Archive for the ‘Jerusalem’ Tag

Palestinians offer peace plan to Israel

The Palestinians don't have a state, but they have a good flag.  That's a good sign.

The Palestinians don't have a state but they already have a good flag. That's a good sign.

There is a positive development in the Arab-Israeli conflict: the Palestinian Authority has published, in Hebrew, a peace proposal in Israel’s four largest daily papers.  It outlines the plan that’s backed by both Saudi Arabia and the Arab League that calls for:

  1. Israel withdraws from entire Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Eastern Jerusalem;
  2. Normalization of relations between Israel and the 57 members of the Arab League, who would “consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended”; and
  3. the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Apparently it was Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s idea to place the ads, which describe what Israeli officials have called a “positive initiative” that need to be “fine tuned and corrected.”.

Like the majority of Israelis and Palestinians, this blog favors a two-state solution and welcomes this development.  This is a serious proposal, and hopefully is being offered and will be taken and seriously. 

Of course the third item, the Palestinian right of return, would significantly change the nature of Israel in the short-term,  making it about 40% Arab, and would have the longer-term effect of there being two Palestinian states, due to demographics changes. However, the plan calls for a “just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem,” which could be accomplished via other means.  For instance, I rather think it’d be well worth it for the United States to put up several billion dollars to compensate the refugees and allow them to get on with their lives in a rebuilding Palestinian state; it’d be much cheaper and safer than an indefinite continuation of the status quo. 

8. The precise shade of blue is not specified.

The Flag of Israel has a hight:width ratio of 11:8. The precise shade of blue is not specified.

There are two major stumbling blocks that need to be removed.  For their part, Israel needs to remove the settlements which have been built in the West Bank.  Just as two Palestinian states wouldn’t qualify as a solution neither would two Israeli states, which is basically what is accomplished with these settlements.  They need to be dismantled, something which can be accomplished fairly easily.  Israel should begin removing these outposts immediately and unilaterally.  That will put the onus on the Palestinians to do their part and will show everyone that Israel is serious about making a Palestinian state possible.

The second major problem going forward is the ability of the Palestinian Authority to end the attacks on Israel.  If they can’t do that, this isn’t going to work; Israel must have security.  Lasting peace will require two states, side by side, and living in peace with each other.  Of course, there will be some radicals on both sides who will reject any possible compromise; some on the Arab side will likely resort to violence.

Reportedly, President-elect Barack Obama finds this Arab proposal to be constructive.  He is also impressed with Benjamin Netanyahu’s “economic peace” plan, which calls for rebuilding the economy and infrastructure of the Palestinian areas as a prelude to a formal peace plan.  If Palestinians had more jobs and were less desperate, they’d be less likely to strap bombs to themselves.

There have been problems with just about all the peace deals offered thus far, and this one from the Arab League is no exception.  However, I think the way forward is becoming pretty clear.  Ultimately, I think there will be two states, based largely on the 1967-borders (with some 1:1 land swaps) and no right of return, but some other sort of compensation to make up for that.  This won’t happen until Israel dismantles, or guarantees it will dismantle, the West Bank settlements and the Palestinians make significant progress in curbing the violence from their side.  I predict this will happen 5-20 years from now.  It’s just a matter of how soon the two sides realize this and make it happen.  More than 42% Palestinians are under 15.  Hopefully they’ll soon realize that violence isn’t going to get them what they want and will reject terrorism and decide that most of what they want with peace and modernization is better than a continuation of the violence.

Monks fight at tomb of Jesus. For the second time. This year.

If you worked here you'd be a monk. And you'd be getting in fights all the time.

If you worked here you'd be a monk. And you'd be fighting all the time.

This is embarassing.  Armenian Christians and Greek Orthodox Christians got into a brawl at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the shrine which probably marks the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and burial—so it’s only about the holiest spot on the planet to Christians.   Too bad we can’t say this is the first time it’s happened.  This year.

The Guardian describes the action:

Armenian monks and their worshippers had been participating in a ceremony marking the 4th-century discovery of the cross on which Christ was crucified when they found their path blocked by a Greek Orthodox monk posted in Jesus’s tomb. Fists began flying, kicking monks lost their footing and 10ft ceremonial candlesticks and banners toppled to the ground. Police dragged priests from the melee in head locks and arrested two Armenian clerics, who were later released.

Here’s a video of the brawl that has been circulating on YouTube:

Monks get in fights at the church all the time—this is the second time this year alone that police have had to break up fisticuffs there.  The situation is complicated, but these fights and ill will stem from a centuries old agreement that divides up the church amongst the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenians, Coptic, Ethiopian and Syriac Churches; it governs which group controls which areas and when and how they can use common areas.  The agreement was imposed by the Ottomans, who controlled Palestine at the time, in 1767 and divides the church among the claimants; it was confirmed and made permanent in 1852. 

But the agreement hasn’t really helped things much; there is no sense of unity or charity amongst the various groups controlling the Holy Sepulchre.  In 2002 a brawl resulted in eleven people being hospitalized.  The cause?  A Coptic monk stationed on the roof moved his chair on a hot day from its agreed spot into the shade. This was interpreted as a hostile move by the Ethiopians, who apparently had control over the shady spot, and a fight broke out.  How Christian.

If that desn’t tell you how sad the situation is, maybe this will: above the entryway to the church—which, again, probably marks the place where Jesus Christ was crucified and buried—is a ladder.  No big deal, right?  Right.  Except it’s been there for over a hundred and fifty (150) years because the various factions can’t agree about what to do with it.  Here’s an idea: move the dang thing!  Their inability to reach agreement has bigger consequences too. Recent inspections indicate that the roof is unstable and will collapse soon and destroy the whole church; it needs urgent repairs but the Ethiopians and Coptics who control the area can’t agree on what to do.  For a simpleton like me, the solution seems obvious (fix the roof) but these holy men of God can’t reach an agreement on that so soon there won’t be any roof at all—shady spots and all will be destroyed in a massive collapse which will be well deserved if these simpletons can’t get their act together.

The entrance to the church.  Note the ladder above the doorway has been there, in that same exact spot, for at least 150 years.

The entrance to the church. Note the ladder above the doorway; it has been in that exact spot for at least 150 years.

What happened to the unity that Jesus called for his followers to have?  What happened to the charity that we are supposed to show others?  Turning the other cheek, anyone?  Or does being at the tomb of Jesus absolve one from the need to actually follow what he taught?  Happily, the keys to the church are controlled by two Muslim families, who Saladin himself entrusted with that duty in 1192.  Can you imagine how much worse this ridiculous squabbling would be if any of the Christian groups got their hands on the keys?  If they don’t straighten out pretty quick there won’t be any church anymore.  Maybe that’d actually be better; this fighting does more to sully Jesus’s legacy than the presence of the building can ever do to preserve it.

Wikipedia has a good article on the church, including the history of the building, and reasons to think it may be the real place.  It also has lots of pictures of the interior and exterior, including the ladder.

Praying for peace in Jerusalem

Since 2004, the first Sunday in October has been observed by some Christians as a day to specifically pray for the peace of Jerusalem, something specifically enjoined by the psalmist:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
“May peace be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say, “May peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.
— Psalm 122:6-9

The Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem (official site), first organized by a pair of Pentecostal evangelists, Jack W. Hayford and Robert Stearns, day is mostly observed by evangelical Christians and it’s date was selected to fall near Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement and repentence. While many involved with the day may be as concerned with politics as with God, we should never require much convincing before we pray for and contemplate peace and how we can promote its realization on earth, as it is in heaven.

Beating swords into plowshares, a well-known biblical image of peace

Beating swords into plowshares, a well-known biblical image of peace

Jerusalem, and the entire conflict that centers on it, certainly needs peace; entirely too much blood is shed over the city and the region—and a single drop constitutes too much. But if we simply say “peace, peace” there will be no peace: peace is more than just the absence of violence; it requires the existence of a just system wherein everybody is free from harm and free to be who they are and who they can be. Such a system cannot be established until there is healing for the enormous amounts of hatred and anger that exist on both sides of the present conflict. That conflict, which effects not just Jew and Moslem, and not just Israeli and Palestinian, but the larger world as well, has gone on for far too long. One need not be a Christian or a Jew, or even religious at all, to desire and pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the region.

Those who are within the Judeo-Christian tradition have as their heritage some of the most beautiful passages on peace in all of world literature, and perhaps sharing some selections might be appropriate on this day. One image of peace used frequently in the Hebrew Bible, albeit not very much today, is the hope that

Every man will sit under his own vine
and under his own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the LORD Almighty has spoken.
— Micah 4:4

Vines and trees were beyond the means of the poor to own, so a society where each person had his or her own fig tree is one where poverty has been eliminated; and since they take a long time to grow, this image implies a stability and permanence to the situation, not just a temporary cease-fire. It speaks to the point that it is difficult to eliminate anger and hatred if you have not yet eliminated deprivation, a theme often emphasized by people who are especially interested in social justice.

Many of the Bible’s other passages about peace are still commonly used today, often by those unaware of their origins. From the prophet Isaiah we read:

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
— Isaiah 11:6-9

From the same source we get one of the best known images of peace:

He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
— Isaiah 2:4

In the Christian New Testament peace is also an emphasis. One of Jesus’s epithets is Prince of Peace (though the phrase itself occurs only in the Old Testament) and, of course, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

Paul of Tarsus, the second most important figure in early Christianity, wrote in his epistle to the Romans that “so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” and that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” So, let us “pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”

This brief listing is by no means exhaustive, even of the Judeo-Christian tradition; all of the world’s enduring religions, in their best forms, emphasize peace. And, of course, many people who consider themselves nonreligious also seek peace and pursue it.

In an ecumenical spirit, here is a prayer for peace in the Middle East written by Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, former Secretary General of the Islamic Society of North America:

O God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad! Bring peace and tranquility to the people of Middle East who have been plagued with pain and suffering.

O God! We appeal to you bring our soldiers back safe and help our nation to be one that is given to truth and justice.

O God! We call you with your beautiful names: the One, the Holy, the Sovereign, the Just, and the Peace. We call with love and sincerity to bring peace to our world and guide our steps to do what is right and what pleases You.

O God! You are the Source of Good, the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Supreme: All Glory belongs to you! Help us to see our glory in serving you and upholding the values of compassion and justice on earth.

O God we beg you to forgive our sins and ask you not to hold us accountable for mistakes and missteps we did or were done in our names. Our Lord give us the humility to recognize our mistakes and limitations, and the strength and courage to choose right over wrong and justice over pride.

O the Eternal and Compassionate Lord! Fill our hearts with your Love, and help us to love one another, and show compassion to your servants throughout the world and your creation.

O God! We ask you in submission and humility to allow wisdom to triumph over vanity, truth over falsehood, and love over hate.

Amen.

Amen.