On this day in 2003, October 4, I met Issa, Tamer, Tamara, Ranim and Mary at their Latin Patriarchate School in Beit Jala, West Bank, Palestine. It was a Saturday morning. It was a blessed event for me!
Tomorrow, Wednesday, September 2, the doors of St. Andrew the Apostle Church, Milford, Ohio, will open wide to anyone who would like to pray silently before the Blessed Sacrament for our family in Beit Jala (Bethlehem), West Bank, Palestine.
Exposition will begin at 10:00 a.m. and continue until 7:00 p.m. We invite you to join us in prayer at a time (and in a place) of your convenience. The closing ceremony will be around 6:30 p.m. with a rosary, prayers to Our Lady of Palestine, and the hymn, “Jerusalem My Destiny.”
(The photo above pictures HOPE teacher/pilgrims at Mass in the Cremisan Valley of Beit Jala.)
Postcards sometimes come in the mail with a message from our friends, “Wish you were here.”
I am hoping my friends in the town of Beit Jala, in the area of Bethlehem, in the West Bank of Palestine, will see this message, sent by me to them, “Wish I were there.”
I wish I were there.
I wish I were there with you in Cremisan Valley.
I wish I were there with you to prayerfully protest the taking of your land.
I wish I were there with you, as the Israeli government under the protection of the Israeli Defense Forces starts again to uproot your olive trees, to clear the way for the separation wall that they prepare to build on your land.
I wish I were there to genuflect with you and your priests before the altar, decorated with new olive trees in front of it and Israeli soldiers behind it; before the altar, on which rests that blue ceramic chalice that was the gift of our parish and our teachers to you, when we celebrated Mass with you in that same valley.
I wish I were there to stand beside your Catholic parish priest as he stands in front of – and stands up to – the Israeli soldiers.
I wish I were there.
(Unfamiliar with the news story of August 18, 2015: see Israel resumes work on controversial separation wall in Cremisan valley.)
“So, Palestine got its first saints and recognition of statehood from the Vatican. But will this bring the Holy Land a step closer to peace?”
Two of them are Palestinians:
Marie-Alphonsine, founder of Palestine’s first congregation, the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, and
Mariam of Jesus Crucified Baouardy, the founder of Carmelite Convents in Bethlehem and India.
Speaking of the two Arab Palestinian women, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Patriarch of the Latin Patriarchate Jerusalem, said, “Now, we have two new saints who represent a model of perfection for Christians, as well as for Muslims and Jews alike. They are both named Mary, and this name is widespread and commonly used among all three traditions. It is a sign of our modern time which suggests that we can talk about the three religions without any discrimination.”
Mother Mary, Marie-Alphonsine and Mariam of Jesus Crucified, all in heaven, pray for all who live in your native, mother land.
The Catholic parish in Beit Jala (Bethlehem) is the Church of the Annunciation. Today, March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, is the parish’s patronal feast day. Adding to the celebration is the fact that it is the birthday of their pastor, Father Ibrahim. A big day it was this year. The school children had a day off from classes. The teachers had a retreat day with Bishop Shomali. There was a special Mass. There was a parish dinner. And there was tembola – bingo!
It is said that, when Gabriel appeared to Mary in Nazareth and asked Mary if she were willing to be the virgin mother of God’s own Son, there was a moment of suspense between the question and the answer – and the angels in heaven held their breath!
At tembola (bingo) after dinner today in Beit Jala at the Church of the Annunciation another angel of God, Jouelle, held her breath. She was waiting for number “19” to be called. She would have had a “full house” (a cover all). But someone else called “khallas” (stop) before her last number was called.
Jouelle, you did not win the prize at tembola. But I hope that seeing your picture on my blog helps you to feel better.
Now, get ready, Jouelle, to shout, because here comes …
In Beit Jala (Bethlehem) March 12 is Old Age Day or the Feast of Old People.
There probably is a better translation of the actual name of the day, but that is how my Palestinian friend, Waseim, refers to the occasion in English. To be fair to him, I would not be capable of translating and speaking about “Seniors Appreciation Day” in Arabic.
At the Catholic parish there is a gathering for those we call the seniors. The parish priest mingles with the group. Of course, there is lunch. And the tembola cards come out. Tembola is a Palestinian version of bingo. When they “bingo,” they yell, “Khallas (Stop, Enough, End).”
Along with the Mass, there are others things that seem to be universal in our Catholic Church: our love of older people, older people’s enjoyment of being in each other’s company, their commitment to their parish, their affection for their parish priest – and tembola!
Pope Francis receives message from Beit Jala Christians
VATICAN – In an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Father Ibrahim Shomali, parish priest of Beit Jala, delivered a message from the people of the city to the Holy Father relating the current suffering of Christian families in the town of Beit Jala.
Fr. Shomali emphasized to the Holy Father the extent of the Israeli oppression regarding the people of Beit Jala, through its expropriation of private lands to open roads and build settlements, including the Wall of Separation, and, more recently, the seizure of lands belonging to the Convent of Cremisan.
Fr. Shomali’s message focused on the fact that the “Palestinian people” strongly adhere to its national homeland and its fight to stay on it. However, the conservation of lands requires concrete measures to thwart any takeover attempt, and to enable the Palestinian people to live with dignity in a free State.
It is worth recalling here that an Israeli Court in Tel Aviv last April adopted a decision reaffirming the course of the Separation Wall, around Cremisan, especially between the Convents of the Salesian Fathers and the Salesian Sisters, as well as the annexation of private properties belonging to 58 Palestinian families of Beit Jala to the settlement of Gilo, south of Jerusalem.
The Heads of the Catholics Churches in the Holy Land, at the time, called for the realignment of the course of the Wall, in accordance with internaitonal law, pointing out to the Israeli decision-makers that the seizure of lands in no way serves the cause of peace, nor does it bolster the position of the moderates who, in this objective, opt for non-violence.