Instead of having the ability to move about freely, a basic right in the United States, Khoury and the other panelists detailed a series of checkpoints manned by Israeli police that all Palestinians must pass through in order to move around outside of restricted areas.
LOUISVILLE: Sawsan Bitar has always tried to teach her children to love
one another. After all, she’s a Christian, and that’s what she believes the
Yet “sometimes, I feel that I have failed,” she said. Particularly when she
sees her teenage son struggling with the “humiliation and harassment” he
regularly faces as a Palestinian living in Israeli-occupied territory.
It’s a challenge for him to love those who mistreat him, Bitar said. And,
“as a mother, believe me, it’s not easy being a Christian and living under
Bitar is a Palestinian Christian, and her story was one of four told by
Christians living in Palestine during the three-day “Steps Toward Peace in
Israel and Palestine” conference here Feb. 10-12.
The conference brought together about 200 synod and presbytery
representatives in order to understand actions taken by the 216th General
Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) related to Israel and
During the panel discussion, which was led by the Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel,
moderator of the 214th General Assembly, the presenters shared their daily
experiences as Christians living on land occupied by the Israeli government
and its military.
In America, “you can drive forever,” said Nuha Khoury, deputy director of
Dar al-Kalima Academy, an institution of higher learning in Palestine.
“Nobody stops you.”
But in Israel, “I cannot get out of Bethlehem,” where she lives, she said.
And though she holds an American passport, it has a stamp on it by the
Israeli police that indicates she is a resident of the West Bank.
“I can be everywhere as an American, except in Palestine,” Khoury said.
Situation fosters “sense of humiliation”
Instead of having the ability to move about freely, a basic right in the
United States, Khoury and the other panelists detailed a series of
checkpoints manned by Israeli police that all Palestinians must pass
through in order to move around outside of restricted areas.
Under occupation, “there is this deep sense of humiliation,” Khoury said.
What happens is that “you internalize this oppression.”
Tanks that bulldoze Palestinian homes, children who aren’t getting enough
nutrients, and fear are all realities, she said.
“Love thy enemy is a challenge.”
Khoury also noted the massive unemployment among Palestinians who are
separated from work and farmland by a huge wall being erected by the
Israeli government allegedly to stop suicide bombers.
“People cannot go to work,” she said. “The Palestinian economy has been
This message was echoed by the Rev. Alex Awad, a missionary of the United
Methodist Church who pastors a small international church in East Jerusalem
and is a faculty member at Bethlehem Bible College.
“Every Palestinian has a story,” he told the conference participants.
“Every Palestinian’s heart has pain deep inside.
“Tonight you are growing closer to the Palestinians. And you are feeling
their pain, you are hearing their cry.”
Yet the panelists’ stories also were not without hope – hope for both
Israelis and Palestinians.
Occupation is “not good for the occupier, it’s not good for the occupied,”
“We are not trying to destroy our neighbors,” but to live “side by side
with Israel,” said Anis Said, a student from the West Bank town of Zababdeh.