The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



January 12, 2009

Tree power

Monday found Lutheran bishops from North America planting olive trees, praying for peace and understanding along a separation wall and listening to students at a West Bank school speak frankly about their future.

Leaders of the ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada ventured to the village of Beddo, near the city of Ramallah and north of Jerusalem to plant the hardy trees in a wasteland of trash, construction debris and destroyed arbors.

[Blog continues below photo ... ]

Bishop Burnside digs a hole to plant an olive tree in Beddo
Bruce H. Burnside, bishop of the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, digs a hole to plant an olive tree in Beddo.

The ground sits below an Israeli settlement along a separation wall dividing Israelis from Palestinians. The Palestinian-owned hillside was strewn with debris reportedly dumped there by the settlers.

Bishops pray at the gate
Bishops from North America prepare to pray at a gate along the separation wall in Beddo. Israeli police keep an eye on them.
Some 90 bishops, spouses and church staff planted the trees in an attempt to reclaim some of the devastated landscape.

They then gathered at a nearby gate along the separation wall to pray for peace. They did so under the watchful eye of an Israeli police crew.

The bishops are in the Middle East in an effort to stress accompaniment with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, raise awareness of regional issues and boost advocacy for peace.

Two students at Lutheran School of Hope, Ramallah
Two students on the playground at Lutheran School of Hope, Ramallah.
Earlier in the day, they visited Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah. The school educates 482 Christian and Muslim students. High-school age students sat with bishops in question and answer sessions that focused primary on the fighting in the Gaza Strip and the students' futures in the West Bank.

In one group, five of eight students said they planned to emigrate when they're finished with school. They spoke frankly of their anger with Israel for what they said was an overly violent assault on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

"We are not animals, we have feelings, we are human beings," said Majdi Habash.

The bishops conclude their visit Tuesday with tours of three other schools on the West Bank.


Greg Kaufmann

Greg Kaufmann

Posted at 10:31 pm (U.S. Eastern) 1/13/2009

Dan, thanks for your faithfulness in telling all of us the story of our bishops in Palestine, Israel and Jordan. I loved the photo of Bishop Burnside planting olive trees. What a powerful symbol of hope for the future. We've done the same thing as a sign of solidarity with our companion synod in Brazil. We planted trees in Brazil and they pranted trees in Wisconsin! As the trees grow, we are all reminded of our own growing interdependence.

peace and joy,


Print subscribers and supporting Web members may comment.

Log in | Subscribe

text size:

this page: email | print

March issue

MARCH issue:

All are welcome