|Divestment calls spur U.S. Jewish, Christian leaders' Holy Land trip|
By Michele Green
Thursday, September 15, 2005
|[Ecumenical News International] Jewish and Christian leaders from the United States are to travel to the Holy Land in a joint mission to find common ground on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict despite disagreements over divestment and Israel's West Bank barrier. |
Seventeen leaders from eight Christian denominations and organizations as well as various Jewish institutions will participate in the five-day visit to the Holy Land during which they will meet Israeli and Palestinian officials, religious leaders and intellectuals.
From September 18 to 22, they will also encounter Israelis and Palestinians who have suffered from the conflict, particularly in recent years since a Palestinian uprising, known as the Second Intifada, that began in September 2000.
David Elcott, U.S. director of interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Committee and an organizer of the mission, said it aimed to promote Israeli and Palestinian peace initiatives as well as to find common ground between mainstream Protestant and Jewish groups in the United States. This follows tension over divestment moves and Israel's controversial security barrier.
Leading U.S. Protestant groups including the Presbyterian Church (USA), the U.S. Episcopal (Anglican) Church and the United Church of Christ have recently issued decisions to review investments in companies seen as assisting Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands.
They have also condemned Israel's barrier shutting out the West Bank, which they said hurts Palestinians by cutting them off from relatives, farming fields and amenities. They have noted the barrier could undermine future peace efforts.
Jewish groups have expressed outrage at the church decisions which they have said amount to divestment. They have censured the criticism of Israel's West Bank barrier which they say ignores the role it has played in preventing Palestinian suicide bombings since the erection of barbed wire fences and concrete walls began.
"I pray that our peace mission to Jerusalem will help overcome our disagreements over specific policies," said Elcott. "We owe it to our respective religious communities to pursue peace, and to support those in Israel and the Palestinian territories who are committed to two independent states living side by side in the Holy Land."
The delegations will include leaders from the Jewish Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups as well as Christian leaders from Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist and Baptist denominations, among others.