President Barack Obama will be visiting Israel and Palestine in March. I call on you to write to Obama and tell him that if he is coming to engage Israelis and Palestinians in talks that will lead to a just peace, he is then welcome. Otherwise tell Obama to stay home.
Tell Obama that the world will be watching his upcoming visit and people all over our planet will look to his visit with hope and expectation. Tell him not to disappoint humanity by carrying on U.S. politics in the Middle East as usual.
Tell Obama when he visits us here to stand by the values that he reiterates in almost every speech: freedom, independence, equality, and justice for all.
Tell Obama that if his coming to Israel and Palestine is going to be another American political circus to keep the media busy, or please a certain interest group in the U.S., that he need not come this way. No one here is dying to see him, but many have died and will continue to die if the U.S. continues with its failed policies in the Middle East.
Tell Obama to have his eyes open to see what is happening on the ground rather than offer his ears to politicians that have perfected the art of deception. Tell him to see the expanding illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Tell him to take a look at the separation wall that is not only dividing Israelis from Palestinians but also dividing Palestinians from Palestinians and their land. Tell him to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank and a Palestinian refugee camp. Tell him to walk through one of the Israeli checkpoints.
Tell Obama that he will be coming to visit the Holy Land at a time when Christians are celebrating the passion of Christ and his resurrection. Tell him to let Christ be his example in being courageous and not yielding to political pressures. Have him remember that Jesus bravely gave his life to make peace rather than succumb to political expediency.
Tell Obama to have courage, because most Israelis and Palestinians desire peace and that only the radicals, the racists, the greedy individuals, and those who promote segregation will be disappointed if he commits to the cause of peace.
Tell Obama that repeated visits have taken place by American presidents that did nothing to ease the pain of the Palestinian people. The Palestinians today hope that this upcoming visit will be different then all other visits; it can be the one that will change the course of history in the Middle East.
Rev. Alex Awad is the director of the Shepherd Society, a local ministry of Bethlehem Bible College, serving marginalized families in the West Bank.
Photo: A Palestinian youth confronts Israeli soldiers at a nonviolent demonstration against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Al Ma'sara. Photo courtesy Ryan Roderick Beiler, ryanrodrickbeiler.com.