Statement on Escalating Violence in Palestine and the Holy Land:
The New England Synod has a deep and longstanding relationship with our companion synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). Many of us have visited the Holy Land to meet our ELCJHL Palestinian siblings and to experience the richness of their ministries. Our hearts are broken by the escalating violence now happening in Palestine and Israel.
The Palestinians have lived under military occupation since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. At that time, a majority of the Palestinian people were driven out of their own homes and permanently displaced from their own land. The occurrence of this catastrophe – known as Nakba in Arabic – is observed in Palestine on May 15, the day following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
The Nakba continues in Palestine. Even today, the Israeli government is engaged in settler colonization, as they attempt to confiscate all Palestinian land without regard for the lives or safety of the Palestinian people and in violation of international law.
This most recent violence began with Israeli settlers demanding the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Then, during the holy month of Ramadan, Israeli forces physically interrupted Muslims praying inside the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on several occasions.
The situation has worsened dramatically over the last week. Violence has broken out in the streets of many towns and villages across the land. Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza and the counterattacks of bombs from the Israeli military complicate the quest for peace. These attacks have resulted in a disproportionate number of Palestinian deaths, including children and adults. Israeli casualties have been far fewer.
We denounce the ongoing violence and call for an immediate cease fire.
We pray for the safety and wellbeing of our ELCJHL companions and for all peoples living in Palestine and Israel. We stand with ELCJHL Bishop Azar in his May 8th call to pray for a just peace and reconciliation in Jerusalem. You can find Bishop Azar’s statement on the ELCJHL Facebook page.
We hope, for the sake of the world, that the international community and our government, specifically, will recognize the causes of violence, and the desperation behind it, and help put an end to it by insisting that Israel comply with international law.
Watch Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s May 12th message on Support Peace in Palestine and Israel to understand the position of the ELCA.
Learn how the ELCA is working for peace and justice in the Holy Land and sign up for Action Alerts by visiting Peace Not Walls on the ELCA website. The Action Alert for May is to urge President Biden to send a message to Israel to halt the illegal removal of East Jerusalem families from their homes and respect the Status Quo agreement and holy sites in Jerusalem.
The Rev. Robert O. Smith, PhD, Associate to the Bishop of the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod of the ELCA and former ELCA Area Program Director for the Middle East and North Africa, has written a detailed analysis of the current situation: The Present Violence in Jerusalem: An Explainer.
New England Synod Global Mission Team Middle East Advocacy subcommittee
May 19, 2021