Learning about Israel and Palestine

This past weekend was the 2010 ELCA Metro Chicago Synod Assembly. (Translation: the annual gathering of 400 or so Chicago-area ELCA pastors and congregation members to discuss issues, policies, and official business of the metro-Chicago division of the ELCA.)

Among the resolutions that we discussed were three that dealt with Israel/Palestine and issues related to the Holy Land. This, honestly, is a a set of issues about which I know far less than I wish I did. And it is a set of issues that I nevertheless have strong feelings about. This means that I am constantly on the hunt for helpful information that can help me honestly frame the issue for myself. It is a difficult topic to discuss. It is highly controversial, and there are issues embedded in issues embedded in issues. I get the sense that both sides of the issue dismiss information provided by the other as "propaganda," and I myself am still quite naive when it comes to distinguishing unbiased information from propaganda. A starting place for me is to explore the commitment of the ELCA to stand in solidarity with our partner church in Palestine (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, or ELCJHL).

I have spent a small amount of time browsing the multitude of resources concerning Israel/Palestine on the Peace Not Walls page of the ELCA website. (There's a lot there - I admit that I have barely scratched the surface.) In fact, my first real introduction to the issues at stake was this video: Peace Not Walls - Making a Difference in the Holy Land

One of the resolutions that we discussed was one that asked our synod to endorse the Kairos Palestine Document, a document written by Palestinian Christians for Palestinian Christians, expressing their own sufferings and hopes for the future.

Also, just a few weeks ago, I heard this piece on the radio, and found it quite interesting, especially his thoughts on Christians, and especially Christian clergy, when it comes to discussing issues surrounding the Holy Land: Worldview - Talking about Israel

I still have much to learn. But it is obvious to me that this is a matter of justice, of human rights, of the nature of faith and religion, and of the strengths and limitations of politics. I think that I feel strongly about the issue precisely because it touches on so many deep and, ultimately, universal themes. Please let me know if there are other resources that you have found helpful in learning more about the Holy Land - I very much want to continue my education.


  1. Try to go there. I went in the fall of 2007 as a tourist but it was still eye opening. To see the wall is just sad.

  2. I find it sad that the Palestinians encourage homicide bombers that murder Israeli citizens. The wall helps to prevent that.

    Here is a good review of the Kairos Palestine Document - http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm/frm/60512/sec_id/60512

  3. Dan - thanks for your comment.

    There are many things sad about the whole situation - homicide and suicide bombings are deplorable and should certainly be condemned. But on a grander scale, all of the deplorable acts and injustices on BOTH sides of the issue need to be condemned.

    It is difficult or impossible for any of us to assume that the issues at stake are simple and clear-cut, and my biggest concern with the way that Christians and Americans discuss Israel and Palestine is that they glorify the side they support (and overlook its sins) and demonize the side they oppose (and overemphasize its sins). Both nations have their share of good and bad, which is why it is all the more important to me that I learn as much as I can from a variety of sources, and need to work harder to find as many unbiased sources of information as I can.

    I find that the author of the article you linked to in your comment made no secret about his personal opinions of the rightness of Israel and the wrongness of Palestine. The first lines of his article made it clear that he is not writing without bias, and so it was no surprise that the rest of his article was written through the lens of supporting Israel and criticizing Palestine.

    He is most certainly entitled to his opinion on the matter, just as you and I are. But I would also love to read more about the Kairos document and about the political situation from authors who make stronger efforts to distance themselves from their own biases and agendas.

  4. I understand what you are saying, Melissa. The more information you read about the situation, the better.
    I think you should also realize, and I believe you do, that the ELCA and it's Peace Not Walls campaign is also very bias toward the Palestinians. So everyone should view their words using the same "lens" of their bias.