The solidarity visit began with the delegation seeking to enter the Gaza Strip from the Erez crossing point …

On Saturday July 29, Caritas Jerusalem’s President HB Msgr. Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem accompanied by the Rt. Reverend Bishop Munib Younan, the head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and Bishop Riah Abu Al Assal, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East with other religious leaders visited the Gaza Strip to show solidarity with the people living there.

The solidarity visit began with the delegation seeking to enter the Gaza Strip from the Erez crossing point, but they were delayed for two and one half hours even though the religious leaders had secured entry permits in advance.

Fr. Manuel Musallam, the Parish priest of Gaza, had arranged a full program which had to be cut short due to the delay to enter Gaza. The delegation was not able to visit the most recently devastated areas of Al Maghazi and Atatrah in North Gaza.

The delegation first went to the Holy Family School in Al Rimal in Northern Gaza for a press conference where the delegation was welcomed by Mr. Mohammad Al Kidwa, the governor of Gaza, who relayed a message of appreciation from the President of Palestine, Mr. Mahmud Abbas. They were also welcomed by the Deputy Head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dr. Ahmad Al Bahar. It was noted that the press from all over the world covered this event, but the people in Gaza themselves could not view the event on television because the power in the Gaza Strip was out.

The delegation also provided direct financial assistance to 144 families from the region of Al Shouka in Rafah in the Southern Gaza Strip. These families were displaced and were forced to leave their homes after being informed by the Israeli army that the region of Al Shouka near Rafah was now a closed military area on July 12, 2006. These families were forced to vacate their homes with very short notice and only with the clothes they were wearing. They are now staying in an UNRWA school (see story with photos on the UNRWA website and are receiving food assistance from UNRWA, but they have no income and no access to their own personal belongings. These families have no idea how long they will be denied access to their homes and their personal belongings.

Caritas Jerusalem, in coordination with the Near East Council of Churches – Committee for Refugee Work and The Palestinian Ministry of Social Affairs reached these families with direct financial assistance through the project “Emergency Support for Palestine.”

The delegation also visited the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza City to comfort the many injured who are recuperating in hospital due to the onslaught of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army. In addition, as President of Caritas Jerusalem, His Beatitude Msgr. Michel Sabbah delivered a check to the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza City to help them purchase needed medicines and fuel for their generator which are both currently in short supply in Gaza.

Next, the delegation went to visit the Tuffah region village of Sha’af where during the previous week a very bad incursion took place by the Israeli army and 33 people were killed and many others injured.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah was pleased to be in Gaza, pointing out that the visit aims at showing the Churches solidarity with the Palestinian people. He stressed the importance of national unity to reach our goals, affirming that the all aggression against the Palestinian people must stop. The Bishop of the Anglican Church, Rev. Riah H. Abu El-Assal said the delegation carried greetings of Jerusalem to the people of Gaza despite the attempts to steal our freedom. For his part, the Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, Rev. Mounib Younan, stressed that justice must prevail to make a real peace, pointing out that occupation and walls produce hatred, not peace and love.

Since June 28 2006 with the beginning of the recent problems in Gaza, Caritas Jerusalem has reached out to 1,074 families in the Gaza Strip with direct assistance and humanitarian food aid. The assistance has been made possible due to the support of numerous Caritas partner organizations that have joined Caritas Jerusalem’s Special Operations Appeal (SOA) “Emergency Support for Palestine.” So far Caritas partners from Australia, Belgium Canada, England, Japan, Spain, Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland and France as well as other organizations such as Aid to the Church in Need from Germany and many individual donors have supported this appeal. This appeal was issued in May for almost 1.5 million USD. Since the initial release of the appeal, the situation in the Holy Land has deteriorated dramatically since the end of June. Caritas Jerusalem is requesting interested parties who wish to support this appeal to contact us.