From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
NCC: Israel lifts restrictions on Palestinian Easter Travel
"Philip Jenks" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wed, 31 Mar 2010 14:20:53 -0400
>Israeli Ambassador tells Kinnamon
>travel restrictions have been lifted
New York, March 31, 2010 -- The General Secretary of the National Council of
Churches said today he received a telephone call from Dr. Michael Oren,
Israel's Ambassador to the United States, with news that travel restrictions
that prevented Palestinian Christians from visiting Christian sacred sites in
Jerusalem have been lifted.
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, who yesterday urged Israel's government to
provide access to Jerusalem for Christians living on the West Bank, expressed
his thanks for the Ambassador's message.
"On Wednesday I received a call from (Oren) indicating he had been in touch
with Israeli officials and that they have now assured him that travel
restrictions on Palestinian Christians from the West Bank have been lifted for
Easter -- and that we should notify him directly if there are reports from
check points that these orders are not being followed," Kinnamon said.
Kinnamon also expressed his gratitude to Rabbi Steve Gutow, President and CEO
of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director
and Counsel of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, for adding
their voices to Kinnamon's request for freer access for Palestinian Christians
to Christian holy sites.
>Yesterday's story is reprinted below.
National Council of Churches urges Israeli government
to assure Palestinian Christians can visit holy sites at Easter
New York, March 30, 2010 -- The National Council of Churches is asking the
Israeli government to provide access for Palestinian Christians who wish to
visit Christian sites in Jerusalem during Holy Week.
Israel has stepped up security between Israel and the West Bank, essentially
closing the border to all except individuals carrying government approved
permits. However, reports from NCC partners in Jerusalem indicate that some
Israeli checkpoints have denied access to the city and its holy sites for many
Christians who have been given Easter permits.
Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the measure during the Passover
holiday, citing "situation assessments adopted by the defense establishment."
This year Passover and the Christian celebration of Holy week take place
during the same period.
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC General Secretary, said he understood
Israel's need to provide strict security during the religious holidays, when
law enforcement agencies are particularly vigilant.
"But I hope the Israeli government realizes that it is unacceptable to us that
Christians be denied the right to worship in Jerusalem, especially Christians
whose roots in the region go back to the time of Christ."
Kinnamon urged Israel to open its doors to West Bank Christians as widely as
Christians from outside the area who are visiting Jerusalem, and Christian
Arabs who live in Israel, have free access to the holy sites in Jerusalem.
Two leading rabbis have echoed Kinnamon's request to Israel to make it easier
for Christians who live in occupied territories to have the same access.
Rabbi Steve Gutow, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Council
for Public Affairs, and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the
Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, urged that the Israeli government
find a way to "fulfill its security concerns while also seeking accommodations
to permit Christians to worship at their holy sites during the holidays."
"I'm grateful to Steve and David for their partnership in supporting our call
to the Israeli government to help all Christians participate in the
celebration of the most holy events in our calendar," Kinnamon said.
This year, through a confluence of calendars, Eastern and Western Christians
will celebrate Easter on the same date. This means that, in terms of
celebrating the most important events of their faith, all Christians will be
focused together and at the same time on what happened in Jerusalem more than
2,000 years ago.
But travel restrictions encountered by Christians who live on the West Bank
have made it impossible for thousands of the faithful to celebrate at some of
Christianity's holiest sites.
NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212
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