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The Long, Hot Summer of Injustice

A Letter from Doug Dicks, serving in Israel and Palestine

September 2019

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Dear Family and Friends,

As the long, hot summer of 2019 winds down, the season of Israeli elections for a new prime minister is heating up once again.

Following Israeli elections back in April of this year, Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected. However, following weeks of his inability to form a new coalition government, new elections were called for in September.

By this time tomorrow, a new premier will have been elected. Or perhaps an old one! Or perhaps a deadlock between the two strongest candidates most likely to be asked to form the next government.

One thing is clear. This next election may very well turn out to be a referendum on Benjamin Netanyahu, who has now overtaken David Ben Gurion as Israel’s longest serving prime minister.

In the months leading up to this latest round of political posturing, campaigning, and both threats and promises, the situation on the ground has continued to evolve in ways that translated into more land loss, confiscation of properties and home demolitions for Palestinians.

On Monday, June 10, and following a 13-year legal battle, the Israeli Supreme court judged that the historic properties of the Imperial Palace Hotel and the Petra Hostel, just inside the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City, had been legitimately acquired by foreign intermediaries acting for the Ateret Cohanim settler organization. This decision will have negative consequences for Jerusalem’s Christian population. If implemented, it will in effect remove the Christian presence from the Jaffa Gate area. (To read more about a rally held by the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem concerning this issue, see: https://www.lpj.org/heads-of-jerusalem-churches-hold-prayer-rally-in-protest-jaffa-gate-properties-case/)

In July, 100 apartments which would have served as homes for Palestinian families were systematically destroyed in the early morning hours. Palestinian residents of the village of Sur Baher, south east of Jerusalem, had been given until the 18th of July to demolish the apartments, said to have been built without a permit. The Israeli authorities used the pretext that they were built too close to the security fence. The residents were ordered to demolish their own apartments or face heavy demolition costs and fines from the Israeli municipality. By and large, most Palestinians are forced to build without permits, as the Israeli authorities refuse to grant them.

In late August, another family lost their home and livelihood when the Al Makhrour Restaurant was destroyed by the Israeli Army, under the pretext that the land belonged to the Himenutat, the Jewish National Funds’ subsidiary that supervises the Funds’ land. On August 26, the Israeli military arrived in the Al-Makhrour region near Bethlehem to demolish the home and restaurant of the Palestinian Christian Qaissia family. This family had already had their property demolished on two separate occasions—once in 2012 and again in 2015—and have had to rebuild at great cost. On each occasion an Israeli organization has made a claim on their family property and they have been denied due process in the courts. Watch this video from the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ) for some history about the area and about the earlier demolitions of this property. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP7bs7q77iA

The Al Makhrour is the agricultural land of Beit Jala, and is a farming area of approximately 740 acres consisting of ancient terraces, olive groves, vineyards, fruit trees and archaeological sites. It represents one of the last green areas of land unscathed by Israeli settlement activity. That is, up until now.

On Tuesday, September 10 and one week before the election for a new prime minister was to take place, Benjamin Netanyahu promised—or threatened—to annex the Jordan Valley, which makes up a third of the West Bank, if he were to be re-elected as prime minister. This announcement was condemned by the Palestinians, Arab countries, the European Union and the United Nations.

Elections will be held in Israel on Tuesday, September 17, for the second time in less than six months after efforts failed to form a government following the April election earlier this year. Candidates are being fielded by 31 parties, but the two most popular parties are Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and the more centrist Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) party led by Benny Gantz, a former army chief, together with Yair Lapid.

Finally, in a year that witnessed the hottest July on record, water shortages in the West Bank continued to plague the residents of this region, a direct result of years of Israel’s discriminatory water policies. The amount of water allowed to the West Bank has not been increased since 1995, although its population has almost doubled since then. The average Israeli has access to 2-3 times the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum water allowance per day, while the average Palestinian living in the West Bank has access to only 75% of that minimum amount.

Please pray for all of those facing the loss of lands, livelihoods, and homes. As we await the change of seasons, and the parched earth awaits the winter rains, please pray for an abundant rainy season, and for those who depend on adequate rainfall to get them through another hot, dry summer. Please pray for an abundant olive harvest this year, as well!

Thanks for your continued support, your letters, emails, encouragement and financial support. All are greatly needed, and most appreciated.

There’s still time for any of you who might wish to join the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program’s biennial Mosaic of Peace Trip to Israel and Palestine. The dates are March 15-28, and there is still time to register and sign up, through October 15!

Go to https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/peacemaking/mosaic/ for information and to apply to be a group participant. I hope to see some of you here next year!

Blessings,

Doug

Post Script. The results of the latest elections proved once again that no one party has a majority of the seats in the Israeli Knesset needed to form a coalition government. Both Likud (Netanyahu) and the Blue and White Party (Gantz) have announced “their” determination to form a ruling coalition government.

Please read this important message from Sara Lisherness, interim director of Presbyterian World Mission

Dear friend of Presbyterian Mission,

Greetings in Christ! As the interim director of Presbyterian World Mission, I am grateful to have the opportunity to thank you for your continued support of PC(USA) mission co-workers.

The enclosed newsletter bears witness to some of the many ways in which God is at work in the world through long-standing relationships between global partners and the PC(USA).

These partnerships are nurtured and strengthened by the presence of mission co-workers in over 40 countries; you are an important part of this partnership too, as you learn about and share how our church is involved in global ministry; as you pray for our partners and mission co-workers; and as you take action to work with others for God’s justice, peace and healing.

I write to invite you to continue joining us in partnership in three ways. First, your prayers are always needed. Please pray that God will continue guiding the shared work of the PC(USA) and global partners as we engage together in service around the world. Pray, too, for mission co-workers, that they may feel encouraged in the work they are doing under the leadership of global partners.

Second, please consider making a year-end gift for the sending and support of at least one mission co-worker. There is a remittance form at the end of this letter and an enclosed envelope so that you can send in a special year-end gift.

Finally, I encourage you to ask your session to include one or more mission co-workers in your congregation’s mission budget for 2020 and beyond. PC(USA) mission co-workers’ sending and support costs are funded by the designated gifts of individuals and congregations like yours; your gifts allow Presbyterian World Mission to fulfill global partners’ requests for mission personnel.

Faithfully in Christ,

Sara Pottschmidt Lisherness
Director, Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry
Interim Director, Presbyterian World Mission


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