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March, 2003 Newsletter
March 14, 2003 12:00AM EST



Between February 18th and March 3rd a mission team from the Religious Freedom Coalition was active in Israel and what is known as the West Bank. Gary Gordon arrived in Israel on the 18th to make all the local preparations for the mission team. Gary Gordonís full time occupation is teaching Bible at the Colorado Springs Christian School at the high school level. He has traveled dozens of times to Israel. On many occasions he has taken high school age mission teams to work at Palestinian Christian schools in the area.

From February 18th to the 22nd Gary held numerous meetings with Christian leaders and visited Hope Christian School in the town of Beit Jala on the West Bank.

On the 22nd I departed Washington, DC with my 17-year-old daughter, Katie Murray, to join Gary in Israel. Because of the length of the flight and the time change we did not arrive there until late on the 23rd.. We settled into our hotel directly across the street from the Jappa gate of the Old City. Since my daughter had never been to Israel before, we walked to the Old City and visited the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Our mission schedule was so full for the week I believed we would not be doing any "sight-seeing" beyond that one afternoon.

On Monday the 24th our first meeting was at the offices of Christian Friends of Israel (CFI). The executive director of CFI is Ray Sanders, who has been working in Israel for more than thirty years. Our meeting there concerned the fate of the two Palestinian brothers under death warrants from Yassar Arafatís Palestinian Authority (PA). Both brothers now live in Israel under temporary permits while their wives and children continue to live in PA controlled territory.

The meeting was time consuming and difficult because of language barriers. Ray Sanders speaks Hebrew and English but the missionaries who have been assisting the brothers spoke French. Although one of the two brothers has learned English, the other spoke only Arabic and Hebrew. Also present was a dear friend of our ministry, David Ortiz, who has been working with Christian families in the Jewish settlements and with Palestinian Christians.

During the meeting a plan was devised to extract the families of the two brothers from PA control and find the brothers and their families a permanent home in the United States. I cannot discuss those details at this time, because this newsletter appears on our Internet site which is monitored by the enemies of Christ and democracy.

Also during the meeting it began to snow. We had walked about ten blocks from our hotel to the headquarters of CFI, but it was now not possible to walk back. Our ministry had arranged a lunch for all of the participants in the meeting at our hotel. As we ate lunch the snow continued to come down. Before lunch was over we were forced to cancel our remaining schedule for the day.

The snow just kept coming. It snowed the rest of Monday, all of Tuesday and most of Wednesday. This was the worst snow storm in Jerusalem in more than fifty years. The government has no snow removal equipment and we were forced to work within walking distance of our hotel until Thursday. While the snow on the Old City was a beautiful sight, this greatly compressed the time in which we had to achieve our goals.

The Settlements

Finally on Thursday the 27th we were able to move forward by traveling to the Jewish settlement of Ariel. European governments condemn the settlements as the single major road block to "peace" between Jews and Muslims. In reality the major settlements were built on lands that were not inhabited. No Palestinians were displaced to build the settlements and indeed for many years they provided the only real income for Palestinians.

The settlement of Ariel is about 45 minutesí drive north of Jerusalem and about that same distance from Tel Aviv. Many who live in Ariel actually commute to those two cities. There is also a large industrial park next to Ariel which employs more than 6,000 Jews and Palestinians. It is the single greatest source of income for Palestinians in the area.

Our first stop in Ariel was the office of mayor Ron Nachman. He has been the mayor of Ariel for more than twenty-five years. He began the settlement with a handful of men living in tents while building infrastructure, before families moved there. Mayor Nachmanís family moved to the West Bank in 1893--long before it was called the West Bank--during the first great "Zionist" movement to Israel. He was born in what is now called the West Bank. He said to me, "I was born in Palestine and am as much a Palestinian with a right to live here as anyone."

The interview with Mayor Nachman was videotaped for use in a documentary I plan; however, our major reason for coming to Ariel was not to interview the mayor, but to visit the high school.

The Settlement Teenagers

This entire mission trip was planned around interviewing teen-agers who must live with the conflict between Jews and Palestinian Muslims. We had brought thousands of dollarsí worth of video and sound equipment with us to do interviews with Jewish, Christian and even Muslim teenagers. The planned interviews were to be conducted by my daughter, Katie Murray. The concept was simple: teens would relate better and be more honest when being interviewed by another teen.

We spent hours interviewing students at the high school in Ariel. More than half of the families in Ariel are Jewish refugees from the former Soviet Union. These Russians have a far better life in Israel, even with the threat of snipers and bombings, than they would have in Russia even today. We interviewed five students, three who were born in Russia and two who were born in Israel. One of the two Israeli-born teens was born in Ariel.

All of the students interviewed were forthcoming and honest with Katie. Their comments on camera did not differ from their comments off camera. Please keep that last statement in mind. All the students said they had no desire to move away from the violence, because, they said, "This is my home." All the Jewish kids said they didnít believe the violence would end regardless of what Israel would be willing to give up. All were against moving from the settlements.

Messianic Jews

About fifty of the families in Ariel are Christian or Messianic Jews. They are led by David Ortiz, whom I mentioned above. We ate lunch at Davidís home and met his wife Leah and some of their children. They have one son who just got out of the Israeli army and one daughter who just went in. Every Israeli youth must serve in the military.

We set up our video equipment for an interview with Davidís teenage son who is a Christian. His answers to Katieís questions were not much different from those of the Jewish teens. When asked by Katie if he had problems at school with the Jewish kids because he was a Christian, he said no. The difference between his response and what I knew about David Ortizís experiences when he first moved to Ariel was surprising.

The rabbis of Ariel did their best to force David and his family out of Ariel when they first arrived. The Jewish children were told by the rabbis not to associate with his children and people would turn their back on his wife at the stores. One time the rabbis tried to get the signatures of the other residents of his building to force him out. When a Christian group was staying at the hotel in Ariel he was told by the owner he could not come in.

David and his family stayed true to Christ and showed his love. When they arrived, there were two Christian families in Ariel; now there are fifty. Just as important has been Davidís work with the Arab community. Hundreds have been led to Christ by David. The Jews of Ariel began to see that Davidís work, far from dangerous to them, was changing the community for the better. Now, more than a decade after moving to Ariel, his younger children do not feel the ostracism his older children did. His work among the Arab population, far from being hampered, is now officially encouraged.

The Arabs of Ariel

Later in the afternoon David took us to meet two men who had accepted Christ under his ministry and who were facing grave situations in the Arab villages near Ariel. We had to pick the men up at odd locations along the highway because they could not afford to be seen with us. One of the men had been accused of "collaborating" after it became known he had accepted Christ. He had been arrested by the PA "police" and held in a crude jail for more than nine months. Several times he was handcuffed and then hung from a wall by the cuffs. One time he hung on the wall for a week.

He told us this is how many die in PA captivity. Over time the spine separates and they die. It is actually a form of crucifixion that can take weeks to kill rather than the hours it took during Roman times. He said his brother had been arrested and beaten on the face until he now sees three images and his eyes are nearly useless.

During most of the "interrogations" he was told that if he would renounce Christ the charges against him would be overlooked. He stood by Christ until he was released. When we spoke to him he had a new warrant from the PA "police" telling him to report for more "interrogations."

The second manís story was not as horrific but still very grave. He had not been imprisoned because he came from a larger, more powerful family in the area. However, the Muslim merchants in the city refuse to sell goods to his wife and he can find no work.

The RFC assisted both of the these suffering families financially.

Beit Jala

Later in the week we traveled to the town of Beit Jala which is actually just a suburb of Jerusalem, as is Bethlehem. There is a narrow valley that separates Beit Jala from the Jewish town of Gilo, also a suburb of Jerusalem. Members of the terrorist FATAH and HAMAS come to Beit Jala to fire on Gilo. When the Israeli troops return the fire it is Christian homes which are destroyed.

Hope Christian Secondary School is located in the part of Beit Jala that is in Area C.

Let me explain ... The West Bank is broken down into three areas: Area A, Area B and Area C, according to the Oslo Accord. This is the 1994 agreement that was forced on Israel by President Bill Clinton and which brought Yassar Arafat and his gang of thugs from Tunis to rule over the Palestinian Arabs.

Under the Oslo Accord, Area A is completely controlled by the PA, that is, Arafat and his gang of thugs. Area A consists of the area around Jericho and most of the Gaza Strip. There the PA is the "civil authority" and the "security authority". In Area B the PA has "civil authority" but the Israeli army provides the security. Area C is completely controlled by Israel. Under the plan Area B would have eventually been handed over to Arafat; however, his suicide bombers have made that an impossibility.

To get to Hope School our team had to pass a military check point to go from Israel to the part of Beit Jala in Area C. At the school we found that the funds we have sent the past year have been used to enhance the building and grounds. A full time maintenance man has been hired using the funds the RFC sends monthly. Bars have been placed on the windows which burglars had broken into last year and doors to the office that had been broken during the burglaries had been replaced.

At Hope School, Katie had the opportunity to interview several Christian teens and one Muslim girl. The interviews were most interesting not because of what the kids did say, but because of what they did not say.

Katie began to understand that in a repressive society people can talk freely to their friends, but when they speak publicly they must be very careful. In a repressive society what is said publicly can bring great harm to an individual and his family. The interviews did bring one thing into view that tells us what the conflict is all about. The teens at Beit Jala, both Christian and Muslim, said that this was their home and that they did not want to leave it for any reason. In that regard their answers were the same as those of the Jewish students Katie had interviewed. Everyone on all sides said, "This is my home and I am not going to leave."

The problem is, Israel is a very small home to share. Houston, Texas and Israel are about the same size. Metropolitan Houston, that is, Houston and its suburbs, covers 8,778 square miles. On the other hand, Israel is officially just 7,992 square miles. In the United States people think of the settlements as being far off from official Israel. Actually most of the settlements can be seen from atop the larger hotel buildings in Jerusalem. Indeed the nation of Jordan can be seen from Jerusalem. The Jews, Christians and Muslims in Israel and the West Bank literally live next door to each other. This makes territorial division almost impossible.

The Kindergarten

After our visit to Hope School in Area C, our mission team ventured into Area B, the area controlled by the PA for civil purposes including police, but where Israel has the security responsibility. This time we had to walk past the military check point set up by Israel. Traffic between Area C and Area B is limited to just a handful of check points. Therefore we walked past the check point to a car owned by a Christian Palestinian and drove to a Christian kindergarten in Beit Jala near Bethlehem.

I canít begin to tell you how cute the little five-year-olds were, sitting erect in their little chairs. As we walked in they sang to us. Although the kindergarten is sponsored by a local church, bills were not paid. The unemployment rate in the West Bank is now near 85%. The tithe of zero income is zero to the church. Churches donít even have the funds to pay staff, much less to fund schools. I learned that the kindergarten was several months behind on its utility bills. The past due bills came to about 4,000 NIS (New Israeli Shekels), or about $800.

This may not sound like much money, but in the West Bank the average income is less than $300 a month. I canít begin to tell you the reaction of the staff when I informed them that the Religious Freedom Coalition would bring their payments up to date. On the spot I gave the kindergarten $1,000 cash which is about 5,000 NIS. This covered the past bills and left some over for the coming month.


Bethlehem was once a Christian town. Over the past two years it has suffered greatly. Not a traffic light works in all of Bethlehem. Most phones donít work and this makes it very difficult to locate those we intended to meet and work with. For many years I escorted Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land once or twice a year. It is hard to see the hotels, restaurants and shops we once visited, now burnt out or shut down.

Palestinian Christians

Unfortunately I can not report on all we learned or on all that was told to us. Some of the meetings we had and who we talked to cannot be disclosed. The PA is repressive. People are beaten by the PA police for virtually no reason at all. Reporting on certain facts could actually cause the death of some of those we have worked with.

Although I have worked in repressive states before such as the old Soviet Union, my daughter Katie had not. She was simply amazed at how peopleís opinions changed once they faced a camera. Off the camera Christians talked of Muslim oppression. On camera no one had a harsh word for even Yassar Arafat despite the fact that he steals the food from their mouths. While in Israel, Forbes Magazine listed Arafat as one of the top ten richest "despots" in the world with assets of about $300 million. He undoubtedly has more undisclosed assets. Arafat rakes in money from everywhere. He even takes a personal cut from the casino the PA owns in Jericho.

This Summer

The Religious Freedom Coalition hopes to fund a Vacation Bible School for kids in the Bethlehem - Beit Jala area this summer. We are working on the arrangements now. Several people with teaching experience who have read about the RFC work in the West Bank have already volunteered for the project. We plan to edit and have available at least one and perhaps two documentaries based on interviews from this past mission trip. One of those documentaries will feature my daughter Katie and her interviews with Jewish, Christian and Muslim teenagers.


In my absence our executive director, Peggy Birchfield, worked on various legislative projects. Among those projects was a briefing on conservative issues for more than 100 pastors. While in Washington the pastors were addressed on several key issues by members of Congress. Issues included the cloning ban proposed by Senator Brownback (R-KS).

Work also continued in support of anti-cloning legislation. The House version of the anti-cloning bill presented by Congressman Weldon (R-FL) passed by a margin of 241 to 155. On passage of the bill Congressman Weldon, who is a medical doctor, said: ""This vote today, like last yearís bill, was a resounding victory for all who oppose human experimentation. Any attempt at human cloning, for whatever purpose, is a gross form of human experimentation that the American people oppose." Weldon continued, "Human cloning is baby manufacture, it hasnít cured any diseases, it will commercialize womenís eggs and wombs, it poses serious risks to the cloned child to be, and it violates human dignity. Supporters of cloning canít even point to examples of how this works in animals, and now they want to turn their experiments on human subjects."

The focus on human cloning now goes to the Senate where Senator Brownback vows to pass his version of the bill this year.


On the last day of February the ultra liberal 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals continued on its binge to eradicate God from public view. The 24-judge bench refused to stay or postpone the ruling by one of its two judicial panels that found the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional because the words "under God" appear in it. There was, however, a major change in the actual decision written by the three judge panel.

Two of the three judges on the panel which originally found the entire Pledge unconstitutional rewrote their verdicts in an attempt to have their decision upheld in the Supreme Court. Under the new opinion, the Pledge is no longer "unconstitutional" for everyone, just for school students and teachers. Completely changing the ruling shows just how deceitful and mean spirited social liberals such as those on the 9th Circuit can be. They will go to any extreme to force their will on the majority of the people of this nation.

Attorney General John Ashcroft, himself an ordained minister, said that he would "...defend the ability of Americans to defend their patriotism through the time-honored tradition of voluntarily reciting the Pledge." Please note that he said "voluntarily." No law requires that the Pledge be recited and the Supreme Court has stated that no one has to recite the Pledge, which makes the 9th Circuit decision even more weird. No child in any school is required to say the Pledge; they are merely given the opportunity to say it.

The man behind the lawsuit to take away the right of Americans to say the Pledge in public is atheist Michael Newdow. He has become the star of the atheist movement in the last few years, having filed numerous lawsuits to force his will upon others. He even filed a lawsuit to stop President George W. Bush from saying "God bless America" at the end of his State of the Union address. He will once again be featured at the American Atheist convention this year when it is held in Chicago. The Religious Freedom Coalition will run large newspaper advertisements in Chicago newspapers during that convention to expose the atheists for what they really are-- godless unrepentant sinners.

Congressman Istook

An old friend of the Religious Freedom Coalition, Congressman Ernest Istook (R-OK) informed me that he will once again attempt to pass a Constitutional Amendment to allow school prayer. This time the Amendment will also protect the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag as well as other Federal and state symbols which refer to our Christian heritage. Watch for further details!


The new RFC Congressional Watchbooks will be ready to ship in just a few days! The Watchbook is a wealth of information about the Congress. It contains the photo of every congressman and Senator along with all of their contact information, including committee assignments. It even contains the phone numbers of their district offices, web site addresses and religious affiliation. The RFC publishes a new Watchbook every two years when a new Congress convenes. If you have a Watchbook for the 106th or 107th Congress, it is now out of date. Please note that because these are custom made books for us, we order a finite number of them. We run out within a month or so after we order them, so please get your order in as quickly as possible! The Watchbook is just $20.00 postage paid.

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