Support the church’s response to Hurricane Ida — Give now

Bearing Our Cross

A Letter from Doug Dicks, serving in Israel and Palestine

Spring 2021

Write to Doug Dicks

Individuals: Give online to E200516 for Doug Dicks’ sending and support

Congregations: Give to D506222 for Doug Dicks’ sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery)

 


Subscribe to my co-worker letter

Dear family and friends,

Happy belated Easter greetings from the land of the Holy One! Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!

I hope you are enjoying some Spring-like weather in your part of the world! Here in Israel and in Palestine, the temperatures have already soared well into the 90’s Fahrenheit! The beauty of Springtime – which was quite remarkable this year – has all but gone, as most of the green grass and delicate wildflowers have been scorched and dried out by the oppressive heat. At this time of year, I am always reminded of the verse from Isaiah 40:8, which reads, “the grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

March was a particularly heavy month, as we witnessed many illnesses and deaths of friends, their families, and acquaintances. The Bethlehem region was particularly hard hit, and hospital beds were in short supply for those that required intensive care. The people of Bethlehem, and the neighboring cities of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour (The Shepherd’s Fields) said goodbye to friends and loved ones alike as the dreaded COVID-19 virus continued to take its toll. May God have mercy on their souls, and may they rest from their earthly labors and rise in glory to eternal life.

Good Friday in Jerusalem was quieter than usual once again this year, and absent were the throngs of tourists and pilgrims that would normally come to Jerusalem for Holy Week and Easter. I walked with the Protestant denominations of Jerusalem (Anglican, Lutheran, Scottish Presbyterian) on the annual Good Friday walk along the Via Dolorosa and the Stations of the Cross in the Old City of Jerusalem just after dawn. Except for a heavy military presence by the Israeli army and police, the streets were largely absent of foreign visitors. However, many of the local Palestinian Arab Christians turned out in large numbers to walk the Via Dolorosa and to shoulder a wooden cross all the way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the place where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, died, buried and resurrected. The Reverend John McCulloch, the pastor of St. Andrew’s Jerusalem, provided a Good Friday service at St. Andrew’s Church, the first time the church had been opened for worship in well over fifteen months.

I spent Easter in Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, where my colleague, the Reverend Angleena Keizer from the United Methodist Church in the UK, and I traveled to celebrate the Sunday morning worship service at the chapel of St. Andrew’s Tiberias. Ten persons were present, and it was the first time in over a year that an in-person church was held. Our time in Galilee provided us with a much-needed break away from Jerusalem and allowed for some hiking in the fresh air on Easter Monday and Tuesday.

On April 18, Israel relaxed its mandatory mask mandate and stated that masks did not have to be worn outside. Likewise, people would not have to worry about the steep fine of 500 New Israeli Shekels, or about $150.00, should one be caught without wearing a face covering. However, and inside or entering a building or indoor public space, masks were still required. Only those holding the green “vaccination certificate” are currently allowed to dine inside cafes and restaurants.

Some of the Palestinian population are now getting vaccinated at checkpoints by Israeli medical teams. A concerted effort to provide vaccines to anyone wishing to be vaccinated in the Palestinian cities has only begun this month.

The relative calm during the holy month of Ramadan was shattered when violent clashes erupted at the Damascus Gate on the evening of April 22. Israeli Jews, who had gathered in West Jerusalem marched to East Jerusalem and the Old City of Jerusalem chanting, “Death to Arabs” and Palestinians.” At least 105 Palestinians were injured, and Israeli police employed riot dispersal means, including stun grenades, tear gas, and water cannons, to break up the protests.

The following evening, I was in Jerusalem for the service of Thanksgiving for the outgoing Archbishop of St. George’s Cathedral, Suheil Dawani. A reception followed the service in the garden, yet the atmosphere remained tense, as fears that more violence might break out at any moment not far from Damascus Gate, of the Old City of Jerusalem. Thankfully, none did, and the night passed in quiet and calm.

Still, it must be acknowledged that the daily humiliation, abuse, and planned and calculated systems that continue to oppress the Palestinian populations of the West Bank and Gaza Strip cannot be ignored.

On April 27, Human Rights Watch issued a report entitled “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution.” You can read the entire 213-page report here, at: https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution.

A highlight of this Spring was our Webinar, also on April 27, hosted by the Office for the Middle East and Europe, entitled “A Cry for Hope Amidst Despair in Palestine” with a fuller than anticipated ZOOM audience.

Thank you all, as always, for your thoughts, prayers, emails, and financial support, all of which are most appreciated and needed to carry on my work here in the Holy Land.

Sincerely,

Doug


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?