Tag Archives: Cremisan Monastery

8 days since I added my signature

7 Feb

save the valley in Cremisan: online petition

31 Jan

Cremisan school

The Society of St. Yves is the Catholic Center for Human Rights of the Latin Patriarchate (the Roman Catholic Archdiocese) in the Holy Land. The lawyers of this society have been arguing before the Israeli Supreme Court, at the request of the Latin Patriarchate, asking the Court to stop the Israeli government from building a new section of the security fence (separation wall) through the Cremisan valley at the edge of Beit Jala (Bethlehem).

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Last summer I celebrated Mass in Cremisan valley, and wrote about the place in this previous post: “Not on Friday, but on Tuesday.”

The Society of St. Yves outlines the reasons against the building of this section of the wall, and provides an online petition of support for their position that will be sent to Israeli authorities.  Find out more and sign the petition at “Save the valley in Cremisan: Support bridges, not walls!

When I signed the petition, I wrote this as my reason for signing:

Our friends in Israel could clearly express their desire for reconciliation and security for all who live in the land by a decision NOT to build this section of the fence/wall in the Cremisan valley as it is proposed. Just think of the good public relations message that the Israeli government would put out and the good will that they would spread by making it known that they want the Christians to stay, that they want the people of Beit Jala to have a green space in which to rest and play, that they want the people of the area to have access to water, that they do not want the farmers to lose their livelihood, and that they want the children of the valley to feel safe and secure enough to live and learn as all children deserve – by making it known that they will NOT build that proposed wall/fence through the valley of Cremisan. The Israelis and the Israel government have an opportunity here that they do not often have to put their actions where their words are and their hearts where their minds are. An international audience would hear the message. Not building the wall/fence in the Cremisan Valley along the proposed route is a win-win situation for both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and especially for the children on both sides of that fence/wall that now divides them.

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You are most welcome

31 Dec

While on pilgrimage in the Holy Land in June 2012 with a group of teachers from various schools in our Archdiocese of Cincinnati we celebrated an outdoor Mass in Cremisan Valley in an olive grove. It was then that we met Deacon Sleiman (Solomon), a student at the Latin Patriarchate Seminary who is serving as deacon at Annunciation Church in Beit Jala.

In his car Deacon Solomon led our bus on its way through the village of Beit Jala, up over the hill and around the winding roads, to the Cremisan Valley. In the open trunk of his car, he brought along an altar table, and inside the car he had everything we needed for Mass. He was the perfect host and gentleman. He is, in the words of one of our pilgrim-teachers, a holy man – and he will be a good and holy priest.

As you see him and hear him in this YouTube video, enjoy his smile and his obvious love for the Church. We can assure  y0u that he means it when he says, “You are most welcome to be here with us in our Annunication Church in Beit Jala.”

not on Friday, but on Tuesday

15 Nov

Every Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m., with obvious connections to the time of suffering that Jesus endured on the Friday that we call Good, Father Ibrahim Shomali, the parish priest of Beit Jala (Bethlehem) celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with his people in an olive grove in Cremisan Valley on the outskirts of the town.

This place is chosen by the parish of Beit Jala for Mass to protest in a prayerful and nonviolent way the proposed path that the Israeli government plans to follow in building another section of the separation wall through this very valley. What the Palestinians (and I) and many Israeli citizens call a separation wall, some proponents prefer to call a security fence, claiming that only 3% of it is actually a wall, and that the rest is a low lying, barbed wire structure. There is no doubt that this section will not be a fence; it will be a wall. And it will separate: 58 families  from their olive groves, 450 children from their school at the convent of the Silesian sisters, and all the people of Beit Jala from the only recreational park, green space that is left for them. And it is hard to imagine how this particular re-routing of the wall to take more land and water for Israel is necessary for security.

The schedule for our pilgrim-teachers from schools of our Archdiocese of Cincinnati did not allow us to join him/them on Friday, so Father Ibrahim arranged for Deacon Suleiman to accompany us to the place for Mass on a Tuesday morning.

When we arrived, we found the ground turned up and over. Someone had obviously plowed the ground.

It was alleged by some of the locals that the Israeli government had done that to make it difficult to pray there. No matter who did it or why it was done, the turned up ground did make it quite complicated to walk and difficult to stand, the slightest shift of our weight causing our feet to slip from underneath us. The situation made us more determined in our prayer. We stood our ground as best as we could.

Deacon Suleiman called us to worship with a reminder that Jesus prayed on the night before his crucifixion in another grove of olive trees: at the base of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. These olives trees are a Gethsemane of another kind. Here the agony of the garden continues.

We prayed that the agony of our friends from Beit Jala will be eased.

As we left, some of us picked up stones and olive branches, not knowing whether or not we will ever be able to return with them to this place.

Cremisan: will they lose again?

13 Nov

If the separation wall gets built as planned by the Israeli government in the Cremisan Valley on the outskirts of Beit Jala (Bethlehem), it will be disastrous for the local people. Fifty-eight (58) Christian families from Beit Jala depend on the olive groves on that land for their livelihood. Special needs children and the nuns in their convent school will be virtually cut off from each other. On top of that , this is the only green space that is left in the area for the people of Beit Jala, and it is a crucial source of water for the farmers.

The Bishops of the Holy Land have condemned the planned route of the wall, “Cremisan green area is the main lung through which the population of Bethlehem can breathe. Besides, the 450 children attending the Salesian Sisters’ school will have to go to a prison-like school, surrounded by military barriers and check-points. The planned construction of the wall will put more pressure on the remaining Christians living in Bethlehem. Without an income and a future for their children, more people will make the decision to leave the Holy Land.” The Bishops of the Holy Land have taken the case to the Israeli courts. A decision will come down soon.

The Bishops of the United States, through Bishop Richard Pates’ letter to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, have joined their voices, speaking against the Israeli plan to re-route the separation barrier between Israel and Palestine through the Cremisan Valley, saying that the plan would “harm 58 Christian families whose livelihoods and living conditions depend on these lands” and “cut families off from agriculture and recreational lands, other family members, water sources, and schools – including depriving Christian Palestinian youth of fellowship with their peers. Moving the wall and disassociating Palestinian families from their lands and livelihoods will incite more resentment against the State of Israel among residents of the West Bank, not less, increasing the frustrations that can lead to violence.” 

My friends in Beit Jala, our Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land, fear that, once again, what little they have left will be taken away from them.

Tomorrow’s blog: Mass in Cremisan olive grove.

“We are not killing, fighting, just praying”

27 Feb

One day I will celebrate Mass on a Friday afternoon in an olive grove in Beit Jala with Father Ibrahim Shomali in prayerful protest of the land confiscation and the building of the separation wall at the Cremisan monastery, ensha’allah (God willing). 

Father Shomali is the parish priest of the Catholic Church of the Annunciation, in which I have celebrated Mass on several occasions. I have enjoyed the hospitality of the Latin Patriarchate seminary, which is connected to the parish church in Beit Jala, and at which I have been honored to speak to the new seminarians under the care of Father Faysal Hijazeen shortly after their arrival for the new school year. I have visited the children and teachers at the Latin Patriarchate School on numerous occasions, and in 2008 I was humbled and delighted with an invitation to address the high school graduates and their families at the graduation ceremony on the outdoor plaza overlooking Bethlehem. I have walked from the Beit Jala parish to the Cremisan monastery to buy wine to bring home with me. I know Beit Jala. I know the people of Beit Jala and I know Father Ibrahim, and am blessed to be able to call them my friends.

They need my prayers – and yours! They deserve my attention – and yours! 

At the Friday afternoon Mass they are not killing, fighting – just praying.

In the Olive Garden with Ibrahim

10 Nov

Below is an article about Father Ibrahim Shomali and the Christians of Beit Jala. It appears on the website of the Latin Patriarchate Jerusalem (the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Jerusalem).

Father Ibrahim is the parish priest of Annunciation Church in Beit Jala. St. Andrew parish is in a twinning relationship with his parish, and our SASEAS school is in a twinning relationship with his parish school. Father Ibrahim will be visiting us in Milford in December, and will be with us for Sunday Mass, ensha’allah. Next June I will visit him in Beit Jala, and will celebrate Mass with him in the olive field of Beit Jala, God willing.

Beit Jala Christians pray to stop wall

Christians of Beit Jala attended an open-air Mass on Friday, November 4th to pray together against the Israeli decision to confiscate a part of their land. The Israeli government intends to extend the separation wall at the entrance of the Cremisan valley.

To protest against this decision, faithful gathered with the Pastor of Beit Jala, Father Ibrahim Shomali and Father Mario Corniole for an open-air Mass. An Israeli committee approved a plan to build 1,100 new houses on the south slopes of Gilo last September. To do this, the route of the wall “will confiscate land belonging to Christian people and Christian church,” reports a statement of the Latin parish. The idea is simple: protesting not by violence but by prayer. In the same statement, the parish priest and Christians of Beit Jala denounce “the  confiscation [by Israel] of the last green area in Beit Jala (Bethlehem district)”, considering “the annexation of the most beautiful lands in the Bethlehem area as a direct attack against the Palestinian people and especially  against Palestinian Christians.”

Soliciting members of the Quartet for the Middle East – including the United Nations, the Russian Federation, the United States and the European Union – and also calling upon the rest of the international community, the parish of Beit Jala called President Mahmoud Abbas’ government, the Latin Patriarchate and the civil society to do “everything possible to keep the land in the hands of its rightful owners.”

In the light of the message from Synod for the Middle East last year regarding the Christian presence in the Holy Land: “It is Church’s duty to support our presence. Therefore, we call the Holy See and Pope Benedict XVI to act  immediately, using all possible means to help protect our people.”

The Mass was celebrated in a field of olive trees which will probably be cut and uprooted. As recalled by Father Mario Corniole, olives were silent witnesses of Jesus’ suffering and agony in Gethsemane. Thus, Beit Jala parishioners attached to their land and their olive trees will meet every Friday on this “Gethésménai” where they still live in fear, but also with the hope that their land will always be respected.

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