Our current situation
October 25.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,,

Salaam and grace to you from a troubled Jerusalem / Palestine in the name
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.   Through your good persons, I want to
greet all your churches/constituencies with God's blessings. Please do
share this letter with them in order that you all together can act upon it.

I herewith would like to update you about the recent occurrences
/developments as regards to the difficult crisis we are currently passing
through.

1. The recent Arab Leaders' Summit came up with moderate decisions for the
continuation of the peace process, but, at the same time, warning the
Israeli government for its excessive use of force against the Palestinian
civilians.  In this regard, some practical measures have been taken as
regards to the relationship of some Arab states with the State of Israel.
These measures, however, might escalate, if the Israeli government
continues
to escalate the situation.  They have also mentioned that peace must have
substance, and must be built on justice. They reiterated the UN-resolutions

pertaining to the Israeli - Palestinian conflict.

2. In fact, the Israeli government opposed these measures and answered with
harsher measures against the Palestinian areas:
a. The closure is still clamped over the Palestinian areas. The Israeli
authorities closed off the Gaza International Airport, and the borders to
Jordan and Egypt.
b. The freedom of movement of people and goods is still restricted between
the Palestinian cities.   Many kinds of foodstuff are becoming rare on the
markets.  At the same time, the Israeli authorities are allowing only
Israeli
products to be sold in the Palestinian market.
c. The Palestinian industrial and agricultural products are not allowed to
be transported anywhere.
d. Palestinian farmers are not allowed to reach their fields (mostly
located
in areas B & C which are under full Israeli security sovereignty) in order
to pick their olive trees, where we have the best harvest since many years.
e. In the Bethlehem region, as well as in other Palestinian areas the
hotels are totally empty - no tourists and pilgrims.  It is worth-mentioning
that
the Bethlehem region is living mainly from tourism.  Factories are also
working in a 15% capacity.
f. Hospitals are lacking medical materials and equipment.
g. High unemployment is prevailing now.
h. The Christian schools are depending on tuition fees they cannot collect
them at the moment.  In consequence, they will not be able to pay the
salaries of the teachers for some months, for example:  the ELCJ schools
will be in a serious economic situation to pay the salaries of our teachers
for
the next three months at least.   This is very typical for all the
Christian schools.

3. During the past days, Israeli army forces shelled with tanks,
helicopters
and automatic weapon residential areas in the town of Beit Jala, a
Christian town, west of Bethlehem from Gilo, an Israeli settlement built on
the lands
belonging to Beit Jala inhabitants, causing injuries and huge damage in
properties. Just yesterday, Israel's Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert stated in
the voice of Israel's morning radio-news journal that the night-time raid
was a "proportional Israeli response" to the Palestinian shooting.  It was
according to Olmert, an insufficient response, because only a
"disproportional Israeli response" could reach the aim of silencing the
Palestinian uprising.

4. The shelling on Bethlehem area, especially in Beit Jala and Beit Sahour
is paralyzing the life of Palestinian Christian towns.  It is creating
horror
and terror in the hearts of the families.  Our Church has a boarding
section accommodating social cases.  We had to transport foodstuff from
Jerusalem,
so that they can be fed and cared for.  In addition, we have to treat the
children psychologically. Our fear is that al these undue measures will
force the Christians to emigrate due to the lack of vision for the future.

5. It seems that the present Israeli government is becoming more rightist
and radical than anybody thought of.  Or I can say, it is dealing with the
present situation with a military, security perspective rather than a
political security perspective.  This is a frightful issue that leads our
region to undue war, and to a growth of religious and political extremists,
fanaticism and fundamentalism.

6. It seem that in these measures, Israel will be in isolation and the
Palestinians under siege.  Will then just peace ever be possible in such a
formula???

7. This situation is causing psychological traumas that has effects on
Palestinian children. During last Sunday school at our Beit Jala
congregation, the Sunday school teacher told that children used to break
crayons, reflecting their nervousness in class.   On Monday, after the
shelling of Beit Jala, the children suffered from headaches, diarrhea,
dizziness, bed wetting and other disturbed psychological behavior.  For
this reason we need now to start special psychological treatment for our
traumatic children.

We are crying as the Macedonian did: "come and help us".  For this reason,
I appeal to you:

? To use your good offices to seek protection for us unarmed people. We
call for international protection for the Palestinian people.
? To use your offices that all this spiral violence may immediately cease,
and that negotiations between the two parties will soon start to find
substantial solutions and implementation of the agreement signed and
according to the international legitimacy, based on the UN resolutions.
? To intensively pray for the Christian Churches in Jerusalem and their
prophetic role for a lasting, comprehensive, just peace and reconciliation
in our area.
? To work with the all churches around the world that the rights of the
Christian churches in the Holy Land will be secured and legislated in the
constitutions of both Palestine and Israel.
? To support the mission of the Church in education, diaconia, dialogue and
reconciliation.  Our Christian schools are the haven to mold the Christian
Palestinian identity, to teach equitable coexistence with the religions and
nations and to promote peace education.
? To do your utmost that neither the church schools, nor its institutions
can be stopped or closed for any political situation or financial
deficiencies,
because the witness and the mission of the Church are very much needed,
especially at this stage of history.
? To form a delegation that will come and visit us and be in solidarity
with us in such a terrible crisis, that we have never witnessed before.

As the Lutheran bishop in Jerusalem, I appeal to you, as sisters and
brothers in Christ:  DO NOT LEAVE US ALONE.  I call upon you to move from
writing
statements to incarnate your good ideas on the ground.  The Christian
Church in Jerusalem needs you, your solidarity and immediate actions at this
special time for the continuation of God's mission in the land of
resurrection.

Please continue to pray for us.

May God bless you and your efforts

Your Brother in Christ,

Bishop Munib A. Younan
The Lutheran Bishop in Jerusalem