The November Gateshead conference was initiated by regional Ecumenical Accompaniers and organised with Christian Aid, CAFOD and the Justice and Peace coordinators for the Dioceses of Hexham, Newcastle and Leeds. The conference was supported by North East Christian Churches Together (NECCT) and Newcastle Quakers.
The main aim of the conference was to raise awareness of the current situation in Palestine and Israel from a Peace and Justice perspective, primarily among the North-East Churches
Christian Aid focussed on what would make a solution viable and produced the following checklist:
- An end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza
- Self determination, free political will
- Effective government
- Security for all – protection of human rights
- Control of natural resources for all (Israelis currently consume 89% of available water supply)
Israeli Human Rights Work
Three short DVDs were shown explaining the origins and nature of the work of Rabbis for Human Rights, ‘the only rabbinic organisation in Israel today, that speaks about human rights in the Jewish tradition’.
The first DVD, The People, The Voices showed how personal experiences during the 1st intifada contributed to an understanding of the daily sufferingof the Palestinian people under occupation and led a group of rabbis to form Rabbis for Human Rights in 1988.
The 2nd DVD showed Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann at work in the Occupied Territory, enabling Palestinian farmers to safely access their olive groves, threatened by Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
The 3rd DVD was narrated by a young Israeli woman who had been imprisoned for refusing to serve in the Israeli Defense Force and who now works with Rabbis for Human Rights. It told the story of Palestinians, evicted by Israeli settlers intent on the complete Judaisation of Jerusalem,from their homes in East Jerusalem, which were built for them by Jordan after the Nakba in 1948.
A statement was sent to the conference by Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann. It ended:
“I believe the promise of the land made to our ancestors was conditional, and concur with the late philosopher Martin Buber that how we learn to live with the Arabs with whom we share the land is the greatest religious challenge the Jewish people have had to face in thousands of years. So far, in my opinion, we have not been meeting that challenge adequately.”
There is an offer of a further conference based on dialogue between Jews, Christians and Muslims.
A full account of the proceedings may be read here.