Since I first started writing these letters in the fall of 2003, just after I moved to Jerusalem as pastor of the English-speaking Congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, I have worked very hard to write as objectively and as fairly as I could…
Pastor Russell O. Siler
News – HCEF

The writing arises from my theological beliefs and foundations, coupled with a strong regard for both the human rights and dignity of all people and for the truth, as least as I have perceived it. I have struggled to avoid descending to the depths of partisan politics–either of Israelis or Palestinians or Americans–for two compelling reasons: (1) When one writes as a partisan, it gives those who disagree with the thoughts and ideas expressed a ready excuse to disregard what is written; and (2) History has shown us that none of the parties in the three entities–Israel, the Palestinian Territories, or the United States–have been willing to set firm foot on the desparately difficult path toward a lasting peace with justice. Do not misunderstand. I still maintain that the forty-one year-old illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and Israel’s shameless campaign to build settlements for its people on Palestinian property is at the heart of the conflict. And that the gigantic disparity between Israel’s military might and the rag-tag forces of the Palestinians gives Israel absolute control over the movements and, yes, the destinies of every individual Palestinian, in Gaza, the West Bank, and Arab East Jerusalem. But I also believe that all the parties involved take turns staring at the daunting chasm between occupation and justice and turn away in fear, intoning one rationalization or another.


Until now I had always thought, or probably, more accurately, unconsciously assumed that the seemingly endless struggle in Historic Palestine was pretty much confined to that tiny piece of the Middle East…but no longer. Oh, the details are still painted in the blood and suffering and fear and anger of Israelis and Palestinians alike. But I am coming to see that tragedy, as life-draining as it has been and still is, as merely one chapter in the human sadness which finds us ever willing to believe the worst of our fellows. The genesis of this awareness lies in the U.S. Presidential campaign which was threatening to consume us, until it was diminished almost to minutiae by the thundering financial demon which is now demanding that the world pay the price for its excesses. Of course I have my preferences as to who will become the next President of the United States. That is irrelevant. What is relevant and vital is the choice of so many American voters to believe as gospel truth anything that is said about Barak Obama just because it it uttered on the radio show of some bombastic radio “personality” or because they read it on some internet mass mailing. He is not a Muslim. He is a Christian. He is not to be judged by his attendance at a church whose pastor spouts words that are distasteful to many, any more than John McCain is to be judged by the words of the Rev. John Hagee, a fervent Christian Zionist, at whose side McCain stood to receive a blessing and an endorsement. There exist people who are determined to have their candidate win, no matter what the ethical, moral, or spiritual cost. And there are people whose fervent partisanship has been diverted to a course of hatred and menace. I pray that you will not join them. If you oppose–or support–Obama because of party, philosophy, race, or leadership, then have the courage to say so. If you oppose–or support–McCain because of party, philosophy, race, or leadership, then have the courage to say so. Resolve never to hide in the shadows of innuendo or suspicion, but in the bright light of conviction and principle.

The same holds true for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If you think the nation of Israel should have all of Historic Palestine based on a biblical-theological understanding, and that the Palestinian people should either be “removed” from the land or should be totally subjugated, then have the courage to say so. If you think the present occupation is illegal and immoral and that the Palestinian people have a valid claim on the land that has been their home for centuries, then have the courage to say so. Let none of us take moral shelter under the vague shadows of half-truths and racial or religious bigotry, or under the vagueness of the cry, “Security, security, all is security.”

This country has a history of moral bravery and leadership, and the church has long served as a beacon of truth and guidance when that morality has faltered. Those two callings have never been needed more than they are at this moment in Israel-Palestine and right here at home. The whole world is watching how we will lead. Pray to God that we will choose the path of justice and courage.