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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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January 8, 2009

Rocket casualty


Rockets fired into northern Israel Thursday wrecked plans by ELCA bishops and others to meet with some Israeli officials in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Still, bishops of the ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada pressed on with their visit, laying a wreath at the Israeli memorial to Holocaust victims and conferring with the Jewish state's two chief rabbis.

The rocket attack in the early hours of Thursday threw the day off course. Several high-ranking Israeli leaders, including the president and foreign minister, canceled their time with the bishop.

 Bishops talking
Outside the memorial to the dead at the Yad Vashem, ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson, Floyd M. Schoenhals, bishop of the ELCA Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson and Robert Smith of ELCA Global Mission , discuss what to do in light of rocket fire that canceled meetings with Israeli leaders.
As events settled down, private consultations with the ministers of the interior and tourism were held as planned.

After being given a special tour of the Yad Vashem memorial, Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson of the ELCA, National Bishop Susan C. Johnson of the ELCIC and Bishop Munib A. Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and Holy Land placed the flowers at the memorial for the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis in World War II.

From there they held an abbreviated meeting with Israel's top rabbis, Yona Metzger of the Ashkenazi and Schlomo Amar of the Sephardi branches of Judaism.

Both rabbis devoted much of their address to explaining Israel's incursion into the Gaza strip as necessary to stop rocket attacks on civilians in the southern portion of the country.

 Bishop Hanson
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson meets with rabbis Yona Metzger of the Ashkenazi and Schlomo Amar of the Sephardi branches of Judaism.

They mourned civilian deaths in Gaza, but said military leaders showed them evidence Hamas fighters were positioned in schools and other public institutions.

Hanson stressed the two North American church's "rejection of violence." He said the current conduct of the campaign by Israel raised just war theory questions, especially "proportionality and killing of innocents."

"If we can't have this kind of exchange," Hanson said, "... then fanatics will win."

Johnson urged the rabbis to "stay at the table" in discussions with other faiths over moral and ethical issues arising from the violence. She promised "our prayers for you at this very difficult time and our pledge of accompaniment."

Neither rabbi responded. They left immediately for another meeting.

The trip is to stress accompaniment with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, raise awareness of regional issues and boost advocacy for peace. It runs through Jan. 13.

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