Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Jerry & Sis Levin: Middle East Peacemakers

With all the horrors of the Middle East, it is good to know that some people are constantly there working for peace, like Jerry & Sis Levin. That’s Jerry in civvies to the left. In the 1980s, Jerry Levin was CNN’s Middle East Bureau Chief, stationed in Beirut and covering the war between Israel, Hezbollah, Lebanese Christian militias, etc. Jerry was kidnapped unknown Muslim terrorists one day and became one of the “forgotten U.S. hostages” of the Reagan era. At the time, he called himself an “atheist American Jew.” But Jerry had married Lucille “Sis,” a devout Christian (Episcopalian) from Alabama. When the State Dept. did nothing, Sis educated herself about the Middle East and guided only by her faith, worked to create the conditions for Jerry’s release–based upon distinguishing herself and Jerry from the U.S. government and repeated public statements of a desire for peace for all people’s in the region. She eventually was taken to meet someone who, vouching for her, could use her sincerity to pressure Jerry’s captors to release him.

Meanwhile, left alone in a dark prison with nothing to read but a Bible, Jerry reasoned his way to a faith in God that, to his great surprise, only worked with Jesus front and center! But Christian persecution of Jews over centuries stood in the way for him having anything to do with Jesus. But, eventually he decided Jesus’ shouldn’t be blamed for what was done in his name and quietly became a Christian. One day, Jerry’s cell door was deliberately left open and he was allowed to escape.

Sis’ side of that amazing story was published as Beirut Diary by a Christian publishing house and became a TV movie Held Hostage! (with Marlo Thomas cast as Sis Levin!)

Today, Sis is Dr. Lucille Levin, who went to seminary and then earned a university degree in conflict resolution. She teaches nonviolence and conflict resolution in a K-university curriculum at the University of Bethlehem in a project called “Children of Abraham” supported by the Episcopal Church, Holy Land Trust in Palestine, and Every Church a Peace Church. Jerry works with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron, the West Bank, Occupied Territories as a nonviolent presence and buffer between Palestinians and Israelis. Because of the difficulty of crossing checkpoints, the Levins are lucky to see each other more than a few hours each week.

Ever the journalist, Jerry has been sending weekly “micro-reports” from the Occupied Territories (and from Iraq during a Christian Peacemaker Team mission to Iraq) called “From the Inside Looking Out,” to which you can subscribe by email on request:
jlevin0320@yahoo.com . A large number of those micro-reports have been edited and published recently as a book, Jerry Levin, West Bank Diary: Middle East Violence as Reported by a Former American Hostage (Pasadena, CA: Hope Publishing, 2005). During trips home to the U.S., Sis and Jerry speak about their experiences to U.S. church groups. If you’d like to schedule a visit, contact Sis at drsus2@aol.com .

Ordinary saints working to make peace. May God grant us more.

August 3, 2006 - Posted by | heroes, Israel-Palestine, just peacemaking, love of enemies, nonviolence, pacifism


  1. Wow.

    You’d think that non-violence might actually work when you hear stories like that! Good thing we know better…

    Comment by Dan Trabue | August 3, 2006

  2. Yeah. Think what we could do if, say, 1% of all churches in the U.S. sent volunteers to Christian Peacemaker Teams. Would we have enough volunteers to practice creative third-party nonviolent intervention in Lebanon? Colombia? Kashmir?

    Has nonviolence been tried and found wanting or found difficult and so largely not tried?

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 3, 2006

  3. i met them recently in dc; please don noit speak on cell phones w/ speakers; i don’t want to hear yopur conversations in the bookstore. call and speak w/o mics, please. no one was interested in your stories or who u were caling. please respect peace and quiet at bookstore, in dc.

    Comment by ziggy | November 1, 2008

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