In 2017 two anniversaries were due to be marked – 100 years since the signing of the Balfour Declaration supporting the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, and 50 years since Israel occupied the Palestinian Territories in 1967.
As part of our Advocacy programme, a proposal was brought to the Partnership Core Group in August 2016 to hold a Conference to mark both anniversaries. The Conference, “Israel-Palestine – what next?”, was planned in conjunction with Rev Tim Mayfield, Vicar of Christ Church Cheltenham, and Rev Richard Cleeves, Minister of Highbury Congregational Church, whose Churches were also involved in the Palestinian cause. A planning group chaired by Rev Roger Symon was set up with them and others from the South Cheltenham Churches.
The Conference was held at Highbury Church to an audience of 150 and was chaired by Rev Nick Davies. It began with a film made by the Balfour Project, Britain in Palestine, 1917-1948. Two principal speakers were invited, Mustafa Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian leader of the non-violent struggle, and Robert Cohen, a leading Jewish dissident voice in Britain. Other speakers included Rev Fadi Diab, Rector of St Andrew’s, who spoke on the impact of the Occupation on the Churches, and Alex Chalk, MP for Cheltenham, who gave a brief general response at the conclusion of the day.
Alongside the Conference The Palestinian History Tapestry Project held an Exhibition of images of many of the panels of the Tapestry, and the co-founder of the Project, Lady Chalmers, gave a talk about it the following day.
At the conclusion of the Conference, email addresses were taken from those who wished to be kept informed about future talks on themes related to the subject of the Conference. Since then many such events have taken place in Cheltenham, and others are currently being planned.