Mar 022016
 

For the month of March we have picked Israel and Palestine. We will do the prayer a little differently this month. While we prepare for the Holy Week and the Resurrection we want to remember the people of the land where all this happened. We want to take a journey with them, in their struggles for peace and harmony in living together. For a brief introduction of the modern struggles in Israel and Palestine read the Historical Background below. There will also be a short reflection or thoughts on one of the lectionary readings.

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This month’s prayers were written by Rev. Jon Humphries.

If you are interested in writing prayers let us know through the contact us page. We are always looking for people to write prayers. We are also open to other suggestions and willing to look into other ways we can resource the church.

Reflection

As we approach Easter, Jesus has set his face towards Jerusalem and is getting ready, as we are, for the Passover, but he knows that this feast of the Passover  will be a special one.

In Joshua 5:9 The LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day. Gilgal is the root word for Golgotha, a derivative of gulgoleth which means head or skull. The LORD tells Joshua to circumcise the people, a sign of the covenant between the LORD and the people. That place is called Gilgal because the LORD renews the covenant with the people. Until that day they were eating the manna, from that day forward they start eating the produce of the land. The bread that they had from heaven was no longer given to them, instead they had the bread from the earth.

Prayer

God of all,
For all in the ancient lands of Palestine and Israel, we pray.
For those who suffer, whoever they may be or whose people they are, we weep.
For those who know only hate and violence, we lament.
For those who work for peace, we give thanks and are blessed.
For those who hold to hope and live out love for their neighbour, we uplift and affirm.
For all in the ancient lands of Palestine and Israel, we pray.
Amen.

Historical Background

After World War II, Britain found itself in intense conflict with the Jewish community over Jewish immigration limits, as well as continued conflict with the Arab community over limit levels. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors and refugees sought a new life far from their destroyed communities in Europe. In 1947, the British government announced it would withdraw from Mandatory Palestine, stating it was unable to arrive at a solution acceptable to both Arabs and Jews.

On 29 November 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution that replaced the British Mandate with an independent Arab State, an independent Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem (under an International Trusteeship System).

The Jewish Agency accepted the plan, but the Arab League and Arab Higher Committee of Palestine rejected it, and indicated that they would reject any other plan of partition.

On the following day, 1 December 1947, the Arab Higher Committee proclaimed a three-day strike, and Arab gangs began attacking Jewish targets. The Jews were initially on the defensive as civil war broke out, but in early April 1948 moved onto the offensive. The Arab Palestinian economy collapsed and 250,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled.

On 14 May 1948, the day before the expiration of the British Mandate, the head of the Jewish Agency declared the establishment of a Jewish state to be known as the State of Israel.

The following day, the armies of four Arab countries—Egypt, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq—entered what had been British Mandatory Palestine, launching the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Contingents from Yemen, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Sudan joined the war. The apparent purpose of the invasion was to prevent the establishment of the Jewish state at inception, and some Arab leaders talked about driving the Jews into the sea.

After a year of fighting, a ceasefire was declared and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were established. Jordan annexed what became known as the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip. The United Nations estimated that more than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled by or fled from advancing Israeli forces during the conflict—what would become known in Arabic as the Nakba (“catastrophe”).

Between 1948 and 1958 Jews in Arab countries and Iran were arrested, had their property seized. They were expelled from most countries and persecuted in the others with no option but to leave. They were not permitted to take or sell their property. Flourishing Jewish communities from across the Middle East dwindled and in many cases disappeared completely in the wake of the expulsions and emigration.

By 1966, Israeli-Arab relations had deteriorated to the point of actual battles taking place between Israeli and Arab forces. In May 1967, Egypt massed its army near the border with Israel, expelled UN peacekeepers, stationed in the Sinai Peninsula since 1957, and blocked Israel’s access to the Red Sea. Other Arab states mobilised their forces. On 5 June 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike against Egypt. Jordan, Syria and Iraq responded and attacked Israel. In a Six-Day War, Israel defeated Jordan and captured the West Bank, defeated Egypt and captured the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, and defeated Syria and captured the Golan Heights. Jerusalem’s boundaries were enlarged, incorporating East Jerusalem, and the 1949 Green Line became the administrative boundary between Israel and the occupied territories.

Since then Israeli-Palestinian conflict has continued including sporadic fights with militias and forces of neighbouring Arab countries. Egypt and Jordan have signed peace treaties with Israel, but most other Arab countries have not.

From 1987 to 1993, the First Palestinian Intifada against Israel took place, which included the Declaration of the State of Palestine in 1988 and ended with the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords and the creation of the Palestinian National Authority.

In 2000, the Second Intifada (also called al-Aqsa Intifada) began, and Israel built a separation barrier, which caused the number of deaths on the Israeli side to drop by over 90% and on the Palestinian side by over 80%. In the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza, Israel withdrew all settlers and military presence from the Gaza Strip, but maintained military control of numerous aspects of the territory including its borders, air space and coast. Israel’s ongoing military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem continues to be the world’s longest military occupation in modern times.