The First Church in Albany. Rooted in Jesus Christ and committed to the city and the people of Albany, New York.
Pastor John Paarlberg will be in Palestine and Israel January 11-24, participating in a study tour, “Popular Resistance and Liberation Theology,” sponsored by Friends of Sabeel, a Christian ecumenical organization seeking justice and peace in the Holy Land through non-violence and education.
As he is able, he will be sending us some updates of his study tour.
On Sunday we visited Hebron, a city in the southern part of the West Bank and home of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the traditional burial site of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca and 'holy place' for Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Some of the most ideological Israeli settlers have also taken up residence in Hebron. About a year after the 1967 war when Israel annexed the West Bank, a group of Israeli settlers entered the center of the city, took over the hotel and refused to leave, staking a Jewish claim to the city. Unlike most other Israeli settlements, the Hebron settlers are in the city center, surrounded by Palestinians who have lived in Hebron for more than one thousand years. Today there are about 500 Israeli settlers in Hebron and 2000 Israeli soldiers who are assigned to protect the settlers.
In 1994 one of the settlers, Dr. Baruch Goldstein (originally from Brooklyn, NY) entered the Tomb of the Patriarchs and killed 29 Muslims who were at worship.
In response to this violence the Israeli authorities built a wall dividing the Tomb of the Patriarchs with a mosque on one side and a Jewish synagogue on the other. (We entered the mosque; Christians are also allowed in the synagogue --but not Palestinian Christians.) Restrictions in the city of Hebron were also tightened. Today there are over 100 checkpoints in the city and the center of the city is under Israeli military control. Some streets, including what was once the main shopping street, are closed to Palestinians and reserved for settlers only. Settlers walk the sreets openly carrying assault rifles. Palestinians who live in the city center are subject to military law and when there is a settler- Palestinian confrontation, the Palestinian is arrested--or worse. The settlers are not subject to military law and soldiers cannot arrest them.
I was in Hebron with Christian Peacemaker Teams in 2005 and again in 2010. The center city seems much diminished since my last visit -- fewer people, less energy, more shops closed. A whole generation has now grown up under military occupation. They must pass through checkpoints on their way to or from school or shopping, they are frequently searched, their places of business have been shut down, their their homes may be entered at any time, some have been confiscated or demolished, children have been arrested and imprisoned. They are being worn down by the occupation and the constant and oppressive military presence. Some, especially younger men, have turned to violence. Others, like CPT and a local group, Youth Against the Settlements, are committed to non-violent resistance. Many of them have been subject to settler attacks or have been arrested and imprisoned. During the last few months over 30 Palestinian residents have been killed as well as some settlers. After we left Hebron we learned that a settler had been stabbed and killed. The military then closed down the streets of the city. Violence leads to more violence and everyone suffers.
Photo 1: Soldiers on Shehuda Street
Photo 2: At the Tomb of the Patriarchs
With children at the Freedom Theater in the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin, West Bank.
Photo 3 & 4: With children at the Freedom Theater in the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin, West Bank.