LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - A decades long fight over land in Palestine is coming to La Crosse.
Local church members are gathering Thursday night in hopes to promote peace in the Middle East.
English Lutheran Church in La Crosse is hosting an event titled "Understanding the Bethlehem of Today - 50 Years of Occupation, 50 Years Too Long" in an effort to start a conversation revolving around the Palestinian and Israeli conflict.
Sponsored by the Interfaith Partners for Peace and Justice in Palestine and Israel, which is a local organization, the event highlights some of the struggles facing Palestinians in Bethlehem, a major pilgrimage destination for Christians in the area and beyond.
That's why members of different churches in La Crosse are reaching far to promote peace.
"We need to show compassion to other people around the world," said Terri Markos, a St. Elias Eastern Orthodox church member.
Peace and justice for all, it seems like a simple message, but the Palestinian and Israeli fight over land and resources is a decades long battle that hasn't ended.
And though they don't have all the answers, La Crosse church members are fighting for a common goal.
"They need our prayer, in order to find a way to resolve these issues, and they can be resolved, there are people, there are Muslims and Christians and Jews who get along really well on an individual basis," said Mark Solyst, pastor of English Lutheran Church in La Crosse.
Markos says it's not religion that divides people, rather it's an issue of politics and government.
"We need to take a look at our military budget, how we're spending our money, where it's going and what it's being spent on."
Markos, who's traveled to Palestine and seen some of the hardships, says with millions of U.S. dollars going to Israeli military aid every day, it's tougher to reach a resolution.
"When I was there I saw a Palestinian home being bulldozed down, and the women were rushing out and they were screaming, it was a very hard thing to see."
She also says Israel's 25-foot wall on three sides of Bethlehem has made it tough for Palestinians to go from point A to point B.
Solyst says with today's divided political climate, an event like this can help make a difference. Even if it's just in La Crosse.
"If there are opportunities to get to know a neighbor who maybe looks a little different than we do, worships a little different than we do, if we understand somebody, if somebody is a friend, it's very hard for us to be mean to them, to be prejudice."
In an effort to offer more perspectives for the story, News 8 reached out to several members of the Jewish community but they declined to comment.
We reached out to a local rabbi who also declined to comment.
However Maureen Freedland, a local attorney and Jewish member of a synogogue, did give her own thoughts through this statement:
"50 years after the end of the 6 day war in Israel, we are all still struggling to find an Israeli-Palestinian peace. There are many sides to this controversy, there are many different experiences that lead people to where they are, and I urge people to read broadly, understand history, and work together for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East built on human rights for those of all religions."
The event takes place at English Lutheran Church in La Crosse.
The presentation begins at 6 p.m. and runs until 8 p.m.
It is free and open to the public.
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