This summer, SSP is centering topics that connect us to community partners that we have previously served with. While we are not able to serve in-person, we have incorporated voices from these communities to help us keep our relationships strong for years to come.
“We have incorporated voices from these communities to help us keep our relationships strong for years to come.”
Our team’s theme, “Environmental and Housing Justice,” addresses some of the most important issues facing not only SSP’s partner communities but all of our home communities. We are working closely with community partners fromLake County, Chiloquin, San Diego, and Smith River to share about their communities and to highlight the advocacy work already taking place. We hope discussions on this topic will empower participants to learn more and positively impact not only the communities SSP partners with, but their own communities as well.
“We hope discussions on this topic will empower participants to learn more and positively impact not only the communities SSP partners with, but their own communities as well.”
I have had personal experiences as both a volunteer and staff member in Chiloquin and Smith River. My first trip to Chiloquin was in 2015 as a volunteer and it was within this community that I first started taking interest in environmental justice. SSP’s partnership with the Chiloquin community gave me a way to see advocacy efforts at work, inspiring me to be proactive in any ways I can.
“My first trip to Chiloquin was in 2015 as a volunteer and it was within this community that I first started taking interest in environmental justice.”
In 2018, I served in Chiloquin as a staff member and we worked with Terra Kemper, a park ranger at Collier Memorial State Park, to help plant trees. In 2020 Collier State Park was impacted by wildfires, and while we cannot help plant trees like in summers past, we are excited to connect with Terra this year, along with our other community partners, to listen, learn, and find out how we can contribute and do our part.
Having been born in Farmington, New Mexico, a town so close to the Navajo Nation that SSP staff members in Tsaile go there for construction supplies and groceries, I have always wanted to better educate myself on Indigenous culture and tradition. Luckily, SSP has given me this opportunity constantly. When I served in Tsaile as a volunteer in the summer of 2017, I got to hear the wonderful Silver Nez Perry speak on the Navajo Tribe. Learning about the economic, health, and nutrition disparities between Indigenous communities and the rest of the United States spurred the passion for social justice I have today.
“Learning about the economic, health, and nutrition disparities between Indigenous communities and the rest of the United States spurred the passion for social justice I have today.”
While working for SSP as a Construction Coordinator in the summer of 2019, I turned this passion for social justice into goals for my future vocation. Living on the Spokane reservation for seven weeks showed me Indigenous communities often do not have access to fresh, healthy produce because the nearest grocery stores are at least an hour away. As a college student obtaining my Bachelors of Science in Nutrition, this broke my heart, as I believe access to healthy food is a basic human right.
“I believe access to healthy food is a basic human right”
However, I was also greatly inspired by the Spokane tribe and their efforts in creating a community garden where neighbors of all ages can learn about land and food together. This inspired me to declare a minor in sustainable agriculture and pursue getting my Master’s degree in sustainable food systems or food policy. Eventually, I want to be able to create positive change in America’s food system so everyone has access to the nutrition they deserve.
Having all of the experiences described above, I am incredibly grateful the theme my staff team will be discussing with participants this summer is “Indigenous Communities Today.” With this theme, my staff hopes not only to shed light on some of the hardships these communities are currently facing, but also empower our participants to become allies and enact change in these communities, even though they may not live near them.
Our staff team will be working with several different community partners from Chiloquin, Smith River, and Tsaile so our participants can hear first-hand from members of native communities. It is especially important that our community partners get to share their personal experiences and provide representation for their greater communities.
“It is especially important that our community partners get to share their personal experiences and provide representation for their greater communities.”
This summer, I am ecstatic to hear Silver speak for the first time since 2017, listen to Will Hess discuss the Klamath Tribes’ fight to save the sacred C’waam and Koptu fish, and learn about how fire recovery has been heavily influenced by Indigenous cultural heritage at Collier State Park.
We feel this theme encapsulates some of the most important issues facing SSP’s partner communities. More importantly, this theme elevates advocacy work which is already happening within these communities. We hope our approach to listening and learning from Indigenous Communities Today can empower summer participants to positively impact not only the communities SSP serves, but their own communities as well. I cannot wait to meet you all this summer and learn with you!
A little over two years ago, I was standing in the windy, sparsely-shrubbed desert just outside Bethlehem. A fence about twenty feet high stood a few yards away, interwoven with barbed wire. I had just visted one friend in Tel Aviv and was now spending the day with another who did legal aid work for Palestinian refugees. The difference between this desert village and the palm-tree-lined, commercialized city on the Mediterranean was drastic.
I was in “Area C,” the part of the occupied West Bank under the jurisdiction of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). One of the aid workers led us towards the home of a man named Omar. We walked through an IDF-controlled gate to Omar’s stone house – one of the few residences still standing in the area.
Since leaving the property alone for even a few hours could open it to occupation by the Israeli government’s settlement program, Omar or his wife had to be physically present at all times. I sat in his home, drinking Arabic coffee, and met his children – who have never left their house with both of their parents.
Before I visited the Holy Land, I usually kept quiet in conversations about the conflict between Israel and Palestine. I grew up in a suburb of Chicago with a large Jewish population, and many of my friends had family in Israel. Others claimed little connection to it or actively opposed the Israeli government. We didn’t learn about the conflict in school, so I just stayed in my lane. I had decided it wasn’t “for me” to speak on.
You might be wondering why I’m writing about it now. There comes a time when those who are uninvolved can no longer oscillate between “both sides.” As the followers of Jesus, a man who “came to set at liberty those who are oppressed,” we must always ask ourselves, “what is my role in the struggle?” Our roles may change. Sometimes, if we are not part of a struggle, our role is to listen. I think this moment is different.
As the followers of Jesus, a man who “came to set at liberty those who are oppressed,” we must always ask ourselves, “what is my role in the struggle?”
Graffiti outside Aida Refugee Camp.
For years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been “off-limits” in the political sphere, even among progressives. But the recent violence on the Gaza Strip has made it all but impossible to maintain that pseudo-neutrality. For the first time in America, we are seeing a tide of voices swell in public support of the Palestinian people.
In order to understand what is going on today, we must understand how this conflict – or more accurately, this struggle – came to be. Its history has been so twisted and weaponized over time that it is now one of the best examples of history as many stories – messy, ambiguous, and often contradictory stories. Right-wing supporters of Israel (many of them evangelical Christians, ironically enough) would have us believe that Israel was founded from a collective effort of the worldwide Jewish diaspora, a move towards self-determination by an oppressed community, independent of any meddling by colonial powers. They would have us believe that the Palestinian people aren’t Indigenous, nor are they a “people” at all – just an amalgam of various Arab tribes, committed to Israel’s destruction.
The Palestinians resisting occupation tell very different stories. Palestinians are native to the Holy Land, and before the project of Israel took hold, Palestinian Christians, Muslims, and Jews coexisted relatively peacefully. Thanks in large part to imperial Britain’s interference, the state of Israel was born in 1948. The day Israel was founded, the nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) claimed hundreds of Palestinian villages, forcing more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes. Many of those who did not leave were killed or pushed into refugee camps.
Hebron, the largest city in the occupied West Bank.
Israel is not, and never has been, the collective effort of all Jewish people towards self-determination. Zionism began as the quest for a Jewish homeland, but even from its beginnings, there was opposition in the Jewish community. This opposition waxed when Britain became involved in an ill-fated attempt to carve up the recently-fallen Ottoman Empire, then waned again after the horrors of World War II.
After nearly a century of fighting between the Israeli state and a nation of Palestinians with little political cohesion, Israel now claims the majority of the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. It has one of the most advanced military-industrial systems in the world, including a state-of-the-art missile defense system known as the “Iron Dome.” It subsidizes a settlement program that forcibly evicts Palestinians from their homes and pays Israeli citizens to occupy them.
A checkpoint in Hebron, a city in the occupied West Bank partially under Israeli military control.
Many view this as an attempt to create “Swiss-cheese” holes in Palestinian communities, making a two-state solution geographically untenable. Palestinians who do remain in their homes are subjected to Israeli surveillance round the clock. Palestinians – and even Jews of color – in the state of Israel face housing discrimination, poor job prospects, and racial profiling by the Israeli police.
For right-wing Israeli leaders, the goal is a single, ethnonationalist state. The goal is to suppress every Palestinian uprising against colonialism until the spark dies out.
I take great care to separate the Israeli state as a settler-colonialist project from the lives and choices of the Jewish people who reside in Israel – and from the 15 million Jews in the world, the majority of whom live outside Israel’s borders. When I write about ethnic cleansing and apartheid, I am not writing about the Jewish families who fled to the Holy Land during the Holocaust because no other country would take them in. It is difficult to compare this struggle to other colonial projects because of the political and religious repression, forced removal, and genocide the Jewish people have endured throughout history, both ancient and recent.
So how, you may ask, can we use those same terms for Palestinian history? Isn’t that a contradiction?
No, because life is life, death is death, people are people, and land is land. Like any other colonized region, the state of Israel was built on land that already had a people. It was, and continues to be, built by taking the lives and freedom of those people.
To be effective allies with any oppressed group, we must always resist over-simplification. Both the Palestinian and Israeli populaces are as multi-faceted as our own. On my trip to the Holy Land, the Palestinian legal aid workers were quick to denounce the violent, anti-Semitic crusades of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Party. But they were also quick to point out the hypocrisy in Israel’s denunciation of these groups. While Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah throw stones to protest the violent evictions of Arab families, the Israel Defense Forces fire stun grenades and tear gas during worship services. While Hamas fighters in Gaza launch rockets that kill six Israeli adults and one child, Israel intercepts most of them, sparing their own citizens before retaliating with airstrikes that take 122 Palestinian adults’ and 31 children’s lives.
To be effective allies with any oppressed group, we must always resist over-simplification.
Neither is “justified” in the sense that violence in itself is unjust. As a Christian, I believe to my core that we must never sweep the morality conversation under the rug in favor of cold, utilitarian calculation. Every human life is infinitely valuable. But we must also acknowledge material realities. Israel and Palestine are not equal: Palestinians have no military, no state apparatus, no international supporters who can stand up to the United States, no representation in the Israeli government, no semblance of recourse for the wrongs perpetuated against them; besides their own 6.5 million people living in apartheid. To put it mildly, this is not a fair fight.
I consider myself a pacifist. Violent means have violent ends, and I believe true liberation for any group can only be achieved once all armed violence – interpersonal, state-sanctioned, or paramilitary – is eradicated. But it is easy for me to say that as a white American woman, who has only ever had to confront armed violence as an abstract ethical question. If I were living in perpetual fear that artillery fire could blast my home, my children, or myself to smithereens at any moment, I can imagine my opinion might be more complicated.
Those of us who are removed from the violence often distract ourselves with questions of Israel’s or Palestine’s “right to exist.” People have rights; states do not.The Jewish people who sought safety in the state of Israel have every right to remain in their homes, and the Palestinian people who were exiled – in 1948, in 1967, or yesterday – have a right to return to their native land.
But the Israeli government does not have a right to forcibly and systematically remove Palestinians from their houses under the banner of an explicitly ethnonationalist ideology. It does not have a right to “self-defense” when the “other side” has no defense system to speak of, and when that defense is dependent on disposing of the Palestinian community – root and stem – through eviction, exile, imprisonment, or death. It does not have a right to coerce its citizens into mandatory military service by threatening imprisonment if they refuse to take up arms against Palestinians. It does not have a right to speak for Jewish people the world over.
And no one has a right, no matter how many decades or centuries it has been, to dispossess a person of the land that they and their ancestors have lived on.
On May 20th, Hamas and the Israeli government announced a ceasefire. For all of us who have lent our time or money to this cause in the past few weeks, I worry this will lead to complacency. We all deserve to take a breath and be grateful for the lives that will be spared. But if I have learned anything from activists with far more experience than me, it is that the real work happens out of the spotlight.
Neutrality is no longer an option here. This may be old news for some of you. But for others, I can understand the trepidation you might feel before embroiling yourselves in the most contentious international conflict there is. That’s why the first step is always education.
I am writing to you, the SSP community, because I trust you, I love you, and because I believe allyship with the Palestinian people is part of our broader mission to strengthen and serve marginalized communities.
This organization partners with colonized peoples and helps them realize the future that they determine for themselves. I believe we must do the same for Palestine. Our job now is to learn the histories (plural), listen to the voices of the people who live in the Holy Land, and put our money where our mouths are.
Don’t just take my word for it. Go out there and learn:
Editor’s Note: “SSP is an affirming and welcoming community that celebrates the lives and love of all people.” We encourage individuals to engage in advocacy alongside marginalized communities. Read more about our mission, inclusion statement, and theology.
Announcing our summer 2021 spiritual program theme! Drumroll, please…this year’s spiritual discussions will be centered around the theme ‘Arise.’
As we reflect on the last year and what may come next, we are reminded resurrection can be found everywhere. It doesn’t just happen once, but is always happening, and is always needed. As we see through the sustained movements of the sun and other celestial bodies, “rising” is constantly happening, but witnessing it is relative to one’s own perspective and vantage point.
“Resurrection can be found everywhere. It doesn’t just happen once, but is always happening, and is always needed.”
After a year of feeling stuck, our world is starting to experience a little hope again with a more comprehensive vaccine rollout. As we move toward ways to safely begin gathering in person, we will have new opportunities to improve access and equity across communities with varying needs. We have hope that together, we can ‘Arise’ in solidarity.
“We have hope that together, we can ‘Arise’ in solidarity”
Just as Jesus’ resurrection allows us to imagine a transformed world after – and amidst – hardship, it also empowers us to enact change, bringing about the world we hope for.
Mondays in our online program this summer, we will be exploring what it means to Arise WITH (one another, the stories of our lives, and the contexts we come from). Day one of SSP, we will identify how we exist and move in relation to ourselves and our communities. Through identifying our contexts and where we come from, we can better understand where we want to go. In understanding where we are on the journey, we can begin to envision what transformation might have in store for us.
Tuesday: Arise FROM
Tuesdays, we will explore what it means to Arise FROM (hardship, transitions, and endings of any kind). Arising FROM something means naming what needs to conclude, end, or transition in ourselves and the systems in which we move – and, of course, why. Together we will build resilience by acknowledging that things dying or ending is a natural part of our universe and cycle.
Wednesday: Arise THROUGH
Wednesdays, we will explore what it means to Arise THROUGH the waiting periods that are inevitable in the transition between ending and beginning. Arising THROUGH means developing comfort with, or tools to navigate, the waiting period between endings and new life becoming manifest. In the midst of transformation, there is quiet. In this quiet, we remember what is being left behind, as well as look ahead to what shape new life will take.
Thursday: Arise INTO
Thursdays, we will explore what it means to Arise INTO new life and the seasons that come after a transition. Arising INTO means intentional awareness and reflection as we enter new stages of community, personal growth, and new life. We can look around us and within ourselves, acknowledging what it may be time to let go of, and celebrating beginnings that can grow into something new and fulfilling.
Friday: Arise TOWARD
Fridays, we will explore what it means to Arise TOWARD a better world. Arising TOWARD means recognizing where we are called to inspire transformation and enact change – both in ourselves and our communities. We will celebrate walking into new life together and find ways to share our growth, observations, and reflections with others in our orbit.
As we explore the Arise theme, we will imagine the potential for transformation to be everywhere and in everything, and witness both endings and beginnings as the very world we live in resurrects and takes new shape.
Join usthis summer on your own unique journey of ‘arising’ within yourself, in your relationship with the divine, and in relation to the communities you are a part of.
How do you envision yourself ‘arising’ into the beginning of a new thing?
Editor’s Note: Explore how ‘Arising’ is constantly happening around us by signing your group up for SSP’s 2021 online summer program. All participants will receive an ‘Arise’ T-shirt and journal through their SSP-in-a-Box (along with other fun goodies)! If you or your group can’t participate this summer, anyone can still go on the ‘Arise’ journey with us by purchasing a T-shirt and journal from SSP’s online store.
Thank you to our program planning team who are putting their heads, hearts, and souls into envisioning just how we can embrace the hope of resurrection this summer: Lea Booth, Kristen Reksc, Eric Scott, Shelby LaRue, Everest Harvey, & Maggie Guekguezian.