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

Reflections from The Holy Land Happy Easter, Ramadan, and Passover

Jerusalem can be the most fascinating city around the world given its importance to the three monolithic faiths when there is no conflict. It can also be a very challenging city when there are tensions, whether religious, social, or political. Anyone following the news out of our region these days realizes that the situation is not going well. An ultra-right government in Israel seems to be putting a fight across the spectrum in Israel with weekly protests against the government frequently topping half a million people. Legislature being introduced to reform the judicial system is seen by many as an attempt to change the nature of Israel moving it from a democracy for its Jewish citizens to look more like a failed dictatorship. Government ministers openly incite against Palestinians calling to wipe out Palestinian villages. Settlement expansion in the West Bank at a pace not seen for a long time in defiance with the whole world including the United Nations, the United States and the European Union. Attacks on Christians and Churches has dramatically risen since the new government came to power. An economy that seems to be on the verge of crumbling with a labor strike a few days ago that shut down the country and its borders in a span of a few hours, with many international investors leaving Israel or threatening to leave. The two-state solution practically declared dead with no political vision that will bring justice and peace! Mind boggling developments in a span of only three months!

Despite all the negative developments, one must concentrate on the positive and keep hope alive. The devastating earthquake in nearby Turkey and Syria brought the empathy and generosity of our local parishes to the surface and the local appeal launched by His Beatitude raised well over $260,000 to support our suffering brothers and sisters there. Local parishioners with the least means gave the most! The visit of the Holy Land Commission of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem exposed the importance of humanitarian funds as visits to families in the Old City of Jerusalem highlighted the poverty in what is supposed to be a flourishing city. A renewed commitment to do what we all can to expand the humanitarian programs to assist those most in need.

Various empowerment programs have reached out to large segments to help them with capacity building and grants schemes to help themselves and earn an income in a dignified way. The AFAQ program in collaboration with Bethlehem University was a huge success that surpassed all expectations with so many youths benefiting as a result. The Gaza employment program as well as the Iraqi refugees support program continue to assist hundreds of the most marginalized who are forced to live a sub-standard life due to external political factors. The Migrants Vicariate in Israel catering to the needs  of some 100,000 people, and not only with their pastoral needs. One cannot be prouder of the various achievements, yet our hearts ache for those we are not able to help due to limited resources. Prayers are certainly in order for those who continue to suffer. The Church and its institutions have always been that beacon of hope and has always found ways to adapt to conflict and continue to be of service.

The educational sector is progressing very well as some 19,000 students continue to enjoy a value-based education through the LPJ schools. Many projects have been implemented to upgrade facilities, furniture, and equipment, not to mention capacity building programs for the teachers. Extracurricular activities have intensified during the year encouraging arts, music, singing, drawing, comedy, and traditional folklore. Kids are very happy to be kids again enjoying the in-class education after the difficult years of the pandemic and online education. Plans are in place to find the resources needed to upgrade facilities and take care of much of the deferred maintenance over the years. The school’s administrators are engaged in strategic discussions on how best to develop our parish schools and improve not only the physical facilities but also the value-based experience our parish schools offer.

As we quickly approach Holy Week, one is reminded how blessed we are to call Jerusalem and the Holy Land home. With pilgrims filling the narrow streets of the Old City to capacity again, the lines in the holy sites again long, and the traffic congestion back. However, no one is complaining, and people are happy to see a quick return to the sector that provides the livelihood for a large segment of the Christian community. Our hope is that all respect the faith traditions of the “other” and learn how to respect the space of each so that the holidays that coincide this year are celebrated in peace and dignity, and Jerusalem, the city of peace, can live up to its name.

Happy Easter, Ramadan Mubarak, and Pesach Sameach. May all faithful regardless of their religion enjoy the magic of these feasts and may this be the beginning of a new era for all away from conflict with all carving a way forward filled with peace, love, coexistence, respect, forgiveness and more!

Sami El-Yousef
Chief Executive Officer

2023-03-31T17:16:06+00:00 March 31st, 2023|Categories: News|