From the Worldwide Faith News archives

NCC: Israel lifts restrictions on Palestinian Easter Travel

From "Philip Jenks" <>
Date 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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