We just would like to share with you today’s experience during the visit of our Patriarch to Birzeit where we have a very good parish with a very huge church dedicated to our Lady Immaculate Conception, which was built in a program of twin ship with the famous Maxican Sanctuary of our Lady of Guadaloup. Late parish priest Fr. Anton Bouzo who spent 50 years in this Parish built this church. He spent almost 25 years in order to finish building this huge church. It is said that the people used to ask him when the church will be finished? And he used to answer: I am 60 years old and I am still 150 Centimeter tall (because he was very short), and this church is 20 years old and it is more that 20 meters high (because it has a very high tower). It seems that he had a sense of humor!
The occasion of this visit was the annual feast of the church and the normal pastoral visit of the Parish. The mass was very beautiful and very well prepared with special songs. The Patriarch gave a very special homily in which he invited the parishioner to unite their efforts in these difficult days and begin the time of the advent with special prayers and fasting as he wrote in his late advent message which was read at the beginning of the mass by the parish priest Fr. Iyad Twal. After the mass, the Patriarch met the parishioner in the hall and exchanged with them a very interesting dialogue about the actual situation and the role of the church in it. I was very astonished that most of them asked very deep and essential questions. It seems that these people are very patriotic and engaged in the political arena, which is very good, because as Christians we are not isolated but and integral part of our people, and we share with them the same sufferings and the same hopes and aspirations. I assure you that also the response of the Patriarch was also very strong.
I forgot to tell you how difficult is to move from a place to another even in a diplomatic car? Imagine that it took us more than 75 minute to arrive from Jerusalem to Birzeit, which is not more than 25 Kms away, because we had to make bypass roads, as far as most of the normal roads are blocked with checkpoints in this complete closure of all the cities and villages makes out each of it a big prison and a separated island. This is really unbelievable!
I have also to tell you that the parish priest decided to give the church another new name beside the old one, and after consultation with the Patriarch they announced it REGINA PACIS, the Church of our Lady Queen of Peace. I think that you will understand soon this deep desire of all of us to reach justice and peace. (See the poster they distributed in this occasion in the attached picture). Our prayer is: Our Queen of Peace grant us the peace of God, give you land justice and peace!
You will find also, a report written by Dr. Maria Khoury, who is working in our schools of the Latin Patriarchate, in which she collected the feelings and the voices of some of our students and children from different schools and different ages. Please, read and hear their voices, as all of them repeated: “Please, I beg you, don’t let your ears and eyes close, listen to us”. I am sure that they have a very interesting message to each one of us.
To tell you the truth, I am very anxious to report you these stories of our children because I found in it soon much pain, anger, fear, and maybe hate! I say to myself, how we will educate them to the ways of peace, if they continue to suffer like this? How will we heal all these wounds in the hearts and minds of our kids? I am sure that we will need a lot of psychologist after the end of this bloody situation and they will have a lot of things to do!
I will leave you only with this report, because it is more than enough for your meditation, and I am afraid that you will become anxious like me if not more!
Have a good Advent Time and pray for us and with us
Fr. Raed Abusahlia
My dear friends of BirZeit,
Since long time the Patriarch himself and the community here in BirZeit were looking for a new name for our beautiful Church, and finally because of the feast of our church this coming Sunday, the Patriarch is coming to celebrate the feast with the Christian community in BirZeit, and after the services he has an open meeting with us.
He is going to announce the new name.
Everyone is looking forward to this day, day of prayer, support and encouragement from his Beatitude, plus it would be very good opportunity to be more and more united in this difficult period.
The new name is " Regina Pacis" which means Queen of Peace. Praying and hoping to have it one day. This is what we are praying and working for, Justice Peace....
Peace and Blessings
Fr. Iyad Twal
Palestinian Student Voices
By Dr. Maria C. Khoury
The savage massacre of Palestinians will leave our children traumatized for years to come. Our students currently live in fear from Israeli army attacks and brutal Israeli settlers who at random attack their homes and towns. As educators we are seeking ways to allay their fears and heal their psychological scars. The writing process is very therapeutic. In the Latin Patriarchate Schools under the directorship of Fr. Emil Salayta, we have initiated a writing contest among all of our schools to help students defend their rights and learn to lobby their opinions. The occupation and Israeli brutality should not cheat our children from their international basic right to learn. Quality education can only take place if we know ourselves, our roots and seek our freedom and basic rights to our homeland. It should be noted that our school policy promotes peaceful resolutions and non-violence; however, our students may use certain words that in their context are a genuine expression of anger and frustration to the occupation and understood in metaphoric language. Following are excerpts from student essays:
What does one feel when he sees children killed daily? When he feels
that he’ll die any moment… What does he feel when he can’t sleep? What
does he feel when his eyes don’t stop crying? What does he feel when he
sees a child in the flower age become handicapped or killed?
Sahar Allan, 10th grade,
Beit Jala Latin School
As a Palestinian girl I feel very sad and disappointed. Last month was
very sad and painful. We felt that we are alone, no one stands besides
us to resist the occupation in spite that the Holy Land especially Jerusalem
belongs to everyone in the world. The Israeli soldiers chased us everywhere
even in our homes, we can’t sleep, and we can’t go to our school. We want
to learn. Education is our right. We want to live happy and
free. They destroyed us. They killed more than 260 persons and most
of them were innocent children, Why? Don’t we have the right to live
as all the children of the world? Maybe what is happening around us is
not being broadcasted to you. The Israeli government is trying to change
its image to the world by saying that the Palestinians are killing them,
but no. Please, we need your help. Our Holy Land is in danger. It
is crying and shouting for your help.
Please, I beg you, don’t let your ears and eyes close, and listen to us.
Sammar Massad, 8th grade,
Aboud Latin School
Palestine is a very important country because it’s located in the middle
of the Arab world and it’s the place where Jesus was born and the place
for the “Al-Esra and Al-Mirage of Prophet Mohamed.
Hiba Y. Kailel, 8th grade,
Birzeit Latin School
Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem are a red line, red with the Palestinian blood. The Palestinian youth will never surrender. Our occupier is very brutal. They kill and torture everyone who is under their control. The Intifada will not stop until the liberation of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.
Name withheld at request, 9th grade,
Al Ahlieyeh College, Ramallah
Intifada is a holy word to all Palestinians, which means a lot for every Palestinian heart. It lets us remember all the misery that the Palestinian faced and the blood they gave to have their land back. We waited a ray of hope of having Jerusalem by negotiation but negotiating brought nothing. At last we will do everything to have Jerusalem back.
Al-Ahlieyeh College, Ramallah
The stones are our army to defend our rights, our families, and our land.
Tawfiq Hamdan, 8th grade, St.
Josheph’s School, Nablus
We are not afraid of Israel because we are right. This is our land,
our father’s and grandfather’s land. We will have it back.
John Tannous, 9th grade, Al
Ahliyyeh College, Ramallah
The tragic killing of Palestinians is not a human act. It is part of a racist act. What I see now is something terrible and an illegal and severe break of the human rights law.
Mohammed Cahla, 9th
grade, Taybeh Latin
We are alone in this war and the Arab countries help us by conversation.
I want to send a letter to every child in the world to help us, to make
a demonstration so we can have hope for change.
Katia Abu Odeh, 8th grade,
St. Joseph School, Nablus
Palestine sacrificed thousands of people to get freedom and peace and force Israel to get out of Palestine. I hope that this Intifada will be the last one and it will stop with peace and all the Palestinian kids can live happy and with no fear.
Diala Burbar, 8th grade,
Birzeit Latin School
After school I go home, when the shooting starts, my family and I go
to the smallest room to hide. My two sisters sleep under beds and the rest
sleep on the ground for three hours. We are very afraid to die because
the bullets go through our house daily. Because of the shooting we
stay without electricity. At night when the shooting stops in the
late hours, the electricity comes back. Then my mother goes to the kitchen
and brings bread and cheese and water to eat and drink.
Rawan Qumsyeh, 6th grade,
Beit Sahour Latin School
I’m a child but I know what is happening in the world. The Israeli army
is killing us, the poor Palestinian people without knowing if we are women,
men, old persons, and even children. Of course, it sees us all the same,
“Arabs.” And the USA is supporting it. I’m so sad, so disappointed.
are losing our rights.
Hanan Abd-Alfattah, 8th grade,
Aboud Latin School
Do you really think America told Israel to stop fighting Palestine.
We call upon your communities and youth groups to protest to try to make
a difference because every teenager deserves to live freely and determines
his or her own fate in his or her own country.
Musa Kahla, 9th grade,
Taybeh Latin School
If you think that I would say I’m scared to death, you’re wrong because now I’m full of faith in God who’ll never leave us. I’m sure that many people have the same feeling like me, which lets them do very courageous things. Let the Israelis bomb us as they want, kill us, but one thing they can’t take from us…the Faith.
Farouk Al Masri, 9th grade, St.
Josephs School, Nablus
Finally…we should also remember that during this struggle, we have to
keep in mind the phrase “humanity,” even if our enemy forgot, and make
the whole world remember it. We ask for international protection to save
our children and our people.
Sana’ Maher, 10th grade,
Zababdeh Latin School
Questions Never Answered
By Laila Sameer Daibes, 12th grade
Zababdeh Latin Patriarchate College
The Al-Aqsa Intifada is one of the Intifadas in Palestine that, in my short life, has awoken in me my hidden Palestinian feelings. It made these feelings rise with the sun of every morning when many Palestinians who share with me the love our precious country - which was and still is holding them in her arms - were being killed by the fire of the Israeli occupation. I shared all my feelings with them: love, defense of Jerusalem the eternal capital of Palestine, and the insistence to be a state of our own.
One of these early mornings, specifically the 30th of October, I had just woken up when I heard in the news about the two brothers of Yaa'bad who were killed in the same day while they were fighting against the fire of the Israelis with the stones of dear Palestine. They were planning to have their weddings together and they had the best wedding ever...they were wedded to the soil of Palestine and the wedding gift was their pure blood on her dress. Every Palestinian was invited to this wonderful wedding and I was one of them. I was filled with emotions and I wore silence as a beautiful dress for the wedding.
I dressed up and went to school. I was walking along the street with too many questions as if I was wearing a pair of question marks. Why should Palestinians die like this? Why should we all suffer? Why should we be wounded in that way? Why should we be killed in our towns and homes while asking to recover our shelter, our home, ourPalestine?...I fell in a deep gap of sadness and pain.
While arguing with some friends at school, I told them about Mrs. Madeleine Albright who was wearing a pin of the "Seeds of Peace" (a program which was made by the USA to make peace between young people from Palestine and Israel). I wished I was there in that conference where she was wearing that pin to ask her a question that came to my mind: How could someone like her wear a pin like this when one of the martyrs who was killed in Nazareth was a member of the "Seeds of Peace" and when he was killed he was wearing the program's t-shirt? Meanwhile, some young Israeli people like him were shouting "Death to the Arabs," and they're still talking about peace. They killed peace with him and with every martyr in this Intifada.
I returned home carrying many souls and too many questions that I had to wear to keep myself from the cruelty of answers. And, in a moment of emotional absence, I felt myself getting on a train towards more questions...I knew I wouldn't arrive to anything. I didn't know where the answers were leading me...because answers are blind...only questions can see...I was sailing on a boat made of paper and I was raising words as sails in front of logic waiting for answers. But in spite of all this I will build a castle from my hope and the blood of all the martyrs...I will kill anyone with my anger...I will take his body and I will put on him the first brick of our new independent strong country...We will never give up Palestine nor will we part with our dreams...Our steadfastness will continue and so will our defense of our holy country until the sun of freedom shines again.
Give us our Childhood
By Rawan Simon Shomaly, 9th grade
Beit Sahour Latin Patriarchate School
Palestine, my country what happened to you? Are you sad? I know that you are weeping your children. Palestine be happy. They die to defend you, to keep you for us, only for Palestinians. Don’t be upset. We will give you our lives. We will offer martyrs for Jerusalem, “your capital.” Palestine, see what happened to you! You are suffering a day after another.
I, as a Palestinian have needs and rights. We need to live in peace, to sleep in security not in fear. We are people who live in a small country. We want to live peacefully without curfews or sieges and to sleep enough hours and to have sweet dreams instead of nightmares, to play in our land and to learn in our schools. This is what we need and wish.
Israelis--we will be lions, if we are provoked. We can smash you. Be careful! We will defend our country and our dignity. I appeal to all the Arab countries to be with us. I demand the Arab countries to be united, to be one hand against Israel and to stop buying Israeli products.
Stop This War
By Nicola N. Qabar, 9th grade
Beit Jala Latin Patriarchate School
A child is crying, people are shouting, houses are demolished, many attacks on different places in Palestine, and all this, isn’t that enough to stand and say, “stop” to Israel. They are searching for different kinds of monuments to prove that they lived here before, but we, the Palestinian people, haven’t we proof that we belong to this Holy Land? Christians and Muslims, no difference…the Jewish army started to attack. Sharon’s visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque wasn’t just a regular visit. He just wants war, and so it was.
One day going to school, there wasn’t anything about war, not even a single word, but the next day, there was the Great War against the Palestinians. It was like the earth was standing and running. Suddenly, they started the shootings and bullets, like rain in a sunny day in summer. They were discussing peace and then they started fighting, first on Rachel’s graveyard, then in all Palestine. And what makes me angrier is that Arabs in other countries did not do anything to stop this war.
They are demolishing our country even, Beit Jala, the town of peace, it had never been attacked by even little tiny bullets. How could the Jewish army attack it by rockets? Before this, there were many airplanes and helicopters but we didn’t pay attention, but now we are afraid from a little helicopter. The fear is in our heart, and the martyrs and the attacking. Isn’t that enough from you, Israeli soldiers? We must stop them from killing us, destroying our civilization, our reason to live, and our dreams.
For Me and For You
By Asmahan Ali Zib Awad, 7th grade
Taybeh Latin Patriachate School
We see it on TV,
We hear it on the news,
Young Arab men risking their lives,
And being killed by the Jews.
You can see it in their eyes,
And feel it in their veins,
This is the only way,
To get rid of their pains.
An old man cries, Oh! My Son!
As a father cries, Oh! My daughter!
Stop this injustice,
Stop this painful Massacre.
They are all away at that table,
Acting as if they care,
Who will make the first move,
Will anyone dare?
We raise his body,
As both parents cry,
Goodbye my son,
A very painful goodbye.
But we only see it on TV,
So what can we do,
As a young man dies,
For me and for you.
Bethelehem Cancels Christmas Celebrations
Special to World Tribune.com
MIDDLE EAST NEWSLINE
Friday, December 1, 2000
BETHLEHEM - The municipality of Bethlehem has decided to cancel this year's Christmas celebrations amid the mini-war between Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
On Wednesday, a Palestinian shot at Israeli soldiers
guarding Rachel's Tomb, a Jewish holy site in Bethlehem.
No one was injured but Rachel's Tomb has been the site of violent confrontations
between Palestinians and Israeli troops in the city.Over the past two months,
seven Palestinians from the Bethlehem area have been killed in clashes
with Israeli troops.
The escalating violence has caused a drastic drop in the numbers of pilgrims and tourists visiting the city, despite this year being the millennium. Israeli travel restrictions on tourists and non-Palestinians were tightened 10 days ago.
"Manger Square by this time should have been filled with tourists, guides and visitors. Now it is empty," said Tony Marcos, a spokesman for the municipality. "Celebrations for Christmas have been cancelled. In view of the very bad situation we are living in, it doesn't make sense that we celebrate while there are still closures, and so many people have been killed."
Municipal officials are discussing whether the giant Norwegian Christmas tree that stands in Manger Square should be decorated with pictures of more than 200 Palestinians killed in fighting or left bare.
The cancelled plans included a Christmas craft fair and performances from international choirs in Manger Square on Christmas Eve as well as a series of musical concerts in December and January.
(c) World Tribune.com
Fr. Raed Awad Abusahlia
P.O.Box 14152 Jerusalem 91141
Tel. 00 972 2 6282323/6272280
Fax 00 972 2 6271652