Monday, January 12, 2009

Israel-Gaza report from Olive Branch Institute

A few days ago I received the following from a Pastor friend who is studying Hebrew in Israel. It seems to me to be a fairly impartial description of what's been going on in Israel and Gaza. Whatever your views, please read with prayer for those in war torn places.
Olive Branch Institute
Yesterday I experienced another near miss (my third one since I came to this country in March of 2002). We, the Olive Branch Institute, went to Sederot with friends who we team up with to bring relief, including Earl Cox, the president of Israel Always, and were bringing relief to the citizens of Sederot who have suffered so much of Hamas rocket fire. We brought food coupons for distribution, as well as toys and games for the children stuck in shelters all day. By the way, in Sederot there are both Arab and Jewish children living and playing together in the same bomb shelters. It is a beautiful thing to see such co-existence in our country, even under the common threat of terrorism that threatens both of our peoples. Afterwards, we went to one of the portable bomb shelters provided by monies from Israel Always, which was placed alongside a grade school and across the street from a kindergarten, and Earl Cox filmed a short piece thanking the donors for providing money to build these life-saving units. Then suddenly an air-raid siren went off, which means we all have an average of 15 seconds to get inside a shelter before a Kassam rocket would hit. We waited inside until we heard the explosion of a rocket, and then I and Earl started to walk outside the shelter to see if there were any injured and to survey the damage. Some of the Israelis from Jerusalem with a lot of experience in terror attacks started to warn me, because they know that these attacks often come in pairs, so that when people go out to assist the wounded, and there is a large crowd around, the second attack then kills even more people. That is exactly what happened as Earl and I started walking outside the shelter and suddenly a second rocket hit, striking alongside the kindergarten across the street. The percussion from that blast was intense, as you can see from the video in this link. Since the cameraman had left the video camera running from the shoot that was already in progress when the sirens went off. Here is the link that should take you to the video:
After this incident, we walked across the street to see if anyone was hurt, and as we walked passed the kindergarten and towards the residents of the nearby apartment building, another alarm went off, and this time we all ran for our lives. But not knowing where the nearest bomb shelter was this time, we simply ran to the stairwell of a nearby apartment building. As I crouched down over Earl, I could hear him breathing heavily and thought in amazement about this man, who definitely can run like a young man, is not really so young after all, although his dedication would put any young man to shame. With our backs exposed we heard the sound of the third rocket exploding, but further away from us than the last one had been.

After this we all began to move and to go back, but I noticed one lady who could not move. She just sat on the stairs uncontrollably sobbing and shaking all over. She would not move. She said that she had just given up on living. She could not continue to live like this. The Israeli police came over to speak to her, and I told a French photo-journalist taking pictures to tell the world what is really happening in this country. Just last week a Christian pastor in America told me “... when the Hezbollah or Hamas fire rockets it’s like me throwing a rock – still scary – and in NO way justified ... but it’s still a rock. ... I’ve seen what the ‘1000’s of rockets raining down on Israel’ did to northern Israel and what the bombing of Israel did to southern Lebanon. Wow. Not even the same issue.” This pastor should try coming and living in towns like Sederot and raising a family for the last eight years. Then he might have more sensitivity to Israeli suffering. Personally, I do not know how I could live under those conditions year in and year out, with no hope in sight for their end. Now the rocket attacks have spread to Be’er Sheva and as far north as Ashdod.

One of the missions of the Olive Branch Institute is to educate people about anti-Semitism and anti-Arabism. These are involved and complex subjects, but I want to point out that Palestinians suffer a great deal every day, especially those in Gaza. And there is no question that the current military situation, where Hamas uses their own civilian population, especially the children, as human shields, and where they put weapons caches in schools and mosques, only increases their suffering as Israel bombs these places. I am neither justifying nor condemning Israel’s current military offensive, because in all honesty I do not believe this or anything else we do will stop the rocket attacks. Israel cannot stop the rocket attacks from Hamas, any more than we could stop the attacks from Hizbulah (the “Party of God” Islamic group from Lebanon). In fact yesterday we received rockets from Lebanon once again, including one that hit a nursing home in Naharia. The only people that can stop those attacks are the people firing them. I pray that my readers in the U.S. and Europe never have to face this dilemma. We also cannot totally stop the suicide bombers because you cannot stop one hundred percent of attacks coming from people who do not care about their own lives. Every day an average of twelve terrorist attacks are prevented by Israeli security. You only hear about the ones that get through. The other side of this is that it still does not justify discrimination against our Arab citizens (the Israeli Arabs), nor does it justify treating all Arabs (including Palestinians) as if they were terrorists, because most are not. And I believe in the reforming power of God’s love even for those who are terrorists. So the proper response to hatred and anger is still God’s love.
But whereas the underlying issues behind the current Arab-Israeli conflict are complex, the solution for the Palestinians is simple: Stop firing rockets and Israel will withdraw its forces. Stop sending terrorists across the border and Israel will reopen the borders to freely allow Palestinians to come and go between our two countries, Palestine and Israel. Last year, while Israel received more than 3,000 Kassam rockets from Gaza, we also let into the country 13,000 sick Palestinians into Israel to go to our hospitals, but even then some of them turned out to be suicide bombers, including one doctor and one nurse. The standard Palestinian justification for this is that after Israel forcibly evacuated more than 8,000 Jews from Gaza in 2005, the country was still sealed off and the Palestinians living there still could not come and go freely into Israel. But the very next day after our withdrawal they began firing Kassam rockets into Israel and this barrage has continued almost daily since then. How can anyone expect us to open our borders and endanger our citizens under these circumstances? If anyone will read the Hamas charter, which is readily available even in English translation on the internet, they will find the clearly stated goals of Hamas, which is the destruction of the state of Israel. Any peace treaty with us is a Hudnah, or temporary peace, until they are strong enough to wipe us out.

The sad thing is that many Christians do not believe that the conflict will cease even if Palestinian terror ceases. They believe that Israel will continue to bomb Gaza, apparently for no other reason than that we want to cause the Palestinians to suffer. This is the belief of many of my Arab Christian friends as well. I am saddened to hear this, because this means that the world will continue to blame Israel, which only heightens our paranoia that the world is against us, and only incites more violence against Jews worldwide. This belief that Israel deliberately increases the suffering of Palestinians is also responsible for a great many young people turning to hatred and rage against Israel and against the West. This is one of the motivations of Osama bin Laden and his followers. So people who continue to spread this kind of anti-Semitism are contributing to the spread of terror worldwide. As one who believes in the co-existence of Jews and Arabs in this country, it is very important to me to try and acknowledge Israeli faults in this conflict. But I will not be over-responsible for what is taking place.

Hamas regularly kills Palestinians in Gaza. They hold their own population hostage and use them as human shields against Israel. I was a policeman for 6 years. Under U.S. law, if a criminal holds an innocent civilian hostage, and a policeman, in trying to shoot the bad guy accidentally misses and shoots the civilian, do you know who will be charged with murder? Who do you think, the bad guy or the policeman? Under U.S. law the bad guy will be charged with the murder of that civilian. That is why under every moral system I know, an American or Israeli soldier who tries to take out a terrorist and accidentally kills an innocent civilian, the terrorist should be liable and not the soldier. There is a reason the Geneva convention requires soldiers to wear uniforms. There is a reason why Hamas and other Islamicist organizations have their military operations in crowded civilian neighborhoods, and why Israel keeps our military installations far from our population centers. Another analogy may be useful here. I know many Israeli Arabs who suffered under Hizbulah rocket attacks during the Second Lebanon War, and yet they felt no animosity towards their Muslim brothers in the north, because, as they explained it to me, they knew that they were not the intended targets. They understood that they were the victims of “collateral damage” of what was intended to be Jewish civilians. They did not blame Hizbulah at all, but displayed incredible sympathy and understanding for this organization, even as they went to the funerals of their fellow Muslim villagers who had died from Hizbulah rockets coming into northern Israel. All I ask of the world on this is that they have the same understanding of the collateral damage that Palestinian civilians suffer from Israeli attacks that are intended for Hamas guerrilla fighters that these Israeli Arab Muslims have for Hizbulla rockets.

I know that this letter will cause many of my readers to be upset with me. I would only ask that instead of cutting me off, you would both pray for me and show me why I am misguided. I remain open to changing my current stance if someone can show me why I am wrong.
I remain more convinced than ever that the Olive Branch Institute is in the right business, which is spreading the love of God around this country. If you are interested in joining one of our emergency response teams that will be traveling around the country doing acts of kindness, and that will provide opportunities to meet and hear from Arabs and Jews, including those who take a radically different position from me, then please respond to I am currently taking applications for January and February. Please do not worry about being put into dangerous areas known to receive rocket fire. I will keep the teams out of these areas. Only I and a small group of hand-picked and dedicated workers go into these areas to do relief work. The rest of the country feels very safe to me.
Blessings, Dr. Eldon Clem


More on surreal

I've had some comments on the word surreal. Guess it upsets some folks because it has become defined by post surrealism critics and viewers in terms of the surface descriptions of particular works of art. I'm going with the original meaning and intent of the artists that were active in surreallism which had more to do with their process of art and life perception than with the particular look of finished art pieces. They were interested more in letting their subconcious present perspectives of reality in new forms to jolt the viewer and themselves into new conscious awareness of reality. Hope this helps those of you who are confused by my use of the word, surreal.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Abortion issues

Below is what I sent to Obama and Biden and other goverment officials. It's an effort to work within the framework of what I think they can hear and possibly work with. Please consider sending some version of the note below or one of your own. Please communicate with our goverment what you believe and desire on important issues.
Here is a general goverment service site to locate your elected officials:
And the site to contact Obama-Biden:

Dear Sirs,
As you take part in making new choices concerning abortion and the freedom of choice for women please also allow for the freedom of conscience for all and especially medical workers. When a society demands that doctors must perform abortions in order to be doctors it eliminates many of the most conscientious people from the medical arena. If our government demands that medical clinics receiving US aid must provide abortion than our government demands other cultures and beliefs to change. The separation of church and state was meant to protect people from being forced by the government to change their personal religious beliefs, yet increasingly the pro-abortion right movement is demanding that all those involved in medical practice see things the way they see them increasingly using the government to make their morality the ruling morality. The governmental legal rights of a woman to choose abortion should not be used to force all others to take part in abortion.
I think abortion is generally an abhorrent sickness, part of a greater sickness in our country that says that our individual comfort and preferences should take preference over other people's rights of life.
In the Bible part of God's judgment against people was to bring them to the point where women would eat their own children to stay alive. We are a people under judgment, whose government provides for the eating (aborting) of one’s own children for the sake of ease of living. We tend to use others for our own comfort. Most people these days see all relationships as being primarily economic - what are they getting from the other guy.
God wants us looking to see how we might be a blessing to those around us, particularly to those in need. In the Old Testament God’s most severe words of judgment were issued to those who practiced child sacrifice, abused the innocent to get what they wanted, and ignored the weak and needy of society.
If American tax dollars are put to use for abortion on demand I hope and pray that there will be an equal or greater amount spent on caring for pregnant women in need and unwanted infants. If American tax dollars are spent on abortion, which is still considered murder by a large percentage of the American people, than it would at least be appropriate to present an option for taxpayers to stipulate where they would want a portion of their taxes to go, to providing for abortion on demand or for saving unwanted babies.
Thank you for your careful consideration of these matters. May God give you the wisdom of Solomon as you make choices for the sake of our country and the world.
Mark McClure

Vision and goals

My vision is to share the good news that Jesus enables us to embrace our own death in His death on the cross and share in His eternal life walking alive with His Spirit but dead to the flesh. Confess that you are dead, embrace your death in the only Holy Just One who died for you and rose again to share His life with you.

I believe we are called to follow Him seeking service to others. The path of believers in Christ is meant to be a path of service not dominance. Thus, I believe, we are meant to live in a form of mutual church goverment I call lowerarchy. Governing by service and love.

He who would be great in the kingdom of God needs to be the servant of all.