinian faction or factions appear to be deliberately escalating the crisis and thus raising the potential for Israel to mount another military operation in the Palestinian territories.”
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the calming of these rising tensions. Continue to intercede for effective and successful efforts at long-term reconciliation and peacemaking between Jewish and Palestinian governments and peoples.