What a hope-filled and inspiring day standing with people who care about what is going on in Palestine. Cari and I found ourselves tearing up as we approached Westlake Plaza and saw the crowds and energy. We joined around 2 thousand people to remember the Nakba, or catastrophe of 1948, and to raise our voices against the current violence in the Holy Land. What is the Nakba? Glad you asked.
The 1948 war, which Israelis see as the birth of the modern state of Israel, created the crisis that is with us today. While it gave Jews fleeing Europe after the horrors of Nazi German a home, it simultaneously uprooted 700,000Palestinians from their homes, creating a refugee crisis that is still not resolved today. Cari and I visited several of the camps in 2018, created to temporarily provide residence for the Palestinians who were victims of this initial tragedy. They are still in place! We had regular contact in two camps right in Bethlehem and another large camp outside of Amman, Jordan. These camps have tragically become permanent fixtures across the region. The neighborhood in East Jerusalem, called Sheikh Jarrah, was another neighborhood providing housing for some families expelled in this initial refugee crisis. The current eviction, of 20 families, is now pending before the Israeli Supreme Court. If this happens, and it is only a matter of time before it does, this would make these Palestinians refugees twice. Refugee status has become baked into the Palestinian psyche around the world. Some of our friends here in Seattle have fled or been forced from their homeland because of a multi-pronged strategy by Israel to rid the land of the indigenous people.
This is an effort that is part of a larger strategy across the West Bank by the Israeli government to make room for more Israeli settlements. The move to build more settlements in East Jerusalem is an incremental move to cut the West Bank into two sections, thereby eliminating any chance of a contiguous piece of land for Palestine. So the Nakba was the original, initial eviction of Palestinians from their homes and land. And it continues today in places like Sheikh Jarrah. Israel is steadily erasing and ethnically cleansing Palestinians from their land. The actual word, “Nakba” — Arabic for “catastrophe” — and its legacy remains one of the most intractable issues in ongoing peace negotiations. This is the root of the current uptick in violence in Jerusalem, the broader West Bank, and now other cities across Israel.
It’s been a difficult month, inside a difficult decade, really wrapped around the entire lives of some of the people we stood with on Sunday at the Westlake Plaza in downtown Seattle.
As you measure humanitarian crises there is nothing like this one. Nowhere. Palestinians are just asking to be seen. To be granted basic human rights. To NOT be ethnically cleansed from the land of their birth. There’s so much that could be said here that is unjust. Wrong. Ugly. But this post seeks to find hope amidst the darkness. Look at these pictures slowly. Notice the beauty in our shared humanity. In our solidarity.
We stand with our friends in the diaspora, some here in Seattle, as we also stand with our friends in Palestine. Our hearts ache. We love you. We pray for you. And we join you in the struggle, the samud*, until Palestine, along with Israel is safe and knows peace…with justice. Like one of our Palestinian activist friends says in our first movie, Israel will not know security until Palestine knows justice. They are tied together.
*Sumud (Arabic: صمود) meaning “steadfastness” or “steadfast perseverance” is an ideological theme and political strategy that first emerged among the Palestinian people through the experience of the dialectic of oppression and resistance in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War.
A Local Church Pastor
“Through personal storytelling, biblical preaching, and literally getting us out of the church and into a mosque, Andy walked alongside our church with the question, “Compelled by God’s love, what does it mean to love our Muslim neighbor?” Wise, gentle, and prophetic, Andy doesn’t just talk about peacemaking–he lives it.”Website
Lay Church Leader
“Andy spent a weekend at our church recently speaking about his bridge building relationships with Muslims. This approach resonates in contrast with so much media attention to extremists. It was a new message for a lot of our members, but they seemed willing to listen and be open because of Andy’s gentle and non-threatening presence. Now we can discuss this topic more freely and see our Muslim neighbors in a new light, building friendships as God leads.”
Professor of Reconciliation Studies
“We recognize you as an agent of change for reconciliation and an influential community leader. We’d like to invite you to influence the next generation of community leaders here at Seattle Pacific University.”
“Andy Larsen recently gave a presentation and engaged our congregation around the question, “Who is our neighbor?” His knowledge and experience as a bridge-builder and peacemaker was evident as he encouraged us to look outside our normal circles of friendships. Andy is well-suited for this ministry as he travels effortlessly between Muslim and Christian communities and invites us to do the same.” Website