Anna Baltzer, a Columbia University graduate, Fulbright Scholar and member of the International Women's Peace Service, gave a clear description of the injustices many Palestinians face in their own homeland, at HCEF's 10th International Conference.
The 10th International Conference of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) began Saturday morning, October 25, 2008 at Washington, DC’s National Presbyterian Church with a dynamic session about a Jewish American Woman’s perspective and experience while traveling in the Middle East. Anna Baltzer, a Columbia University graduate, Fulbright Scholar and member of the International Women's Peace Service, gave a clear description of the injustices many Palestinians face in their own homeland. The implicit message underlying Baltzer’s session mirrored the message of ecumenism that HCEF promotes in its works, namely, that regardless of one’s faith or cultural background, truth dissolves all barriers.
In her session, titled, “Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories,” Baltzer began by describing her path to understanding the issue: “I am a Jewish American, and I grew up not knowing anything about what was happening in Palestine — I didn’t even know the word Palestine, I didn’t know the word Palestinians and I certainly didn’t know that there were any Christians in Palestine. It was while I was living in Turkey that I started traveling throughout the Middle East, simply out of curiosity, and I began to see for the first time in my life Palestinians — first the refugees — and to learn from them about their stories… what I learned from them was so utterly different from what I had learned growing up.. but I couldn’t ignore the realities that I was hearing, and, when I got there, the realities that I was seeing with my own two eyes.”
Jewish-American speaker Anna Baltzer
After drawing clear distinctions between Zionism — Israeli nationalism — and Judaism, Baltzer stated: “One thing is for certain, we cannot associate the things that Israel is doing — occupation, oppression — with Judaism. This has nothing to do with Judaism. And likewise, to speak out when we see these things happening, when we see anybody’s rights being violated, is not anti-Semitic, it’s not anti-Jewish, these things are not Judaism. I say this knowing how people can fall under such criticism, especially non-Jews… so I want to clarify, as a Jewish person, that it is not anti-Semitic to speak out when people’s rights are being violated. In fact, it’s really in line with the tradition of social justice that has been the pride of Jewish people for a very long time.”