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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Israeli troops occupy Lutheran school

As the cycle of Israeli- Palestinian violence continued, Israeli military forces forcibly entered and damaged a Lutheran elementary school, Dar-al Kalima, on March 9, and again on March 11, said Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan (and Palestine).

The Bethlehem school had been closed since March 8 due to heavy military action. Damages included graffiti, bullet holes and the destruction of doors, windows and crosses. Israeli snipers were reportedly positioned on school roofs, overlooking Dheisheh refugee camp.

"The occupation of our church property seems to be part of a pattern of military operations where schools, hospitals, ambulances and medical personnel have been attacked," Younan said in a March 11 statement. "These actions are clearly breaching international law."

"This harassment of an institution of faith and learning is unacceptable and will only contribute to further erosion of the hope for peace," said the ELCA Conference of Bishops in a March 11 statement that asked President Bush to seek an end to the violence and protect "those who are suffering from unjust attacks."

Lutheran World Federation general secretary Ishmael Noko, in a March 12 letter to Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, called for reparation for the damages.

In the fall of 2000, Israeli forces fired on Palestinian protestors from Augusta Victoria Hospital. In August 2001 troops shot at civilians from an ELCJ church. Criticism from Lutherans worldwide led to Israeli withdrawal in both cases.


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