Letter from Josh Vis

A letter from Josh Vis, one of the RCA missionaries Hope Church supports:

Dear Supporters:

I want to share with you my thoughts on Jerusalem (which may be helpful for prayer), followed by some specific prayer ideas. I also want to give you some resources and basic facts about East Jerusalem, which is the Palestinian part of Jerusalem. Both ideologically and municipally, Israel considers Jerusalem to encompass greater Jerusalem, which includes West Jerusalem, East Jerusalem, and many of the Israeli settlements to the north, south, and east of Jerusalem. Though President Trump’s aides tried to nuance the phrasing of this announcement, President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel signaled approval to the idea of Israel’s greater Jerusalem. The creation of greater Jerusalem came about through the expulsion of Palestinians and through the dispossession of Palestinian land and resources. It requires the continuing expulsion and oppression of the Palestinians that still live in East Jerusalem. Personally, I agree with those who argue that Trump’s announcement rightfully puts an end to the charade of the United States as an honest broker between Israelis and Palestinians. In that sense, it may be for the best. Unfortunately, it’s also painful and reckless. It has already led to injuries and deaths, all Palestinian from what I have read. I am hoping that things will calm down, but the hopelessness that Palestinians feel is warranted. Hopelessness is not a recipe for peace and calm. Trump’s announcement may be the final nail in the coffin of the two-state solution, which many have declared dead for some time. Nonetheless, context is needed in order to understand why it is so devastating to Palestinians. Maybe Palestinians knew their state was dead. Trump showed them the corpse. Now we face the fallout. Honestly, no one knows where it goes from here.

Some things are certain. Peace will not come to Jerusalem, Israel, or Palestine until justice is realized. Right now, there is no justice for Palestinians in Jerusalem, Israel, or Palestine. Jerusalem should be a place of peace, tolerance, and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians, which will then make it such a place for all peoples. Palestinians love Jerusalem as much as Israelis love Jerusalem. Palestinian (Muslim and Christian alike) claims to Jerusalem are as legitimate as Israeli (Jewish) claims to Jerusalem. When Palestinians hear the President of the United States say that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, they hear him saying that their desires for Jerusalem and the current injustices they face in Jerusalem are irrelevant. They feel demoralized and angry. Their hopelessness deepens.

Some things that you could pray for:

·      Palestinians, as they suffer under the oppression, violence, and hopelessness brought about by the Israeli colonization/occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza

·      A Jerusalem shared by Israelis and Palestinians, in which both peoples have equal rights, equal access to holy sites, and equal access to public resources—that is, a Jerusalem in which both peoples can thrive, instead of the current reality in which only Israelis have full access to what is needed to thrive

·      That violence would be avoided by Israelis and Palestinians, even when there may be good reason to be angry and vengeful

·      That the world community would demand an end to Israel’s colonization/occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza

·      That the peaceful elements of both Israeli and Palestinian society would outweigh the radical elements that promote hate, violence, and indifference, while acknowledging that this asks more of Palestinians than it does of Israelis

·      That Israelis and Palestinians would begin to see each other as human beings worthy of dignity, justice, and self-determination

·      An end to anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiment/Islamophobia

·      Wisdom and courage for all who are working for peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians

Below are three categories of resources which focus on the injustices Palestinians in East Jerusalem face. Israel has annexed East Jerusalem (unofficially in 1967, and officially in 1980), but not treated the Palestinians of East Jerusalem justly. The three categories below include short and simple resources on East Jerusalem. The videos are a series by Vox Media on the settlements, the last of which focuses on East Jerusalem. The websites give the facts and figures on the injustices happening to the Palestinians of East Jerusalem (and the West Bank, in the case of the settlement map). Lastly, there is an hour-long podcast with Danny Seidemann, the foremost expert on the politics of Jerusalem.

Videos on Israeli settlements:

Facts and Figures on East Jerusalem:

Podcast on the politics of Jerusalem:

Here are the basics on the history and current realities of East Jerusalem with citations from the websites listed above:

·      East Jerusalem, populated entirely by Palestinians and under control of Jordan until 1967, was occupied by Israel in June 1967.

·      “In June 1967, immediately upon occupying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel annexed some 7,000 hectares of West Bank land to the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem and applied Israeli law there, in breach of international law” (the Geneva Convention, which Israel, the U.S. and most other nations have signed). [B’Tselem]

·      “In June 1967, Israel held a census in the annexed area. Palestinians who happened to be absent at the time, lost their right to return to their home. Those who were present were given the status of ‘permanent resident’ in Israel – a legal status accorded to foreign nationals wishing to reside in Israel. Yet unlike immigrants who freely choose to live in Israel and can return to their country of origin, the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have no other home, no legal status in any other country, and did not choose to live in Israel; it is the State of Israel that occupied and annexed the land on which they live.” [B’Tselem]

·      These Palestinians with the status of ‘permanent resident’ are not citizens of Israel and thus cannot vote in national elections.

·      Most Palestinians of East Jerusalem do not want to be citizens of Israel and Israel does not want them to become citizens. Technically, these Palestinians can apply for Israeli citizenship, but this is rarely done and more than half of the applications are either rejected or permanently pending.

·      “Asking for an Israeli passport still carries the stigma of implied acceptance of Israeli control, and only about 15,000 Palestinians have requested one since 2003; of those, fewer than 6,000 were reportedly approved.” [Times of Israel]

·      From 2014 to March 2017, “Out of more than 4,000 individual applications, only 84 were approved, 161 were rejected and the rest were pending.” [Time of Israel]

·      Since 1967, Israel has allowed and/or encouraged the illegal settlement of Israelis in East Jerusalem. Today, about 208,000 Israeli settlers live in East Jerusalem. [Peace Now Jerusalem Data]

·      The population of Jerusalem is approximately 850,000; 534,000 Jewish (63%) and 316,000 Palestinian (37%). [Peace Now Settlements Map]

·      Though residents of East Jerusalem pay the same taxes as the rest of the residents of Jerusalem, they do not receive equal municipal services. The Jerusalem Municipality Budget of 2013 broke down as follows: Investment in Jewish Neighborhoods is 3.9 Billion NIS (87% of total); Investment in Palestinian Neighborhoods is 591 Million NIS (13% of total) [Peace Now Settlements Map]

·      Government initiated construction in East Jerusalem since 1967: 55,335 Jewish housing units (99% of total); 600 Palestinian housing units (1% of total) [Peace Now Settlements Map]

·      “[A]s of 2017, there is a shortage of 2,557 classrooms in Palestinian neighborhoods [of East Jerusalem], and about a third of the children do not complete twelve years of schooling. Only some 52% of the population in these neighborhoods has legal access to the water grid. In addition, while Palestinians make up almost 40% of the Jerusalem population, the municipality runs only six family health centers in the Palestinian neighborhoods, as opposed to 27 centers in Jewish neighborhoods. The municipality also has only four social services offices in the Palestinian neighborhoods, as opposed to 19 in Jewish neighborhoods – although in the former, 76% of all residents and 83.4% of the children live below the poverty line.” [B’Tselem]

·     Only some 15% of the land area in East Jerusalem (about 8.5% of Jerusalem’s municipal jurisdiction) is zoned for residential use by Palestinian residents, although Palestinians currently account for 37% of the city’s population. [B’Tselem]