Watch this… and pray…
In the Huffington Post:
The ruins of this ancient complex sit on dunes by the sea, a world away from Gaza City’s noise and bustle. Up in the sky, birds compete for space with children’s kites flying from a nearby farm.
St. Hilarion’s monastery, a reminder of the time in late antiquity when Christianity was the dominant faith in what is now the Gaza Strip, is one of many archaeological treasures scattered across this coastal territory.
But Gaza is one of the most crowded places on earth, and the rapid spread of its urban sprawl is endangering sites spanning 4,500 years, from Bronze Age ramparts to colorful Byzantine mosaics, experts say.
Archaeologists, short of funds and unable to find sufficient trained local staff, say they are scrambling to find and protect the monuments. Some are left open to the weather. Others are engulfed by new development projects.
“Archaeology in Gaza is everywhere,” says French archaeologist Jean-Baptiste Humbert, who excavated in the territory from 1995 to 2005. He says it was once a “very rich oasis, with gardens, cities and you have settlements, dwellings, fortresses, cities everywhere, everywhere.”
The strip of land on the Mediterranean, sandwiched by Israel and Egypt, is now largely isolated, but once was a thriving crossroads between Africa, the Levant and Asia.
Today, about 1.7 million Palestinians are squeezed into about 360 square kilometers (140 square miles), an area roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C.
The need for housing is in Gaza greater than that for preserving ancient artifacts, said Humbert, who is affiliated with the Ecole Biblique, a French academic institution in Jerusalem…
As Israeli and Palestinian negotiators prepare for preliminary talks in Washington on Monday (July 29), the future of Jerusalem — holy to three faiths — looms as the thorniest and most difficult issue to resolve.
By Anglican Friends of Israel. Give it a read.
The Palestinian Authority has received billions of dollars in aid. Where, exactly, has this money gone?
The Jewish Leadership Council of the UK recently led a group of leaders from several Christian organizations to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
This group had the opportunity to meet with and question Israeli officials, citizens and clergy.
Fran Waddams of Anglican Friends of Israel, one of the organizations represented on the trip, responds to a report by the archbishop of Canterbury on his visit to the Holy Land which took place a few days later.
Dear Archbishop Justin,
I toured the Holy Land, together with Christian leaders of other organizations, on a visit organized by the UK Jewish Leadership Council just a few days before you last month, and read your reflections on your own visit to the region wondering whether you would be as attentive and impartial as you were at a meeting a few years ago at which I spoke and you were chair.
It’s heartening that you support the rights of all people in the region “to peace, security, and justice.”
The issues you touch on also arose on our three days of visits and meetings with Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, and Palestinians, and some questions sprang to mind as I read your piece.
You were shocked at the contrast between west Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Next time you visit, would you ask Palestinian leaders why there is such a contrast? The Palestinian Authority has received billions of dollars in aid. Where, exactly, has this money gone? It doesn’t appear to have gone into infrastructure, public buildings and utilities, nor created Palestinian jobs nor gone onto Palestinian tables. It might really help our understanding if we knew the answers to this question.
Palestinians may find passing through IDF checkpoints inconvenient, or even humiliating.
But air travelers of every nationality accept the indignity of intrusive security searches, understanding that there are those who would blow airliners out of the sky if measures were not taken to stop them.
Israel’s security fence and checkpoints exist for the same reason. They were put into place only after dozens of murders and hundreds of mutilations caused by Palestinian suicide bombers who drove unhindered into Israel to carry out their missions. Several people loaded with explosives have been stopped at checkpoints over the years. Every week the Israel Defense Forces intercepts weapons and explosives and prevents indiscriminate death and mutilation of Palestinians and Israelis alike. Israel’s security measures save lives.
One young Palestinian woman has written that “most Palestinian Christians and peace loving Muslims acknowledge (privately) that the wall was built as a direct response to suicide bombers from within the Palestinian community.”
However unwilling the Ecumenical Accompaniers Programme for Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) is to believe it, it is a fact that the number of terror attacks, which reached epidemic proportions by 2003, has dwindled to almost nothing.
Like us, you were alarmed by the danger with which the citizens of Sderot live daily. It’s one thing to read dispassionately the few reports that appear in the UK media, quite another to be on the spot, wondering whether the nearest bomb shelter (at every bus stop) could be reached within the 15 seconds between the Red Alert and the missile exploding. The morning after our visit, terrorists were lobbing missiles toward Israel.
They missed this time. But missing was not the intention, and it didn’t stop Sderot’s parents having to make agonizing decisions on whether they had time to get all their children to shelter in time.
Then we met young IDF soldiers, amazed that British Christians wanted to show appreciation for their dangerous work. Most Christians they encounter are scrutinizing their behavior for faults as they work at checkpoints or try to prevent violence at demonstrations.
These Christians seem indifferent to the dangers they face as they try to distinguish between peaceful Palestinians and those smuggling explosives or weapons.
Finally we had the privilege of visiting Baptist Pastor Naim Khoury in Bethlehem. Brought up to believe that the Jewish Scriptures were irrelevant, he began to read them for himself as a 17 year old. He has discovered that the whole Bible is God’s Word, not just the New Testament and as a result insists that Palestinian Christians are obliged to love all their neighbors, Muslim and Jew.
He also learned that God has given the Jewish people a right to live in the Holy Land. Pastor Khoury does not endorse all that the Israeli government does. Nevertheless, he insists that Jews’ right to live unhindered on the land promised to them by the God is clearly set out in the Bible.
As a result of his courage, Pastor Khoury is shunned by fellow Christians, his church has had its right to conduct official marriages and baptisms withdrawn by the Palestinian Authority, his church has been bombed 14 times, and he was once shot. Nevertheless, his Arab congregation numbers in the hundreds, the largest in the Territories. What an irony.
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is complex.
It is about land and it is about justice. And your question is excellent – what constitutes a “just solution.” There are many voices that you won’t hear by sticking to “official” channels. The truths told by the “other voices” are out there, but so often those voices have to be sought out.
They’re worth listening to.
They really are.
Pretoria – US President Barack Obama flies to South Africa on Friday hoping to pay homage to the legacy of his critically ill hero Nelson Mandela, who is critically ill in hospital.
Mandela’s ill health means the two men, who shattered racial boundaries on either side of the Atlantic, are not expected to have a long-anticipated meeting for the cameras.
Still, reflections on Mandela’s extraordinary journey from prisoner to president are likely to permeate Obama’s three-day stay.
Mandela, who turns 95 next month, was rushed to hospital three weeks ago with a recurrent lung disease and has since appeared close to death.
On the eve of the visit, Mandela was said to be in a critical condition, but had stabilised since a scare forced President Jacob Zuma to cancel a trip to neighbouring Mozambique.
“He is much better today,” said Zuma after seeing Mandela on Thursday for the second time in less than 24 hours.
Yet South Africans, including Mandela’s family, remain braced for the worst.
“I won’t lie. It doesn’t look good,” daughter Makaziwe Mandela said. But “if we speak to him he responds and tries to open his eyes – he’s still there”.
“Anything is imminent, but I want to emphasise again that it is only God who knows when the time to go is,” she said.
Mandela’s plight has lent a deeply poignant tone to the visit, around which Obama has built a three-nation Africa tour, and his plans could yet be upended by sudden developments in the ex-president’s condition.
“The president will be speaking to the legacy of Nelson Mandela and that will be a significant part of our time in South Africa,” said deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes.
“The president will treasure any opportunity he has to celebrate that legacy.”
The White House says it is in the hands of the Mandela family and the South African authorities on any aspect of the visit.
“We will obviously be very deferential to the developments that take place and the wishes of the family and the South African government,” Rhodes said.
A visit by Obama to Mandela’s former jail cell on Robben Island, off Cape Town on Sunday would now take on extra “profundity”, he added.
‘Hero of the world’
Speaking in Senegal on the first leg of his long-awaited African trip, Obama described Mandela as “a personal hero.”
“I think he is a hero for the world, and if and when he passes from this place, one thing I think we all know is that his legacy is one that will linger on throughout the ages.”
The US president recalled how Mandela had inspired him to take up political activity, when he campaigned for the anti-apartheid movement as a student in the late 1970s.
South Africans have also been marking the life of a man who led their country out of apartheid.
Outside Mandela’s hospital a wall of messages and flowers has become the focal point for a nation saying a long goodbye to one of the greatest figures of the 20th century.
“There is no sadness here. There is celebration. He is a giant,” said Nomhlahla Donry, 57, whose husband served time with the revered leader.
Mandela has been hospitalised four times since December, mostly for a stubborn lung infection.
Ancient Israelite capital Sebastia, site of important Roman and Crusader ruins, lies unprotected because of security situation.
The Times of Israel reports:
The ancient town of Sebastia is one of the major archaeological sites of the Holy Land, with its overlapping layers of history dating back nearly 3,000 years. But today the hilltop capital of biblical kings, later ruled by Roman conquerors, Crusaders and Ottomans, is marred with weeds, graffiti and garbage.
Caught between conflicting Israeli and Palestinian jurisdictions, the site has been largely neglected by both sides for the past two decades. Beyond the decay, unauthorized diggers and thieves have taken advantage of the lack of oversight to make off with priceless artifacts.
“You can learn the history of the whole region (by) staying here because all the powers that crossed the region since the time of the Egyptians were passing through,” said Carla Benelli, an art historian who has been working on restoration projects in parts of the site, financed in part by the Italian government . “From this point of view, it’s really very important.”
But the site needs basic maintenance, protection and cleaning, she said. “There is no one who is doing this here in Sebastia. It will not last forever in this way”…
That’s the question asked in a guest post over at Archbishop Cranmer’s blog. Check it out.
And from the conclusion:
What we need to spend more time highlighting is the over-arching point: that Anglican Christianity has ceased to be the state religion in any but a pageantry sense, and almost no-one has noticed or complained.
Lest we forget, this past Wednesday was the 560th anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople.
The U.S. Helps Reconstruct the Ottoman Empire
by Robert E. Kaplan
Since the mid-1990s the United States has intervened militarily in several internal armed conflicts in Europe and the Middle East: bombing Serbs and Serbia in support of Izetbegovic’s Moslem Regime in Bosnia in 1995, bombing Serbs and Serbia in support of KLA Moslems of Kosovo in 1999, bombing Libya’s Gaddafi regime in support of rebels in 2010. Each intervention was justified to Americans as motivated by humanitarian concerns: to protect Bosnian Moslems from genocidal Serbs, to protect Kosovo Moslems from genocidal Serbs, and to protect Libyans from their murderous dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Other reasons for these interventions were also offered: to gain for the United States a strategic foothold in the Balkans, to defeat communism in Yugoslavia, to demonstrate to the world’s Moslems that the United States is not anti-Moslem, to redefine the role of NATO in the post-Cold War era, among others.
Each of these United States military interventions occurred in an area that had been part of the Ottoman Empire. In each, a secular regime was ultimately replaced by an Islamist one favoring sharia law and the creation of a world-wide Caliphate. The countries that experienced the “Arab Spring” of the 2010s without the help of American military intervention, Tunisia and Egypt, had also been part of the Ottoman Empire, and also ended up with Islamist regimes.
The full text here.
HT: Fr Milovan
Northern Ireland’s first shared education campus for Catholic and Protestant schoolchildren has been granted planning approval.
Up to six schools with 3,700 pupils are expected to be based at a former Army barracks in Omagh, Co Tyrone, Stormont’s power-sharing government revealed today. The relic of the region’s 30-year conflict is to be transformed into a 126-acre development to educate the next generation together…
SDLP Planning Minister Alex Attwood said: “The new campus will be at the forefront of shared education in Omagh and the North.”
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers this week said renewed efforts should be made to tackle sectarianism which has characterised much of the region’s past. The Stormont Executive is still considering a cohesion, sharing and integration strategy…