George Conger writes:
Claims that the Israel discriminated against Jerusalem’s Anglican and Lutheran bishops by blocking their attempt to entre Gaza last month are unfounded, the Israeli government has declared.
On March 10, the Israeli Embassy in Washington released a statement chiding US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Lutheran Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson for erroneously concluding the two bishops had been singled out.
The two church leaders wrote Ambassador Sallai Meridor on Feb 6 to express their “grave concerns” and to seek an explanation for “the denial of entry to Gaza” on Feb 4 of the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Rev Suheil Dawani, and the Lutheran Bishop of Jordan and the Holy Land, the Rt Rev Munib Younan.
“Although they had received assurances from the Israeli government that they would be allowed to enter, and while the other three members of the delegation were allowed to proceed” the two bishops were prevented from carrying out their “pastoral” visit to Gaza.
“We are concerned that they were not allowed freedom of movement into Gaza to carry out their pastoral responsibilities,” the two presiding bishops wrote, and “we hope that, having discovered the cause of their denial, you will assure that they will be permitted to enter as soon as possible.”
The Israeli government responded that on March 10 “Israel facilitated a pastoral visit to the Gaza Strip,” granting them a “special pastoral exemption” to “fulfill their religious duties.”
Minister Counselor at the Israeli Embassy Martin Peled stated that the two bishops’ Feb 5 letter “strongly implied that Israel was somehow discriminating against Bishops Younan and Dawani as Palestinians. However, quite to the contrary, as you would have discovered had an inquiry been made in an appropriate manner, the Bishops were denied entry because they were being treated as any Israeli citizen or legal resident would be treated.”