Source: International Middle East Media Center

The Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches in Jerusalem released a statement Saturday that the Israeli authorities have threatened to force the demolition of 500 buildings owned by the churches in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Church buildings under renovation in Jerusalem (photo by Herbert Bishko)
Church buildings under renovation in Jerusalem (photo by Herbert Bishko)

Israeli forces have recently stepped up demolitions in the Old City of Jerusalem, in accordance with the Municipality’s published E1 plan for the city, in which officials articulate a detailed plan to push out the Palestinian Christian and Muslim populations, while simultaneously increasing construction of Jewish-only homes and housing developments.

The church buildings in question are mainly homes owned by the church and leased to Palestinian Christian priests, nuns and families. Israeli authorities claim that renovations were done on these buildings without permits, but failed to acknowledge the lack of a permitting process for the Church to obtain the necessary permits.

In addition, many of the supposed ‘renovations’ listed on the demolition orders are questionable, such as one that lists a 50-square meter apartment as an ‘addition’ to the home of Bassam Ayyash, but in fact Ayyash’s entire home is the 50-square meter apartment. Ayyash has been trying to get Israeli officials to investigate this alleged violation, but they have thus far refused.

In another example mentioned in the church statement, renter Sami Wakileh tried to go through the process to obtain a permit for a small renovation on his home. He was told by the Israeli judge, “It is a waste of your time. Do not dream of receiving any permit…”.

He tried to obtain the permit and failed, but, given the historic antiquity of his church-owned home, he had to do renovations in order to keep the home from falling down. He ended up spending over $100,000 on renovations. Now, due to the Israeli demolition orders, the whole house will end up demolished by an Israeli bulldozer.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of church-owned buildings were seized by Israeli forces during the 1948 takeover of Palestine for the creation of the state of Israel, and again during the 1967 War of aggression by Israel. These buildings were taken over by the Jewish National Fund, which owns more than 90% of the land inside what is now Israel, and rented to Jews who immigrated to Israel.

Now, Israeli forces have again declared their intent for a large-scale demolition of church-owned buildings in Jerusalem.

One church official blamed the Israeli authorities for making it increasingly difficult for the churches to obtain building permits. Both the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Catholic Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, church administrative bodies for the two main Christian branches, have received the demolition orders totalling 500 buildings.

Tortured in an Israeli prison

Source: Christian Peacemaker Teams

By Mary Yoder
29 May 2007

Two weeks ago, Paul Rehm and I escorted ten young boys to a soccer field in another part of the city, away from Israeli soldiers, settlers, and guns.

We sat in the shade of a cypress tree. A college student sat next to us and asked, “Who are you, what do you do here?”

After explaining the work of CPT, he said, “Your government is bad! What are you doing about it?”

I explained the process we take to petition our government officials.

But he had an “edge” to him; a passionate “edge”, that I have seen many times.

After some time he drew several straight lines on a piece of paper. He asked for the English word.

“Prison?” I said. “Have you been to prison?”

“Yes,” he said, “for two years. First, I go for six month; no reason, I don’t know why. Then Shabak (roughly analogous to the FBI in the U.S.) come, I said to them, ‘why am I here?'”

“They say it is secret and they give no answer.”

I noticed a nervous look in his eyes and a slight tremor in his hands.

He made a clenched fist and aimed it toward his head. “The word?” He said.

“Beat? So they beat you in the head?” I asked

“Yes,” he replied. “And they put electricity on my hands, my feet, and my back.”

My new friend told me how the Shabak, asked him to go to Gaza for a secret mission. When he refused, his interrogators again beat him. He received a six-month extension on his sentence and still did not know his charges.

After one year, Shabak told him that he would have a court hearing. They said he needed to confess to prior bombing attack. Again, he refused and this time, the Shabak said they would kill him. He served one more year and his interrogators told him he could never return to the city of his family when he was released. But he returned to his family anyway.

I saw his college textbook and told him that I hope he has a good future. I told him that we are Christians, that we care about everyone. “Everyone is equal; we believe in peace. We respect your beliefs and your people.”

His eyes turned red, but he did not cry. He said nothing. Slowly a smile returned to his face and his hands stopped trembling.

The questions he then asked me were typical questions I get from most Hebronites. “Are you married? Why not? You don’t have children?”

Finally, the soccer team finished their game; Paul and I left this man in the shade of a beautiful cypress tree. The sunny weather and spring breeze made it one of those “perfect” days.

I prayed in my heart for healing of this person’s spirit and mind. I prayed for healing of this land and a return to springtime.

Rwandans jump to faith they view as tolerant

Chicago Tribune
By Laurie Goering

August 5, 2002

Source: islamawareness.net

KIGALI, Rwanda — Long before the call to prayer begins each Friday at noon, Rwanda’s Muslim faithful jam the main mosque in Kigali’s Nyamirambo neighborhood, the overflow crowd spreading prayer rugs on the mosque steps, over the red earth parking lot and out the front gate.

Almost a decade after a horrific genocide left 800,000 Rwandans dead and shook the faith of this predominantly Christian nation, Islam, once seen as a fringe religion, has surged in popularity.

Women in bright tangerine, scarlet and blue headscarves stroll the bustling streets of the capital beside men in long white tunics and embroidered caps. Mosques and Islamic schools are overflowing with students. Today about 14 percent of Rwandans consider themselves Muslim, up from about 7 percent before the genocide.

“We’re everywhere,” says Sheik Saleh Habimana, the leader of Rwanda’s burgeoning Muslim community, which has mosques in nearly all of the country’s cities and towns.

Countries around Rwanda–Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda–have large Muslim communities. But the religion never was particularly popular in Rwanda until the 1994 genocide, which spurred a rush of conversions.

From April to June 1994, militias and mobs from the country’s ethnic Hutu majority hunted and murdered hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tutsis at the government’s urging. Within a few months, three of four Tutsis in the country had been hacked to death, often with machetes or hoes. More than 100,000 suspected killers eventually were jailed.

The genocide stunned Rwanda’s Christian community. While clergy in many communities struggled to protect their congregations and died with them, some prominent Catholic and Protestant leaders joined in the killing spree and are facing prosecution.

Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, the head of Rwanda’s Seventh-day Adventist Church, is on trial, charged with luring Tutsi parishioners to his church in western Kibuye province, then turning them over to Hutu militias that slaughtered 2,000 to 6,000 in a single day.

The day before the massacre, Tutsi Adventist clergy inside the church sent Ntakirutimana a now-famous letter, informing him that “tomorrow we will be killed with our families” and seeking his help. Survivors report that he replied: “You must be eliminated. God doesn’t want you anymore.”

Muslims offered haven

At the same time, Rwanda’s Muslims–many of them intermarried Tutsi-Hutu couples–were opening their homes to thousands of desperate Tutsis. Muslim families for the most part succeeded in hiding Tutsis from the Hutu mobs, who feared entering the country’s insular Muslim communities.

Yahya Kayiranga, a young Tutsi who fled Kigali with his mother at the start of the genocide, was taken into the home of a Muslim family in the central city of Gitarama, where he hid until the killing was over.
His father and uncle who stayed behind in Kigali were murdered.

“We were helped by people we didn’t even know,” the 27-year-old remembers, still impressed.

Unable to return to what he considered a sullied Roman Catholic Church, he converted to Islam in 1996. Today he is studying Arabic and the Koran at a local madrassa and most mornings awakens for the dawn
prayer, the first of five each day.

His job as a money changer in downtown Kigali conflicts with Islam’s prohibitions on profiting from financial transactions, but he thinks he has mostly adapted well to his new faith.

“I thought at first Islam would be hard, but that fear went away,” he said. “It’s not easy at the beginning, but as you practice it becomes better, normal.”

Rwanda’s Muslim leaders have struggled to impart the importance of unity and tolerance to their converts, who number as many Hutus as Tutsis.

Reconciliation at mosques

Habimana is one of the leaders of the country’s new interfaith commission, created to promote acceptance, and in a country still seething with barely masked anger and fear after the mass killings, Rwanda’s mosques are one of the few places where reconciliation
appears to have genuinely taken hold.

“In the Islamic faith, Hutu and Tutsi are the same,” Kayiranga said. “Islam teaches us about brotherhood.”

While Rwanda’s ethnic Tutsis mostly have come to Islam seeking protection from purges and to honor and emulate the people who saved them, Hutus also have come, seeking to leave behind their violent past.

“They all felt the blood on their hands and they embraced Islam to purify themselves,” Habimana said.

Becoming Muslim has not been an easy process for many Rwandans, who chafe at the religion’s dress and lifestyle restrictions. Despite Islam’s new status, Rwandan Muslims traditionally have been second-class citizens, working as taxi drivers and traders in a society that reveres farmers.

“Because we were Muslim we weren’t considered Rwandanese,” Habimana said. Now, as the religion’s popularity grows, that is changing.

Today “we see Muslims as very kind people,” said Salamah Ingabire, 20, who converted to Islam in 1995 after losing two brothers in the killing spree. “What we saw in the genocide changed our minds.”

America’s Shame
By Paul Craig Roberts 

January 11, 2009
Source: vdare.com

Why does Israel have a right to exist, but Palestine doesn’t?

This is the question of our time.

For sixty years Israelis have been stealing Palestine from Palestinians. There are maps available on the Internet and in Israeli publications showing the shrinkage over time of what was once Palestine into what Palestine is today–a small number of unconnected ghettos or bantustans.

Palestine became “the occupied territory” from which Palestinians were ejected and Israeli settlements built for “settlers.” Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are full of refugee camps in which Palestinians driven off their lands by Israeli force have been living for decades.

Driving people off their land is strictly illegal under international law, but Israel has been getting away with it for decades.

Gaza is a concentration camp of 1.5 million Palestinians who were driven from their homes and villages and collected in the Gaza Ghetto.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency was created 60 years ago in 1949 to administer refugee camps for Palestinians driven from their lands by Israel. As of 2002, the registered Palestinian refugee population was 3.9 million.

Caterpillar Tractor makes a special bulldozer for Israel that is designed to knock down Palestinian homes and to uproot their orchards. In 2003 an American protester, Rachel Corrie, stood in front of one of these Caterpillars and was run over and crushed.

Nothing happened. The Israelis can kill whomever they want whenever they want.

They have been doing so for 60 years, and they show no sign of stopping.

Currently they are murdering women and children in the ghetto that they have created for Palestinians in Gaza. The entire world knows this. The Red Cross protests it. But the Israelis brazenly claim that they are killing “Hamas terrorists who are a threat to Israel’s existence.”

The American media knows that this is a lie, but does not say so.

Israel has been able to slowly exterminate a people for sixty years without provoking sufficient outrage to stop it.

The United States, “Christian America,” has been Israel’s greatest enabler in its long-term murder of the Palestinian people. Millions of “evangelical Christians” endorse Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

The rest of the world condemns the Israeli military attack on the Gaza Ghetto. Last week the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution requiring a ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Israeli SS from Gaza.

The United States abstained.

While the rest of the world condemns Israel’s inhumanity, the US Congress–I should say the US Knesset–rushed to endorse the Israeli slaughter of the Palestinians in Gaza.

The US Senate endorsed Israel’s massacre of Palestinians with a vote of 100-0.

The US House of Representatives voted 430-5 to endorse Israel’s massacre of Palestinians.

The resolutions endorsed by 100% of the US Senate and 99% of the House were written by AIPAC, as were the speeches praising Israel for its inhumanity.

The US Congress was proud to show that it is Israel’s puppet even when it comes to murdering women and children.

The President of the United States was proud to block effective action by the UN Security Council by ordering the Secretary of State to abstain.

Be a Proud American. Swagger and strut. Pretend that you are not besmirched by the shame that your government has heaped upon you. Take refuge in your ignorance, fostered by 60 years of Israeli lies, that the murder of Palestinians and the theft of their lands is “Israel’s right of self-defense.”

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term.  He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal.  He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Flowers of Galilee

By Israel Shamir
Source: The Truth Seeker

When in 1543, the typhoon-blown Portuguese schooners approached the shores of Japan, the astonished sailors could not believe their eyes: on a warm spring day, the tropical island ahoy was buried under snow. They were witness to one of the real Seven Wonders of the World, the flowers of sakura, the wild cherry of Japan. As soon as the benevolent heaven bestows this seasonal gift to earth, the Japanese forget their wives and kids, their duties, employers and bills; they just sit under the trees, drink sake wine and write poems, short and sharp as swords.

That is why, these days, leaving behind our man-made troubles, I sit under the white cloud of a tree and watch the beautiful white and pink blossoms of almond trees covering the hills of Galilee. These lovely blossoms are our version of the Japanese sakura, and a chance to indulge in the custom of flower viewing. A honey aroma wafts through the air; the skies are crystal blue. Yellow daisies dance on the lush green grass at the base of these almond wonders, interspersed by violet cyclamen and red anemones. The glorious backdrop is provided by the huge snow mass of Jebel al Sheikh (Mt Hermon). Palestine is a sister to Japan. These two hilly lands are home to stubborn mountain folk, devoted to their customs and ways.

For all the similarities in the landscape, there are differences. The hill we sit on, all white like Jaffa sea surf, is the ruin of a village. If we were in Japan, it would be alive and humming. The village of Birim has been dead for fifty years. It is beautiful even in death, like Ophelia floating down the stream in the pre-Raphaelite painting of Millais. It was not ruined by war. Its Christian inhabitants were expelled from their houses well after the 1948 war. They were told to leave for a week or two, for ‘security’ reasons. They had no option but to believe the Israeli officers and move out. Their village was dynamited, their church surrounded by barbed wire. They went to Israeli court; they went to the government; commissions were appointed and petitions signed. Nothing helped. Ever since, for 50 years, they have lived in the nearby villages, and on Sundays they continue to visit their church. Their lands were seized by their Jewish neighbours, but they still bring their dead to be buried in the church graveyard, under the sign of the cross.

Until the arrival of the Israeli army, this ruined village with its orphaned church was the home of the rural Christians of Birim who, for centuries of Moslem rule, lived in peace with their Moslem neighbors of Nebi Yosha and with the old Sephardi Jewish community of nearby Safed. This little Guernica in the Galillee can single-handedly undermine the myth of a ‘Judeo-Christian’ civilization opposing a ‘monstrous’ Islam. This myth lays at the foundation of the Christian Zionist movement; among its fervent supporters, one can find a friend of Mark Rich and a newly minted New York citizen, W. J. Clinton.

The problems of the Middle East are ugly enough without the current Moslem-bashing. The pro-Israeli pundits of the New York Times quote the blood-curling verses on Jihad, retell the old traditions of religious wars and persecutions, to ‘prove’ Islam’s cruelty and intolerance. They are repeated by a pleasant upper-class Jewish lady from London, Barbra Amiel. In a sotto voce, she writes about ‘exclusivist’ Islam and Jewish ‘moderation’. In order to incite hatred, Israel’s lobby works all the ropes. Before the rise of Israel, Arab sheiks were depicted as romantic heroes in movies acted by Rudolf Valentino. Nowadays, the pro-Israel producers of Hollywood turn out propaganda films on ill-shaven Moslem terrorists with the subtlety of Edward D. Wood, Jr. This new prejudice is amplified a hundredfold by the Christian Zionist Congress, claiming ‘protection for Christians of Palestine from the Moslem (?!) persecution’. These people obviously have not walked among the ruins of Birim.

Another email comes into my laptop, this time from Gaza. An American girl, Alison Weir from San Francisco evades Israeli bullets, comforts the scared Palestinian kids, and writes: “The problem is when you know the truth, it is far too cruel, far too diametrically opposite what we used to think and what everyone still thinks to express. The lie is too big, the repression too complete, the Palestinians’ lives too horrible to write about reasonably”.

Well, Alison is right. We face a huge lie, an anti-Moslem blood libel, and it is time to stop it. I do not think that the problems of Middle East have anything to do with religion. But if the supporters of Israel want to wake up the sleeping ghost of religious intolerance, to incite Christians against Moslems, let us audit their balance.

If these Christian Zionists care for Christ, not only for Zion, let them learn what Jews and Moslems feel towards Christ. Rami Rozen expressed the Jewish tradition in a long feature in a major Israeli newspaper Haaretz[i]: “Jews feel towards Jesus today what they felt in 4 c or in the Middle Ages It is not fear, it is hatred and despise”. “For centuries, Jews concealed from Christians their hate to Jesus, and this tradition continues even now”. “He is revolting and repulsive”, said an important modern religious Jewish thinker. Rozen writes that this “repulsion passed from the observant Jews to the general Israeli public”.

On Christmas Eve, according to a report in the Jerusalem local paper, Kol Ha-Ir[ii], Hassids customarily do not read holy books, as it could save Jesus from eternal punishment (the Talmud teaches that Jesus boils in hell[iii]). This custom was dying out, but Hassids of Habad, the fervent nationalists, brought it back to life. I still remember old Jews spitting while passing by a church, and cursing the dead, while passing by a Christian cemetery. Last year in Jerusalem, a Jew decided to refresh the tradition. He spat at Holy Cross, carried in the procession along the city. Police saved him from further trouble, but the court fined him $50, despite his claim that he just fulfilled his religious duty.

Last year, the biggest Israeli tabloid Yedioth Aharonoth reprinted in its library the Jewish anti-Gospel, Toledoth Eshu, compiled in the Middle Ages. It is the third recent reprint, including one in a newspaper. If the Gospel is the book of love, Toledoth is the book of hate for Christ. The hero of the book is Judas. He captures Jesus by polluting his purity. According to Toledoth, the conception of Christ was in sin, the miracles of Jesus were witchcraft, his resurrection but a trick.

Joseph Dan, a Professor of Jewish mysticism in Hebrew University in Jerusalem, writing on the death of Jesus stated: “The modern Jewish apologists, hesitantly adopted by the church, preferred to put the blame on Romans. But the medieval Jew did not wish to pass the buck. He tried to prove that Jesus had to be killed, and he was proud of killing Him. The Jews hated and despised Christ and Christians”. Actually, adds Prof. Dan, there is little place to doubt that the Jewish enemies of Jesus caused his execution.

Even today, Jews in Israel refer to Jesus by the demeaning word Yeshu (instead of Yeshua), meaning ‘Perish his name’. There is an ongoing argument, whether His name was turned into a swear word, or other way around. In a similar pun, the Gospel is called ‘Avon Gilaion’, the booklet of Sin. These are the endearing feeling of the friends of Christian Zionists towards Christ.

What about Moslems? The Moslems venerate Christ. He is called ‘The Word of God”, “Logos”, Messiah, the Prophet and is considered “a Messenger of God”, along with Abraham, Moses and Muhammad. Many chapters of the Kor’an tell the story of Christ, his virgin birth and his persecution by Jews. His saintly mother is admired, and the Immaculate Conception is one of the tenets of Islam. The name of Christ glorifies the golden edifice of Haram a-Sharif. According to the Moslem faith, it was there that the founder of Islam met Jesus, and they prayed together. The Hadith, the Moslem tradition, says in the name of the prophet, ‘We do not forbid you to believe in Christ, we order you to”. Moslems identify their prophet with Paracletes, the Helper (Jn 14:16) whose coming was predicted by Jesus. They venerate places associated with the life of Jesus: the place of Ascension, the Tomb of Lazarus, the Holy Sepulchre are adjacent to a mosque and perfectly accessible by Christians.

While Moslems do not consider Jesus – God, they proclaim him as the Messiah, the Anointed one, the Paradise Dweller. This religious idea, familiar to Nestorians and other early churches, but rejected by mainstream Christianity, opened the gates for those Jews, who could not part with the notion of strict monotheism. That is why many Palestinian Jews and Christians of the 7th century accepted Islam and became Palestinian Moslems. They remained in their villages, they did not depart for Poland or England, they did not learn Yiddish, they did not study the Talmud, but they continued to shepherd their flocks and plant almond trees, they remained faithful to their land and to the great idea of the fraternity of men.

In the south of Hebron, in the ruins of Susiah, one can see how in the course of two centuries a synagogue slowly evolved into a mosque, as the population of nearby caves abandoned the exclusionary faith of Babylonian wizards and adopted Islam. These shepherds still live there, in the same caves. In the last year, the Israeli army has twice tried to expel them to provide more room for new settlers from Brooklyn.

Why, in this season of blossoming almond trees, do I brood on the sensitive subject of Jewish and Moslem attitudes towards Christ? Because one has to stop the mills of hatred operated by Israel’s supporters. Because the “Judeo-Christian” code language is being used to justify the barbed wire around Birim’s Church and the tanks around Bethlehem. Because there is a duty to remove an obstacle from the path of the blind.

The majority of the Christian Zionists are simple misled souls, people of good intentions but little knowledge. They think they ‘support Jews’, but they promote the Christ-hating spirit among the Jews. It was not in vain that a hero of the Zionist Bible, Exodus by Leon Uris, kept a poster in his room saying ‘We crucified Christ’. It was not in vain that an Israeli soldier on the roadblock of Bethlehem told me yesterday, ‘We starve the beasts’, referring to the native Christians of the city of Nativity. It was not in vain that the Gospel was burned on a stake in Israel, while anti-Gospel literature is widely spread; that new immigrant Jews embracing Christianity are persecuted and deported; that every preacher of the Christian faith in Israel can be sent to jail according to new anti-Christian laws; that Israeli archaeologists erase the Christian holy sites and memories off the face of the Holy Land.

To the leaders of the Christian Zionists, who surely know these facts, but lead their innocent flock on the path of the Anti-Christ, I say, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Christ to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone tied round his neck and be drowned in the deep sea” (Mt 18:6).

To my Jewish brothers I say: the opinions of medieval Jews do not bind us. Every Jew can decide for himself, whether to pray for the destruction of the Gentiles or to share the blessing of the Holy Land with the villagers of Birim and Bethlehem. Within the Jewish people, there were always spiritual descendants of the prophets who wished to bring peace and blessing to all the children of Adam. As true as this almond blossom, in you the prophecy will be fulfilled: ‘All the nations of the earth will bless you’ (Deut. 7).

Extracted from Flowers of Galilee: The Collected Essays of Israel Shamir