“Let us work together to replace despair with HOPE, fear with human SECURITY and humiliation with DIGNITY”

Orthodox Holy Week in Ramallah

“Do thou, O merciful Master, look down from above, and bring us, Thy sinful and unworthy servants, the shadow of the Grace of the Holy Spirit, in this hour…” (Prayer, Holy Wednesday Evening). As Fr. Iacoub was praying before the third Gospel during the Holy Wednesday Evening Service at the Ramallah Orthodox Church of Transfiguration, the loud speakers in the neighborhood started blaring the Muslim call to prayer as they do everyday around 7 p.m. It was so noisy I lost my place in my English prayer book listening to the service in Arabic.

“Do thou, O merciful Master, look down from above, and bring us, Thy sinful and unworthy servants, the shadow of the Grace of the Holy Spirit, in this hour…”  (Prayer, Holy Wednesday Evening).  As Fr. Iacoub was praying before the third Gospel during the Holy Wednesday Evening Service at the Ramallah Orthodox Church of Transfiguration, the loud speakers in the neighborhood started blaring the Muslim call to prayer as they do everyday around 7 p.m.  It was so noisy I lost my place in my English prayer book listening to the service in Arabic.

Hundreds of faithful Christians had packed the church and continued to pray as the loud speakers from the nearby Mosque blasted “God is great.”  This harsh noise bothered no one except me because Fr. Meletios, the Archimandrite of the Ramallah Convent read the third gospel so eloquently it was indeed as it is known in the Orthodox services, ‘Heaven is on earth.’  Meanwhile meters away from the Orthodox Church at Arafat’s compound the Israeli soldiers were preparing to withdraw to the outskirts of Ramallah.  The last two nights we heard so much shooting anywhere from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. that no one could get any sleep.  Especially on Holy Monday evening there was one huge big explosion in the middle of the night everyone was asking each other in the morning what in the world had gotten destroyed now. Children and teachers just came to school with fear and terror in their eyes. It was hard to concentrate on any lesson.  

The Israelis have not left much in shape after traumatizing over one hundred thousand people for three weeks in Ramallah and keeping them as virtual prisoners in their own homes.  All of the important civil affairs buildings were systematically destroyed not just by bombing the structures but by damaging their computers, printers, copiers, video and fax machines.  A complete and total destruction of the Palestinian culture and people took place.  I really find it hard to believe that getting “the terrorists” means destroying all the vital records on land and housing ownership at the municipalities and the educational transcripts and financial records of public and private organizations. In my own education office, we were very lucky during the three hours uplifting of the curfew, Abu Khalil removed all the computers and printers and stored them in the church until the army withdrew leaving the city upside down. Thus we only had a damaged door to replace.

Our orthodontist, Dr. Nabil was not so lucky not only did the Israelis blow his office door open, they blew the wall out as well.  They shot at all of his office equipment and turned all of his files and important records upside down.  Dr. Nabil was in good spirits when I went to make an appointment for my daughter and give him my good wishes for a blessed Easter.  With a big smile he said:  “This is the oasis of the Israeli democracy in the middle of the Arab non democratic region.”  It seems the Israelis can destroy everything but they can not destroy the spirit and dreams of the people.  Even Arafat was full of smiles today, his first day in public after many months.  I actually shook his hand as I pushed my way by his guards before he gave a press conference.  This man actually survived the war of terror not the war against terror.

Far too many stories to tell this great and Holy Week.  People after church seem to have nothing else to share with each other except the experiences of the soldiers invading their homes and whether they were lucky enough not to have property damage.  But, everyone always seems to finish their story with:  “Thanks be to God”

Many of my colleagues and friends in the Bethlehem area can not attend Holy Week services because the city is still under siege.  Just imagine in the Holy Land where Christianity established the first church and two thousand years later you can’t even go to church.  The Christian communities of the West Bank have made an informal decision following the Oslo Peace Agreement to promote Christian unity.  All Christian denominations would celebrate Christmas with the Western Calendar and Easter with the Orthodox calendar.  This was a wonderful understanding without changing the Church dogma of course just to facilitate the celebration of these joyous events in our lives at the same time.  However, Jerusalem and Bethlehem being very tourist oriented cities do not follow this compromise and observe the Western and Orthodox calendar at all times.

During this Orthodox Holy Week, we ignore the mass destruction and devastation around us and no matter where we live we take the spiritual pilgrimage and walk with Christ during His passion, crucifixion, and holy glorious resurrection. From the land where the true light of Christ was revealed to guide and remove humanity from the darkness, we thank you for your prayers of solidarity and ask God to be with you.  May all of your days be filled with the radiant light of our Saviour’s Resurrection.  Let us pray together that as Christians, Muslims, and Jews we may share this precious land and give glory to God in peace and harmony. After all, one of the most important commandments is to love thy neighbor as thy self.

 

 

 

 

2016-10-24T07:33:47+00:00 May 2nd, 2002|Categories: News|