THE FOLLOWING FROM:

Rev. Mr. Tom J. Fox & Mary Jane Fox
The Pilgrim Center of Hope
Catholic Evangelization Center serving the Archdiocese of San Antonio
7680 Joe Newton
San Antonio, Texas  78251
(210) 521-3377
(210) 521-0288 Fax
email:   dtmjfox@netxpress.com
www.pilgrimcenter.com
 

TO:   JOURNALISTS

IN REFERENCE TO:   Situation in the Holy Land (Israel & Palestinian Territories)

17 May 2002

We know that you are interested in objective truth, so we want to share some information with you that you may not be aware of.
We returned from a 15 day visit to Israel on April 18, 2002,  our 23rd visit since 1984.  Almost every year we organize at least one pilgrimage (religious tour) to introduce Christians and clergy to the places that were so important in the life of Christ.  But not only to the places, we also introduce them to the local Christians who have lived in this area for many generations.  Christianity was born in Jerusalem.

We want to share with you what they have experienced first hand and what they believe about the situation in the Middle East because of the experiences of others.

The West Bank is an area of 80 x 30 miles with 105 military check-points (as of April 2, 2002)  and 185 illegal Jewish settlements.  Because of the Israeli military occupation and the 105 military check points, Palestinian Christians as indeed all Palestinians, have no freedom of movement from one town to another in pursuit of employment or education.  If there is an incident of a suicide bomber their homes are subject to search and damage even though the Israelis know they are not guilty of any violence. Bethlehem used to be 80% Christian and now it is less than 20% Christian.  More than 200 Christian homes have been destroyed by the Israeli Army in  Bethlehem and the two surrounding Christian towns, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.  We have friends who are Franciscan Nuns who live in a retirement convent in this area who have been frequently fired upon by the Israeli military and have to sleep on the hallway floors for some protection.  Bethlehem University, operated by a religious order called Christian Brothers has over a million dollars worth of damage done by the military.  In this most recent crisis, these three areas have been under curfew for weeks, and the people are only being allowed out of their homes for 3-5 hours a couple of times a week.  Those seen outside during curfew are shot.  You know about the man who has shot dead by an Israeli sniper as he was walking to the Church of the Nativity to ring the Church Bell.  You know that the Israeli army kills Palestinian children who throw rocks at tanks.  There are volumes of documentation of Israeli military violation of the rules of the Geneva Convention and other human rights violations.

You know that Israel has refused to allow journalist or international observers to witness their military action.  They say it is for the safety of journalists, but you know they have fired upon and wounded journalists.

We all want peace in the Middle East.  We want the suicide bombing to stop.  However, for there to be peace, there must be justice for both sides.  If Ariel Sharon is allowed to continue to use his excessive force that punishes, humiliates and destroys the innocent as well as the guilty,  peace will have no chance, but war is possible.

As Journalists, you influence the population.  Is it not reasonable that there should be an international peace keeping force that would dismantle the Hamas and other militant extremists, without punishing the entire Palestinian population.  This force could then provide continuing security so that negotiations could be worked out.  It seems reasonable doesn’t it?  However the present Israeli leadership will not allow it because then they would have to address the issue of illegal occupation and illegal settlements and they woll not.

For the sake of peace for Israel and for the Palestinians, we pray that you will use your influence so that the people of this country will support the idea of establishing an international peace keeping force to stabilize the Middle East.  If the people of this country support this idea, I believe our leaders would have the courage to do what is right for the sake of peace.
Thank you for helping America to be informed.

Please notice listed web-sites and attachments.

WEBSITES:
http://go.to/nonviolence   (Fr. Raed Abusahlia) – News, articles, documents from
                                    Jerusalem.
www.al-bushra.org        (Arab American Catholic Community)
www.ameu.org       (Americans for Middle East Understanding)
www.ariga.com/humanrights/index.asp (Israeli-Palestinian Human Rights and Peace             Groups)
www.cactus48.com/truth.html  (Jews for Justice in the Middle East)