I was really challenged by my aunt and uncle's Christmas letter this year. I've cut and pasted an extract below.
The whole Israel/Palestine issue is something that I've never really got my head round, I'm quite ashamed to say. It's not been helped (he says rather defensively) by the prevalence of pro Israel groups I've come across since being down here on the south coast. It's not just the fact that Christians are keen to pray for Israel but that amongst some there's a view that Israel can do no wrong at all and even to suggest that Israel might be at fault is tantamount to blasphemy. Anyway this naivety just annoys me so I've kept my distance.....which I shouldn't have done really.
So I'm reading John and Jane's letter and I'm moved... I'm still not sure what to believe or what to do but I am stirred....and I want to know more....
We have had a full and interesting year – with a number of highs and lows. Our highlight was a 10 day visit to Palestine / Israel in May with the Amos Trust, We spent 6 nights in Bethlehem and 4 in Nazareth. It was inspired by people we have met over recent years, and particularly at Greenbelt last year, who indicated that if you want to understand what is actually happening in this land once called Holy, you need to come and see and listen to the Living Stones. It was a life-changing experience. The effect of being within Bethlehem which is now surrounded by the 27ft Israeli wall is quite horrific. Many of the population, both Christian and Muslim, are cut off from their land, their livelihood and their roots. The number of Christians is diminishing at an alarming rate. We met with Palestinian and Israeli groups who are working for justice and peace for all the people of the land using non-violent means and we were deeply humbled at their faith and determination. However the corporate humiliation and daily obstacles being imposed on the Palestinian community are shocking to witness. Our group was a diverse one and we met and shared with so many people of real faith and determination. You may be interested to learn more of what is happening through the new organisation – Just Peace for Palestine – www.justpeaceforpalestine.org . John is hoping to return to Palestine with Amos Trust in April 2011 to help rebuild a Palestinian house, demolished by the Israelis, just outside Bethlehem. This will be a challenging experience in every way, but hopefully a symbolic act of solidarity. 'We have each been asked to raise £1,000 for materials and I have set up a JustGiving site to invite donations -
As we approach Christmas we are aware particularly of the pain of those who live in Bethlehem and in occupied Palestine - aware that there are few visitors who come to that city to celebrate the birth of our Saviour and where the Shepherds’ Fields are now largely overlooked by illegal settlements. The Wise Men could only reach Bethlehem today by accessing endless checkpoints and would need a permit to come and worship the Christ child! A quote from Canon Naim Ateek seems to sum up our thoughts – ‘it would be good for today’s Magi to visit Bethlehem. They do not realise that the genuine answers to peace lie in everything the child of Bethlehem has stood for – humility, openness, love of others, forgiveness and even sacrifice of oneself for others’.