26th Annual United Methodist Palestinian Dinner in Central/ Upper New York: A Catalyst for Peace?
July 9, 2019 / By Linda Bergh, co-chair, UNY Task Force on Peace w/ Justice in Palestine/Israel
How can people treat others that way?,” I thought, while listening to Huwaida Arraf tell of a five-year-old Palestinian child, suffering from cancer and officially admitted to an Israeli Jerusalem hospital, prevented from having the comforting presence of parents, a grandparent, family, or friends with him due to Israel's refusal to grant any of them permits. As our speaker, Huwaida, a Palestinian American lawyer and civil rights activist, told of the child's medical treatment but eventual death, while still longing for parents to be there, the spontaneous tears of this mother of young children herself brought audience tears and emotion in return. This was one example among many that have been shared over the years of Israeli injustice toward the Palestinian people.
An audience of 135 Palestinian Dinner attendees at the 2019 Upper New York Annual Conference, consisting of eight CCYM youth and their advisors, UNY Conference members, Syracuse-area friends and activists, and several Palestinian guests were present. At the end of an already full evening program, one young person asked, "How did this conflict between Israelis and Palestinians begin? We don't
learn about this in school." It was late! The audience breathed in. But Huwaida answered the question as succinctly, yet thoughtfully, as she could. How else can we learn?
Is this dinner, held annually during Annual Conferences for 26 years in both North Central and Upper New York, a possible step toward peace? Sponsored by the UNY-UM Task Force on Peace w/Justice in Palestine/Israel, this dinner's occurrence is known by United Methodists throughout the national church as they look for ways to make known the need for justice and peace for Christian and Muslim Palestinians under the Israeli Occupation.
A symbol, perhaps, or an all-too-familiar occurrence during Annual Conference, the dinner has afforded UNY United Methodists the opportunity to "contribute" in some small way. Whether through the $4,000.00 raised at this year's dinner and extra donations to go to four West Bank schools and clinics and scholarships for "justice-seeking" trips, or through contributions to "Luci-Lites", the solar-powered lights that enable electricity-starved Gazan children to do their homework, United Methodists have taken a step in enabling peace.
The Palestinian Dinner is the result of many dedicated volunteers and donors. It has been graced annually by greetings on behalf of the Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb.For it to continue, some new leadership will be required. It is hoped that newly-inspired United Methodists will step forward, called to action in response to the needs of Palestinians and Jews in Palestine/Israel for a life together of peace with justice.