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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    Justice in Israel–Palestine: Travel for Awareness! through the Gary Bergh Scholarship

    May 24, 2022 / By NY Task Force on Peace w/ Justice in Palestine/ Israel

    Editor’s Note: This is available for youth, young adults, young clergy, and people of all ages who long for peace and want to act for justice in the Holy Land:

    “Come and see!” is the cry that echoes through worldwide invitations sent by our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters, from the 2009 Kairos Palestine document, to the more recent “Cry for Hope.” The story of the disciple Thomas, who said he would believe only if he saw the risen Christ and touched his wounds, is not unlike our own: For us, too, “seeing is believing.”

    The Gary Bergh Scholarship is offered especially to youth and young adults for travel to Palestine-Israel to witness the need and hear possible solutions toward justice, peace, and security for ALL in the Holy Land. This scholarship, a Conference Advance Special, (#932) is offered by the UNY Task Force on Peace w/ Justice in Palestine/ Israel (co-chaired by Linda Bergh:  315-492-8507 and Karen Peterson:  607-739-3141.)  It has enabled young adults and clergy to join “justice-seeking” delegations almost yearly since 2010.

    This year, the UNY Task Force is offering two or three sizable scholarships to enable young adults to see for themselves the effects of Israel's military occupation of Palestinian lands (the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza,) the demolition of Palestinian homes and mistreatment of Palestinian children. You may wish to get a companion (or two) to join you in applying!

    A number of reliable travel groups have begun to plan in-person, justice-seeking delegations to Palestine/ Israel this year. Among them is Eyewitness Palestine, which “builds bridges between people and movements supporting Palestinians and Israelis working for peace with justice.” A fall 2022 delegation will participate with Palestinian farmers in their olive harvest.

    Additional travel delegations are being organized by Pilgrims of Ibillin, Community Peacemaker Teams (CPT), Sabeel Ecumenical Institute, and Bethlehem Bible College. Information is available on-line. Previous travelers with Eyewitness Palestine comment on their experiences, below.

    Contact Karen Peterson (see phone above) for applications.

    Tax-deductible donations to the Gary Bergh Scholarship fund (#932) Conference Advance Special) may be offered by check to: “UNYAC.”  Please write: “Gary Bergh Scholarship” on the memo line and mail to Linda Bergh, 116 Edna Road, Syracuse, NY  13205.

    Karen’s Story:

    In November 2012, I went on an Eyewitness Palestine trip with an extension into Gaza. Unable to go through the Erez crossing, we flew to Amman, Jordan and then to Cairo. Before our long trip through the Sinai into Gaza, the U.S. State Department’s Cairo embassy required us to sign a document that if anything happened to us, our government would not be responsible!  We started out at 4:00 a.m. with armed bodyguards, riding in a truck in front of us. Our guides were Cindy and Craig Corrie, whose 23-year-old daughter had been killed several years earlier in Gaza, run over by a bulldozer as she was protecting a Palestinian family’s home, about to be demolished. We arrived safely at our hotel at 6:00 p.m. During our week in Gaza, we were received graciously by both children and adults. We were reminded to be cautious about what we drank: Gaza’s sewage treatment plant had been destroyed by Israeli air raids and Mediterranean waters polluted. The night before our departure, Israeli bombing began around 2:00 a.m. Thousands of lives had been lost in previous bombings of 2008-09. Despite their precarious situation, Gazans were very gracious people, concerned about protecting us and getting us back on our bus and out of Gaza!  --Karen Peterson

    Gary’s Story:

    I was privileged to share the trip Karen described above, in 2012. Before our Gaza experience, we visited numerous areas in the West Bank as well as parts of Israel. A Palestinian Lutheran family, the Nassars, whose 100-acre farm has been in the family for more than a century, calls their plot of land (south of Bethlehem) “Tent of Nations” and seeks to welcome all people as friends. On a stone by the entry we read their sign:  “We refuse to be enemies.”  Even though they have documents to prove their ownership, the Nassar family has faced an endless struggle to keep their land, both in the courts, and during brazen challenges by Israeli soldiers and settlers, who would like to take over the land. Their lawyer, Jonathan Kuttab, says: “Every time we win a battle in the courts, new obstacles are created and new challenges arise. Because their title to the land is confirmed by law, Israel has been using new tactics, including claims for public expropriation and declarations that the entire area is ‘state land’ and subject to confiscation.” 

    Kuttab adds that, in addition to legal challenges: “The Nassar family has had to physically defend their land, nonviolently, from repeated encroachments and attacks, including the burning and uprooting of their trees, the bulldozing of their plants, harassment and intimidation, and constant attempts to destroy the few physical structures they set up. Repeated attempts to obtain building licenses or permits have been denied, and even the construction of rudimentary structures like the building of retaining walls or fences, digging cisterns, and doing other routine maintenance on their property has been met with summary demolition orders and belligerent visits from both the Israeli army and Jewish settlers.... The family’s persistence in remaining on the land has been one of the most remarkable examples of Palestinian sumud (or steadfastness) I have seen.”

    In the northern West Bank, not far from Nazareth, is the town of Jenin. There we visited a remarkable Palestinian farmer’s cooperative, The House of Olives, where gleaming tanks are filled with locally produced olive oil, stored for shipment. Also in Jenin is Freedom Theatre, an attempt to engage young adults in creative nonviolent resistance in the face of repeated conflict. Just a week before this writing, a beloved and deeply respected Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, and her colleague, Ali Samodi, were gunned down by Israeli soldiers as they observed Israeli Defense Force actions in or near the Jenin refugee camp. Both were wearing clear identification as journalists. Their deaths can only be seen as assassinations, attempting to remove an insightful, gifted storyteller from broadcasting an inconvenient truth.

    Paul Farmer, the noted American physician and medical anthropologist (recently deceased,) who held both an M.D. and Ph. D. from Harvard, said this: “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.” The recurring racist murders in America, and the repeated killings of Palestinians, are examples of this tragic truth. While Karen and I were in Gaza, a young teen-age boy was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers while playing soccer with his friends on a field near the border. We attended his wake, drinking bitter coffee with his relatives.Ta

    May a new day arise, when people are no longer discounted and treated as expendable because of their ethnicity. Jesus calls us, o’er the tumult of tragic days, to stand up for righteousness and to become (as Dr. Martin Luther King phrased it) “drum majors for justice.”  --Gary Doupe

    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."