News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  25 May 2018 •  No. 162

Processional. Berzeit University (Ramallah, Palestine) performing the Palestinian Dabka folk dance. (58 seconds. Thanks, David.)

Above: The al Badawi olive tree in Bethlehem, which researchers peg to somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 years old, is likely the oldest living olive tree in the world. —Colin Shultz, Smithsonian

Special Edition
(“The Catastrophe”)

15 May is the anniversary of what Palestinians call al-Nakba, translated at “the Catastrophe” in reference to the day following Israel’s formation as a state in 1948. Some three-quarters of a million Palestinians were forced from their homes. . . .
        “A more evocative translation of al-Nakba could be ‘the Humiliation,’ since in English ‘catastrophe’ is often associated with “natural” disasters. No human agency is implied in such catastrophes—only the brute hand of climatic turbulence well beyond our control or even prediction.” —continue reading al-Nakba: Meditation on Israel, Palestine, and the calculus of power

Invocation. “Shelter beneath kanfei ha’shechinah, / the soft wings of your divine presence, / those who still live under military occupation, / who dwell in refugee camps, / those dispersed throughout the world / still dreaming of return. / Gather them mei’arbah kanfot ha’aretz / from the four corners of the earth / that their right to return to their homes / be honored at long last.” —Rabbi Brant Rosen, “A Jewish Prayer for Nakba Day

Right: A Palestinian refugee and her child separated from their home by the “green line” after the 1948 war. Getty images

Call to worship. “My soul magnifies you, O Lord, and my spirit rejoices in your Saving Presence. . . . Your power is sufficient to baffle the aims of the arrogant. Imperial might trembles at the sound of your approach; but the prison yards and the sweatshops and the slaughterhouses erupt in jubilation!” —continue reading “My soul magnifies you,” a litany for worship inspired by Luke 1:39-57 (Mary’s “Magnificat”)

¶ “The Nakba,” a short (6:13 video) introduction to the historical context of Palestinians’ expulsion from their homeland in 1948.

Not sure what the Palestinian “Right of Return” is? Watch this brief (2:08) video.

Hymn of praise. “From the north to the south / from the west to the east / hear the prayer of the mothers / bring them peace / bring them peace.” —Yael Deckelbaum & Prayer of the Mothers, “This Land” (English translation of Hebrew and Egyptian Arabic lyrics), a 14-member ensemble of Jewish, Arab and Christian women

In case you haven't already figured this out, you can listen to music selections on this page while reading the text. Open two tabs, listen to music on one, read on the other, going back and forth as you choose.

Watch this short (6:07) video of Sharif Abdel Kouddous, “Democracy Now” correspondent, reporting from Gaza on Monday 14 May in protests demanding the “right of return” to their homes in Israel.

Left: Street signs like this were hung all over Jerusalem for the official opening of the US embassy.

Of the many pieces dealing with US embassy move and the brutal killings in Gaza, here is the best thing I've read: “Israel, Palestine and Us: A Response to Toba Spitzer,” Rabbi Brant Rosen, Evolve.

Confession. “If we keep these lands, popular [Palestinian] resistance to the occupation is sure to rise, and Israel's army will be used to quell that resistance, with disastrous and demoralising results”. —Israeli General Matityahu Peled (1923-1995), addressing Israeli Cabinet meeting immediately after the June 1967 war

Hymn of supplication. “I have no place / And I have no country / I have no home / With my fingers I make the fire / And with my heart I sing for you / The ropes of my heart cries.” —English translation of lyrics to “Nací en Palestina” (“I Was Born In Palestine”), Emel Mathlouthi

¶ “Israel's existence is a priori protection for American oil interests in the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Iran.” —I. L. Kenan , lobbyist for Israel, in testimony before the [U.S.] Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives (July 22-23, 1970)

Israel is far and away the largest recipient of US foreign aid, which now totals $3.8 billion per year. US aid to the Palestinians $250 million, most of which is funneled through various United Nations agencies to support roads, schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure projects. Some $75 million goes to Israeli power and fuel companies to generate electricity to the West Bank and Gaza. President Trump has already reduced US support, from a pledged $125 million to $60 million, to a United Nations fund which provides food, shelter, education and health care for five million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring countries.

The US currently has $1.8 billion of military supplies in pre-positioned storage in Israel. The stock includes ammunition, smart bombs, missiles, military vehicles and a military hospital with 500 beds. The US Congress is authorized to release these supplies to Israel when requested. —“War reserve stock,” Wikipedia

Words of assurance.Lo Yira” (“Will Not Fear”), Yuval Ron Ensemble.

Confessing our faith. “Our word is a cry of hope, with love, prayer and faith in God. . . . We declare that the military occupation of Palestinian land constitutes a sin against God and humanity. Any theology that legitimizes the occupation and justifies crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian people lies far from Christian teachings.” —for more about the 2009 “Kairos Palestine Statement

Hymn of lament. “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” —“How long, Lord?” English translation of Fayrouz Eela Mata Ya Rabbou’s hymn of lament over the Israeli massacres of Palestinian protestors in the Gaza Strip (Thanks Loren.)

¶ “The pre-eminent obstacle to peace is Israel's colonization of Palestine. Israel's occupation of Palestine has obstructed a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land, regardless of whether Palestinians had no formalized government, one headed by Yasser Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas, or with Abbas as president and Hamas controlling the parliament and cabinet." —former US President Jimmy Carter, who in 1979 negotiated the Camp David Accord treaty between Israel and Egypt

Confused about the hubbub surrounding the US embassy to Israel moving to Jerusalem? Watch this brief (2:54) video for a brief, graphic history lesson from If Not Now. (Thanks Shanta.)

President Trump’s favorite pastor, Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, delivered the opening prayer at the recent official opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem in its transition from Tel Aviv. This is the same pastor who, the day before, said Jews go to hell. —Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post

        Later the closing prayer for the event was offered by another US pastor, John Hagee, who once said that Hitler was sent by God to draw the Jewish people into Israel.

More on God’s supposed will. Among the US representatives at the US embassy opening in Jerusalem was Sen. Lindsey Graham who commented “It’s been U.S. policy since 1995, and if you have a problem, then you need to take it up with God.” Washington Post

¶ “In Opening Its Embassy in Jerusalem, the US Has Slammed the Door on the Peace Process.” Mustafa Barghouti, The Nation

¶ “Moving the embassy empowers the war-makers among Palestinians and attenuates the legitimacy of Palestinian peacemakers.” Rev. Professor Yohanna Katanacho, of the Nazareth Evangelical College and Bethlehem Bible College

Hymn of intercession. “No fine song, no impressive music / can attempt to relieve my heart / in this hour I am called to grieving / lest no others will play this part.” —John Bell’s translation and arrangement of the traditional Palestinian song, “So Much Wrong,” performed by the Wild Goose Choir

In “early in1956, the Israeli chief of staff Moshe Dayan made a famous speech at the funeral of an Israeli commander killed on the border with Gaza. What, Dayan wondered, explained the Palestinians’ ‘terrible hatred of us’? Then he answered his own question: ‘For years now they have sat in the refugee camps of Gaza, and have watched how, before their very eyes, we have turned their lands and villages, where they and their forefathers previously dwelled, into our home.’” —excerpt from Footnotes in Gaza, Joe Sacco

By the numbers. The summer 2014 Israeli invasion of Gaza killed between 2,125 and 2,310 Gazans and wounded between 10,626 and 10,895 (including 3,374 children, of whom over 1,000 were left permanently disabled). 66 Israeli soldiers, 5 Israeli civilians (including one child) and one Thai civilian were killed and 469 IDF soldiers and 261 Israeli civilians were injured. More than 7,000 homes were destroyed and an additional 89,000 homes damaged. —“2014 Israel-Gaza conflict,” Wikipedia

When only the blues will do.Blues for Gaza,” Aguabella.

Preach it. “Jesus was born under occupation, he spent his entire life under occupation and was crushed on the cross by occupation. How we can understand the historical Jesus without understanding what occupation means, what it does and how it controls life in its entirety?” —Rev. Mitri Raheb, Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem

¶ “If I was [a Palestinian] at the right age, at some stage I would have entered one of the terror organizations.” —Ehud Barak, highly decorated officer in Israel’s army, Minister of Defense and former Prime Minister of Israel

Can’t makes this sh*t up. “We shall endeavour to expel the poor population [of Palestine] across the border unnoticed, procuring employment for it in the transit countries, but denying it any employment in our country”. —Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), founder of political Zionism, from a Personal Diary entry 12 June 1895

¶ “The so-called ‘Palestinian autonomous areas’ are Bantustans. These are restricted entities within the power structure of the Israeli apartheid system.” —former South African President Nelson Mandela

Call to the table. And there can be no peace for the Jew / Till there’s peace for the Palestinian too / May the justice of God fall down like fire / And bring a home for the Palestinian / May the mercy of God pour down like rain / And protect the Jewish people.” —Rev. Garth Hewitt, “Ten Measures of Beauty

Right: This ad was published as a full-page ad in Israel’s most widely read newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth.

The state of our disunion. “There is only one way toward peace. That is the recognition that our dispute concerns two just causes [that of Jews and of Palestinians] tragically thrown into opposition one to the other.” Rabbi Edward Rettig, Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel
        Yes, I say in response. But one is an elephant, the other is a mouse. Without recognition of this premise, the conclusion will be inadequate.

Best one-liner. “Nothing, nothing justifies terrorism.” —Mahmoud Darwish (13 March 1941–9 August 2008), considered the Palestinian national poet

For the beauty of the earth. Now this is a lightning storm. (0:52 video. Thanks Linda.)

¶ This longer video (22:31) by Abby Martin provides a fuller account of this story: “The Empire Files: How Palestine Became Colonized.”

Altar call. “Sisters and brothers, lend your ears to this teaching, for it is true and lasting. Do not say with your lips, “The Spirit of the Lord! The Spirit of the Lord!” when your hearts are shackled in fear, enslaved to security. / Have you grown confused by the barking of market reports? By the demands of national security? By your 401K addiction?” —continue reading “Anointed,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 61:1-2 and Luke 4:18

¶ “I am among those raised on ‘cowboy and Indian’ movies in North America, where the latter were stereotyped as barbarous, untrustworthy and bloodthirsty savages who prey on the weak and innocent. A similar portrait of Arab peoples has been painted by modern movies and news programs. Until that field of vision changes we will continue to be clueless in reading history and in charting a redemptive future.” —continue reading “House to house, field to field: Reflections on a peace mission to the West Bank

Left: "In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful," written in Arabic calligraphy.

Benediction.Psalm 117: Give Thanks to the Lord” (In Arabic. Thanks Tom.)

Just yesterday Israel’s defense minister announced plans to fast-track the building of 2,500 new homes on the West Bank in 2018 for Israeli settlers. Ilan Ben Zion, Associated Press

Recessional. Palestine Symphony,” Murat Malay and the Istanbul Symphony Orchestra.

Lectionary for this Sunday. “. . . to provide for those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes. . . .” —Isaiah 61:5a

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. . . . Extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” —Romans 12:9-14

Just for fun.Battle Hymn of the Republic” adapted for current relevance. (4:51 video. Thanks Loren.) —Parody Project

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• "al-Nakba: Meditation on Israel, Palestine, and the calculus of power"

• “My soul magnifies you,” a litany for worship inspired by Luke 1:39-57 (Mary’s “Magnificat”)

• “Memorial Day preparation materials: Commentary, sermon, and other resources for worship preparation

Other features

• “House to house, field to field: Reflections on a peace mission to the West Bank,” an essay

• “Boycott, divestment and sanctions: Israel and the Occupation: We cannot ignore this contentious conversation,” an essay

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