Presbyterian Overture - East Iowa: On Travel to Israel and Palestine
Now it is as important as it has ever been for Christians to make an intentional faithful pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine, therefore, the Presbytery of East Iowa overtures the 218th General Assembly (2008) to renew and elaborate the call made by the 215th General Assembly (2003), namely:
1. To exhort Presbyterians to take trips that are in harmony with our principles, specifically trips that include
a. Significant time visiting local Christians and church leaders. As a connectional church, we do mission in partnership. Our Christian partners in Israel and Palestine are asking us to deepen our commitment and involvement by visiting them. The PC(USA) mission workers assigned to Israel and Palestine can assist in this effort.
b. Significant time in the Occupied Territories (West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza) as well as Israel. In addition to being a request of our partners, visits into the Occupied Territories also address poverty, another grave concern of our denomination. Time spent in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza should translate to financial benefits accruing to an impoverished economy through hotels, restaurants, tour guides, taxis and buses, and souvenir shops.
c. Opportunities to meet Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers.
d. Opportunities to hear a variety of perspectives from Israelis and Palestinians—including Jews, Muslims, and Christians. The PC(USA) is committed to just peacemaking and interfaith dialogue throughout the world, including Israel and Palestine. Dialogue and intentional listening are essential to true peacemaking.
[Presbyterians should not necessarily be discouraged from taking trips that do not fulfill every one of these points, but they should be aware that they are missing out on important aspects of faithful visits.]
2. To direct appropriate offices of the General Assembly Council to develop more trips to Israel and Palestine, in particular, to investigate sending presbytery teams in regionally organized trips. For example, presbytery teams from four synods might go every other year, over a period of eight years. In addition, they should plan for continued communication with the teams after their return.3. To make Presbyterians aware of denominational networks and resources available to them for planning local group trips of their own—(these networks include the Israel/Palestine Network Pilgrimage Team and PC(USA) mission workers serving Israel/Palestine, part of whose function is to link travelers with our partners there)—and of the many ecumenical trips that do follow the guidelines.
Conditions under Israel’s occupation to which past General Assemblies (1988, 1990, 1992, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004) have objected have worsened in the intervening years. Walled enclosures and military checkpoints on Palestinian land arbitrarily cut off Palestinians from employment, agricultural lands, education, and medical care on which their lives depend.
Citizens are imprisoned without due process. Laws are imposed denying Palestinians the right to build homes on their own land, justifying the bulldozing of thousands of homes. The confiscation of Palestinian land for Israeli settlers has continued unabated during ceasefires and diplomatic overtures. Palestinian communities are vulnerable to cut-offs of water and electricity, and control of their aquifers has been diverted to Israel. Thousands of their olive trees have been destroyed, and the environment degraded. Inequitable enforcement of law permits violence by settlers. Palestinian travel and export vital to the economy is severely restricted by complete control of Palestinian borders.*
As Presbyterian policy makes clear, in addition to remedying Palestinian suffering, our concern is also to assist Israelis to enjoy a future of peace and security, and, in pursuit of that, to hear their hopes and fears. In that cause, we deplore violence perpetrated against the Israeli people by elements of Palestinian society.
The hope and direction offered by Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers, our Christian partners among them, too often go unheeded. Presbyterians can help with their loving presence and their faithful witness when they return.
We recommend trips that not only inspire by historical associations, but also help the church grow in mercy and peacemaking. We recommend the continued organization of trips for regional teams because our 2006 Israel/Palestine denominational trip showed that the most effective witness and agent for change is a community working together.
*For documentation of current human rights abuses under the Occupation, see Amnesty International Report 2007: the State of the World’s Human Rights.
(2008): $0; (2009): $6,000; (2010): $0 [Mission- Unrestricted]