This page is about Pax Christi’s work relating to Israel and Palestine with links to pages with further resources, action ideas and information.
Take Action for Peace in the Holy Land
With the current violence and humanitarian crisis in Gaza we are suggesting a number of actions we can all take:
• Light a candle each evening at 6pm , or any time convenient for you, and pray for an end to the war and justice for all in the Holy Land
• Organise a peace vigil in your school, community or parish
• Order Prayer Cards to give out (paxchristi.org.uk/product/postcards-among-the-rubble/)
• Write to your MP (see www.eyewitnessblogs.com/take-action / for suggestions)
Joint Open Letter from Kairos South African and Kairos Palestine
Kairos South Africa and Kairos Palestine have signed a joint letter calling US and European churches to repentance.
‘If Americans or Europeans were placed in a similar situation to what the people of Gaza have been exposed to, then we wonder how they would have reacted? History teaches us that they would not have reacted non-violently and therefore we find some of the labels being placed on Palestinians (and previously on South Africans) as extremely hypocritical.
South Africans know what it means to be labelled as “terrorist” or “communist”. Worse labels have been put on Palestinians by those who are guilty of the worst kind of anti-Semitism, a burden and responsibility that they have placed on the Palestinian people. In practice, we see how the Palestinians are being terrorized daily by Israeli settlers and by the Occupation forces and other Zionist militia. And therefore, we call out the hypocrisy of these labels being imposed only upon one group of people.
Most of the churches in Europe and the USA seems not to have repudiated their colonial and racist history. Because of this, the lens through which our lives are being viewed is still colored by their sins of colonialism and racism. Now and once again, we need to hold this before you and make you aware of this. This is a projection of the worst kind and is inconsistent with the Jesus we know from our Scriptures. We therefore call you to deep’
You can read the full letter here Joint letter Kairos SA and Kairos Palestine
Reflections from the Holy Land: Ceasefire Now! – Sami El-Yousef, CEO, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
‘Humanity must return and all children of God regardless of their religion or nationality should be treated equally with dignity. Please keep praying that this war comes to an immediate end now.’
Read Sami’s full reflection here
Bishops’ Autumn Plenary: Resolution on Gaza
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have released the following resolution on Gaza after their Autumn Plenary this week:
‘As Bishops of England and Wales we deplore and condemn the barbaric terrorist attacks perpetrated in Israel on 7 October 2023. We weep for the innocent victims of violence, especially the children, whose lives are traumatised by the escalation of violence in the region.
We pray earnestly that the regional instabilities created will not lead to a wider conflict, fuelled by anti-Semitism, xenophobia and terrorism.
We call on all in England and Wales to find the good in others. No one should live in fear in their community, or school, or workplace because of their faith or because of events taking place in this conflict. Our support for one another will be our strength both in these difficult times and in the future.
We pray that the violence will cease. As we approach the Holy Season of Advent, we pray that Christ the Prince of Peace will guide all devastated by this conflict into the ways of truth, reconciliation, and respectful co-existence.
We echo the appeal of a First World War veteran who, at the age of 100, said that “In war nobody wins. You might as well talk first. You have to in the end”’.
The resolution follows the statement issued by Bishop Declan Lang and Bishop Nicholas Hudson which you will find below.
Balfour Project – Ceasefire Now
‘This cannot be allowed to continue: the civilian deaths and mass destruction of homes, hospitals and schools inflicted on Gaza over the last five weeks, with starvation and disease stemming from the bombardment and “complete siege”. There can be no military solution to this conflict. Only a just political solution will last. Any other outcome will only serve to foster radicalisation and violence. The toll in Palestinian civilian life already far outstrips that in Ukraine since the Russian invasion of 2022.’
You can read the full statement here
Bishops’ statement on the ongoing war and violence in the Holy Land
Bishop Declan Lang, Chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s International Affairs department, and Bishop Nicholas Hudson, Chair of the Holy Land Co-ordination have released a statement on the ongoing Israel/Hamas war:
“To our brothers and sisters across the Holy Land, particularly those sheltering in the Parish of the Holy Family in Gaza along with those in the West Bank, we remain close to you and in constant prayer for you at this most difficult, terrifying, and testing of times. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you always.
“To our own government, we urge you to continue your diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire, the immediate release of all hostages and the facilitation of humanitarian aid so that desperately needed food, water, fuel, and medical supplies can be safely delivered into Gaza. We will continue to add our voice to the impassioned chorus calling for justice, peace, and the cessation of the suffering that has descended upon the Holy Land.
“To the Catholic Community here in England and Wales, please join us in prayer for those in the Holy Land, particularly for those who have been taken hostage, those who have been killed, those who have been injured, and their families.
“We also pray for those who are wearied by the conflict to receive strength, and those in positions of power and authority receive the wisdom to guide them into ways of peace and justice.”
‘Playing with People’ a blog from Toine van Teeffelen, Arab Education Institute, Bethlehem
Amid the incredible events around the hospitals in Gaza we have here our portion of daily “incidents” in the West Bank. Especially in the north in Jenin and Tulkarem, with many killings, but also in the Bethlehem district. For instance, on Wednesday in Wadi Shaheen.
Look closely at the following dry summary of the incident, one of many. According to the Palestinian press service WAFA, medical sources at the Beit Jala Hospital said that Mohammad Farid Hamdan Thawabta, 51, from Beit Fajjar, died of wounds sustained during the Israeli forces’ incursion into Bethlehem. Nineteen people were injured by live bullets, one critically and the other seriously, and five were injured by shrapnel, in addition to dozens suffocating from tear gas inhalation.
Later this week a youth was killed in Aida refugee camp north in Bethlehem. Strikes of West Bank shops and institutions seem to go on and off, one day yes, one day no.
There is some discussion whether it is possible to travel outside the cities and villages in the West Bank. In any case it is absolutely not advisable. Taxi drivers are networks of information. According to one familiar driver, the “hilltop boys” – settler youth – are making the roads unsafe, besides the obstacles on the road of newly installed or mobile checkpoints between towns and villages. The driver warns a younger taxi driver in Jerusalem to be careful, and especially not to speak Arabic. Fortunately, he tells me, this colleague does not look like an Arab but a bit like an Israeli from orthodox Jewish background.
Mary tells me that she regularly hears from others that on the road soldiers are checking social media posts of people, and their “likes,” and afterwards beat you up. People are warned not to make the dangerous journey around Jerusalem from Bethlehem to Ramallah.
The dangers are confirmed in an article in Haaretz yesterday that deserves to be extensively quoted. “Since the outbreak of the Gaza war, more and more soldiers have filmed themselves beating and humiliating Palestinian detainees and then posted the videos on their social media accounts.”
The journalists collected 15 such videos uploaded over the past month.
“In one of the videos, filmed in the Bethlehem region, a Palestinian can be seen hands bound and eyes blindfolded as a soldier beats and curses him. The soldier calls him a ‘whore’ in Arabic and ‘sheep fucker’, spits on him and kicks him as the prisoner cries out in pain. The IDF spokesman said the soldier in question was a reservist who was sentenced to 10 days of jail and dismissed from the army.”
The journalists say that the Palestinians appearing in the videos are “typically handcuffed and blindfolded; in some cases, they appear undressed or partially dressed. In some of the videos, soldiers are seen beating and cursing the detainees; in others, they force them to say things or act in a humiliating fashion.”
“In one case, a reservist can be seen holding a prisoner whose hands are bound and eyes covered and forcing him to dance. ‘So, why aren’t you dancing’, the soldier asks. The IDF spokesman said the reservist and the soldier who filmed the incident have been suspended from army duty pending any further decision.”
The article also describes an incident relayed by a Palestinian taxi driver at the container checkpoint between Bethlehem and Ramallah. Border Police officers searched the car.
“One policeman asked me, ‘Where are you from?’ I said, ‘From Bethlehem.’ He asked where Bethlehem is, and I said, ‘It’s in Israel,” the Palestinian said. “He hit me while I was in the car and slapped me. He asked me to open up my phone and then started cursing at me and told me to get out of the car and slapped me hard in the neck.”
“His cousin, who was with him in the car, told Haaretz that the officer said to him, ‘Why are you looking at me like that? Give me your phone.’ The officer demanded he give him the password and then looked at the contents. “You’re Hamas, you’re a whore” and then took his cousin to another room where he beat him.”
The humiliations concern a widespread phenomenon, let there be no doubt about that. Palestinians of course are not volunteering to tell about such humiliating moments which engender a sense of fear and an anger which cannot express itself. Everybody knows about such incidents and nobody forgets them if they have happened to yourself or the family.
They remind me of the Second Intifada, over 20 years ago. At the time we heard about soldiers at checkpoints ordering a man and a woman in a taxi who did not know each other to kiss each other, or ask people to crawl on all fours. Otherwise, they could not continue to their school or university.
I remember that a Bethlehem teacher at the time asked her students, as a kind of “moral dilemma”, whether they would do such things if ordered. “No, never” a student said. But then, the teacher continued, what would you do if soldiers would tell you that if you didn’t do that your family would not be able to travel anymore?
The difference with the second Intifada is that we now have social media, with thousands of followers. But the essence of occupation is the same: public humiliation and objectification, playing with people.
The Human Shield Fallacy
A blog from Friends of Sabeel North America on how the argument that civilians are used as human shields is used to justify the bombing of Gaza and the large number of civilian casualties
War on Want: End the Siege – End the Occupation
War on Want are encouraging everyone to write to their MPs and the Foreign Secretary to urge them to support an immediate end to the siege of Gaza by Israel, the end of arms supplies to Israel and the pursuit of a sustainable peace with the end of occupation. You can find the details here
‘The violence and grief are overwhelming’ – Marie Dennis
Marie Dennis (Senior Programme Director of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative) has written a thought-provoking reflection on the situation in Palestine and Israel for the National Catholic Reporter.
You can read the full article here
EAPPI UK and Ireland: Urgent action needed on violence in the West Bank
“With grave concern and with a clear understanding of the political landscape, we recognize that the only way to stop this forcible transfer in the West Bank is a clear, strong and direct intervention by the international community.”
A joint statement by 30 leading Israeli human rights organisations which you can read here:
EAPPI is recommending that supporters take urgent action and you can read the details here
A letter of Lament
Musalaha, a faith-based organization that teaches, trains and facilitates reconciliation mainly between Israelis and Palestinians from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds has written a Letter of Lament which you can read here
Warning from the Patriachate of Jerusalem of fraudulent appeals for money.
‘It is with deep regret that we alert you of fraudulent appeals being launched in the name of the Holy Family Church in Gaza and / or the Latin Patriarchate. Please be particularly aware of emails received from Holyfamilychurchgaza@gmail.com
The Latin Patriarchate has not delegated this authority to any third party and we kindly ask that you only deal with official emails or communications originating from the central administration in Jerusalem or through our official website and / or social media channels.’
Pax Christi USA President – ‘Joe Biden is not on the ‘same page’ as Pope Francis on the Israel-Hamas war’
The Most Rev. John Stowe, bishop of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, and president of Pax Christi USA. has written on the Religious News Service website challenging Joe Biden’s assertion that he and Pope Francis had spoken and are ‘on the same page’ when it comes to what the US is doing in the conflict between Israel and Gaza. You can read the full article here
Patriarchate of Jerusalem reiterates its demand for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza
The Patriarchate of Jerusalem issued a statement yesterday condemning the Israeli military’s bombardment of the Orthodox Cultural Center in the Tel Al Hawa neighborhood of Gaza and and reiterating its demand for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
You can read more here
Settlers turn Soldiers: The imperative for international presence and protection in the West Bank’
A blog from Rethinking Security on the situation in the West Bank whilst the world’s attention is focused on the terrible events in Gaza.
‘Stop praying for Gaza’ – Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb
“Stop praying for Gaza, while allowing your government to sanction war. Stop thinking you are doing the people in Gaza a favor by praying without working vehemently for justice.” Her prophetic words reminded me of the words of the prophet Amos.
A blog from Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, the Founder and President of Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.
Network of Christian Peace Organisations: Letter to the Foreign Secretary
We joined our colleagues from the Network of Christian Peace Organisations and over 700 other church members and church leaders in signing a letter to James Cleverley MP, the Foreign Secretary.
The letter called on the Foreign Secretary to work to de-escalate the conflict in Gaza and Israel and to work towards dialogue. You can read a copy of the letter here
Prayer Vigil Recording
A recording of our prayer vigil for Palestine and Israel on the 17th October available to view on our YouTube channel here
Letter from the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who recently offered himself as a hostage in exchange for the Jewish women and children held by Hamas has written a letter to all of us which lights a candle amidst so much darkness in Palestine and Israel.
The letter reflects on the Gospel and is a courageous message to those who have power in both Israel and Palestine. You can read a copy of the letter here
We are invited again to join with the Church around the world in prayer and fasting for peace this Friday, 27th October.
Please reflect on this message and share
Holy See: Crises must not weaken UN commitment to Rule of Law
Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, has called for respect of the Rule of Law amid new armed conflicts both at the international and national levels.
From a Pax Christi friend and partner in Bethlehem – 22nd October
Echoes of the Nakbeh
Many Palestinians, when seeing on the media a large UNRWA tent camp as now has been erected near Khan Younis in the south of Gaza, think of the Nakba (disaster) of 1948 when over 700.000 Palestinians were forced to flee from Palestine and never had a chance to return to their homes. The image of a crying woman in front of an extensive tent camp is engraved in many Palestinians’ consciousness.
After the massacre by Hamas in south Israel that left 1,400 Israelis dead, the Israeli government declared war on Hamas and the army spokesperson Daniel Hagari ominously declared that, “Gaza will eventually turn into a city of tents. There will be no buildings,” adding “the emphasis” is “on damage and not on accuracy.” The vast majority of the present Gaza residents are descendants of those Nakba refugees.
The warning to Palestinians in Gaza were two words: “Leave now”. Many were afraid for another round of massacres, ethnic cleansing and expulsion. The Israeli army publicized a map of Gaza with two large arrows downwards. In the days afterwards more than a million Gazans fled from the north to the south, while a substantial minority remained where they lived, including the most vulnerable such as those staying in hospitals.
Some felt that in the south circumstances were barely any better than in the north. A few days ago the UN said that everywhere in Gaza people have to live on a ration of 1 liter water instead of the normal 15 liters a person needs. Some decided to return to the north despite the huge risks.
Fear under the population is increasing now for what is to come. Yesterday the Israeli army spokesperson announced that attacks will be deepened and increased in preparation for “the next stage of the war.”
Egypt, bordering Gaza, has been pressed by the US and other western states to accept Palestinian refugees fleeing the crisis. Various western governments have even tried to make a deal with Egypt by offering economic incentives for them to let in Palestinians, according to the Egyptian news site Mada Masr, an independent news outlet in the country. Egypt’s decision not to accept such a scenario of a mass of Palestinian refugees coming in is clearly based on security considerations. The present Arab summit that took place this weekend in Cairo seems in part intended to create a consensus against the Palestinian “transfer” from Gaza to the Egyptian Sinai desert.
The idea of resettling Palestinians from Gaza to Sinai is not new. In the mid-1950s, the UN came with a plan to transfer thousands of Palestinian refugees in Gaza to Sinai’s north-western region, a project that was received with popular anger and refusal. After the June war in 1967 – the war, in which Israeli forces captured more of Palestine, including Gaza – the so-called Allon Plan of the Israeli politician Yigal Allon, which was widely seen as future Israeli policy, saw the Gaza Strip being annexed to Israel.
A partial annexation of Northern Gaza territory looks now in the cards, with many Palestinians who fled to the south possibly unable to return to their homes in North-Gaza. On Wednesday morning, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Eli Cohen said on Israeli army radio that “At the end of this war, not only will Hamas no longer be in Gaza, the territory of Gaza will also decrease.” A former minister, Gideon Sa’ar, said something similar in an interview on Saturday with Israel’s Channel 12 News: “Whoever starts a war against Israel must lose territory.”
Such an Israeli move is in line with what Harvard professor Sara Roy documented in 2012, that Israeli-imposed buffer zones had at the time already absorbed “nearly 14 percent of Gaza’s total land and at least 48 percent of [its] total arable land.”
Land Robbery in the West Bank
The so-called ongoing Nakba is here in the West Bank applied to a much smaller numbers of Palestinians than in Gaza but in some cases to a larger territory. It concerns hundreds of Bedouins living in area C in the West Bank countryside which is completely controlled by Israel and which constitutes over 60% of the West Bank. The hundreds of Israeli settlements and outposts are located there. So-called Israeli “herder” settlers guarding flocks have taken in about 5 years’ time control of 10% of Area C and 6% of the entire West Bank, chasing away Bedouin communities from their land.
Over the last year alone, 110 sq km was effectively annexed by settlers on herding outposts. All the built-up settlement areas constructed since 1967 cover only 80 sq km. During the last two weeks this process of land robbery has much accelerated, especially to the east of Ramallah and south of Hebron.
People in the West Bank living in confrontation areas are much afraid. During the last two weeks about 90 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, and thousands injured. The West Bank intercity roads are controlled by the settlers as Palestinians are presently locked up in the cities and villages.
Yesterday Haaretz featured an article titled “The IDF Took Away Weapons From Gaza Border Communities in Recent Years, and Armed West Bank Settlers in the Thousands.” Palestinians find it actually nowadays very difficult to distinguish between a settler and a soldier. As many Israeli soldiers have been transported to Gaza, soldiers in the West Bank are by and large settler-reservists.
One story which goes around in the West Bank relates to that happened Thursday over a week ago in an area east of Ramallah. A Bedouin community was assaulted, as reported in again Haaretz and Times of Israel: “The abuse lasted almost a whole day. Soldiers and settlers detained and handcuffed three Palestinians from the West Bank village Wadi as-Seeq, and for hours, according to the Palestinians, they were severely beaten, stripped to their underwear, and photographed handcuffed, in their underwear. Their captors urinated on two of them and extinguished burning cigarettes on them. There was even an attempt to penetrate one of them with an object.”
Such assaults and torture aim to become a story that circulates and makes people afraid of more ongoing Nakba scenes so that people are more prepared to flee. This actually happened too during the Nakba itself in 1948.
Netanyahu’s life project
During the last few decades, it was Netanyahu’s life project to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state in West Bank, Gaza and East-Jerusalem as envisioned and ritually supported by most of the international community though never politically enforced. A main Israeli tool was to keep West Bank and Gaza politically divided, the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority and Gaza by Hamas.
The Israeli media are presently full of stories about how Netanyahu’s policies since 2009 have actually enabled Hamas to survive, despite the siege of Gaza. The historian Adam Raz sardonically states at the end of a historical overview in Haaretz this weekend: “There will be a lot of talk and pyrotechnics about the current ‘war against terror’, but sustaining Hamas is more important to Netanyahu than a few dead kibbutzniks.”
The political alternative to a Palestinian state which now prevails goes in the direction of an apartheid system with open or silent Nakba population transfers in Gaza as well as the West Bank. Larger concentrations of the Palestinian population come to live in smaller territories which are in different degrees isolated from each other and from Jerusalem and Israel.
This is the dangerous internal “escalation” of the conflict which has until now received relatively scant attention compared to the chances and dangers of an external, regional escalation.
Toine van Teeffelen
Further Statement from Pax Christi International on Palestine and Israel
‘Pax Christi International underlines its unwavering commitment to the pursuit of peace, justice, and reconciliation. We stand in solidarity with all those who are suffering due to the continuing violence and urgently demand that the international community, governments, and all stakeholders unite in a resolute pursuit of a just and enduring resolution. Just peace for the people of the Holy Land can only be achieved through candid dialogue, robust cooperation, and an unshakable respect for human rights.’
You can read a full copy of the statement here
A Prayer for Peace in Palestine and Israel from Rose Berger, Poet and Peaceworker
“They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain…” —Isaiah 11:9
God of Comfort,
send your Spirit to encompass all those whose lives
are torn apart by violence and death in Israel and Palestine.
You are the Advocate of the oppressed
and the One whose eye is on the sparrow.
Let arms reach out in healing, rather than aggression.
Let hearts mourn rather than militarize.
God of Justice,
give strength to those whose long work for a just peace
might seem fruitless now. Strengthen their resolve.
Do not let them feel alone. Show us how to support their work
and bolster their courage. Guide religious leaders to model
unity and reconciliation across lines of division.
Guide political leaders to listen with their hearts as they seek peace and pursue it.
Help all people choose the rigorous path of just peace and disavow violence.
God of Love,
we lift up Palestine and Israel — its people, its land, its creatures.
War is a monster that consumes everything in its path.
Peace is a gift shared at meals of memory with Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
Let us burn incense, not children. Let us break bread, not bodies.
Let us plant olive groves, not cemeteries.
We beg for love and compassion to prevail
on all your holy mountains.
God of Hope,
we lift up the cities of the region: Gaza City and Tel Aviv,
Ramallah and Ashkelon, Deir El Balah and Sderot,
so long divided, yet so filled with life and creativity.
Come again to breathe peace on your peoples
that all may recognize you.
God of Mercy,
even now work on the hearts of combatants
to choose life over death, reconciliation over retaliation,
restoration over destruction. Help us resist antisemitism in all its forms, especially in our own churches.
All people, Israelis and Palestinians, deserve to live in peace and unafraid, with a right to determine their future together.
God of the Nations,
let not one more child or elder be sacrificed on altars of political expediency.
Keep safe all people from unjust leaders who would exploit
vulnerability for their own distorted ends.
Give wise discernment to those making decisions to pursue peace.
Provide them insight into fostering well-being, freedom, and thriving for all.
Teach all of us to resolve injustices with righteousness, not rockets.
Guard our hearts against retaliation, and give us hearts for love alone.
Strengthen our faith in you, O God of All Flesh,
even when we don’t have clear answers,
so that we may still offer ourselves nonviolently
for the cause of peace.
Written by Rose Berger, poet and peace worker,
associate editor of Sojourners & CNI Committee Member
Church Leaders in Jerusalem and Archbishop of Canterbury Call for Restraint in the War between Israel and Hamas
Church leaders in Jerusalem join the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to call for restraint, de-escalation, and protection of civilians in the war between Israel and Hamas… Read more
Pope Francis renews his appeal for an end to the violence in Gaza and Israel
On Sunday 15th October, Pope Francis renewed his appeal to all involved in the conflict in Gaza to end the violence.
‘Dear brothers and sisters!
I continue to follow with great sorrow what is happening in Israel and Palestine. I think again of the many… in particular of the children and the elderly. I renew my appeal for the freeing of the hostages and I strongly ask that children, the sick, the elderly, women, and all civilians not be made victims of the conflict. Humanitarian law is to be respected, especially in Gaza, where it is urgent and necessary to ensure humanitarian corridors and to come to the aid of the entire population. Brothers and sisters, already many have died. Please, let no more innocent blood be shed, neither in the Holy Land nor in Ukraine, nor in any other place! Enough! Wars are always a defeat, always!
Prayer is the meek and holy force to oppose the diabolical force of hatred, terrorism and war. I invite all believers to join with the Church in the Holy Land and to dedicate next Tuesday, 17 October, to prayer and fasting’
Pax Christi endorses statement from the Sabeel Ecumenical Palestinian Liberation Theology Centre and commitment to Nonviolence
We have endorsed a statement from Sabeel Ecumenical Palestinian Theology Centre on the ongoing conflict and violence in Palestine and Israel, pledging our commitment to nonviolence against a background of the following convictions:
- The might of the Israeli Army and its affiliates is unparalleled; violence will not bring victory.
- Nonviolence is a potent force. It enables collective participation from Palestinians, Israelis, and the international community. The path of nonviolence is the most impactful.
- Our ultimate struggle is not against individuals; it is against evil. Violence harms individuals, but our true adversary is the inherent evil of occupation and racist ideologies, which can be vanquished with good, for God is the embodiment of goodness.
- We champion nonviolence because it resonates with the divine principles set by the Creator. As rain is impartial, showering both the oppressed and oppressors, we uphold God’s ways.
You can read a full copy of the statement and add your own endorsement here
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center: Service of Lament for Palestine and Israel
More than 500 people from across the world gathered online on Thursday 12th October for a powerful Service of Lament hosted by Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre.
From the CEO of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem – 16th October
‘Our situation is the worse I have ever seen and believe me I have seen a lot.
All of the Christian community members are either at the Holy Family parish / church or at the Greek Orthodox church. We have 500 in our church. It is a huge responsibility to provide for all their needs during the current war but we are doing what we can. Both churches are in Gaza city technically in the area where Israel asked everyone to evacuate to the south.
Our position is that we will not close churches nor ask anyone to leave. This puts us all in direct firing zone if Israel decides to start a land incursion. Keep in mind that there are no churches or church institutions south of the designated area so asking people to leave is throwing them in the street! Please pray hard.
What you can do is to send to politicians and anyone you know and ask for two things:
1. Allow humanitarian supplies in NOW, restore electricity and water and allow delivery of food, medicines, and main supplies. Otherwise hospitals will close and people will starve.
2. Stop the war immediately and start a political track to deal with the root causes of the conflict and stop dehumanising the Palestinians…
Not sure what else can be done. We are in constant emergency mode not knowing what will come next.
Thank you for your concerns and prayers.
From a Pax Christi friend and partner in Bethlehem – 14th October
In the shadow of Gaza: Blockades and Violence on the West Bank
The family is glued to the (social) media about the ongoing horrible situation, first the consequences of the bloody massacre in south Israel, and now the deadly impact of the bombings and the threatening ground invasion in Gaza. We realize that there are thousands of relatives of Gazans inside the West Bank who have great difficulty to contact their loved ones if only because the electricity in Gaza is largely cut. The feeling of “one Palestinian nation” in solidarity with the exposed people in Gaza is strong in the West Bank.
A special hearing is for the Israeli voices that show the direct context of the bloodbath in south Israel. The peace activist Orly Noy: “… it is also important to remind ourselves that everything it is inflicting on us now, we have been inflicting on the Palestinians for years…. we have not only brought Gaza to the brink of starvation, we have brought it to a state of collapse. Always in the name of security. How much security did we get?” The Haaretz journalist Amira Hass: “In a few days Israelis went through what Palestinians have experienced as a matter of routine for decades, and are still experiencing.”
Mary is present at a symbolic funeral in the courtyard of the Bethlehem University of a former student whom she knew, as she knows so many people connected to the university over the years. The student, Khaled Muhtasib, shot in East Jerusalem at soldiers or police, it seems, and was then killed. An act of desperation.
Bethlehem University is presently online, like all universities in the West Bank since all the cities are closed off by large cement blocks or piles of earth. No traffic is allowed between the cities and surrounding villages, let alone between the cities. The roads are now only for the settlers. I had a small medical investigation at the Beit Jala hospital on Thursday; the doctor, who is from Hebron, stayed like many of his colleagues overnight in Bethlehem. Schools are trying to mix online and physical lessons but I suppose that it is extremely difficult to get the students’ attention given the total focus upon what happens in Gaza. Many people here have been hoarding, such as gasoline and edibles.
Since Saturday 51 persons have been killed in the West Bank alone. Friday was demonstration day in solidarity with Gaza, some 15 persons were killed by life bullets and 240 wounded, especially as a result of rubber-coated bullets and tear gas. At the village of Tekoa, the birthplace of the prophet Amos, the brother of a Bethlehem University student was killed, and also a youth was killed at Rachel’s Tomb in North Bethlehem. Demonstrations and violent clashes with the army were being held in many locations. Ambulances could not go through checkpoints, it seems, and had to drive long distances to bring the injured to hospitals.
Meanwhile, the countryside was also a kind of battleground. As the Israeli human rights organization Btselem writes: “Settlers are utilizing the fact that public attention is focused elsewhere to continue to remove Palestinians from their land and take it over, and add fuel to the fire of violence.” On Wednesday, three residents, two of them teenagers, of the village of Qusra, south east of Nablus, were killed by live fire and eight others wounded. Village residents report that among the shooters were at least seven settlers, some masked, entering the village on three ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles), and firing “indiscriminately” at Palestinians who confronted the attackers, according to DCIP. Among the teenagers was 17-year-old Obada Saed Abu Srour, who was shot in the back with the bullet exiting his chest.
Later, when clashes erupted following the funerals on Thursday morning, Israeli settlers attacked the funeral procession of Palestinians killed by them the day before, and even killed another two people – a father and a son, as the funeral procession passed through nearby Palestinian villages.
Also on Wednesday, Amira Hass wrote on the basis of reports of a What’s App group of Palestinians monitoring the situation, that settlers were shooting at farmers working in their land in the village of Marda southwest of Nablus.
The olive harvest is coming, each year characterized by settlers harassing local farmers. One resident of the town of Bani Hassan in the Salfit area southwest of Nablus reports: “Settlers and three soldiers tried to expel families harvesting olives. A confrontation broke out and [the soldiers] shot live fire at the youths and left.” Another report speaks about settlers and soldiers demanding a family in the village of Turmus Ayya to leave their home. One of the family members told the WhatsApp group they refused to leave the house though the army had already blocked the road to it the previous day. An example of sumud, or steadfastness. The Palestinian WAFA news agency reported settlers throwing stones at Palestinian cars north of Jericho on Monday.
With the Israeli army relocated to Gaza, a lot of arms and ammunition is given to settlers. In a video settlers posted online they describe the arms and ammunition allocated to them, only strengthening Palestinian fears of being (further) abandoned.
It is remarkable how much support for Israel there is from European leaders. According to an Al Jazeera report Ursula van der Leyen says that her solidarity extends “from now until next week.” A carte blanche for a ground invasion into Gaza? The German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anna Baerbock, says “We are all Israelis.” At the same time, TV and social media show large Arab solidarity demonstrations in among other countries, Jordan, Iraq and even suffering Yemen.
Cardinal Nichols calls for sustained prayers for peace
In a statement released on the 13th October, Cardinal Nichols has urged all to continued prayer for peace. You can read his statement here
Synod Assembly prays for peace in Middle East amid Israel-Hamas war
The Synod General Assembly currently meeting in Rome, dedicated last Thursday morning’s prayer to praying for peace, especially in the Holy Land, with the Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church of Baghdad leading prayers for all those suffering from violence and living in fear.
Read more about the prayers here
Statement from Pax Christi International on the violence in Gaza and Israel
Pax Christi International has issued a statement on the escalation of violence in Palestine and Israel which you can read in full here
Cardinal Parolin: ‘Attack on Israel ‘inhuman’, legitimate defense should not harm civilians’
Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin has been interviewed by Vatican News on the escalating conflict in Palestine and Israel. You can read the interview here
Church Leaders in The Holy Land call for de-escalation and respect for human rights
As the violence and suffering in Gaza and Israel increase, church leaders in the Holy Land are raising their voices in unity to call for the cessation of all violent and military activities that bring harm to both Palestinian and Israeli civilians. You can read news from the World Council of Churches here
Appeal for Prayer for the Holy Land
We ask you to add your prayers for peace in the Holy Land, in response to the call from His Eminence the Latin Patriarch who has sent the following message to all priests of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem:
To all priests and faithful in our diocese, the peace of the Lord be with you. I call on all believers to offer Sunday Mass on 8 October for the intention of ceasefire and end to the ongoing war in the Holy Land, asking the Lord to prevent further bloodshed, shattering of lives and burial of hopes.
Let us all pray with one heart and one soul with Pope Francis:
“Lord, come to our aid! Grant us peace, teach us peace; guide our steps in the way of peace. Open our eyes and our hearts and give us the courage to say: “Never again war!”
WCC Ecumenical Prayer Service for World Weeks for Peace in Palestine and Israel
A global ecumenical prayer hosted by the World Council of Churches (WCC) on 18 September focused on the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel, and the meaning of finding a spiritual home in the Holy Land.
Pax Christi England and Wales was pleased to participate in this service and to read the prayer, ‘Among the Rubble’ written by Jan Sutch Pickard for this week of prayer.
Cards can be used at any time and are available here.
Vatican pushes Nations to ensure Religious Freedom in Jerusalem
The Vatican urged the international community to press for a “special statute” to guarantee religious freedom in the city of Jerusalem in any agreements regarding a peace deal between Israel and Palestine.
Read more: https://www.ncronline.org/node/253476
Blog from Bethlehem: Ethnic Cleansing in Areas C of the West Bank is in Full Gear – Bethlehem 4th September
Pax Christi Partner at the Arab Institute in Bethlehem, Toine van Teeffelen, writes:
“False and slanderous,” the Israeli government called last week a statement by the Belgian Minister for Development Cooperation, Caroline Gennez, that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is becoming “unsustainable” and that this area is therefore one of the points of attention for Belgian development aid. “Entire villages are being wiped off the map by the Israelis.” The last phrase prompted the summoning of the Belgian ambassador in Tel Aviv to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
What are the facts? The reports from OCHA, a UN agency working in Palestine, as well as those from journalists from +972, an Israeli digital newspaper, paint a concrete picture of the situation east of Ramallah and north-west of Jericho in the West Bank. In May 2019, the 200 residents of Ein Samia dismantled their own homes and fled. In July 2022, the 100-member community of Ras a-Tin followed suit. In early August, the 88 residents of nearby Al-Qaboun were forced to leave their homes. This phenomenon is now beginning to spread to other Palestinian communities in neighboring areas. According to data collected by OCHA and the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, 35 residents of the nearby village of Wadi a-Seeq recently took their belongings and fled.
In the village of al-Baqa’a, 43 residents – the majority of the community – fled in July after the establishment of a new settler outpost and an arson attack on a house in the village. The same happened in the southern hills of Hebron where the inhabitants of the hamlet of Bir al-Idd, located near an Israeli outpost, were forced to abandon their lands.
A few days ago there was a detailed article in Haaretz by an Israeli peace activist who spent two years on the ground monitoring the situation in “Areas C” – the more than 60% of the occupied West Bank under direct Israeli military and civilian control. He listed the mechanisms used to expel the communities.
The Israeli settlers, often from so-called outposts that are even known as illegal in Israel, graze their sheep in the relevant Palestinian villages between the houses or in the fields, so that the Palestinian shepherds have less and less land to graze their sheep, and therefore are forced to buy feed for their animals.
After the settler-shepherds have been daily with their flocks in the fields of the neighboring villages for a few months, the fields there become a wasteland. Crops grown by the Palestinians, such as barley, are eaten. Part of the bare fields are plowed again by the settlers, but now for their own crops.
One of the settlers’ leisure activities is chasing the sheep of the Palestinian herdsmen. This is done, for example, by driving a car roughly into a field with sheep or by sending out loud alarm signals with a drone that scare the sheep away. Sometimes the settlers themselves determine that a certain area is simply no longer accessible to the Palestinian herdsmen. Roads leading to the villages are blocked with heaps of stones.
When the Israeli army is called in, for example by peace activists, the first thing that is asked is the property documents of the landowners, who are usually not on site. In general, the army supports the settlers, especially under the current far-right Israeli government. The activist settlers are effectively the shock troops of Police Secretary Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Smotrich.
The settlers have also taken control of the scarce water wells and springs, so that the Palestinian herders now suddenly have to buy water. The economic crisis means that they sometimes have no choice but to sell part of their herd.
Violence and far-reaching harassment and vandalism by the settlers do the rest. When people resist, groups of young people are called up by the settlers for reinforcements. They are armed with sticks or even firearms. IDs and car keys are stolen or broken, people are beaten up. In a few cases, people have been killed in raids by settlers on Palestinian towns and cities in recent years.
In recent months, settlers from the outpost Malakhei Hashalom (“Angels of Peace”) came almost every Shabbath to terrorize the population of the hamlet of Al-Qaboun. They broke into houses with guns, sometimes in uniform, to conduct “searches”. During one night, a drone with “air-raid sirens” circled above the houses of the village; at another time sheep carcasses were thrown in front of the village school. Cell phones were stolen when someone was suspected of filming the raids.
In yet another place, poisoned sausages were scattered between the houses, five dogs lay dead in the street the next morning. Someone managed to stop a toddler from eating the sausages. When a village defends itself, a house is set on fire, or a few cars.
In short: the gradual ethnic cleansing of areas C is in full gear.
Toine van Teeffelen
Holy See envoy expresses concern over escalating violence in Holy Land
Independent Catholic News (5/6/23) reports: Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, addressed the Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) on 2 April. In his remarks, Archbishop Caccia began by conveying the Holy See’s support for the work of UNRWA. He e… Read More
Recognising the 75th Anniversary of the Nakba
Today, as Palestinians commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Nakba (Catastrophe), Pax Christi England and Wales stands in solidarity and prayer with all those suffering its relentless and on-going impact. We call on the international community to demand an end to the occupation.
We are members of the Pax Christi International Working Group working towards a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel. A statement from the Working Group published today can be read here:
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has also issued a statement which you can read here:
A number of UK-based humanitarian, development, human rights and faith charities working for Palestinian human rights, including the Quakers have also issued a joint statement which you can read here:
Vigil for Shireen 11, May 2023
Today, in a silent vigil outside the Foreign Office, we remembered Shireen Abu Akleh. On the first anniversary of the day she was shot and killed by the Israeli military, we stood in solidarity and prayer asking for #JusticeForShireen.
As members of Pax Christi, we sent letters to James Cleverly MP, Foreign Secretary and Lord Ahmad, Minister of State for the Middle East. We asked them to:
– denounce the killing of Shireen Abu Aklah by the IDF and
– to demand that Israel is held to account for her death and that those responsible be brought to justice.
It is only when this has been achieved that Shireen’s family will feel that justice has been done.
Shireen Abu Akleh: One year on and still no justice
On May 11th 2023, it will be a year since the Palestinian American Journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by a sniper from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) whilst reporting on a raid on Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank.
While our Pax Christi International Delegation was in Palestine, earlier this year, we met with Tony, Shireen’s brother, and his wife and other members of the Abu Akleh family. Some of her family have been friends of ours for many years, as they work in the Arab Education Institute, a Pax Christi Partner in Bethlehem. The meeting was an incredibly sad one, as we listened to Tony telling us Shireen’s story and of the manner of her death.
Shireen was a seasoned correspondent, reporting for over twenty-seven years. She was not one to take risks and always wore her flak jacket and helmet, clearly labelled PRESS. However, as Shireen and her producer walked ahead of a few other journalists into the Camp in Jenin, a barrage of bullets was fired. Shireen was fatally shot in the back of her head; her producer was also shot in the back but has recovered from his wounds. The journalists in the area testified that there was no active gunfire or presence of Palestinian resisters when the shots rang out. There was, however, an IDF truck in firing range with highly trained sharpshooters ready to act.
The IDF immediately denied that they were responsible for the shooting. After investigations by CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Associated Press and B’Tselem conclusively showed that the shots had come from an IDF soldier, they recanted. However, the IDF continue to claim that the shooting was “unintentional.”
Not even in death could Shireen receive the respect she rightly had earned, nor could her family find any consolation in honouring her with a dignified funeral. Her brother was summoned to a local Israeli base and told that there were not to be large numbers of people at the funeral nor should any Palestinian flags be in sight. Anyone who has seen a Palestinian Funeral knows that this is an impossible demand. The whole community comes out to support the family and to accompany the body to the burial. Shireen was a much loved, public figure and was, and is, mourned by Palestinians all over the world.
We were deeply shocked at the scenes at the funeral in Jerusalem, which we watched live on TV. The family gathered in the French Hospital, where Shireen’s body had been taken, and as soon as they came out, accompanying the coffin, pallbearers, family and other mourners were confronted by armed, baton-wielding Israeli soldiers intent on disrupting the funeral procession. At one moment, their violence became so extreme that the casket teetered and almost hit the ground. Tear gas and sound grenades were used both inside and outside the hospital causing family members to seek refuge inside, along with patients, including pregnant women, who were chased through the corridors.
The international community expressed sympathy for the loss of life and “concern” over the soldiers’ behaviour. And then they turned away. Once again, no commander, soldier, or government official was held accountable for the death of a Palestinian Journalist.
Audrey Azouley, Director General of UNESCO, stated in response to Shireen’s death, ‘the killing of a clearly identified press worker in a conflict area is a violation of International law. I call on the relevant authorities to investigate this crime and bring those responsible to justice.’ (see here)
To date, no one has been held responsible.
Shireen’s family have worked endlessly since her death, calling for justice for her unlawful killing and feel that they have been abandoned by the international community. Our delegation promised them that we would mark the anniversary of Shireen’s death and call for accountability and justice.
We have issued a call to prayer and action from our members and supporters and are suggesting the following:
- watch a short biography of Shireen here
- tell Shireen’s story;
- light a candle and hold in prayer the family and friends of Shireen Abu Akleh who, a year on, are still asking for accountability and for Justice;
- include prayers and hold silent vigils in your community for justice and for an end to the occupation of Palestine;
- send messages of solidarity and prayer to Shireen’s family via her family member in our Pax Christi Partners in Bethlehem email@example.com or to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- download this Small Poster and take a photo of you holding it, then post on social media or send to us. Please use the hashtag #JusticeForShireen;
- contact your local Faith Leaders, asking them to speak out about Shireen’s death and to call for justice;
- contact your MP to demand that the UK Government calls Israel to account for the unlawful killing of Shireen by a member of the Israeli military, and for the perpetrator to be charged. Ask for Justice for Shireen and her family. You can find a template letter/email here. Please let us know if you receive a reply.
There is no time limit on these actions – we can pray and act until there is #JusticeForShireen
Ann Farr, Chair
Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem statement on death of Shireen Abu Akleh: https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/44667
Christian leaders condemn Israeli police violence at Palestinian journalist’s funeral: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/251256/christian-leaders-condemn-violence-at-funeral-of-palestinian-journalist-shireen-abu-akleh
United Nations: Shireen Abu Akleh killed by Israeli forces: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-b7IPSrse8
Early Day Motion 34 Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh: https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/59737/killing-of-shireen-abu-akleh
World Press Freedom Day: Anniversary of the killing of Palestinian Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
Holy Land: Eyewitness Report from Aida Refugee Camp
An eye-witness report from Fleur Brennan, Pax Christi member in Holy Apostles parish in Pimlico recorded in Independent Catholic News (24/4/23).
During their parish pilgrimage to the Holy Land last week, Fleur Brennan and her husband Colin from Holy Apostles, Pimlico, central London, visited Ai… Read More
Ian Linden: Israel’s crisis – religious and national extremism
Independent Catholic News (28/3/23) included insightful comment from Ian Linden (Visiting Professor at St Mary’s University, Strawberry Hill, London).
On Tuesday 21 March this year Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) issued, in their words, an “unprecedented warning” in the form of a “strategic alert”. The gist of the alert was that the ‘judicial reforms’ proposed by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his ultra-nationalist and religious extremist coalition would “seriously harm the functioning of the IDF” (Israel’s Defence Forces), the economy, and “endanger relations with the USA”. The reforms would give the Government of Israel control over the appointment of judges and weaken the Supreme Court’s ability to undertake judicial review of legislation. read full article here.
Pax Christi Testimony of Witness from the Holy Land
Brussels, 15 March, 2023: The Board of Pax Christi International welcomes the testimony from members of the Pax Christi delegation who recently returned from a 10-day peace pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Thirteen members from six countries took part in a visit that enabled them to reconnect with Pax Christi partners, see, first-hand, the facts on the ground, meet with religious leaders, activists, NGO, and UN representatives, and most importantly, to hear from those whose daily lives are affected by the occupation.
The delegation stayed in Jerusalem and Bethlehem and visited Ramallah, Hebron, the Cremisan Valley, Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, and Bedouin communities under threat of immediate eviction.
As Marie Dennis, Director of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project of Pax Christi International, commented “We heard talk of a new Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe referring to the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians and annihilation of more than 400 villages) and it feels that way. The stories of heartbreak are not old stories; they are ongoing.”
At every stop the group witnessed the brutal realities of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem now entering its fifty-sixth year. They heard harrowing stories of home demolitions, forced evictions and removals, violent settler attacks and the many indignities of oppression and repression experienced by Palestinians. The escalating fears for the future as the new ultra-nationalist government takes control was palpable.
The team met with the family of murdered Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who, nearly one year after her death, has seen no accountability or justice. Their call for the international community to intervene was the same one heard at every encounter.
As a Catholic peace movement, the team recognised the perseverance and tenacity of the Palestinian people in attending to their daily activities despite constant aggression, as the most profound form of nonviolent resistance. The expression “to exist is to resist” underpins even the most mundane of tasks.
As Rev. Paul Lansu, Pax Christi International, remarked, “The current situation is terrible and quickly deteriorating. Our visit could not have been more timely. The pilgrimage was a visible demonstration of solidarity with all our Palestinian sisters and brothers in the Holy Land. It was a reaffirmation of Pax Christi’s steadfast commitment to advocate for a just peace that ensures freedom, justice, and equality for all.”
Read the full Testimony here https://paxchristi.net/2023/03/15/pax-christi-international-publishes-a-testimony-of-witness/
Stories of the Nakba from Toine van Teeffelen, from the Arab Education Institute, our Pax Christi partner in Bethlehem
Passing the Nakba story
In the final days of 2022 my wife Mary and daughter Jara joined an organized
journey into Israel to the world heritage site of Maresha located near the
ruins of the Palestinian village of Beit Jibrin. Five of the participants in
the journey had family members who came originally from Beit Jibrin. The
village used to be located close to the heritage site before the Palestinian
population was expelled in 1948 and the old Beit Jibrin was turned into the
Israeli kibbutz Beit Guvrin.
One member of the group guided his mother to the remnants of the old village
where she was ten days old before her family had to flee in 1948, the year
of the Nakba, Arabic for disaster.
By chance an Israeli teacher with a class of children was present. The
teacher approached the Palestinian man and his mother standing at the ruins,
asking: “Where are you from?” The response: “We are from here, exactly this
village, and hopefully we will once come back.”
Last year two films came out about the Nakba.
One film is about the silencing of a Nakba story, the other about telling
and passing a Nakba story.
Two weeks ago my family watched the Israeli film “Tantura” on Palestine TV.
The film is about the silencing of a Nakba story of a massacre of
Palestinians. It happened after the village, a former port and now popular
beach located below Haifa, was taken over by the Haganah, the predecessor of
the Israeli army.
The Israeli peace activist Teddy Katz conducted research about the village
for an MA thesis in the 1990s and concluded on the basis of eyewitness
accounts that after the conclusion of a local battle and a cease fire a
massacre of more than 200 Palestinians had happened.
In 2000 survivors of the responsible brigade prosecuted him in court for
libel, and under pressure of family, friends and various institutions he
withdrew the thesis and said that no massacre took place. He signed a
statement to that effect, though hours later he came back upon that
In last year’s “Tantura” documentary by the Israeli filmmaker Alon Schwarz,
some soldiers who were present at the time and had previously kept silent
about what happened, confessed and acknowledged that scores of Palestinians
in Tantura had been killed at gunpoint. Others kept denying or kept their
mouths shut. Besides interviewing survivors, the film presented the
audiotaped voices of survivors from Teddy Katz’ research. One Israeli, who
helped burying the victims, says that more than 200 were shot dead. This
would likely make Tantura the largest massacre of the Nakba.
The film makes grim watching. One of the testimonies in Schwarz’s film is
that of Amitzur Cohen, who talked about his first months as a combat soldier
in the war: “I was a murderer. I didn’t take prisoners.” Cohen relates that
if a squad of Arab soldiers was standing with their hands raised, he would
shoot them all. How many Arabs did he kill outside the framework of the
battles? “I didn’t count. I had a machine gun with 250 bullets. I can’t say
The filmmaker Schwarz: “We’ll probably never know the exact number of dead.
According to the testimony of a large number of witnesses, the methods of
execution included shooting people who were lined up against walls, shooting
with a submachine gun into pens where people had been gathered, shooting
people in the head from point-blank range with a Parabellum pistol, throwing
grenades into a house with civilians inside, burning people alive (including
one woman) with a flamethrower.”
“We also know of cases where people were ordered to dig their own graves.
That is only a partial list. Although it wasn’t included in the film, we
also have testimony that people were sent to their deaths after being
interrogated by the intelligence service of the Haganah. Also, according to
eyewitnesses, there were detailed lists of weapon holders in Tantura, and
those who kept weapons in their houses were shot after handing them over to
That a massacre took place seems clear but how many were killed not. One
complication is that there was likely not a single massacre but several
Some established historians including the Israeli dissident Ilan Pappe are
convinced that on the basis of a variety of testimonies and evidence more
than 200 were killed.
Benny Morris, the pioneering Israeli historian who investigated the killings
by Zionist soldiers during 1948 (he later on took the position that the war
and the massacres were necessary for the establishment of Israel, in other
words, a necessary evil), did not believe that a “large” massacre had
occurred in Tantura because otherwise family members of those who were
killed would have told what happened to the UN, the Red Cross, consulates,
or other international institutions.
In the case of Tantura there were no stories passed on to the institutions,
he says, nor were such stories identified by main Palestinian
historiographers. How could that be?
This brings up the question under what circumstances people pass stories
such as these about massacres. In general people tell and retell stories
when they feel that it makes meaning for them to do so. When you feel that
telling stories doesn’t have any consequence, you might decide not to tell
them. During a workshop in Beit Jala (near Bethlehem) I once heard
Palestinians say that after 1948 there “was no time to tell stories to
others. You had to survive.”
Importantly, passing stories about Israelis killing Palestinians could also
elicit reprisals. There was the fear factor, especially for those who stayed
in Israel. Many of the survivors of the Tantura massacre fled to nearby
villages, so stayed in what became Israel.
An article of the Israeli outlet +972 last year mentioned that stories about
massacres in 1948 were actually passed on but in small circles and not into
the public domain, out of fear.
“We never stopped teaching our children about what happened in Tantura, but
we never dared to talk about the crimes and the massacre that took place in
public in general and in the media in particular,” said Ehsan Eimar, a
67-year-old originally from Tantura. “We were always afraid of the police
and the Shin Bet. We inherited this fear from the people who witnessed the
massacre, and who were exposed to all the threats and attempts at
intimidation. .we did not dare to talk about the massacre in public until
this film was shown. For us, it is what broke through the barrier of fear.
If an Israeli director talks about the issue, what prevents us, the owners
of the place, from talking?”
Kamal Masri, 58, who is also originally from Tantura: “Our parents carefully
told us about what happened, how my uncle and grandfather were martyrs,” he
said. “How they forced people to dig their graves. How they put dozens of
people in mass graves. My grandfather on my mother’s side said that the
number of dead reached 150 and that he buried them.”
Why did a large number of killings happen in Tantura? One hypothesis is that
there was fierce resistance in the village and that Israeli troops were
overcome by a sense of revenge, but also that higher echelons took no
initiative to stop executions anywhere.
The historian Adam Raz, who supports the “large massacre” thesis, speaks
about the total number of massacres during the Nakba. He indicates that the
previously mentioned Benny Morris recorded 24 massacres during the 1948 war.
But today it can be said that the number is standing at several (more)
dozens of cases. In some a few individuals were murdered, in others dozens,
and there are also cases of more than a hundred victims.
Raz notes that an article published by an anonymous soldier in the journal
Ner after the war indicates that the phenomenon of killing non-combatants
was widespread among soldiers at the time.
Of course the massacres were instrumental in getting people to flee.
Farha: Netflix-Feature Film
Passing on stories needs more than the passing of the fear threshold. It
requires some kind of orientation towards an audience, a mental space for
detail, and a “genre” in which the story fits and gets meaning.
One typically Palestinian “genre” are the annual marches to the original
places where people used to live, the so-called “marches of return,” mainly
during Nakba commemorations in May. Like the family’s visit on Mary’s and
Jara’s trip, such marches of return evoke the old times and the telling of
stories across the generations.
Another genre is film. The Netflix-feature film “Farha” came out last year
and is based on a girl’s story which the film director Darin Sallam had
heard from her own mother who in turn had heard it from a woman who in 1948
was a Palestinian refugee girl fleeing from Palestine to Syria. Sallam never
stopped thinking about that girl and the story about what had happened to
her. That provided the idea and plot for the film.
The story is of a 14-year old girl, Farha, who prior to the Nakba, dreams
about following an education rather than to be married early. Her dream,
accepted by her father, is cut short due to the arrival of the Zionist army.
The girl’s father, the mukhtar (head) of the village, decides to stay and
not to flee. Military speakers are asking villagers to leave. Farha’s father
asks a friend to take Farha with him. Yet Farha jumps out of the car and
returns to join her father.
The father arms himself with a rifle and locks Farha in a pantry, telling
her to stay hidden. Farha is locked in the pantry for days and does not know
what happened to her father. She continues to hear sounds of gunshots in the
distance and is only able to glance through a hole in the pantry to the
She watches through the hole how a Palestinian family is executed at
gunpoint and a soldier is asked to kill a newborn baby which the soldier
cannot bring himself to do. After getting out of the pantry, Farha finds the
baby boy dead. She leaves the village.
An epilogue states that Farha never found her father and his fate remains
unknown. Farha eventually makes her way to Syria and tells her friend the
After showing the film, some Israelis publicly called for boycotting Netflix
subscriptions. As if to say: Silence the story. The Israeli government
threatened to withdraw government funding from al-Saraya Theater in Jaffa
because of their screening of the film.
The filmmaker Sallam said that while there are documentaries about the
Nakba, there are no narrative films, adding that stories are what generate
and convey emotion.
New forms and genres need to be developed, a finding of new audiences,
across the generations.
My own organization, the Arab Educational Institute, has put large
thin-metal posters on the Wall at Bethlehem with daily life stories
including some English-language stories of the Nakba.
It will be this year 2023, 75 years since the Nakba happened. A moment to
once again break the silence?
For more information on Tantura see
For more information on Farha see
Speaking from Bethlehem, Rev Munther Isaac has a Challenging Message for Western Christians.
Embrace the Middle East shares extracts from a recent Balfour Project talk given by Rev Isaac:
Bethlehem is not just a name in the Bible, but it’s a real town. Today Bethlehem is a city of around 30,000 Palestinians, among them around 8,000-9,000 Palestinian Christians, belonging to different Church traditions. The two biggest are the Catholics and Orthodox, but we also have Lutherans, Melkites, Syrian Orthodox …It continues to shock me that people are surprised to know that we exist. This is where it all started! It only makes sense that there are Christians here. Read the full talk here or watch on YouTube .
2022 World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel, 15 – 22 September
‘Faith, Hope and Love in Action: Towards Justice in Israel Palestine’
The World Council of Churches (WCC) invites people and churches all over the world to pray, advocate, and stand in solidarity with people in the Holy Land under the strapline Faith, Hope and Love in Action: Towards Justice in Israel Palestine.
“The annual world week for peace in Palestine and Israel offers an opportunity for all of us to engage in active hope towards ending the occupation,” said WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca.
Pax Christi Prayer Card ‘Faith, Hope and Love in Action’
Pax Christi has produced a card to encourage us to ‘pray, learn, act’. One side has an affirmation: Change is in the Air by Jan Sutch Pickardand the other side some useful resources and ideas for action you can take.
Available at £3.00 for 50 cards from our shop.
You can download the card here.
Pax Christi Card ‘Anemone – sign of life and hope’
A photo shows the Palestinian anemone that flowers in the most impossible places, at checkpoints, on the most barren ground and through the rubble of demolished Palestinian homes.
The reverse side has the beautiful poem by Jan Sutch Pickard, The Flowers of the field …..
Available at £3.00 for 50 from our shop.
World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel, 15-22 September
Independent Catholic News (7/9/22) features an article by Pax Christi’s Chair, Ann Farr: ‘Faith, Hope and Love in Action: Towards Justice in Israel Palestine’ is the theme for this year’s World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel. Each … Read More
Pax Christi England and Wales condemns the recent attacks on the Episcopal Church in Ramallah.
In a statement Pax Christi says: “Pax Christi England and Wales stands firmly in solidarity with the Rector of St Andrew’s, Rev Fadi Diab, with the Most Reverend Hosam E Naoum of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and with their communities. We send them our greetings and prayers. Places of worship and church compounds should be places of sanctuary for communities to feel safe to practice their faith and ministry.
“Pax Christi England and Wales calls on the Israel Government to ensure that responsibility is acknowledged, that disciplinary action is taken against those responsible and that a concrete reassurance is given that no such action will be taken in the future against any places of worship in Palestine.”
Pax Christi International Statement on Raids of Palestinian Human Rights Organisations
Independent Catholic News (29/8/22) reports that Pax Christi International stands in absolute solidarity with the seven prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society organisations whose office…Read More
Pax Christi welcomes Bishops’ statement on Ramallah church raid
Pax Christi England and Wales has welcomed the joint, ecumenical action by Bishop Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark and Bishop Declan Lang, Bi… Read More in Independent Catholic News (25/8/22).
Independent Catholic News (20/8/22)
The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East has condemned a “shocking” raid by Israeli soldiers on the premises of their church in Ramallah,… Read More
Pax Christi EW supports this Call to Action from our friends at the Balfour Project.
Illegal Israeli settlements are the biggest threat to Palestinian rights – their rights to their land, to their livelihoods, to self-determination – including the right to sovereign statehood. The Israeli authorities are advancing plans to build a new illegal settlement in an area known as E1.
Please write to your MPs to protest about this illegal action by Israel, using the link below…..
Appeal from Sir Vincent Fean, Vice-Chair, Balfour Project
“Palestinian rights – their rights to their land, to their livelihoods, to self-determination – including the right to sovereign statehood. The Israeli authorities are advancing plans to build a new illegal settlement in an area known as E1.
If built, it will complete the encirclement of East Jerusalem, dividing it from the rest of the West Bank. It will split the northern West Bank cities – Nablus, Jenin etc – from Hebron, Bethlehem and Jericho. It will kill any prospect of a joined-up Palestinian state. That’s why the Balfour Project charity asks you to take action.
Our Government has long regarded E1 as a “red line” which Israel must not cross – but has never said what it will do if Israel persists.
The deadline for action is 12 September, when Israel’s West Bank Planning Committee is due to finalise its work and endorse the planned construction of E1. Israel’s Prime Minister can prevent this. Our Government must prevail on him to stop it.
The Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh – What chance for justice? (13/6/22)
Caabu held an online discussion on the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, the Al Jazeera Arabic journalist killed on 11 May 2022 whilst covering an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank. The meeting heard from a work colleague of 17 years Wessam Hammad as to what she was like, and what she represented to the Palestinian people. Francesca Albanese, the new UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 addressed legal issues surrounding the killing and the need for a proper independent investigation. Anna McMorrin MP gave her reflections having just returned from her first delegation to Palestine with Caabu and MAP, and Wessam Ahmad will gave his perspective as a leading Palestinian human rights advocate. The discussion is now available online, and you can watch it in full here: https://caabu.org/news/news/killing-palestinian-journalist-shireen-abu-akleh-what-chance-justice-caabu-briefing
Holy Land Coordination 2022 (21-26 May)
The regular visit of European lay and clergy visited the Holy Land (21 – 26 May) to ‘stand in solidarity with the local Christian communities and to express their support through the four Ps: Prayer, Pilgrimage, Pressure and Presence’. For details of the visit and an interview with Bishop Declan Lang see the website of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales here.
Call to Prayer for Palestine (13/5/22)
Ann Farr, Chair of Pax Christi England and Wales called for prayer on the day of the funeral of journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh killed by Israeli Forces on 11 May. Read the full text here on Independent Catholic News.
Statement by the Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches of Jerusalem on the Recent Outbreak of Violence—April 2, 2022
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.’” (Psalm 122:6–7)
Over the past two weeks, indiscriminate acts of violence have taken place in various parts of our Holy Land. These have in turn led to violent confrontations throughout the region. More than a dozen people have lost their lives as a result of these attacks and ensuing conflicts. Others have suffered serious injury.
We, the Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches of Jerusalem, condemn and decry these and all acts of violence against every human person, and we offer our prayers and sympathies on behalf of the families and friends who grieve over the loss of their loved ones because of them. We also pray for the recovery of those who have been wounded as a result.
With this sudden increase in bloodshed, we share the widespread concern that tensions will continue to increase during the rare confluence of major religious festivals among the three Abrahamic faiths: Ramadan, Pesach, and Holy Week/Easter. We therefore call upon the faithful within each of these three traditions to show forth the mutual respect and care for one’s neighbor that is central to the teachings of each.
We likewise call upon the overseeing governmental authorities to exercise policies of religious tolerance, restraint of force, and de-escalation of conflict—and we commend them to the extent that they have already done so.
In these coming weeks that are sacred to our respective religious traditions, we encourage all people of good faith to walk in the pathway of peace that is so central to the symbolism of Jerusalem, “the City of Peace.” In this way, we can be true witnesses to the world of the common vision of Peace/Shalom/Salaam that is enshrined within the heart of our separate but intertwined religious beliefs.
—The Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches in Jerusalem
A beautiful video message from our partners at the Arab Educational Institute in Bethlehem.
Up-dated Pax Christi leaflet on solidarity with peacemakers in Palestine & Israel (August 2019)
‘Violence, imposed solutions cannot bring about peace’ – 2019 Article from H.B. Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarchate Emeritus of Jerusalem on the present situation in Israel/Palestine. H.B. Michel Sabbah was President of Pax Christi International from 1999 till 2007. Read full text
Pax Christi calls for an end to illegal occupation of Palestine. In this month of the commemoration of 50 years of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, Pax Christi International in collaboration with its members, urges the international community to call for the immediate end of the 50-year Israeli occupation and for the parties to reengage in a peace process in compliance with international law. (May 2016)
In 2015 our World Assembly, was held in Bethlehem, Palestine. This is the statement affirming our stand in favour of nonviolent struggle against the occupation.
The World Assembly of Pax Christi urges all UN-member states to recognize the state of Palestine and to ban Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine… are deeply concerned about Israeli policies that deny the rights of the Palestinian people and preclude the possibility of a two state solution. Pax Christi International supports Palestinians in their nonviolent struggle to end occupation and Israelis who stand for human rights and international law, including as applied to Palestinians.