israel and palestine religion

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“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)

If it’s happening in Bethlehem again then it may catch on! 😉

Source: Al-Bushra.org…

Bethlehem Awaiting a Uniquely Joyful Christmas

Palestinians Rejoicing at UN Recognition as Non-Member State

JERUSALEM, DEC. 19, 2012 (Zenit.org…) – An auxiliary bishop of Jerusalem says this Christmas in the town where Jesus was born will be particularly joyful.

Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem told the charity Aid to the Church in Need that Bethlehem will enjoy a uniquely festive Christmas because Palestinians welcomed as a “victory” the recent UN recognition of Palestine as a non-member state.

Bishop Shomali suggested that the morale of Palestinians – both Christians and Muslims – was boosted by last month’s “status upgrade.”

“For Christians in and around Bethlehem,” the bishop told ACN, “Christmas this year will be joyful because of the UN recognition of the Palestinian state.

“This has given people a lot of morale and indeed is seen by many as a victory.”

But Bishop Shomali said the festive spirit was tempered by many overseas tourists scrapping Christmas pilgrimages to the Holy Land in response to last month’s Israel-Gaza conflict.

“There will certainly be fewer pilgrims and other visitors from overseas,” he said. “Many have cancelled their trips here but we will still have many people coming from Galilee and elsewhere as well as many Christians from Bethlehem.”

Bishop Shomali also told ACN that the conflict in Syria is of grave concern to Christians in the Holy Land.

“What is happening in Syria casts a dark shadow. It impacts on us very greatly. We are not happy with what is happening in Syria. We are anxious and sad about the situation there.”

“There are good and bad feelings this Christmas,” he concluded, “but if we consider that Christmas is above all a spiritual feast, I believe it will be a very good celebration.”

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Father Roy writes:  The highlights in the following essay are mine.  Avigail Abarbanel was born and raised in Israel.  She moved to Australia in 1991 and now lives in Scotland.  She works as a psychotherapist in private practice and is an activist for Palestinian rights.  Avigail is the editor of Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012).  Her website.    Peace, Roy

Avigail Abarbanel

Avigail Abarbanel

source: mondoweiss.net…

 Happy Hanukkah? Thanks, but not for me

By Avigail Abarbanel

Every year since I left Israel, at about this time of year, well-meaning, polite people wish me Happy Hanukkah. But I don’t celebrate Hanukkah because it is a festival that offends my values and ethics. People tend to think that it’s some kind of a Jewish version of Christmas, but they are wrong.

The festival of Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem as part of a successful rebellion against the Greek occupiers in Judea during the period 175 to 134 BC.

After Alexander’s death the Greek empire was divided and Judea became part of the Greek Seleucid Empire, which also included Syria. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the ruler of the Seleucid Empire, turned Jerusalem into a Greek-style polis, built a gymnasium, turned the Jewish temple into a temple for the Greek god Zeus, and brutally suppressed Jewish religion. Practices like reading the Torah, circumcision and observing the Sabbath were banned and punishable by death.

The rebellion led by Judas Maccabeus and his brothers was run as a guerrilla war against the Seleucid army but initially involved murdering Jewish collaborators who adopted Hellenic culture and religion.

This guerrilla war involved many battles and in the end Judea was able to establish itself as a Roman client state and free itself from the Greeks. During one of the battles a band of rebels was able to overcome a small Seleucid garrison guarding the temple. They took it back and rededicated it as a Jewish temple. The word Hanukkah is derived from the root of the Hebrew word ‘inaugurate’ or ‘dedicate’.

This event is celebrated in the festival of Hanukkah as a miracle from god with a few myths thrown in.

One of those is the myth of the little can of consecrated olive oil that was found in a corner of the temple, and that miraculously lasted eight days allowing the Menorah to be lit for the eight days of the celebration.

The Bar-Ilan University professor who taught us about Hanukkah as part of a unit on Jewish festivals said no one knows who made up this myth, but it stuck. It is told every year to little children in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world, as a way of conferring divine blessing on the successful rebellion against the Greek occupation forces.

The problem I have with Hanukkah (and many other Jewish festivals) is that I refuse to celebrate a blood bath, glorify war or justify murder of anyone, even in the name of our own liberation or survival.

Many Jewish festivals are based around stories of our deliverance from oppression, and triumph over those who wished to annihilate us or just gave us a hard time. To my taste, too many of them rejoice in the killing of others and justify what we did in the name of the survival of our Jewish identity. (I don’t celebrate Passover either, because I can’t rejoice in the death of all the eldest sons of Egypt, or Purim where Hamman and his ten sons were murdered for plotting to kill the Jews.)

Growing up, I learned so many stories about how our people resisted occupation and subjugation. They weren’t always about battles and wars. Sometimes they were just about the human spirit resisting subjugation regardless of a horrible cost.

One of the goriest stories, and one that as a child I found also deeply moving, was about Hanna and her seven sons who were brutally murdered one by one in front of her because she refused to eat pork. We were taught in no uncertain terms that one does anything to be free, one does not bow to occupiers and one does not tolerate oppression or any attempt to subjugate our religion, our way of life or our national character.

Given the realities of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, I find the hypocrisy of Hanukkah intolerable. It’s OK for us Jews to celebrate (hugely and spectacularly) our efforts to liberate our own people from occupation, no matter the cost, no matter who lives or dies on our side or the other. But it is not OK for the Palestinians.

No-one condemns Judas Maccabeus and his rebels as terrorists.

They are revered as freedom fighters with a just and even divinely decreed cause regardless of their brutality. The Greek occupiers are despised venomously in the story of Hanukkah, but no-one thinks there’s a problem with Israel being an occupier.

Of course at this point supporters of Israel are likely to say that the comparison is unfair. Israel isn’t an empire like Greece was; it is only trying to be a safe haven for the long persecuted Jewish people.

But do the reasons behind occupation and colonisation matter when their evils and crimes are the same?

Another thing that is revealed in the documents behind Hanukkah is that there was horrible and bloody infighting within the Jewish community itself during that period.

There was corruption and endless intrigue in relation to the position of the High Priest and his relatives, collaboration with the Greek occupiers, power, status and money. This is the kind of dynamic that happens when a people are under occupation, the power struggles that go with that and the different approaches to dealing with the occupation. It’s never pretty.

So when people criticise the Palestinian people, I stay out of it and I always think to myself, What do you expect? This is what happens when people are under occupation. They are responding as human beings have always responded under similar circumstances, including us Jews. Why should the Palestinians be held to a different standard than the Jews back then, or the French during the Nazi occupation, India during British colonisation, the Scots or any other occupied group throughout human history?

The problem is never with the response; it is always with the occupation. Colonisers and occupiers are not benign. They are cruel and exploitative, and there is nothing the colonised and occupied can do that will ever be right. No occupier ever tolerates any resistance, peaceful or violent. They crush them both because they interrupt and threaten the agenda of the occupier. Occupied people can do nothing right when dealing with a force bent on taking what they have and destroying them if they get in the way of it.

I used to like Hanukkah as a child because it’s fun for children. You get to light pretty candles, sing really nice, albeit gory, traditional songs (Maoz Tzur is positively shocking if you know what the words mean), and eat yummy sweet, fatty food, like fried potato patties (latkes) and jam doughnuts (sufganiot). (Both of these are traditional Eastern European dishes, not really Jewish as such, but Israel has always been dominated by Ashkenazi culture.) So when I gave up all of this years ago, it was a little sad, but it’s been a worthwhile sacrifice to make so I can live according to my ethics.

It’s time for Jewish supporters of Israel around the world, and in particular for Israeli Jews, to wake up and see the terrible irony of celebrating Hanukkah while Israel occupies the Palestinians.

Why can’t they see that they are playing the part of the Greeks and that the Palestinians are responding the same way the Jewish rebels did back then? If Jewish culture glorifies and celebrates our rebellious and uncompromising spirit, why does it condemn that same spirit in others?

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This just in from Caritas Jerusalem. It well illustrates why the ‘ceasefire’ such a farce! A ceasefire implies an ending of hostilities – all forms of hostilities – and not just a cessation of the bombing of civilian areas.

Israel continues to strangle Gaza – controlling her borders by land, air and sea. They control her electricity. They limit the flow of goods, block exports, and so make the life of the Gazan people an ongoing misery, and then they breach the very boundaries of military restraint that they themselves agreed to! How can this be called a ‘ceasefire’?

Father Dave

Caritas Jerusalem

source: www.caritasjr.org……

Caritas Jerusalem points to abuses of Gaza fishermen.

Ongoing Attacks Against Palestinian Fishermen In Gaza

Israel had formally barred Gaza fishermen from heading more than three miles out into the Mediterranean Sea for about three years, its gunboats often enforcing the rule. It said its blockade was a measure to prevent weapons smuggling.

As indirect negotiations continue in Cairo between Israel and the Palestinians over issues like fishing, border crossings and movement in the buffer zone along the land boundary of the Gaza Strip, both sides said Wednesday that the encounter at sea and several other skirmishes in recent days had been problematic. A Palestinian health official said seven Palestinians had been wounded by Israeli gunfire, one of them seriously, in the buffer zone on Wednesday. On Friday, a man was killed in the area as a crowd approached the fence

between Gaza and Israel.

Despite an Israeli concession to permit Gazans to fish up to six nautical miles from shore rather than three, attacks and violations still continue against the fishermen in Gaza by the Israeli forces.

The Continued Attacks against Palestinian Fishermen Prove False Israeli Claims of Permitting Fishermen to Fish up to 6 Nautical Miles.

According to the Palestinian Center For Human Rights: These violations were as follows:

  • On Monday, 26 November 2012, Israeli gunboats intercepted a fishing boat while it sailed at 8 nautical miles out of the Gaza city shore. According to fisherman Amjad Ismail Ahmed al-Sherafi (38) from Gaza, at approximately 09:30, he and his brother Mohammad (34) sailed there in the Gaza waters when an Israeli gunboat intercepted him and forced him to stop at gunpoint and sail back without pulling his fishing nets out of the sea.
  • At approximately 10:00 on Wednesday, 28 November 2012, Israeli forces chased a fishing boat belonging to Murad Rajab al-Hessi, from Gaza, at nearly 6 nautical miles off the shore from Deir al-Balah. Mohammad Murad al-Hessi (39), Ahmed Murad al-Hessi (32), Murad Mohammad al-Hessi (18) and Rajab Rashad al-Hessi (36) were on board of the boat. 4 Israeli gunboats opened intensive fire at the boat, which caused damage to the boat. The Israeli soldiers then ordered the fishermen to jump into the water and swim towards the gunboat. They were all arrested and interrogated at gunpoint. 3 hours later, 4 of them were released. However, Mohammad Murad al-Hessi remains in detention. In addition, the boat still remains confiscated.
  • At approximately 08:00 on Wednesday, 28 November 2012, Israeli gunboats opened intense and direct fire at a Palestinian fishing boat, belonging to Khader Jamal Baker (20), from Gaza, while he sailed at 3.5 nautical miles. As a result, the fishing boat was destroyed. Baker was arrested by Israeli soldiers who interrogated with him at gunpoint for 3 hours before releasing him.
  • At approximately 11:00 on Wednesday, 28 November 2012, Israeli gunboats opened intense fire at a Palestinian fishing boat with 3 fishermen on board, belonging to Wafdi Suheil Baker (24), from Gaza, while sailing at 5 nautical miles off the Gaza shore. As a result of the shooting, the engine of the boat was damaged. The soldiers subsequently arrested the three fishermen, who were identified as: Wafdi Suheil Baker (24), Khaled Suheil Baker (20) and Mohammad Suheil Baker (18), all from Gaza.
  • At approximately 12:00 on Wednesday, 28 November 2012, Israeli gunboats opened fire directly and intensively at two Palestinian fishing boats belonging to Mohammad Najib Baker (60) and Tal’at Kamel Baker (22), both from Gaza, while they sailed at 3 nautical miles off the Gaza shore. As a result of the shooting, both boats were damaged.
  • At approximately 10:15 on Thursday, 29 November 2012, Israeli naval forces stationed off the Beit Lahia shore intercepted a fishing boat with 6 fishermen on board, belonging to Fahed Ziad Baker (38), from Gaza, while sailing at approximately 5 nautical miles off the Beit Lahia shore, in the northern Gaza Strip. The soldiers arrested the fishermen and investigated with them aboard the Israeli gunboat at gunpoint. Until now the fishermen remain in detention. The arrested fishermen were identified as: Fahed Ziad Baker (38), Ihab Jawad Baker (36), Mohammad Ziad Baker (32), Nai’m Fahed Baker (16), Ziad Faged Baker (18) and Ali Alaa Baker (18)

The Oslo peace accords signed by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in September 1993 called for allowing fishing up to 20 nautical miles from shore, but experts say that never came to fruition.

On the 29th of November 2012, the International Community recognized Palestine as a non-member observer state.

Caritas Jerusalem believes in peace and justice and calls upon the International Community to help all those civilians who are victims of human rights violations.

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Father Roy writes: Another front in the Battle has opened up.  The front of which I speak is in England: The Plight of the Rev’d Stephen Sizer.  The article pasted below will explain. 

It’s a serious matter.  I’ll write no more about it now, but lots of people will be writing about it in the near future.  Sami Joseph wrote this morning that Stephen is under a great deal of pressure.  The Jewish Establishment is standing adamant against him.  Stephen’s Bishop has asked him to write a letter explaining himself.  Here’s background information on the subject: stephen sizer – AOL Search Results.  The article pasted below is quite comprehensive.

Peace,Roy

Rev. Stephen Sizer

Rev. Stephen Sizer

Board of Deputies makes formal complaint about Stephen Sizer to Church of England

The Board of Deputees has issued a formal complaint to the Anglican Church, about Rev Stephen Sizer:

In a move believed to be without precedent in modern times, the Board of Deputies has lodged a formal complaint against Revd Stephen Sizer under the Church of England’s disciplinary process – an Act of Parliament known as the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003.

The complaint is based on statements made by Revd Sizer that the Board regards as antisemitic and a series of instances where Revd Sizer has posted internet links to articles on racist and antisemitic websites.

The BoD website has also published an opinion piece, evidence in support of the complaint, and an appendix.

Earlier this month, Stephen Sizer hosted the UK branch of Jews For Jesus, who did not challenge Sizer publicly about antisemitism, but used Sizer’s church as a platform to promote their own organisation. One wonders if Jews For Jesus is surprised by this development.

The BoD complaint follows a complaint from the Council of Christians and Jews about Sizer made this past year, and also a lengthy blogging campaign to highlight Sizer’s dalliances with antisemitism, much of which has featured here on HP.

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Bishop Shomali

Bishop Shomali

source: Al-Bushra.org…

Jerusalem Prelate Says God Can Work Miracles Even in ‘Incurable’ Conflict

JERUSALEM, DEC. 10, 2012 (Zenit.org…).- Being a Christian in the Holy Land is not a simple coincidence — it’s a vocation, says Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem. And for Christians to stop their exodus from the land of Jesus’ birth, there must be lasting peace, the prelate affirms.

To stop the Christian population from dwindling, Bishop Shomali told the charity Aid to the Church in Need, prayer is the only solution, because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “incurable” and requires God’s help.

Describing how Palestinian Christians suffer from the same problems affecting all those living in the Palestinian territories, such as lack of work and restrictions on movement, the 62-year-old bishop said the situation in the town of Christ’s birth is particularly dire: “In Bethlehem, people suffer on welfare. Thirty percent of young people have no work.”

“However,” he added, “the more pilgrimages there are, the more the tourist industry functions, and then the more work there is to be had.

“Last month for example, there were several thousand pilgrims.”

“Peace creates a very positive atmosphere,” Bishop Shomali reflected. “Without it, there is insecurity and the economic situation becomes precarious. Then, work must be created.”

Called to witness

Echoing Benedict XVI’s exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” the bishop declared that Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories are called to be witnesses to their faith.

“Spiritual encouragement and holding on to faith are of the greatest importance because being Christian in the Holy Land is not issuing from a simple coincidence — it is a vocation,” he said. “If the Christians consider it a privilege to be born in the Holy Land and have a testimony of faith to share, they will be motivated and this spiritual motivation is worth more than all material motivations.”

God’s work

Bishop Shomali also stressed that only God can provide the lasting peace the region needs.

“I continue to say to my pilgrims that in human terms there is no solution for the Israeli-Palestinian problem, for the nature of the problem is ideological,” he explained. “And so, in this Year of Faith, we must know that nothing is impossible for God. No, nothing is impossible for God.

“In general terms we pray when we cannot do for ourselves the things we want to do.

“For example, if I am suffering from an incurable illness, I ask God to help me, and I know that God can perform miracles.

“And so, this conflict is incurable and that is why we must believe that prayer can attain peace, despite all appearances, for God can surprise us as he often has in the history of the Church and in the history of humanity.”

Considering a trip to the Holy Land? Discover the real Israel/Palestine, touring with Father Labib Kobti. Click here for more info.