Reflections on Pilgrimage to Peace event
Kairos West Michigan hosted Mae Elise Cannon (Churches for Middle East Peace), Jessica Montall (HaMoKed); and Sami Awad (Holy Land Trust) on Sunday and Monday, October 28 and 29 in Grand Rapids and Holland/Zeeland.
They brought us fresh perspectives on the prospects for “peace and security” in our troubled region of Palestine/Israel.
Jessica Montell was born and raised in a Reform Jewish household in Berkeley, California. She traveled to Israel as a teen-ager an fell in love with Israel. As a student at Oberlin College she honed her “feminist, anti-racist, social justice” sensibilities (Oberlin Alumni Magazine, Summer, 2006). At 33 years of age, in 2001, she became the Executive Director of B’Tselem, when they were battling the Israeli government’s policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinian suicide bombers (collective punishment). Now, as the Executive Director of HaMoKed, she works for the human rights of individuals who are denied justice through the legal system.
(HaMoKed seeks to end systematic torture by the Israel Security Agency, has filed over 60 High Court petitions to keep Palestinian homes from being demolished, and seeks legal status for spouses of Palestinians—from their website: www.hamoked.org.
In her remarks, she mentioned the achievements of fourteen (14) Israeli human rights organizations while lamenting the deepening separation of Arab Palestinians from Israeli Jews. She is glad for international spotlights shining on Israeli abuses of human rights, but affirms that Israelis must solve their own problems.
Sami Awad, a son of Bishara Awad, (the founder of Bethlehem Bible College, and frequent speaker in West Michigan), spoke too, as the Executive Director of The Holy Land Trust, a human rights, nonviolent organization he founded in Bethlehem. He lifted up the role of the Christian churches as important agents in the struggle for liberty and justice for all people in our troubled region. Citing Matthew 4:23, he emphasized how Jesus walked in the land, “preaching, teaching and healing”. Jesus did not place blame or interfere in governmental affairs. Yet when the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees was evident, he called them on it. “By the love you have for one another, they will know you are my disciples”, said Jesus (John 13:31-34).
The Holy Land Trust sponsors the “Bet Lahem Festival” which brings to Bethlehem hundreds of musicians, artists, spiritual practitioners, and human rights figures from across the globe to perform and share their knowledge.
The first question asked of the panel was, “What about HAMAS?” Sami was tabbed as the first responder: The way Israel has treated Gazans explains the emergence of HAMAS. 95% of the water is not drinkable. It is an open-air prison, with no easy entrances or exits. HAMAS was voted in by the residents because they were giving practical aid to Gazans. Jessica was critical of Gazans for calling the Friday protests, “The Great March of Return”, which only intensifies Israeli resistance. Yet, even now, Israel is in dialogue with HAMAS to regulate the Friday marches, to prevent violence.
Mae Elise Cannon is credited with originating the P2P visits (Pilgrimage to Peace). Her emphasis has been. 1). Attend to humanitarian aid; 2) Be sure you have your facts right (credible sources); 3) We can’t win the “moral argument” (both sides claim justification); and 4) Don’t give up the struggle, keep persisting.