Resources for Understanding the Middle East Today



Israel at Fifty
by Kathleen Kern

Reflections on being human in the inhumane Middle East conflict by a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) and a founder of CPT's presence in Hebron in 1995. From the March/April 1998 Tikkun magazine, a "Bimonthly Jewish Critique of Politics, Culture, & Society." Kathleen Kern is author of We Are the Pharisees (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1995).

More than 1000 Palestinian families in East Jerusalem and the West Bank currently face the demolition of their "illegal" houses by the Israeli government. In response, a cooperative effort has been launched by:

Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center (Wi'am)

Wi'am was created to provide a means for resolving conflict within the Palestinian community at a time when power was being transferred between Israeli occupiers and the Palestinian Authority. Wi'am opened its doors in March of 1995, the result of local initiative and with support from international non-governmental organizations.

Stalled peace negotiations, state-sponsored as well as terrorist violence, continued human rights violations, economic hardship due to the Israeli-imposed closure and political instability are all regional problems which feed cycles of community violence. There is a growing need here for persons trained in conflict resolution and mediation to resolve disputes. (See more under Sulha.)

The strategy of Wi'am is:

Eye on Palestine: A page by the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem monitoring recent Israeli settlement activity In the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee
The AIPAC is a 55,000-member national citizen's advocacy group recognized as one of the most influential foreign policy organizations in the country. This pro-Israel lobby is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington today and is partly responsible for the continuing strong commitment by Washington to the Israeli government and to Israeli policies.

The Palestine Archive

An independent archive of all things Palestinian, located on the web site of Birzeit University. The page contains many links to other Palestinian sites. Birzeit University, the first university to be established in the occupied territories, is an independent Palestinian institution located between the towns of Birzeit and Ramallah, about 15 miles north of Jerusalem. Committed to the principles of academic freedom and thought, Birzeit University aims to prepare young Palestinian men and women to be responsible leaders and useful citizens in their community. Dr. Ishaq Y. Al-Qutub, a professor of Sociology at Birzeit University is a Muslim Palestinian alumnus of Bluffton College.

by Dr. Baker Abdel Munem (Ottawa, Canada)

This set of pages is one of the most extensive set of links on all things related to Palestine.

In the Land of Christ . . .

Christianity Is Dying

In the Land of Christ, Christianity is dying. Since one can say the spirit lives within, does it matter that there be no Living Witnesses to Christianity in the land where the faith of a billion adherents was born? How might the removal of all Christians affect the Muslims of the Holy Land? Will they become weaker or stronger, more secular minded or more militant? In short, does the dying of Christianity in the Land of Christ have political as well as religious significance for the world at large? Today, only about 40,000 Christians remain. In 1948, between 60 and 70 percent of the Palestinian Christians were driven from their ancestral homes with the creation of a Jewish state. Since the 1967 illegal Israeli occupation of their lands, an additional 20,000 Christians have felt a necessity to leave their homeland. Formerly the population of Jerusalem, in Christian tradition the "mother of all churches," was half Christian. Now Christians in the Holy City are so few that "with a couple of jumbo jets you could move them all out," said Jonathan Kuttab, a Jerusalem Christian, U.S. educated attorney.

Click here to read the continuation of this article.

Jerusalem: The Old City
Its Role in the Middle East Peace Process

The many proposals put forward over the years for the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict--with the Palestine question at its
core--have all recognized the need to give special treatment to Jerusalem. This is mainly because of its unique character as the
historic site of the Holy Places of the three monotheistic religions, as well as its symbolic nature and its significance for the
identity of the peoples of the region. Numerous statements, documents, position papers and resolutions concerning the city
and its special status have been made or written, but the question of Jerusalem is still nonetheless an unresolved issue and a
source of conflict between the two peoples concerned.

Jerusalem today consists of two cities: occupied East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem. By signing the Declaration of Principles
on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (DoP) on September 1993, Israel and the PLO have made a commitment that “the permanent status negotiations will commence as soon as possible, but not later than the beginning of the third year of the interim period” ... and will “cover remaining issues, including: Jerusalem.” Despite this and not withstanding its reiterated commitment to the DoP, the Israeli government's position is that Jerusalem will remain undivided under Israeli control, thus implying that there is nothing left to negotiate.

... [for more, click here]

An Open Letter to the President, by Professor Dorothy Jean Weaver
(Eastern Mennonite Seminary)

President Bill Clinton

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to you just as your Middle East envoy, Dennis Ross, is back in the Middle East listening (yet once again!) to expressions of anger and outrage on two sides of the ongoing crisis between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people. I write with the awareness that he will return to this country yet this weekend and report to you, and that you will then be making decisions about steps to take to bring about peace in the Middle East.

Mr. President, I plead with you to consider the fundamental reason why Dennis Ross has had to return to the Middle East so frequently and why there are continued flare-ups of brutal and sometimes deadly violence between the two antagonistic parties in this ongoing dispute. There is one simple reason. The US administration has for the most part been either incapable or unwilling to distinguish between "root causes" and "resulting symptoms" of Israeli/Palestinian unrest.

I think that there can be little question to any careful observer that the "root cause" of the present unrest lies in the continued and highly flaunted "provocations" caused by the actions of the State of Israel in confiscating Palestinian lands, demolishing Palestinian homes, restricting the movements of Palestinian people, practicing what could best be described as "ethnic cleansing" of the Palestinian population within East Jerusalem, and building Jewish settlements on occupied territory, a practice which is clearly illegal according to International Law. While all of these practices, most of them not overtly "violent" by normal descriptions, are carried out by the State of Israel, the US administration appears to look the other way and do nothing. And, what is even worse, if there is sufficient cause within the international community to bring Israeli "provocations" to the floor of the United Nations for a resolution, the US steadfastly refuses to support such efforts, thus ensuring their defeat.


[click here to read the rest of this letter]

Facts About Israel

Maintained by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this page contains such sections as (1) the history of Israel; (2) the state of Israel; (3) Israel among the nations; (4) Israel's education; (5) Israel's culture; (6) Israel's economy; (7) Israel's society; (8) Israel's land and people; (9) Israel's health and social services; (10) science and technology in Israel. See especially the button at the bottom of the page linking to information on the peace process.


Al-Bushra is the Arab-American Roman Catholic Community's web page. This site has many further links to organizations working for peace in the Middle East. Al-Bushra is pro-Truth, pro-Justice and pro-Peace. A special concern of Al-Bushra is the future status of Jerusalem in the Middle East as "the future capital of Palestine."


[CPTChristian Peacemaker Teams

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative among Mennonite and Church of the Brethren congregations and Friends Meetings that supports violence reduction efforts around the world.  CPT P. O. Box 6508 Chicago, IL 60680 tel 312-455-1199 FAX 312-666-2677 email us at

The Jerusalem Post

Check out the Jerusalem Post for one source of information from several Israeli perspectives.

The Arabic News

The Arabic News is a regional newspaper covering news in a variety of Arab countries in northern Africa and the Middle East. A free daily (email) subscription is available.

Settlements and the Peace Process: The Inevitable Conflict

This paper is a call for a moratorium on additional Jewish settlements written by Gary Rubin, the Executive Director of Americans for Peace Now, a national grassroots organization of American Zionists committed to peace and security for Israel. Note that Rubin is a Zionist, but one who is concerned that the future security of Israel depends upon peace with the Palestinians.

  The Foundation for Middle East Peace

Publisher of the Report on Israeli Settlement in the Occupied Territories. The Settlement Report provides up-to-date information on Israel's settlement policies as well as information about the ongoing negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians over the future of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem. A good source for statistics and for a glimpse of where and how Israelis are making their home in the occupied West Bank. The web site contains an archive of reports as well as several helpful maps and a few pictures of settlements.

BADIL is the resource center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights. It is a Palestinian NGO based in Bethlehem. The BADIL Resource Center coordinates the Project for Residency and Refugee Rights and is a partner with the Union of Youth Activity Centers (West Bank) in the Campaign for the Defense of Refugee Rights and Development.

Dheisheh Refugee Camp

In the past fifty years of 'Nakba', the Palestinian refugee camps have been a constant reminder of the great injustice done to the Palestinian people and will remain so until a just political solution to their problem is reached. This web page is an eye-opener for those who know nothing about the refugee camps. By learning the story of one camp, one can gain a better understanding of the refugees and their plight. For more, visit the camp or visit BADIL's page on the camp.

1948 Israel Becomes a State:
Fifty Years of Celebration and Loss

The Challenge of Israel and al-Nakbeh:
Palestine, an Idea of Freedom and Diversity

Edward W. Said, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, Jerusalemite in exile

Excerpts from a lecture given at SabeelConference, Bethlehem University, 13 February 1998

Hebrew University of Jerusalem The dream of the establishment of a Jewish university in the Land of Israel was part and parcel of the early Zionist vision. Today Hebrew University of Jerusalem witnesses to the power and continuing influence of that vision. Although the War of Independence in 1948 left the University cut off from the main Israeli-held sector of Jerusalem, the annexation of East Jerusalem after the Six-Day War of 1967 allowed the University to make the Mount Scopus campus once again the main campus of the University. Today, with four functioning campuses and nearly 23,000 students the University looks forward to the 21st century with full confidence that it will retain and even enhance its status as one of the world's leading universities.

The State of Israel ... A Sad Miracle?

"The State of Israel is, in one sense, a sad miracle. Herzl's Zionist program bore the obvious marks of the rising nationalism of the late nineteenth century. Sprung of inhumanity and the imminence of massacre, Israel has had to make itself a closed fist. No one is more tense with national feeling than an Israeli. He must be if his strip of home is to survive the wolfpack at its doors. Chauvinism is almost the requisite condition of life. But although the strength of Israel reaches deep into the awareness of every Jew, though the survival of the Jewish people may depend on it, the nation-state bristling with arms is a bitter relic, an absurdity in the century of crowded men. And it is alien to some of the most radical, most humane elements in the Jewish spirit.

"So a few may want to stay in the cold, outside the sanctuary of nationalismÿugeven though it is, at last, their own."

--George Steiner, Language and Silence: Language, Literature and the Inhuman. New York: Atheneum, 1967
See also Robert S. Levanthal's response.

The Islamic Association for Palestine

A nonprofit organization founded in 1981 and dedicated to working toward a fair, just, and comprehensive solution to  the problem of Palestine. Good source for news and political commentary from a Palestinian viewpoint. Also has good maps and pictures. The IAP seeks to: (1) present an Islamic perspective on Palestine; (2) raise the awareness of Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States about the Palestinian issue and direct their efforts to this worthy cause; (3) meet the needs of the Palestinian community in the United States; and (4) support the Palestinian people living under occupation.

The Consulate General of Israel

This site covers the Mid-Atlantic Region, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Delaware, and southern New Jersey. Information on various services of the consulate, including academic affairs, press and public affairs, economic affairs, information department, Jerusalem 3000, cultural affairs, travel to Israel, the "Israel House," the visa department, and the ministry of foreign affairs. See also the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C.

Weizmann Institute of Science

The Biological Computing Division World Wide Web biology server at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is dedicated to the DNA and Protein Sequence Analysis. Although seemingly an unlikely place to find information about tourism in Israel, it is a good source. Also check out this site for some compelling photographs of Jerusalem and Israel.


Shamash: The Jewish Internet Consortium

This organization, whose home is at Hebrew College in Brookline, Mass., is a wonderful source of information about all things Judaica. The links that branch out from the main page are deep and extensive, with much valuable information about the Holocaust, the Hebrew Bible, Israel, computer technology for handling Hebrew, Jewish social action organizations, etc. Look especially at "Judaism and Jewish Resources" and the many links there, including the link to Frequently Asked Questions and helpful Reading Lists on Judaism.

The Middle East on the Internet

A selection of many sites and addresses of interest to the student of the Middle East. Especially represented are various study centers and programs of Middle Eastern studies in colleges and universities. However, also included are links to the sacred texts (both in original languages and in translation) of Islam as well as Arabic newspapers, student organizations, etc.

Mennonite Central Committee West Bank Although it is not often updated, it contains documents helpful for understanding the Middle East and Mennonite Central Committee's interests in the area. See especially the articles, "A Common Place," by Carmen Pauls and "Judaism Saved from Israel," by Calvin E. Shenk.

The Palestinian National Authority

A directory of personnel, including telephone and fax numbers for Yasser Arafat. Includes information about various aspects of the Palestinian Authority, including governmental information, information about the economy and business opportunities, laws and regulations, etc.

The Jewish Peace Fellowship
A diverse group of people, religious and secular Jews from all traditions and all branches of Judaism. They believe deeply that Jewish ideals and experience provide inspiration for a nonviolent way of life and see the Jewish tradition itself as a continual call toward peace, justice and compassion. The goal of this tradition is to bring all people to the consciousness that peace and not war is where we should direct our vision, energy and lives. The rising tensions in the world today can lead to the nuclear destruction of the planet. The Jewish Peace Fellowship is distressed by the increasing military presence and spending-and the decreasing commitment to human needs.

Builders for Peace
small, nongovernmental organization created to support the Middle East peace process by economic means through the promotion of private sector development in the Palestinian economy of the West Bank and Gaza. This organization is a joint venture between the Arab-American and American Jewish communities and enjoys supportive relationships with the governments of the United States, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. It serves as a repository of economic information on the West Bank and Gaza, and can assist individuals and groups interested in investment and business development. The organization is equipped to provide matchmaking services between businesses in the U.S. and in the region, guidance on potential sources of public and private investment funds, and contacts with relevant governments and agencies that may assist in the removal of obstacles to investment.


An independent effort to gather and organize as much as possible information about Palestine: Land, people, history, politics, economy, education, culture ÿag you name it. They also hope to increase awareness among Palestinians around the globe and to help them network and make use of the Internet potential. To (over-) emphasize their independence, they do not accept donations (even if they are unconditional!).


This site provides basic information about the country of Israel and tourism within the country. It is maintained by TeleTel, an Israeli company involved in the development and implementation of innovative on-line services on the Internet. TeleTel is responsible for developing and implementing many sites for leading Israeli companies. The site is designed to exploit the commercial potential of tourism in Israel through relatively inexpensive Internet resources.

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Located at North Park University in Chicago, the center's web page includes many helpful links to other web sites of interest to students of the Middle East. North Park University's academic program offers diverse approaches to experiential learning and an ecumenical Christian perspective. It is the only evangelically oriented Christian University to offer such a program. The director of the program, Donald E. Wagner, is author of  Anxious for Armageddon: A Call to Partnership for Middle Eastern and Western Christians (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1995). You can purchase this book (as well as others on the Middle East) directly from the Center for Middle Eastern Studies or from Provident Bookstores or from Amazon Books or from Barnes and Noble or from your favorite local storehouse supply of adventure.

Virtual Jerusalem
The largest Jewish site on the Internet, the most commonly accessed location for Jewish and Israel related news, features, services and products. It aims to build a family-friendly community from which people will leave with a good feeling about being Jewish, and a positive feeling about Israel, partly by ignoring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is an amazing site, and though many of the links represent commercial interests, they do help provide a picture of Israeli Judaism today.

Biblical, Theological, and Archaeological Institutes in the Jerusalem Area

Journey to Jerusalem

Check out a home page created by Andy Bockrath and Holly Ziegler on Jerusalem. It contains information about a recent Bluffton College trip to Israel and the West Bank (with pictures: Andy is in the front row, far right). For information about the February-March 1999 Bluffton trip to Jerusalem, click on the following: Journey to Jerusalem '99.
David Maurer and Kelly Gault descend from the Mount of the Beatitudes toward the Sea of Galilee.
Photograph by Loren L. Johns

Send email to Loren L. JohnsCreated and maintained by Loren L. Johns, Dean and Associate Professor of New Testament at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana.
Last updated 21 April 2002.