So many words have been written in the last five weeks about terrorism, its damage physical and psychic , and the linkages of foreign policy cause and effect. It is all beyond the capacity of our languages and vocabularies to capture how our world has changed. I for one determined that silence was the best path for me during this period. Many others have written more eloquently than it was within me to do… and my sadness frankly put me in a nearly paralyzed state.

October 24, 2001

My dear Family and Friends:

So many words have been written in the last five weeks about terrorism, its damage physical and psychic , and the linkages of foreign policy cause and effect. It is all beyond the capacity of our languages and vocabularies to capture how our world has changed. I for one determined that silence was the best path for me during this period. Many others have written more eloquently than it was within me to do… and my sadness frankly put me in a nearly paralyzed state.

Israeli novelist David Grossman said too that it has been hard for him to write “to get into a new story” because his “soul is alarmed” unable to enter into the usual movements and routines and instead he is questioning “why it has to take part in this process of self-destruction?”

There are realities about which we have skimmed the surface before which we now of necessity are plumbing the depths as the alarm bells have been set off in our souls. This requires I am finding a new kind of reflection, community spirit, prayerfulness and deep healing. What each of us knows for sure is our own experience of where we were and how we are being touched by the ongoing events and their horrors, loss of life, and implications for how we live and move and have our being in the days we have. You, like Karen and me, have wrestled deeply with implications of the definitions of West/East, rich/poor, family/work…even liberation/terrorism. It is a painful, disruptive, wrenching, costly time…personally as well as for our global institutions and structures.

War seems to me to be the least efficacious way to manage the pain, only one more admission of our brokenness and inability to cope with reality altering truths. Revenge certainly won’t make it go away. Only more suffering will result as we have seen over and again in the desperate formerly holy land.


One of the hard things for us was that our departure from Palestine, dear friends, colleagues, and five years of work coincided with the seismic shift in the world order. The American Consul General Ron Schlicher graciously arranged to have a reception for us, with NGO and diplomat colleagues, at the American Consulate in Jerusalem for the evening of September 11! With the time change it was only a few hours after the events in New York and DC. He went ahead as planned and we found comfort with one another and the small group of brave friends who gathered in the “ground zero” of Jerusalem to ponder in new ways what our work and relationships mean. A poignant time as you can imagine. Our scheduled departure to Geneva was delayed several days because all foreign airlines cancelled flights to and from Tel Aviv.

Now over a month later, after one trip back to hand-over the WV Jerusalem work to my successor, Dan Simmons formerly of Mercy Corps, I am settling into my new routines of work as the humanitarian affairs director for World Vision International…essentially having jumped from one frying pan into ten! Including participation on the WV Afghan Relief Crisis Management Team. My role is to interface with the United Nations, World Council of Churches and international nongovernmental agencies here. Karen is in the States for a month tending to family issues such as time with her ailing father, attention to our sons and other loved ones and their concerns, arranging for repairs on our rented home on Capitol Hill, and catching up with our support community of dearest long time friends.

We have found a comfortable home in nearby Pregny/Chambesy near the UN Palais and our furniture arrives in the next 10 days. One more trip to Jerusalem is planned (in’shallah!) to do farewell gatherings for all the people we were unable to see before departure and to introduce the new director…and to inaugurate the new WV Jerusalem offices in the compound of the venerable Lutheran World Federation Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mt of Olives…to increase the security for the staff and to cut costs.


Which leads me to encourage you to continue to uphold WV staff and others who you may know in Israel/Palestine. The situation is worse than at any time during my tenure or the previous 10 years of visiting there.

Succinctly put…the Israeli government is using the smoke of the September 11 bombings and the aftermath in Afghanistan and in the anthrax scare in the States to do the most overt assassinations and acts of ethnic cleansing I ever witnessed. Much was made of the tragic and foolish killing of the Israeli Minister of Tourism Ze’evi…while little has been said about the 66 Palestinian officials liquidated. Dan Simmons and I were in the Beit Jala neighborhood of Bethlehem on Sunday night when withering machine gun and tank fire was directed at innocent people in the streets and the ancient and holy Nativity Church, highly respected Catholic Bethlehem University, and the critical Holy Family maternity hospital run by the Knights of Malta. For those of you who have visited us this is the site of the Holy Family Creche where Sister Sophie so lovingly cares for more than 50 orphan, many unadoptable, infants and toddlers. Three tank shells crashed into the complex. The children were so traumatized they were vomiting. What can possess a human being to do, or a government to order, deliberate targeted damage to universities, hospitals and orphanages!? Three other area hospitals have been damaged as well and ambulances have been fired upon. There is hardly a water tank not punctured by Israeli bullets leaving Bethlehemites already short of water even more desperate. Friends who surveyed the damage around Bethlehem on Monday and Tuesday indicated that over $1 million of damage had already been done.
Crushed cars are everywhere with the tell tale tank tracks on the rubble.

With the dead mentioned in the appeal below from Hannan Ashrawi there are over 40 mostly Palestinian civilians, including “terrorist” children and a mother of 6 youngsters and another women in child birth, killed in the last week by rampaging Israeli soldiers. This ever harsher response is all in the face of President Bush’s strong criticism and demand that the Israeli occupation army withdraw from Palestine. Prime Minister Sharon’s spokesperson said “what we are doing is no different than the US attacking terrorists in Afghanistan”. No matter what we may think of the massive intervention against the Taliban, what Mr. Gissan failed to mention was that Israel in contrast to the USA has been illegally occupying the country
they are bombing for 34 years.

The emotional damage on both sides will linger and fester for generations…which of course is something our “Jewish cousins”, as the Palestinians call them, should understand. For those who love Bethlehem, or respect holy sites of any religion, it is beyond imagination what is happening. Over 100 machine gun bullets were found inside the Nativity Church. Thank God the mainstream newspapers seem to have gotten over their fear of being called anti-Semite and are reporting more accurately the mindless ethnic cleansing and collective punishment violations of international law. Several pieces are attached below if you haven’t seen them.

Along with an article I wrote for “The Christian Century”. The article by Gideon Levy on “Ihab” is about a young man who was a World Vision Youth Ambassador who sang and played oud for our travelling choir at the Germany World’s Fair last year. Hope School which he also mentions is a World Vision child sponsorship school.

It is becoming increasingly clear…without an International Observer and Peacekeeping Force another Beirut type Sabra and Shatilla massacre is inevitable. Please do what you can to alert heretofore disbelieving public officials to the self-destructive and soul shattering behavior of the Israeli government. As Abraham Lincoln pointed out, “the best way to destroy an enemy is to make him your friend”. Invasion of defenseless villages with tanks, helicopters, and hundreds of soldiers is not the way to build friendships and it appears that an international presence is necessary as a reminder.


One of the most difficult and guilt producing issues with which to deal for me is in the closing days of my tenure, because of the world economic downturn, it was finally necessary to terminate the employment of 5 of our wonderfully faithful staff…even with 3 expatriates coming to the end of our contracts. Our WV support countries in our international partnership came up $300,000 short for the new fiscal year because of currency devaluations. This was especially a difficult goal for them to reach after contributing more than they originally pledged to help bring the FY2001 budget nearly into the black, even with the termination payouts. And so even with the change of office venue which will save $30,000 a year we had no creative options left.


“Greetings from the ‘never boring’ Jerusalem. Every day is a new day and every day we thank our Lord that we are alive and that each staff member arrives safely to his/her work. Getting back and forth from work has become more than a daily challenge, it is now an act of ‘freedom fighting’ that each staff member is so determined to undertake despite all the ever increasing security risks. Every day, ADP managers discover a new road through the rocky hills to work, and every day the reward just gets better and better. Our projects are rolling, community meetings are conducted, and new opportunities for us to add value to the isolated and marginalized communities continue to be available ..

These past weeks, however, we had major changes in our office that you need to be aware of, in addition to the departure of Tom and the appointment of Dan Simmons as the new director. Our office had to undergo major budget cuts in our MSC budget, which have resulted in letting go of 5 staff members: two program officers (Halla Bitar & Fadi Raad), one finance officer (Elias Khayyo) , one admin/receptionist (Ani Koutoujian), and our faithful driver/cleaner Imad Musharki. In order also to decrease the long term costs for our office, we have frozen three additional positions that were supposed to be filled during FY02, we shall sell some assets (including one vehicle), and we have started the move into a cheaper
location for our office. All these changes, along with all the political and security changes on the ground are taking place concurrently.

On behalf of the staff of World Vision Jerusalem, I would like to kindly ask you to pray for us during this time of change. There is a lot of anxiety and insecurity in the office among the staff, and it will take time until we re-group and start functioning as an efficient team again.”


As I seek to turn my attention to additional tasks in Geneva I do want to say sincerely and emphatically that so many of you deserve the heartfelt thanks of all of us who have labored (and still labor!) under incredible burdens and against diabolical odds in Palestine. The development work which is sustainable even with WVJ’s downsizing is a tribute to the lavish giving and intentional prayers and persistent extending of friendships to our courageous staff by so many of you on the Reflection list. Just you group of friends contributed $200,000 to 300,000 every year we were in Jerusalem….and that does not mention the many other kinds of support in your solidarity. My gratitude and that of the WVJ staff is inexpressible and I pray that you will have a deep sense of satisfaction for the joint work in which you have participated. I urge you to continue in whatever way is possible for you to walk on the Via Dolorosa with the faithful and courageous people with whom it has been our privilege to labor the last 5 years. Christian and Muslim and even some Jews together they are expressing the broken and sacrificial Body of Christ in ways I never anticipated witnessing…the Kingdom of God coming by degrees is a light that cannot be quenched even by the most crushing darkness of evil.

Some of my well meaning colleagues who haven’t lived in the Middle East keep asking why this monumental struggle continues “with each side contributing to the ongoing conflict”? It is important to reassert one last time through this organ that this is not a fair fight with equal combatants using equal force…this is an oppression of a people longing to breath free by a cruel and far reaching occupation, illegal confiscation of land, and tightening of expensive and humiliating apartheid structures which are not viable. The world community in the influential subgroups like ours have to stand against this evil or the terrorism we have already witnessed will be seen as prologue to an even more devastating chapters of history.

The time to act is now. Our appeal along with Mrs. Ashrawi’s below could not be more urgent. The villages she mentions are probably unknown to you but the crimes being perpetrated are as serious as the ones committed in the environs of Bethlehem. Paralysis rooted in the fear of being misunderstood as anti-Jewish will only seal the doom of all of our brothers and sisters, Christian, Muslim and Jew alike in the land that has become an offense against our religions and the human spirit. Please do what you can to turn the tide before many more innocents, Israeli as well as Palestinian, die or are doomed to a life of living hell.

Passionately for justice and peace,
Thomas Getman
World Vision Geneva