Caritas Jerusalem issued a statement on October 15 expressing deep concern over the escalation of violence in the Holy Land. Following is the text of the statement:

Caritas Jerusalem is deeply concerned by the escalating violence and widespread loss of civilian life in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem Gaza, and in Israel.

Clashes continue to rock the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with seven Israelis killed and 92 wounded, and 32 Palestinians killed and 1,300 injured; including attacks by settlers; Israeli security forces firing live ammunition, teargas canisters and rubber bullets at ambulances; and delays at checkpoints while carrying severely injured patients, arresting more than 1,000 people in these last three weeks even children and girls.

Caritas Jerusalem strongly condemns any and all intentional assaults against Palestinian or Israeli civilians and calls to the leaders to act responsibly. Only robust political action can prevent the further escalation of a situation that is affecting Palestinian and Israeli civilians.

We are also very much concerned about all the security measures which has taken by the Israeli authorities especially those inside the Old City and around it in the Arab neighborhoods, such as road blocks, closure of entire streets, preventing the access to mosques… we think that this will not resolve the problem at all but will increase tension and hatred. Violence breeds violence!

Cancellation of permits to enter Jerusalem or Israel will lead to increased unemployment and economic hardships for tens of thousands of the families of the workers who completely rely on the income that they make.

Most dangerous for us is the cancellation of pilgrimages which means the collapse of the whole tourism sector especially in Bethlehem, for most people depend on this sector to secure their livelihoods.

We don’t deny that the situation is not easy but we call upon all our Christian brothers and sisters to come and not to be fearful: don’t leave us isolated! This is a sign of solidarity with the population and especially with the Christian Community in the Holy Land.

But the most worrying thing in this situation is the increase of fear between both sides which might reach to hysterical fear or panic and incitement which will lead to dramatic con-sequences such as the killing of innocent people just because one suspects that they might be dangerous because they look different.

This tense situation has also infiltrated into the Arab population inside Israel: its consequences will increase discrimination on racial basis and instead of uniting the society; it will encourage separation and segregation.

We feel that both Israelis and Palestinians don’t want to escalate the situation to a third Intifada but unfortunately they don’t take any measures to calm down the whole situation be-cause of the daily clashes around the mosques in Jerusalem, tensions between settlers and Palestinians around the settlements, continuation of building of new settlements and confiscation of land and the construction of the separation wall.. and almost the end of the peace process and the death of the two state solution which has become impossible to implement on the ground.

We truly and genuinely believe that the only way out of this terrible situation is to have a clear vision and courageous decision to come back to the table of negotiations with a clear time table and objective which is to end the occupation as soon as possible, once and for all which will give hope for both sides instead of the situation of despair in which we are currently living.

We also believe that the international community should play a key role to help both parties, because dialogue is the only way to reach such a solution.

Fr. Raed Abushalia
General Director, Caritas Jerusalem

In another development, Director General of Caritas Jerusalem Fr. Raed Abusahlia said that “the imposition of Israeli checkpoints in Palestinian areas of Jerusalem represents a ‘safety measure’ that provides no security, but on the contrary increases anger and frustration, and thus feeds feelings of revenge”.

In a statement to Agenzia Fides, Fr. Raed Abusahlia evaluated the potential negative effects of the closure of areas of East Jerusalem, where attacks by Palestinian suicide bombers in recent days have caused the deaths of several Israeli citizens. He said: “In my opinion, they can impose all the blocks they want, but this will not ensure safety. The only way to achieve security and stability for all is to restore freedom to the Palestinian people”.