Report of the January 2003
Holy Land Fact Finding Mission
"Come and See...Go and Tell"
A mission of fact finding,
solidarity, witness, and
advocacy in Jordan, Israel, Palestine
The January fact finding mission included eleven people from four Christian denominations and nine states. It was lead by the Rev. Robert Hannum, from Lancaster, PA and the Rev. Peter Miano, Executive Director of The Society for Biblical Studies. Both are United Methodist ministers who had served as United Methodist Liaison in Jerusalem.
This mission was distinguished by meetings with both high level politicians and dedicated church people and non-governmental officers. We worshipped with the Anglican congregation of the Church of the Redeemer in Amman. The Rev. Salem Duaniy and his parishioners welcomed us warmly and engaged us in lively conversation during fellowship hour. From there, we participated in an illuminating meeting and discussion with Mr. Taher al Masri, who had served as Jordan's Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Ambassador to France during his long and distinguished diplomatic career. Mr. al Masri offered his insights in to the current status of the Israeli/Arab conflict as well as his recollections of personal involvement in negotiations between Jordan and Israel and with U.S. Presidents and Secretaries of State, not to mention a host of other world leaders. The Rev. Hanna Monsour, an Anglican priest in the Diocese of Jerusalem and the Director of the Schneller School in Amman met with the delegation and engaged us in thoughtful conversation about the role of the churches in resolving conflict and promoting human dignity. Fr. Monsour is a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship from Nazareth who has also served churches in Nazareth, Nablus and Zababdeh in the occupied West Bank.
The delegation travelled from Amman to the occupied West Bank by way of the Allenby (King Hussein) Bridge. Our first destination was the West Bank city of Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian president Yasser Arafat. The meeting consisted of about seventy-five minutes of cordial welcome from President Arafat and candid answers to our questions. The members of the delegation were surprised to find him to be so engaged in our visit. While he had pointed remarks to make about the role of the U.S. supporting the State of Israel and expressed frustration with the current administration, he identified George Bush, Sr., who he referred to as "the father," as one U.S. president who was particularly committed to resolving the Arab/Israeli conflict. Not surprisingly, he was very critical of Israel, referring to the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as "fanatic extremists." The delegation discussed the meeting throughout the trip, remarking on Mr. Arafat's role in world history, the obvious and widespread criticism of his leadership among Palestinians, yet his continuing dominence in Palestinian politics. The meeting ended with prayer, photo ops and Mr. Arafat exchanging well wishes, jokes and showoing us the Bible he keeps in his pocket. Less than a centimeter square, he called it the world's smallest Bible and seemed particularly eager to show it to us.
Following the meeting with President Arafat, we proceeded to the nearby home of Cedar Duaibys, a Palestinian Christian (Anglican) who is also an Israeli citizen. Mrs. Duaibys is an articulate, senstive and compassionate woman whose life story is an inspiration. She was made a refugee from Haifa in 1948 and has lived under Israeli occupation since 1967, experiencing curfews, closures, sharp hostilities and even having her home occupied by both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian police during the April 2002 Isaraeli incursion into Ramallah, during which the Presidential compound, less than 200 meters away, was heavily damaged by missiles, tanks and heavy automatic weapons fire. In spite of this, however, Cedar offered words of hope and determination and especially inspired us by her ability to frame her experience in light of the Gospel faith.
The next day, we entered the city of Bethlehem on one of the rare days with no curfew. We had a lengthy visit at the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ). We toured Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala to view the extent of damage from Israel's April 2002 invasion. Since 22 November 2002, the Bethlehem area had been under curfew for all but 10 days. We also explored Bethlehem by foot, including a brief visit to the Church of the Nativity.
Our program included extensive visits with Israeli and Palestinian non-governmental organizations in Jerusalem as well. Jerusalem is unecumbered by travel restrictions and curfews. We had a detailed briefing at Betselem, the Israeli human rights monitroing group. We visited Bat shalom, an Israeli women's peace organization. We observed the Women in Black demonstration in Jerusalem's Zion Square. We had a long visit with Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom, a long time advocate of reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. Dr. Gershon Baskin of the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information provided us insight into Israel's internal political struggles. Dr. Baskin offered the chilling comment, "Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians have become tired enough of bloodshed to lead either society to accept a cessation of violence" Dr. Baskin, an American born Jew who has lived in Israel for thirty years, stressed the need for strong international intervention, especially that of the U.S. admnistration, to impose an agreement that would allow both Israel and the Palestinians to disengage from violence.
The delegation spent a morning becoming acquainted with the work of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron, escorted by Diane Roe who has served with CPT since 1996. We visited the home and with the family of Atta Jaber, learning about the Israeli policy of home demolitions and its effect of Palestinians. We also visited al Arub refugee camp, talking to residents of the camp. (Photos of paintings on the previous web page are the work of an artist from the camp)
Extensive field trips were augmented by mini-seminars on conflict, mission and effective advocacy, let by the Rev. Peter Miano.