“Peace will be the fruit of Justice and my people will dwell in the beauty of Peace”
Issue No. 43 - Saturday, 3 February 2001
Dear Friends, Brothers and Sisters,
I just came back from Nazareth after a very long busy day because we
went to take part in the Funeral service of one of our eminent priests
who died last week suddenly in Italy after attending a meeting in the ROACO,
an organism in the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in Rome; he is
Msgr. Raouf Najjar, originally from Nazareth, therefore he was buried in
Nazareth He spent a very busy life for 45 years in Jordan working in several
important positions. His funeral in the annunciation Basilica which was
crowded with more than 1000 people, was very impressive because he was
surrounded by all the Patriarchal Clergy beginning with the Patriarch Michel
Sabbah, H.E. Msgr. Salem Sayegh bishop of Amman, H.E. Msgr. Boulos Marcuzzo
bishop of Nazareth, H.E. Msgr. Kamal Bathish General Vicar of the Latin
Patriarchate in Jerusalem, and many other priests, religious men and women,
a lot of friends and family members and a special delegation from Bethlehem
University because he was his president for 10 years. We will remember
Msgr. Raouf Najjar as a man of God and a man of society because he had
very vast and strong relations with everybody and with the high level of
the society in Jordan, beginning from the Royal Hashimite Palace, Ministers,
Diplomats, civil and religious authorities in the Country. He returned
back to Nazareth to rest there in peace.
We are living very critical moments these days before the Israeli elections
because it seems that Mr. Barak is almost loosing or is going to loose,
and Mr. Sharon is going to become prime minister of Israel. I don’t say
that one is better than the other or worst. But I say that it seems that
they have not at all leaders in this country to choose one of these two
candidates, therefore we have to wait the other nearby elections to see
if there will be a new generations of leaders in this country who are courageous
enough to make peace and be more credible. With the actual candidates we
can’t react any kind of peace acceptable for Palestinian, they can’t even
convince the Israelis of their peace programs which make me laugh when
they say we will make peace, especially Mr. Sahron who electoral slogan
is “Sharon leads to peace”. Of course, we say that this an Israeli affair
and we don’t interfere in internal matters, it them who have to choose,
but the problem that the forthcoming will have a very strong impact on
our daily life and in our future because our fate is unfortunately in their
hands if not under their foots. We see this already from now by the total
and complete closure of our territories, where a whole people is living
in big prisons inside a bigger big prison. We are under their mercy day
You will find in today’s “Olive branch”:
1) The Jerusalem Journal # 6 of Sister Mary, writing us about the Christians in Jerusalem, it is good even if I don’t like saying that we are a minority because and it is better to say that we are “a small Christian community”, please cancel this word minority from your dictionary, nobody will ever understand the meaning of the presence of this community because it is a mystery.
2) I send you also an Extra Diary but this time from Al-Arroub Camp near Hebron written by Ismail Muqbal who is a principal of an UNRWA school in Hebron who lives in Al-Arroub camp. What I thought makes the diary perhaps especially worth reading are the strong values which shine through his life. In fact, one episode reminds of the Good Samaritan!
3) Dr. Harry Hagopian sends us as usual
one of his valuable articles which deals another time with the subject
of Jerusalem … A Mirror of Multiple Faiths! He exposes himself again to
different sighs of partiality /impartiality since it is hard to deal with
such an emotive issue in a most
dispassionate and 'uninvolved' manner! However, he has tried his best, and he does hope that some of his ideas could help devolve the negotiations over the future status of Jerusalem in a responsible, honest and coherent way. He also apologizes in advance for any misinterpretations in relation to all three faiths and take refuge in his status as a lawyer, not a theologian!
4) Lily Habash, a member of “Global Leader
for Tomorrow/ 2000” and director of PYALARA, couldn’t go to Davos, therefore
she wrote a “Letter to the GLTs meeting in Davos / January 29-31,
2001”. That I am glad to share with you.
Jerusalem Journal # 6
February 3, 2001
By Sister Mary
Here in Jerusalem, the wearing of a cross seems to be much more of a declaration of who you are rather than just a decoration. Seeing adults wearing a cross or crucifix around their neck is not much out of the ordinary for me. But seeing so many teenagers and young men and women wearing metal crosses strikes me as significant.
The Arab population in Jerusalem is only 30% and of those Arabs, very few are Christian; the rest are all Moslem. So the Christians here find themselves a minority within a minority. I know that in some societies a minority often tries to assimilate itself into the majority, but this is not true here. Rather, the Christian minority of Jerusalem deliberately distinguish their identity very clearly, wearing a cross around the neck, outside the clothing. But this, I understand is nothing new, not a passing fashion, it is their tradition. In fact, the local Coptic Orthodox Christian community maintains their tradition of tatooing a boy with a cross on his arm, as an indelible sign of his identity. With so few Christians left in the Holy Land, it is reassuring to see the Arab Christians wearing their cross.
As we approach the elections in Israel, I ask that you pray for the Christians of this land. Some are preparing to leave as they see no future in remaining here for another war. I have been trying to encourage them to stay. They are the remnant of the living community of Jesus here. I was amazed to learn that there are more Christians in Syria now than there are in the Holy Land. In Syria they make up 10 - 15 % of the population. Here they are only 2%.
Extra Diary from Al-Arroub Camp
ISHMAIL MUQBAL: A LIFE STORY OF PATIENCE AND HOPE
I am a school principal at a United Nations School in downtown Hebron. During the Al-Aqsa Intifadah, my school was closed, and my students were obliged to go to another school outside Hebron. Many of them were in fact unable to attend classes, due to the curfew in Hebron and the many problems in traveling.
I was born to a simple Palestinian family of six boys and one girl.
My father worked hard to raise us in spite of his old age. He worked in
menial jobs which mostly depended on muscles. When I was six year, he was
in his sixties and my mother in her forties. His sole aim and hope was
to once see his sons and daughter in good and dignified jobs. He did his
best to give us the opportunity to complete our university studies. When
I was a grown-up child of fourteen, I remembered him saying: “My son, study
hard to be a teacher so as to get rid of all the hardships that I faced
during my life.” It was the aim of every Palestinian refugee to have well-educated
sons and daughters since they lacked the land to earn a living. I
never forget what happened when I was at secondary school in Hebron. The
students of my age wanted to become friends with me, but as soon as they
heard that I was a refugee they stopped trying. Once a good student from
Hebron wanted to become friends since I was also a very good student and
known for my quietness and politeness. However, when he asked me where
I came from and I told him that I was from Al-Arroub refugee camp, his
face turned red and he managed with difficulty to continue talking to me
although he clearly preferred not to do so. Most people in Palestine consider
Palestinian refugees – especially the ones who live in camps – as of lower
standing and class.
The student’s behaviour aroused something within myself. I decided to
prove myself despite the bitter circumstances. I wanted to complete my
secondary school although I had not enough money to even take a taxi. During
some days of the week I walked the three kilometers to the school. When
other students asked me why I walked, my reply was that I preferred to
read some class topics while walking. My parents tried to give me the best
they had. In 1970 I joined the “tawjihi”, the last class in the secondary
cycle. I worked hard so as to get a high average. I was able to join the
Teacher’s College in Ramallah. My father, who was very ill at the time,
was happy to see me coming back from the college. Each time I shook hands
with him, hugged him and kissed him. I know from the expressions of his
face and his unseen smile – he was completely paralyzed – that the aim
of his life was fulfilled. I wanted to help him and support the family.
From that time on I learned the lesson that one needs to give more than to take, to help deprived people and to raise my children the way that my father dreamed of. The people of my camp are simple, poor, and with a good heart. They need somebody to support them, to help them overcoming their problems and bad conditions, mainly at times of crisis. They are deprived of many things, of freedom, humanity, social care, health care and all the necessary things that people inside and outside Palestine have. The only thing I can give to support them is education. I help many students in my camp in different subjects and encourage them to complete their study. My advice to them is to be patient since patience bears fruitful results for those who believe in it.
A coincidence is better than a hundred appointments (Arab proverb)
It was on Ramadan 1992 when my family and I were invited by my brother
to share the al-Iftar meal, a special meal for Moslems that is eaten after
sunset. At noon on the tenth of Ramadan we left Al-Arroub camp for Jerusalem
where my brother and his family live. Relatives, friends and neighbours
enjoyed a special meal together. As we had school the next day, we decided
to travel back home at midnight. My brother drove us back in his yellow-plated
van. When we were about one km from Al-Arroub camp, we saw a car driver
along the road who waved at us. He did not speak Arabic so my brother,
who knows Hebrew fluently, asked what he needed. Initially the stranger
was very frightened to learn that we were Palestinians. My brother reassured
him and told him that we were ready to help him. My brother said to me
that he was an Israeli from West-Jerusalem who was on his way back home
after joining a wedding party in Harsina (a settlement inside Hebron city).
His car had broken down, and he was looking for a mechanic. He worked as
an engineer at Jerusalem Municipality.
My brother and I left to find help in Al-Arroub camp. We told a mechanic
about the Israeli engineer and his car. The mechanic was willing to accompany
us and fix the car although it was late in the night. He took all the tools
and equipment needed and came to the place where the man was waiting. After
the car was fixed, the man was pleased and gave the mechanic some money
which he refused. The Israeli thanked the mechanic and us and urged us
to visit him in the coming days. The event passed and became history.
In summer 1999, history came back. While my daughter took part in a Seeds of Peace summer camp in Maine in the United States, she became a close friend of an Israeli girl who supported the Palestinians and peace. One day while my daughter called us, the Israeli girl told my daughter that she was familiar with the phone number. Her family turned out to be that of the man from Jerusalem. He called us and our relationship came alive again. They expressed their sadness to what is going on now and opposed the oppression and suffering of the Palestinians. We started to exchange visits and phone calls but everything stopped after the Al-Aqsa Intifadah. Still my family and I respect the Israeli family who are full of humanity and against to what is happening now to the Palestinians. We are praying to see peace spread all over the Holy Land, the land of the holy religions and the holy places.
Never give up hope
Rami is a thirteen-year old smart boy, whose behaviour says more than
a thousand words. He is very clever but shy. Before the mid-term exams,
Rami was absent. As school principal, I investigated the reasons for his
absence since he was not ill and he had not asked permission for a school
leave. To my astonishment, one of his friends told me that he had seen
him at a bakery near his house.
The next day, I decided to visit him at the bakery. It was sad to see
Rami in his poor clothes helping a baker in his job. I asked the baker
whether I could speak with him for a few minutes. After a moment of hesitation,
he agreed and asked Rami to bring two wooden chairs and to attend for the
tea. After I introduced myself, he told me that Rami’s father had disappeared
and that nobody knew his fate. He was a man who was often drunk. Because
of that his wife had left him, together with Rami’s grandmother, and the
wife had married an uncle. After the grandmother died, Rami was forced
to leave school so as to earn a living. The baker sympathized with Rami
and gave him work and a place at the bakery to sleep. I thanked the baker
for the tea and his explanation, and he agreed to let me with Rami alone
for a while. Rami started to weep in front of my eyes. I felt very sorry
for what happened to him, and assured him that his teachers and I would
provide him with the money and all what he needed. He agreed to come if
his mother also agreed. I invited his mother to come to school and asked
her to help us solving Rami’s problem. She supported Rami and us and she
told us that she was afraid that her husband would prevent her from taking
care of Rami. She told us that most of Rami’s cousins were less-educated
people. Although they were of school age, they all earned a living by carrying
things at the vegetable market.
We – I as principal, the school counselor and the teachers of Rami –
did our best, and Rami joined school for a few weeks. He then disappeared
again. He rented a cart to work with vendors. I decided to see him personally
again, and ran into him in the vegetable market, pushing a cart full of
fruit and vegetable boxes. When he saw me he almost fainted but I smiled
at him. He promised to visit me at school after class time, so that there
would be no students and teachers. He kept his promise and visited me in
May 2000. He told many sad stories about himself, his family and relatives.
I suggested him to join a school for orphans, which is in fact one of the
best schools in Hebron. He agreed after some hesitation and I assured him
that I would do my best to support him. He accompanied me to the new school
where he found food and a dwelling place together with his classmates whose
lives were not better than his. I promised to visit him from time to time
and to keep contact with his new principal and teachers.
Now Rami is a different student. He is a good friend of most of his
classmates. His teachers and principal support and respect him. Rami became
like a cousellor to his cousins and he advised them to go back to school
again. I am happy to help Rami and save him from the negative influences
from his environment. As a school principal, I face many cases like Rami’s,
sometimes more complicated, sometimes less. My school is in an area of
Hebron which is deprived of many things, including educational opportunities,
health care, and social services. My teachers and I try to lessen the burden
on the shoulders of these deprived children.
The last moments of Ala’a
During the Al-Aqsa Intifada, my son was very much impressed by the death
of his friend Ala’a who was shot by soldier’s bullets when he went to the
entrance of the camp out of curiosity to watch the stone-throwing that
was going on. Ala’a Mahfouth was a 15-year old boy. He was born on March
14, 1986, and died on October 25, 2000. My son asked to include into the
diary of my life the following brief account of the father of Ala’a.
“I was standing next to him just near the entrance of the home. I felt that something was going to happen and told him not to go out. But he refused. I suddenly heard somebody shouting that Ala’a was injured so we took him to Al-Ahli hospital. There they told us after a while that he was clinically (brain) dead. They advised us to treat him abroad. So we went to Saudi Arabia. We lifted him in a special airplane. The pilot flew us to the Holy Place of Mecca, and made a circle around the Kaaba in order to receive the blessings of Allah. In Saudi he died. They put Ala’a’s body in ice to protect him. On our way back home we passed by Jordan, where we were not treated in a respectful manner. Back in Al-Arroub we put his corpse into a tomb.” After saying this, small shining tears started to flow from the father’s eyes onto his chin. His smallest brother looked at Ala’a’s picture and cried, too.
Jerusalem … A Mirror of Multiple Faiths!
by Harry Hagopian, LL.D
Doctor in Public International Law (UK)
Object or Subject?
Only ten days ago, one question being asked repeatedly was whether Palestinians
and Israelis could reach a draft accord before President Bill Clinton left
the White House on Saturday, 20 January 2001? A subsequent question being
pondered was whether a rabbit will jump out of the hat at the ‘marathon’
talks in Taba before Tuesday, 6 February 2001? In so doing, would such
an agreement confuse the majority of the polls predicting a decisive win
by Likud leader Ariel Sharon and have instead the incumbent Prime Minister
Ehud Barak re-instated at the head of a diffuse government? Moving forward
ever more, another fashionable query these days seems to be whether President
George Walker Bush - and his Secretary of State Colin Powell - will adopt
a more even-handed approach to the conflict in the Middle East?
I believe the reader will have formed by now a distinct impression of
the direction my questions are taking! All of them are attached to persons!
Nobody is asking questions in terms of the issues themselves! In a classic
Rufellian reversal of subject and object, the names are determining the
issues rather than the issues pre-determining the names!
Indeed, my musings today - encouraged largely by a splendid article
from Monsignor Robert Stern I read some weeks ago - take me back ten years
when James Baker was US Secretary of State. He and his wife Susan were
known to be practising Christian believers and stalwart supporters of the
Palestinian cause. It was therefore assumed that American foreign policy
will be changed single-handedly by this man and his coterie of advisers!
Few were those people who stopped to think of the different fundamentalist
lobbies or political groups that are constantly at play in the USA. Fewer
even stopped to think that America’s policies are perhaps not guided by
a heart-rending concern for the plight of the disenfranchised (this statement
speaks volumes about America’s own history!) but are dictated by its own
global interests. After all, if one wants to change a policy, one needs
to change the interest too. And to change an interest, one selects the
Issues, Political Facts
Ever since I returned to Jerusalem some four years ago, I have been
witnessing interminable rounds of diplomacy and negotiation between Palestinians
and Israelis interrupted by equally interminable rounds of fighting and
bloodletting. Those fights and negotiations have both focused mutatis mutandis
on the critical issues that define this 54-year old conflict. They relate
roughly to the future status of Jerusalem, the right of return and compensation
for Palestinian refugees, the contiguous territorial borders of a sovereign
Palestinian state, settlements, water rights, economic standards and security
I have already dealt in previous articles with a number of those issues,
addressing myself to the legal and political loci from a faith-centred
lens. Setting aside today the - sharp - secular and political aspects of
Jerusalem, I would like to mull over its spiritual character and magical
holiness to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Mind you, this is far from
being an original thought or innovative approach! However, it is a sobering
one and might help us all appreciate further that compromises touching
the soul of Jerusalem - its spiritual side - are at least as difficult
as those touching its body - the political aspect. From a spiritual perspective,
no one faith can afford an exclusive monopoly over Jerusalem.
It is almost a non-sequitur to claim that any solution to the problem
of Jerusalem has to deal with its religious and political dimensions. Those
who claim that Jerusalem is singularly a religious problem are singularly
wrong! Those who insist it is an exclusively political issue are
exclusively wrong too! The inseparability of both components is the paradox
most people wrestle with daily. In Jerusalem, the hagia and the polis
- the holy and the secular - remain inextricably intertwined.
Faiths, Manifold Attachments
Starting off chronologically with Judaism, let me posit that Jerusalem was considered for long the spiritual centre of ancient Israel. The psalms - Ps 122 being only one such example - are replete with references to this city being at the centre of the Jewish faith. The Old Testament (1 K, 2 Ch & Ezra) reports that the First Temple was built during the reign of King Solomon. (According to Jewish rabbinical tradition, God forbade King David to build it himself since his hands were defiled by war). Following the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 586 BC (Ez 33:21-22 & Jr 52:7), a Second Temple was built during the 5-4 C BC. Enlarged and embellished by King Herod, it was destroyed again by the Romans during the reign of Titus in 70 CE.
According to the Bible, Solomon had built the Temple in order to house
the Ark of the Covenant that was brought to Jerusalem from Kiriath Jearim
(2 S 6) by his father David. It consisted of a chest carrying the Tablets
of the Law and epitomised for Jews the contract between God and Israel.
The Ark was a privileged place of communication with God where prayers
were offered and sacrifices made. It imparted its shchinah or divine presence
on the Temple.
Jerusalem evokes equal spiritual attachment in Christianity. Going back
to Jesus’ roots and the early days of the Christian faith, the New Testament
speaks about the presentation of the infant Jesus to the Lord in the Temple
in Jerusalem (Lk 2: 22-25). Furthermore, and once he started his
public ministry after his baptism by John (Ac 10:37) and the miracle at
Cana in Galilee (Jn 2:1-12), Jesus often went to the Temple to learn from
the rabbis as much as to teach them (Lk 2:41-48). However, he also
went to the Temple to drive out the merchants and overturn the tables of
the moneychangers (Lk 19: 45-48, Mk 11: 15-18, Mt 21:12-14, Jn 2:14-17).
Yet, what towers over and above all those signs for most Christians is
that Jerusalem represents the sacred physical space of Jesus’ passion,
death and Resurrection. The empty tomb at the Church of the Resurrection
(or Church of the Anastasis) is a vivid reminder to all Christians - irrespective
of their theosophies - that their faith derives its witness and sustenance
from a glorious miracle that happened on Easter Sunday in this holy city.
Indeed, Jerusalem is replete with churches, shrines and sites that are
associated with Jesus’ life and that of his apostles and disciples. Jerusalem
is the Mother Church of the whole Christian faith, and a symbol of the
ultimate redemption of all Christians. Chapters 21 and 22 of the Revelation
to John describe how God, through Christ the Lord, will finally defeat
all enemies and reward the faithful with the blessings of a new heaven
and a new earth (Rev 21:2) - the new Jerusalem.
And last but not least, Jerusalem is also a pivotal spiritual centre
for Islam. To start with, Muslims recall and venerate all the prophets
that preceded Mohammed - including Abraham who is considered the father
of all prophets, Moses and Jesus. However, and at the epicentre of their
attachment to Jerusalem, Muslims refer to the nocturnal experience of the
prophet Mohammed (al-Isra’ wa al-Mi’raj) when he travelled to Jerusalem
by a winged steed named Buraq, alighted at the rock and was transported
into heaven where he met all the prophets and where the face of God was
finally revealed to him. On this very spot known as the Haram el-Sharif
or Noble Sanctuary, the Dome of the Rock was built in the seventh century
CE. A second mosque adjacent to the first one is al-Aqsa, or the farthest
mosque as mentioned in the Holy Koran, which symbolises the furthest point
in religious experience.
Ever since the Hejira from Mecca by the prophet and his followers, Jerusalem
has been considered the third holiest place for Islam after Mecca and Medina.
In fact, each kneeling for prayer in this mosque in Jerusalem is the equivalent
of five hundred in most other mosques, and therefore each prayer recited
therein is tantamount to two thousand prayers elsewhere.
or Exclusion, Harmony or Conflict?
As such, it seems sensible enough to conclude that the spiritual pull
and magical symbolism of Jerusalem are as strong and mesmerising for Christians
as they are for Muslims and Jews. Not only do the three religions of this
land enjoy a special spiritual patrimony, it is one they hold in trust
for the billions of Muslim, Christian and Jewish believers world-wide.
It is extremely difficult to reach a peace agreement between Palestinians
and Israelis - whose political parameters are perhaps easier to untangle
- without taking into consideration the religious identity of Jerusalem.
But this is not enough in itself! Indeed, when dealing with something
as personal and yet as public as religious affiliations or attachments
in the Middle East, it behoves to be sensitive let alone respectful to
the beliefs and values of others. As a Christian myself, and based upon
the exegetical writings of many eminent scholars such as Jacques Vermeylen,
Ahmed Qabbasi or G H Jones, I might disagree with, and even dispute the
veracity of, a number of faith-centred narratives and traditions adhered
to by Jews and Muslims - let alone by some Christian groupings! I could
also evince some misgivings about certain schools of thought within Islam
or Judaism which confine their jurisprudence to a literalist time-warp.
Nonetheless, I remain conscious that many Muslims or Jews could also
question some of the rudimental tenets of my own faith. However, none of
those disagreements grants me or anyone else the prerogative to dismiss
summarily those values that others hold dear! Respect for the beliefs
and narratives of others is a sine qua non for peaceful and convivial relations.
In fact, I strongly believe that a critical parting of the ways lies between
those who seek to impose a version of their own religious tradition - be
it Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other religion such as Buddhism - in
the interests of political supremacy, and those who recognise the more
varied and pluriform texture of their spiritual pedigree and therefore
its potential for making choices and showing openness toward others.
However, herein lies one of the misfortunes of this small parcel of
land. People reinforce their own sets of assertions by belittling
at best or trashing at worst those upheld by others. They are quite ready
to denigrate those beliefs they find incongruous with their own. Hence
arises the phenomena of collective memories and collective psyches that
are inexorably in perpetual motion, in perpetual competition and thereby
also in perpetual conflict. The answer - extremely hard and painful to
envision let alone nurture - is to accommodate the beliefs of others within
one’s own normative context.
And here enter the intellectuals! One major role that intellectuals
fulfill is to foster an honest debate about the dynamics impacting their
own societies. Whilst politicians zigzag and religious leaders justify,
intellectuals are meant to encourage a critical examination of facts and
to be at the forefront of new horizons and bold initiatives. But I sometimes
wonder where many of these men and women can be found in [relation to]
Jerusalem? Are they not meant to be the non-partisan voice of probity,
defending freedom of conscience and religious liberty as much as standing
up for the dignity, the rights and the transcendent dimension of the human
person? Are they not meant to counter any hostility to concepts such as
modernisation, democratisation, basic freedoms and the information revolution
in order to contribute to the future stability of society?
I become concerned when I sense that some currents or individuals engage
themselves in the process of building their own legitimacy with regard
to Jerusalem by fomenting religious tensions. With the unfortunate dearth
of an overwhelming number of inspiring religious leaders in our midst,
intellectuals - an overarching category of men and women - have a duty
to help society build up its legitimacy by pushing education and awareness-raising.
They are the weathercocks that redress imperfect balances and speak out
for the truth. In a nutshell, intellectuals should forcefully address the
sort of education children are offered, the sort of economy that underpins
a nation, and the sort of rule of law that a society establishes for itself
in order to help determine the dignity and standing of a people anywhere
in our global village.
Peace or Win-Lose War?
After four challenging years in Jerusalem, I remain convinced that peace
can only reign in this land when negotiators maintain and prop the political
and spiritual dimensions of this city. I also remain adamant that this
can only happen when we become vulnerable to others and honest with ourselves.
So long as the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis remains a zero-sum
game, peace with justice and dignity is likely to stay out of reach. Rather,
the bloodshed, hatred and distrust that have been rampant in this land
will continue to despoil the basic tenets of all three faiths that hold
this land holy.
In moments of naïve optimism, I wonder whether it would be possible
to float once again the idea of turning Jerusalem into an international
spiritual capital for the whole world. The purist jurist in me still retains
a healthy scepticism about abstruse concepts as ‘sovereignty to God’, having
often advocated alternatives of ‘non-sovereignty’ or ‘shared sovereignty’.
Yet, it might well take such an ‘outlandish’ proposition to set a precedent
in International customary law, liberate both Palestinians and Israelis
from the ‘stand-off of possession’ (J Wright) and help them achieve recognition
of their mutual rights.
In the final analysis, if peace has not yet been ‘conquered’ in its
truthful form, or if multi-faith dialogue for that matter has not yet been
refined beyond platitudes and handshakes, this might well be due in large
part to the fact that we are sorely bereft of a bracing vision that overrides
our nugatory concerns for the sake of our larger aspirations and oversteps
our comminatory attitudes towards others for the sake of achieving reconciliation
Let me now go back full circle to my introduction and voice an obiter
that we all need to overcome our solipsistic tendencies and emotive mentalities
for the larger good. In order to succeed, however, we need to acknowledge
the narratives of the past so as to construct the hopes of the future.
We need to purify our memories, develop a regional code of ethics in our
relations with each other and de-personalise what is at stake - from persons
to issues, from vested interests to shared ones. Can we achieve such a
developed level of transcendence and enlightenment? Can we rise above the
fray and deflect pettifogging barters into more inclusive models? Can we
put peace, with justice and dignity, above ourselves?
Last week, Rabbi Arthur Waskow wrote a powerful letter calling upon all rabbis to rally around the principles of emet, tzedek and shalom. His letter constitutes a clarion call for our region that is gutted as much by painful physical closures as it is by agonising closed minds. Surely, truth, justice and peace - fundamental to all three traditions living back-to-back in this land - deserve better from us all than what we have offered so far ..? Most definitely!
© harry-bvh @ 1 February 2001
Letter to the GLTs meeting in Davos / January 29-31, 2001.
I am submitting this letter with a perplex feeling of disappointment
being unable to join you in this year’s meeting.
Unfortunately, as a resident of the West Bank, an area under the Palestinian
National Authority jurisdiction, I am not able to get a permit from the
Israeli authorities because of their arbitrary policies and tight siege
imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The control over the borders is
still under the Israeli occupation and is still a matter of negotiation
between the Palestinian and the Israeli parties.
In fact, I was extremely enthusiastic to be with you again this year,
since I now feel part of you especially considering that we all have a
duty to work together as a group of selected intelligent, charismatic and
committed individuals. A duty that is needed in order to “improve the state
of the world”, the logo of the World Economic Forum. The institution that
we now have the honor to be part of as Global Leaders for Tomorrow. To
me, this starts by incurring change in the daily lives of my people.
Today, and while you are meeting, my country honors the sacrifice of
353 Palestinian youth -most of them not even your age-, who died for their
belief in the right to obtain their country’s emancipation from occupation.
At this very moment while you are discussing ways for a better future,
we the Palestinians are still far behind in basic demands where about 4
million Palestinians are living under siege, and facing total uncertainty
wrapped with frustration. The imposed Israeli restrictions on movement
are canceling the simplest right of human beings, which is the freedom
It may have never occurred to you how important it is to be able to
move wherever and whenever you want. In normal life conditions, people
can move, travel, trade, work and enjoy what a peaceful enabling environment
can offer to prosper and succeed. Being Palestinian means total deprivation
of all such basics.
One of the main themes of the forum has been the issue of bridging the
divides, and bridging the gap between the haves and the have nots. I believe
that it is also our responsibility as “Global Leaders for Tomorrow” to
be part of this venture, a venture that has become a demand for the small
world of the 21st century. A world aspiring to live in harmony between
its principles, interests, reality and obligations toward the others.
The Palestinian people are amongst the have-nots. They do not have or even enjoy the simplest basic rights of the human being of the 21st century. They are still seeking their human, economic and political right to peace and self-determination.
I hereby, invite you to think of how you can help, not only youth who are eager to be part of this globe and take a participative role, but a whole nation living under occupation and more than half of a dispossessed nation living in Diaspora with no identity, and scattered dreams of regaining their homeland and dignity.
I wish that you would come and visit my country and help think as Global
Leaders for Tomorrow how we can help install peace, freedom and coexistence
in the Holy Land.
Global Leader for Tomorrow/ 2000
Fr. Raed Awad Abusahlia
P.O.Box 14152 Jerusalem 91141
Tel. 00 972 2 6282323/6272280
Fax 00 972 2 6271652
My personal E-mail: email@example.com
Latin Patriarchate's E-mail: Latinpat@actcom.co.il
Visit the Latin Patriarchate's Homepage: http://www.Lpj.org
Visit my "Nonviolence Homepage": http://go.to/nonviolence
Visit Fr. Labib's Homepage: http://www.al-bushra.org