A letter of sympathy and concern from Alex Awad, an ordained Baptist minister, sponsored by the United Methodist Church Board of Global Ministries, who lives in East Jerusalem.
Many of you are writing and asking us to explain why some Palestinians celebrated after hearing of the attacks of the hijacked plans on New York and Washington. I first wish to express to all our American friends our deep sorrow and disgust with these awful acts of terrorism. Our hearts go out to those who suffered and continue to suffer. We have been taking our deep frustration to God in prayer to seek his mercy on all who have been touched by these satanic acts. A specially called prayer meeting was held in our church in Jerusalem this morning at 10 oâ€™clock to intercede on behalf of what happened to the American people. This prayer meeting was divided equally between Palestinian Christians and international persons of different denominations.
Today (Wednesday) after the hijacks and subsequent crashes in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, I went to my first college class of the new academic year. I was anxious to ask my Palestinian students how they felt about the attacks and the disaster that happened in the United States. The reason for my anxiety is that I watched a CNN report showing Palestinians celebrating after getting word about the disaster. My students unanimously condemned the attacks and expressed feelings of shock and horror. I was relieved because many of these students come from the town of Beit Jala that has experienced months of bombing, devastation, and most recently, an Israeli incursion into their town. I found out that although some Palestinians, upon hearing the first breaking news reports, celebrated the attacks, many of them regretted their rash reaction as soon as they understood the scope and magnitude of the attack. After my class finished, I went to the market place in Bethlehem. Everywhere I went, I asked people what they thought about the attacks. I could not find one Palestinian in Bethlehem, Christian or Muslim, who expressed joy over the heinous assaults. I returned home with the conclusion, that while a few Palestinians gloated at the misfortune of America, the vast majority of Palestinians are shocked, horrified and disgusted. Palestinians who gloated over the pain of Americans have caused great harm to all Palestinians. Unfortunately, the media does not know how to focus on the millions of Palestinians who grieved silently as they watched the horrible scenes of death and destruction on their TV screens.
Yasser Arafat expressed the feelings of most Palestinians when he said that he is shocked and utterly grieved about the attacks. He also said that he is willing to cooperate with the United States in catching the perpetrators and bring them to justice. It is very important for Americans to understand that though Palestinians perceive the US policy in the Middle East as one that constantly compromises Palestinian legitimate rights and national aspirations, the vast majorities of Palestinians do not hate the American people and do not wish them harm.
While the news of some ignorant Palestinians celebrating these malicious acts is troubling, our greatest concern and fervent prayer is directed towards the healing of those who have suffered so much loss and pain as a result of this madness. Let us seek Godâ€™s mercy and wisdom that the evil in this world will not crush the good. This is a time for us to seek Godâ€™s righteousness, forgiveness, justice, and mercy.
Alex & Brenda Awad
P.O. Box 127
Bethlehem Bible College
Bethlehem, Via Israel
Tel: 972-2-676-6479 (H), 972-2-274-1190 (W); Fax: 972-2-274-3278