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Holy Land strategy Ok'd

We are asking for action,� said Ramsey
“We are asking for action,” said Ramsey Tesdell, Southeastern Iowa, on Israel-Palestine strategy.

The assembly voted 668-269 to approve an “ELCA Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine.” It asked Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson to send the resolution to the U.S. Secretary of State.

The action launches the churchwide campaign: “Peace Not Walls —Stand for Justice in the Holy Land.” It includes prayer and support for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, awareness-building, stewarding of both U.S. tax dollars and private funds, and advocacy. Rebecca Larson, Division for Church in Society, told reporters the action is not a mandate for divestment from Israel.

The assembly added “may” to “undermine” in one sentence about how building the separation barrier on Palestinian land affects efforts toward a credible, two-state solution.

An amendment failed (369-565) to remove the word “occupied” from Palestinian territories and eliminate the “Peace Not Walls,” portion of the campaign’s name.

Calling the wall an “abomination,” Bishop Kevin S. Kanouse, Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod, said the wall is “precisely that about which we must speak.”

By phone, ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan shared his church’s condemnation of all terrorism and its belief that “the security of Israel” and “freedom and justice for Palestinians” depend upon each other.

“If Israel feels it needs to build a wall, we would understand it along the 1967 borders,” he said. “But we cannot understand their decision to build it within Palestinian land. ... The wall does not create peace; it breeds despair.”

Younan said the barrier and checkpoints prevent congregations from worshiping together, some couples from living together, and children from getting to school every day. He added: “Please don’t let extremists from any side or from any part of the world hold justice and peace hostage.”

Paul F. Koch, Metropolitan Chicago Synod, said “the wall will effectively cut the Palestinian territories into regions that are disconnected. I just don’t know how the Palestinians will make a state out of four or five regions.”

Matthew Erickson, Southwest California Synod, said the strategy’s title was troubling for the synagogue next door to his congregation, adding, “The onus is put seemingly on the government of Israel.”

But Gemechis D. Buba, Southeastern Synod, said, “We can use this document to show our Islamic brothers and sisters that the Lutheran church cares about everybody.”

The resolution invites congregations to make use of the Holy Land communion ware that synods will take home from this assembly.


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December issue

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