“Give ear to my word, O Lord, consider my meditation. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray (Psalm 5) While everyone is rushing to buy bread in Ramallah during the four hours the military curfew is uplifted, Fr. Ibrahim Hijazin is rushing to visit as many elderly and sick parishioners as possible giving them the “Bread of Life” by offering Holy Communion in their homes.
“Give ear to my word, O Lord, consider my meditation. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray (Psalm 5) While everyone is rushing to buy bread in Ramallah during the four hours the military curfew is uplifted, Fr. Ibrahim Hijazin is rushing to visit as many elderly and sick parishioners as possible giving them the “Bread of Life” by offering Holy Communion in their homes. He doesn’t have much time on his hands, because at exactly 2 p.m. when the curfew is reinforced one more time, the Israeli soldiers begin to shoot at anyone moving in the streets. Thus, Fr. Ibrahim rushes back to conduct a quick Mass for the rest of the parishioners at the Holy Family Parish. During the last three times the curfew was uplifted, a handful of parishioners would come to pray. Today (4/15/00), the church was nearly full.
My cousin Fr. Iacoub Khoury also conducts services daily with Fr. Meletios at the Greek Orthodox Church especially now for the Lenten season. Since they live right next to the church they can hold the services but the faithful can not attend for fear Israeli snipers reinforcing the strict curfew now in its third week will shoot them. Ms. Maha, a wonderful English teacher at the Ahliyyah College told me she could not even walk from her house to church because the main road was completely destroyed by the Israeli tanks. She sadly said: “Ramallah is not the Ramallah you know…there is a great deal of damage to the whole city.” Maha decided to go to church during the uplifting of the curfew to ” just gather and pray…to ask God to protect us…at least we can talk to God…we can ask, where are you God? Why can’t you stop these massacres? What have we done to be prisoners in our own homes? We started to think of our faith more…before I sleep I pray.” Finally, Maha could talk on the phone today after being many days without phone service. She was one of the lucky ones because in her neighborhood she was only without electricity and water for the first four days. Eighteen days into the occupation and still there are actually people without water.
As more and more civilians continue to be punished without running water, electricity, phones and horrid house invasions that leave their property totally damaged, we continue the Christian legacy in the land where Christianity was born. We continue to pray and ask for God’s mercy. We continue our Christian values in the midst of bloodshed and under Israeli guns. In Jerusalem this week another friend, Sister Maria Stephanopoulos was tonsured receiving the new name Mother Agapia. Thus, Christians continue to serve Christ. They continue to be witnesses in the land of Christ’s birth and give glory to God with every breath they take. We shall speak the truth of the Israeli atrocities although some readers think these crimes against humanity are so awful they can’t possibly be true and therefore must be “Palestinian propaganda.” Maybe that is why God keeps us here to keep reminding the world the Holy Land is a sacred place and whether we are Christians, Muslims or Jews, we were given life to give glory to God. How easy it is for guns to help you forget that we were all made in the image and likeness of God.
Maha explained to me that the last two weeks have been full of terror for her family. “Not just the children are terrified, we are terrified too. We can’t sleep at night. My husband and I take shifts because we are scared if the soldiers knock on the door and you don’t open immediately they will bomb the door causing much damage and fire. You expect them to come and enter any time…the only sound you hear outside is the sound of tanks in the street all night and our heart just beats with terror…and no one is talking about going back to schools…there is nothing…and they terrify us how they steal everything valuable and damage and destroy property…only God can protect us.”
Fr. Ibrahim listens to his parishioners with a heavy heart. The grounds keeper for the school and church, Abu Ghassen after having his home invaded by the Israeli soldiers and turned upside down was also robbed of all his wife’s gold and valuables. Maha’s brother was also robbed of all valuable and had his home damaged by the Israeli soldiers. When the soldiers searched the Latin convent and school grounds, Fr. Ibrahim asked them not to enter the church with weapons because it was a holy place. One soldier insisted to enter the church so the priest tried to explain the Holy Sacrament was in the altar and the soldiers must show respect for Christian religious values and traditions. The soldier quickly stated that Jesus was himself Jewish so for sure he would be forgiven if he entered the church with his gun. Fr. Ibrahim reminded the soldier of a hard and cold reality that “Jesus was not behaving like the Jew of today.”
Since the Israeli soldiers are simply out to get the “terrorists,” I have such a hard time understanding why they steal and totally destroy people’s homes as they did to the principal of the Friend’s Girls School, Ms. Diana Abdel Noor. They just damaged anything and everything in their site. She is a member of the Greek Orthodox Church not of Hamas nor of Islamic Jihad. Do you think these poor young soldiers have a hard time knowing the difference between a terrorist and a civilian or are they simply brainwashed that all Palestinians are terrorists. As the military destroys educational and cultural places along with homes, it seems the Israelis wish to wipe out the entire identity and culture of the Palestinian people. Little do they know that Palestine will forever exist in the heart of each and every Palestinian and can not possibly be destroyed no matter how many homes are demolished and bombs are dropped. The will and the desire of the people to be free and seek their human rights can never be crushed with guns. Sharon will only help create a new generation of “terrorists” because his military tactics are not the right and just solution to the conflict in the Middle East. The resistance will continue because the Palestinian people have a legitimate right to free their land from occupation. And for the time being they only have their life to use as a weapon. Although we condemn suicide bombers, we can’t stop them because their daily life is full of suffering beyond the imagination of the average human being. Thus, we can only pray that this catastrophic cycle of violence stops and God delivers us from this evil. “Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.” (Psalm 16) “O lord my God…save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me” (Psalm 7)