Change and Choices You Can Believe In



I surprised and pleased to have received the following note the other day.

Dear Steve,
So sorry I missed you in Bethlehem. Bibi needed some extra time and that threw my schedule off. Then the sandstorm messed up my travel plans. We drove right by your place but there was no sign of you, so we went directly to Manger Square.

I thought the Church of the Nativity was really quite interesting.

Hopefully, we can get together soon.


I thought it was a nice note. I decided to write him back.

Dear President Obama,
I too am sorry we missed each other on Friday. The word on the street was you were coming by helicopter so I was at Manger Square when you drove by the house.

I suspect you noticed the wall as you came into Bethlehem. Hard not to notice something over 30 feet tall that runs for miles! It kinda cuts out the view doesn’t it? But, it is a great canvas for spray paint artists! Were you able to check out any of Banksy’s work? If not, you should Google, “Banksy Bethlehem.” Very creative.

I hope you weren’t disappointed by the crowd at Manger Square. A couple of hundred people really isn’t all that exciting is it? I guess most Palestinians had other other things to do. In the end, there were enough police officers and soldiers to take everyone by the hand. – We could have all sang Kumbaya! That would have been fun especially for the police and military. They didn’t seem to like pushing the crowd back as your people kept asking them to do.

I really wish you could have joined me for the Palm Sunday parade in Jerusalem. – That was a crowd. Literally, thousands! I was a little disappointed there were no donkeys or people dressed up like Jesus. Maybe the Jesus impersonators are all Palestinians who couldn’t get permits to come to Jerusalem from the Israelis. By the way, did you know donkeys need to have a permit too? That seems a little bureaucratic don’t you think?

I’ve been thinking about Palm Sunday a lot lately. To me, it is a day about choosing. I suspect Jesus realized what he was getting into. I am sure that as he rode on the back of the colt he knew that he would face the persecution of the religious authorities and the brutality of the occupying power. In those days, there were no International Humanitarian Laws or Geneva Conventions to offer him any protection. Today, I suspect you know that Palestinians aren’t really protected by those laws from the Israeli authorities. In some ways, not much has changed has it?

I need to be frank with you. You seem to have chosen to back off on a lot of issues between Israel and Palestine. I am surprised by that. Before you went into politics full time you taught constitutional law and worked as a civil rights attorney didn’t you? So, I am curious about how you as a lawyer and not as President see many of the complicated issues here. For example, as President, you have changed what you say about Israeli settlements As a lawyer, don’t you think the Geneva Conventions are pretty clear about this issue? After all, no less a source than Wikipedia states this,

“The international community considers the establishment of Israeli
settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories illegal under international
law, but Israel maintains that they are consistent with international law
because it does not agree that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to
the territories occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War, due to lack of a legal
sovereign of these territories. The United Nations Security Council, the
United Nations General Assembly, the International Committee of the
Red Cross, the International Court of Justice and the High Contracting
Parties to the Convention have all affirmed that the Fourth Geneva
Convention does apply.”

It seems from what you said publicly that you disagree with Wikipedia? If you do, you can go in and edit what they have written. (I am sure there are people in the White House who could help you with that.) Then again, I understand you have given up your license to practice law. Maybe you don’t feel qualified to argue this issue from a legal perspective. But – I really do wonder what you as a lawyer think.

I was really taken aback by one of your comments. You talked about the problems of children growing up without a state. I am not sure if you realize that most Palestinians have been without a state for 65 years now. It seems the children you were talking about are starting to be eligible for social security benefits. Ironic isn’t it!

I am glad you made it to the Church of the Nativity. It is a very interesting piece of history. Unfortunately you weren’t able tto meet many of the living stones, the people of Bethlehem. So, I am going to try to figure out a way to introduce you to them.

I need to wrap up for now. I hope you have a blessed Passover and Easter. Perhaps, you might find a way to offer hope – a hope people can truly believe in.

Peace, Shalom, Salaam,



About Steve Berube

I am a team minister at St. Paul's United Church in Riverview, NB, Canada. I served as a human rights observer in Bethlehem while on sabbatical in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) of the World Council of Churches.
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2 Responses to Change and Choices You Can Believe In

  1. Paul Burns says:

    Hi Steve. I’m so glad that President Obama decided to take time out of his tight schedule to write you. The things you mention certainly are valid and I suspect he will be sorry to have missed you. Perhaps a YouTube video would be appropriate. I noticed some of Serian soldiers took time off from their busy schedule of shooting their own citizens to make a “Harlem Shuffle” video. Maybe the Israelis could do the same. That would show some bonding – or maybe just bondage. Anyway, I hope the President has the opportunity to connect with you again. If you keep this up he may actually end up walking the walk that goes with the talk. That would be worth dancing for.

    Remember – serpentine!

  2. Peter says:

    Nice s letter from the O-man, Steve. Are you gong to frame it?

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