Tag Archives: Gaza

On my heart and mind: children

Child soldiersA while back, I posted a sermon about children. Grieving the many places where children endure unimaginable violation, it affirms our call to care for children:

In this place, I am reminded that God is at work in all places. And that sustains and challenges me to look for how God is at work and, as the Holy Spirit gives me grace, to join in that work.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Faith in God in Christ have put them there.

And in this place, God invites us all to join in caring for the children. The children of this congregation. The children of this community. All the children, all God’s children of the world. May we hear and respond.

Today, my friend Laura Mariko Cheifetz posted a reflection on children “Children Aren’t Disposable“. She reaches a similar conclusion:

I think children matter. I think everyone’s child matters. I do not believe that parents or communities or even children need to be virtuous or free of fault in order to think their children and perhaps even their parents deserve protection and generosity. You can make all the bad decisions you want, but I still believe you and your children deserve life. I extrapolated this from the lesson my parents drummed into me: You do not have to earn grace. It has already been given.

Children matter. Their families matter. Grace has already been given. Let’s act like it.

And she does a better job of lifting up ways to act:

Support the Children’s Defense Fund. They do great work at a policy level.

Read Toxic Charity. Consider changing your mission to be less charity and offers more agency to people. Bulk discounts (for your Sunday school or book group) are available. http://www.thethoughtfulchristian.com/Products/9780062076212/toxic-charity–paperback-edition.aspx

Write letters to migrant children. http://www.groundswell-mvmt.org/faithshare/people-are-writing-letters-to-the-migrant-children-and-they-are-beautiful/

Advocate for immigration reform that will allow people dignity and a path to regularization. Congress has recessed for August, so there isn’t legislation to advocate for. But you can still leave a message with your U.S. and state congresspeople urging them to support meaningful immigration reform and humane immigration processes, particularly for children and their parents who may be eligible for asylum, rather than increased criminalization and security measures. TheThoughtfulChristian.com has many books and downloadable studies to help you and your church talk about immigration and take action.

Oppose zero-tolerance policies in schools, stop and frisk public policing, and other ways that disproportionately criminalize black and brown youth.

You may give to UNICEF and UNRWA, who work with children in Gaza and the occupied territories. You can also ask your congresspeople to reconsider our typical military aid package to the nation of Israel. You could work with local peace organizations to advocate for an end to the blockade and the occupation.

Children matter. Join in caring for them.

See you along the Trail.

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Keep moving

Anguish grips my soul as events unfold in Gaza.

I am cautiously grateful for the cease-fire announced today. I have prayed for peace; now I pray the negotiations will succeed.

I have called on Congress to act for a ceasefire in Gaza and to pursue a lasting peace in Israel-Palestine.

I have contributed to UNRWA to support their work caring for Palestine refugees in Gaza. There are a number of other agencies responding to the needs of Palestinians and Israelis.

photo (71)I also read Izzledin Abuelaish’s book, I Shall Not Hate.

On January 16, 2009, Israeli shells hit Abuelaish’s home in the Gaza Strip. The devastating explosions killed three of his daughters and a niece. A Palestinian doctor, Abuelaish writes of his experience and his refusal to turn to hate and revenge. Faced with heartbreak unimaginable, he called for the peoples of the region to talk to each other and to build relations with each other that could serve as the basis for efforts that might lead to a just peace. Abuelaish lives his call.

As bombs and shells fell on Gaza; as rockets struck Israel; as Israeli tanks rolled and Israeli troops marched; as Palestinians emerged from tunnels; Abuelaish’s words carry a powerful poignancy and a deep urgency.

We use hatred and blame to avoid the reality that eventually we need to come together.

Hatred is an illness. It prevents healing and peace.

Peace is humanity; peace is respect; peace is open dialogue. I don’t think of peace as the absence of anything that just puts it in a negative light. Let’s be positive about what peace is–rather than what it is not.

We do not need to merely accept what is happening around us. We all have the potential to be agents of change.

I believe that Einstein was right when he said life is like riding a bicycle: to keep balanced, we must keep moving. I will keep moving, but I need you to join me in this long journey.

I give thanks for Izzeldin Abuelaish and all who keep moving on the long journey to justice and peace in Gaza and Israel and places around the world. I pray for the courage and strength to keep moving with them.

See you along the Trail.

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Remember Palestinian workers on International Workers’ Day

May 1. May Day. International Workers’ Day.

A day to give thanks for those who have worked to extend and protect the rights and dignity of workers. A day to remember those who work, often in situations of degradation and exploitation.  A day to commit ourselves to the efforts to ensure that all people have the opportunity for meaningful, safe work that will allow them to support themselves and their dependents.

A post by B’Tselem reminded me of workers I had not considered on this day:

For Palestinian workers, there is not much cause for celebration: the day is a painful reminder that another year has gone by and nothing has changed. Palestinians are still denied basic rights, including the right to earn a living without risking their lives.

B’tselem reports that Israel exploits natural resources of the West Bank (quarries, water, land) for its own needs and those of Israeli settlers even though this violates international law. This is a major factor preventing the development of a Palestinian economy on the West Bank. No Palestinian economy means limited work opportunities for Palestinians. This makes working within Israel the only option available to Palestinians.

Some Palestinians do so illegally. Such workers live in a state of anxiety, fearing detection, arrest, injury. B’Tselem notes that for such workers “labor rights such as a minimum wage, reasonable work hours, and a pension scheme seem like a distant dream.”

Other Palestinians seek to obtain work permits which Israel controls. Even with permits, Palestinian workers may enter Israel only through designated checkpoints. There, B’Tselem reports “harsh conditions of overcrowding, long lines, and cases of humiliation during inspection. On Sundays, the number of Palestinians crossing through both checkpoints peaks at 4,500. The workers and their belongings are scanned with a metal detector. Then, they move on to stations where personnel check their fingerprints and their papers, including their entry permits.”

As International Workers’ Day draws to a close, I give thanks for those workers who helped established rights workers enjoy today. I look for ways to extend and protect those rights. And I think of situations where workers are abused and exploited. I think of the West Bank how the workers there need the occupation to end so a viable economy can be built as steps toward the day when all can be employed in dignity.

Even as I type, I wonder what the workers of Gaza face. And the workers of other places. And I realize I need to learn more about the workers of the world, all the world including the United States.

The words of Joan Baez come back to me:

And the aching workers of the world again shall sing 
These words in mighty choruses to all will bring 
“We shall no longer be the poor 
For no one owns us anymore” 
And the workers of the world again shall sing

May it be so.

See you along the Trail.

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Walk for the children of Gaza

UNRWAOn Saturday, May 17, UNRWA USA will sponsor the 3rd Annual Gaza Solidarity 5k Walk/Run to benefit the children of Gaza in Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC.

The proceeds from this event will benefit UNRWA’s psycho-social support program for children in Gaza suffering from psychological trauma and PTSD due to the devastating November 2012 violence and the prolonged blockade. Since November, reported cases of PTSD have risen by more than 100%. 42% of those cases are children under the age of nine.

There are several ways to participate.

  • If you are in Washington, DC, you can walk or run.
  • You can contribute to the cause.
  • Join the conversation on social media by using #Gaza5K in your posts and tweets!
  • If you are in New York, you can join me in walking 5k in Central Park. I will start from Columbus Circle at 10:00 AM. Let me know or meet me there.
  • You can walk wherever you are.
  • You can pray.

Together we can make a difference for the children of Gaza.

American Friends of UNRWA is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit that supports the humanitarian and human development work of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees through fundraising, advocacy, and outreach. UNRWA USA aims to educate the general American public about the situation of Palestinian refugees and generate support for UNRWA’s work in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

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Advocate for Peace in Gaza 

From the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness:

Ask Congress to Support a Lasting Ceasefire and an End to the Gaza Blockade

On March 11 three Palestinian members of Islamic Jihad were killed in southern Gaza, with their deaths reportedly attributed to an Israeli airstrike. The next day, Gaza fighters launched dozens of rockets into southern Israel, and the Israeli military conducted numerous airstrikes on Gaza.  Rockets and airstrikes continued later in the week.

The latest violence takes place following recent Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza.  In a March 4 report, “Spike in number of Palestinian civilians killed near Gaza perimeter fence,” the Israeli human rights organization, “B’Tselem,” describes incidents of civilian deaths. Amneh Qdeih, 57 was shot and killed “when she approached Gaza’s perimeter fence. Her relatives told B’Tselem field researcher Khaled al-‘Azayzeh that Qdeih, who was mentally ill, had been at a family wedding in the town of Khuza’ah, not far from the perimeter fence in the southeastern Gaza Strip.”

Also in March, the European Union released its report, “EU Heads of Missions’ report on Gaza 2013.”  The report details deteriorating conditions for the 1.7 million Palestinian residents of Gaza.  Power outages last up to 16 hours per day. Fuel shortages result in severely compromised water and sanitation facilities and disruption to hospital services.  The water situation is particularly dire, as the report details. Due to an  “over-abstraction of water from the aquifer—the principal water source in Gaza—the groundwater level has been sinking.  This causes salty seawater to seep in, rendering 90% of the aquifer’s water unsafe for drinking without treatment.  According to a UN study, the aquifer may become unusable by 2016 and damage to it may be irreversible by 2020.”

Click here to send a message to your members of Congress today!

The Heads of Mission warn that “the human rights situation in Gaza is worrying,” The ongoing closure policy means that movement and access for Palestinian residents of Gaza is strictly limited. As a result, Palestinians in Gaza are rarely able to visit family members, study at universities, and access holy sites in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The report notes a lower number of rockets in 2013 than in previous years, but “indiscriminate firing of rockets towards Israel by extremist groups in Gaza has continued, in violation of international law.”

The recent deaths of Palestinians in Gaza and the firing of rockets into Israel, as well as the deteriorating living conditions there, demonstrate in tragic way that the blockade of Gaza is suffocating for its residents while not bringing security for Israel.  As energy and attention focus on the ongoing peace negotiations, it is also critical to address the Gaza situation.

While Israel, as the occupying power, bears primary responsibility for ending the blockade, the Palestinian Authority and the de facto leadership in Gaza also must be held accountable.  While the Egyptian government has taken measures to curtail tunnel traffic, they should also be encouraged to work with the parties to facilitate use of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

Click here to send a message to your members of Congress today!

In 2005 Israel and the Palestinian authority signed an agreement on movement and access contained in two documents, “Agreement on Movement and Access,” and “Agreed Principles for Rafah Crossing.”  This agreement should be immediately updated and implemented, to alleviate the suffering and collective punishment of the people of Gaza and to provide for the security of the people of southern Israel. The need is urgent for a lasting ceasefire and an opening of the monitored crossings for humanitarian assistance, transit of persons, and imports and exports for the Gaza economy. It is time for a new strategy toward Gaza – a strategy that is based on human rights, international law, and respect for the dignity, freedom, and security of all persons.

At the 219th General Assembly, the PC(USA) expressed its opposition to a blockade on Gaza which prohibits adeaquate levels of food, medicine, building supplies, and humanitarian assistance from entering Gaza. In addition, the denomination affirmed its support for the necessity of allowing “free commercial exchange in and out of Gaza.” As part of this recommendation, the General Assembly specifically called upon the U.S. government to “end any support for the blockade that interferes with the adequacy such items or such exchange.” As Presbyterians we are guided by a concern for a just and lasting peace that will reach all people in Israel-Palestine, including the citizens of Gaza.
Click here to send a message to your members of Congress today!

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Heart sore

Heart sore
I sit and watch
I listen and pray
I write and call
as once more
rockets fly
jets roar
dealing
death
pain
grief
destruction.

Heart sore
I sit and watch
I listen and pray
I write and call
as people kill
as people die.

Heart sore
I sit and watch
I listen and pray
I write and call
impotent,
incompetent
in safety
in privilege.

Heart sore.

15 November 2012
Shire on the Hudson

 

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