Two peace activists, author Pamela Olson and lawyer-activist Dr. Jonathan Kuttab, shared their insights and wisdom about the Israel/Palestine conflict at Worship on the Hill on Tuesday, September 10, 2013.
Olson told the story of her personal path to working for peace in Israel/Palestine, which began when she graduated college and traveled there for two months when she was 21. Olson was quickly moved by what she saw as deep injustices against Palestinian Arabs, and underwent a deep re-evaluation of her views and opinions on how she, and many other Americans, typically understand the issue. This inspired her to return to Palestine in 2005, where she worked as a journalist and foreign press coordinator for the Palestinian presidential candidate Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi.
Olson fully recounts these experiences in her book Fast Times in Palestine (Seal Press, 2013). She shared with the audience photos of the places she has seen, which served show a side of Palestine, like the city of Ramallah, that Americans do not often see: contemporary buildings, cafés, restaurants, pizzerias and even a town were Palestinian beer is brewed and enjoyed. However, Olson also pointed to another reality that surrounds this potentially vibrant Palestine; over 500 checkpoints exist through the region, which serve to keep Palestinians from easily accessing key resources, like hospitals.
A Palestinian Christian, Dr. Kuttab is a human rights lawyer and peace activist. He is a board member of Sabeel, an organization that works in the region and with whom the 2013 CRCDS pilgrims visited occupied areas of Palestine. He is also a co-founder of the human rights organizations Al-Haq and the Mandela Institute for Political Prisoners, a Palestinian human rights organization focusing its efforts on the plight of political prisoners.
Dr. Kuttab asked difficult questions, such as, "How do we read the Bible within the proximity of the Wall?" He argued that the task of finding peace in the region is primarily theological. For example, he stressed that Jews, Christians and Muslims must ask themselves whether they believe God to be a tribal god, a territorial god, or is He the God of all people everywhere. Looking at the topic of martyrdom, he challenged the idea that this is principally an Islamic phenomenon, showing that it has been a common feature of Christian history, especially when religious belief has been conflated with political power. Indeed, the greatest danger for Dr. Kuttab in the Israel/Palestine conflict is the "sanctimonious mind that allows you to believe that your actions are the Will of God, that allows you to punish those you feel are God's enemy."
The special Worship on the Hill event was organized by Dr. Mark Brummit, Dr. Melanie Duguid-May, and Dean Stephanie Sauvé. Profs. Brummitt and Duguid-May organized "The Holy Lands and Its People" 2013 pilgrimage and educational trip to Israel/Palestine last July.
Worship on the Hill occurs three times a week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 11:20 am in the Samuel Colgate Memorial Chapel on the CRCDS campus. All are encouraged to attend, including members of the public.