We were there
May 4, 2002

Abuna Labib,
Tom and I have just returned from a 15 day stay in the Holy Land.  On
April 2nd, we took a group of 5 priests and 4 Deacons on an intense,
educational, spiritual and eye-opening pilgirmage for 9 days.  After
their return to the STates, we remained in Jerualem an extra week...and
what  a week.

First of all, the group did meet with His Beatitude, Father Charles
Miller (who explained the history of Zionism, one of the root evils of
this violence), and with Tantur's Fr. Michael.  They also met local
Christians and had an evening meal in a Palestnian home.  The clergy
received so much and some have returned writing to newspapers, and
speaking from the pulpit.

Tom and I were able to interview on video, Abuna Raed in Jerusalem and
other local Christians on the situation.  We entered Bethlehem on April
15th with a Convoy sponsored by Caritas, Pontifical Mission for
Palestine, Catholic Relief SErvices, World Vision and the Menonite
community.  We entered!  There were around 20 cars....we rode with Abuna
Raed and stopped at Beit Jala, Bethlehem and Beit Sahour.  We briefly
saw Father Majdi.  Thanks be to God that it was a time that curfew was
lifted so people came out and they were so happy to see people coming!
But it was not enough time!  We had to depart before curfew began.
What we saw was devastating!  I couldn't believe it would ever get this
bad!  Parts of Bethlehem are destroyed, buildings, hotels, homes in BEit
Jala especially.  Now the Israeli Army is placing a wire fence along the
road of Beit Jala and Gilo!  One soldier yelled to us in Hebrew..."how
much did all this cost?  for what!?"    The stories of the people, the
suffering - it was so sad and devastating!  Tom filmed a lot on his
video.  We also met the Mayor of Beit Sahour in the Municipality
building...briefly!   Although they are under seige....the hospitality
of the Palestinian people never fails..they offered Arabic coffee to
us...We should be serving them !

Yes, everyone is asking where are the Christians? Where is the voice of
the Church?  We said that we are taking information, facts, photos (I
included in my luggage from Arabic newspapers!), pictures, video footage
and stories to spread.  We have phone the Whitehouse each week to Pres.
Bush's comment line (live person receives your call!), Tom has spoken to
a radio talk host and he has requested more information, we have written
letters to secular papers and currently working on a general one for
cross-country media.  We are going to produce a special one hour tv
program for Catholic TV of San Antonio and are presenting HOly Land
nights in the parish.  We have created a pamphlet for distribution.
Also....in March, we received several boxes of olive wood carvings from
Bethelehem from a friend's store to sell....we are selling these items
and distributing information.

Father, Among all this we are also trying to due to our duties for the
Ministry...lots of work.  This situation, this concern for Mother Church
is indeed very heavy in our hearts.
The Latin Patriarch told our group that they want a new pilgrim....a
pilgrim of faith and hope to stand with the Christians in the Holy Land,
not a pilgrim of comfort!  He said Mother Church in Jerusalem is
suffering for all her children all over the world.

By the way, some facts that I am sure you
already know but we are distributing:
There are 185 illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank which is only
80x30 and 105 military check-points as of April 1, 2002.  While we were
in Jerusalem, we were told that many "Internationals"  from Europe
mainly staying at the Casa Nova Jerusalem and the Greek Melkite Hospice
were hand-cuffed and forced onto a plane at the TEl Aviv Airport.  Also,
the authorities were refusing entry to anyone standing in solidarity
with Palestinians.
I have a newspaper photo of an Israeli soldier beating an International
peace activist.
 

May this violence and especially the siege of the BAsilica end now!
Mary Jane and Tom Fox

Mary Jane & Tom Fox
The Pilgrim Center of Hope
San Anonio, Texas