Tag Archives: Palestine

at a time (and in a place) of your convenience

1 Sep

Cremisan prayer September 2, 2015

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.)

stop the work on the wall

26 Aug

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واحد, إثنان, ثلاثة , waaHid, ithnayn, talaata (left to right read)

24 Dec

Sitting in my den at 8:21 a.m. on what my mother called “Christmas Eve day,” my mind and my heart, my thoughts and my prayers wander to the Middle East, and more specifically to Palestine, and more specifically to Bethlehem, and more specifically to Beit Jala, adjacent to Bethlehem.

It is Beit Jala that warms my Christian heart and sustains, what others have called, my Palestinian soul. I have fallen hopelessly in love with Beit Jala with a love full of hope which longs for peace for my friends, no, my family, in Beit Jala.

On Facebook I found a post by my (our) friend Waseim. From Arabic his name translates as “Handsome,” which has given the two of us many smiles since I first teased him, “Something certainly gets lost in translation!” I asked him to post it on YouTube, so that I could copy it and embed it here. Within hours of his waking in Beit Jala on Christmas Eve, he honored me and my request, as he always does, and so it appears below.

The countdown is obvious to our ears, however different the sound of the numbers. The feel of Jingle Bells is the same, no matter the language. And we join in singing the “Gloria in excelsis Deo” like we (and they) will sing those words in our hometown churches, here in the little town of Milford and there in the little town of Bethlehem.

Fireworks, of different kinds, are a common occurrence in the area surrounding Beit Jala, some set off in celebration and some set off in conflict. On this occasion, however, as during the celebrations of weddings, graduations and baptisms, the fireworks are explosively joyous. At the end of the video the noise of the fireworks overtakes the singing of “Glory to God in the highest.” We all live in hope that one day soon the song of the angels will overcome all military firing, and Beit Jala and Palestine and all the region will live in peace with justice with all her neighbors who deserve and long for the same freedoms and rights.

May Beit Jala know the peace the angels sang about during that mid-night on which Christ was born.

Twice Waseim turned the camera toward his parish church, Annunciation Catholic Church in Beit Jala, where I first met “my five (grand) children” – Issa, Mary, Ranim, Tamara and Tamer – back in 2003, and where Waseim worships every Sunday with Father Faysal, the parish priest, with the families of Beit Jala, with Suhail, the principal, with the teachers and students of the Latin Patriarchate School, and with the seminarians of the attached Latin Patriarchate Seminary. To all of them my heart will turn, as I turn my prayers to God at Midnight Mass for them.

from 45105 on 50W: just show up

21 Oct

All sharing in the priesthood of Christ by our baptism, may everything all of us do this day offer praise to God.

What struck me as I was dilly dallying and delaying my departure for a week on 50 West, trying to pray a bit, was the fact that the best thing about daily, regular, even scheduled prayer, whether or not we “get anything out of it” and whether or not it is satisfying or distracted,  might be that “we show up.” I need to “show up” more regularly, for sure.

One of my rules for my 50W trip is that, unless it free, I cannot eat at any place whose name is familiar to me.

At the Milford bridge, as 28 ended, my hours on 50 began.

Day 01 01

Ate lunch in Seymour, Indiana. Had the special: Swiss steak, mashed potatoes and green beans. Nothing real special about it. Maybe the beans were real! The waitress was polite but certainly not chatty or interactive, but the cashier said nothing to me, as she spoke right beside me to the (I assumed “regular”) customer who paid before me. I guess she knew I would not be back anyway. Maybe I’m giving off a “don’t talk to me” vibe. Today’s pie was custard. I looked forward to it more than I enjoyed it 

Day 01 02

Stopped in St. Ambrose Catholic Church down the street to pray a prayer for one of our parishioners who was having a job interview that very morning. He and wife and their kids had gone to this parish and school ten years ago, he had told me before I left home. May his old prayers, and this new one for him, be heard in heaven 

Day 01 03

At the church organ was a copied song sheet. Was the message for me or for my parishioner interviewee?

Day 01 04

Along the road I caught out of the corner of my eye, as I passed the church, a sign that read, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” I used that scripture at a wedding Saturday. Maybe the message is meant more for me than for last Saturday’s couple.

I continue to think and say to places and people I pass, “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.” Maybe that is what it means for all of us to be evangelizers., saying by our presence and when appropriate in words to everyone in every situation, “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you,” of course, first trying to understand what that means for me and my world.

The biggest jolt so far was seeing an exit for “Palestine.” I had to stop. Palestine was 25 miles off 50W/150W.

Day 01 05

Almost everything in town was either closed or abandoned. The few shopkeepers who were at work all seemed to be cleaning their storefront windows. People were going into the post office, however, and a few kids were riding their bikes home from school. It was real quiet. I wished I were in the “real” Palestine, although I guess that this was the real one for the real people who live here. 

Day 01 06

Staying Drury Inn in Mount Vernon, Illinois. I am remembering from when I first did some searching after my first very favorable visit a couple years ago, that the owners are Catholic , and that the business is based on good Catholic values and practice. Staff is extremely friendly and helpful. Something in my memory wants me think that all the staff shares directly in the financial success of the hotel chain, and therefore invested in its success. Side thought: maybe everyone who wants to spread word of Jesus (be an evangelizer, in other words) would benefit from a course in hospitality management. This hotel is only 3 1/2 months old, so everything still smells looks and smells new and fresh. That delights me. At 5:30 p.m. there was a free “Kickback” for 90 minutes, with free drinks and food. I like free. I was amazed to see that the vodka, gin and bourbon were dispensed from a fountain spicket – spell check wants me to type “spigot” – like soft drinks usually are. That was intriguing.

Went to sleep watching the Royals getting clobbered.
 

it’s time

20 Sep

World Week for Peace in Palestine 21-27 September Israel 2014

World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel

21 – 27 September 2014

An initiative of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the World Council of Churches

It’s time for Palestine. It’s time for Palestinians and Israelis to share a just peace.

It’s time to respect human lives in the land called holy. It’s time for healing to begin in wounded souls. It’s time to end more than 60 years of conflict, oppression and fear.  It’s time for freedom from occupation. 

It’s time for equal rights.  It’s time to stop discrimination, segregation and restrictions on movement. It’s time for those who put up walls and fences to build them on their own property. It’s time to stop bulldozing one community’s homes and building homes for the other community on land that is not theirs. It’s time to do away with double standards.

It’s time for Israeli citizens to have security and secure borders agreed with their neighbours.  It’s time for the international community to implement more than 60 years of United Nations resolutions. It’s time for Israel’s government to complete the bargain offered in the Arab Peace Initiative.   It’s time for those who represent the Palestinian people to all be involved in making peace. It’s time for people who have been refugees for more than 60 years to regain their rights and a permanent home.   It’s time to assist settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to make their home in Israel. It’s time for self-determination.

It’s time for foreigners to visit Bethlehem and other towns imprisoned by the wall. It’s time to see settlements in their comfort and refugee camps in their despair.  It’s time for people living more than 40 years under occupation to feel new solidarity from a watching world.

It’s time to name the shame of collective punishment and to end it in all its forms. It’s time to be revolted by violence against civilians and for civilians on both sides to be safe. It’s time for both sides to release their prisoners and give those justly accused a fair trial.  It’s time to reunite the people of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It’s time for all parties to obey international humanitarian and human rights law.

It’s time to share Jerusalem as the capital of two nations and a city holy to three religions. It’s time for Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities to be free to visit their holy sites. It’s time in Palestine as in Israel for olive trees to flourish and grow old.

It’s time to honour all who have suffered, Palestinians and Israelis. It’s time to learn from past wrongs. It’s time to understand pent-up anger and begin to set things right. It’s time for those with blood on their hands to acknowledge what they have done.  It’s time to seek forgiveness between communities and to repair a broken land together. It’s time to move forward as human beings who are all made in the image of God.

All who are able to speak truth to power must speak it. All who would break the silence surrounding injustice must break it. All who have something to give for peace must give it.

For Palestine, for Israel and for a troubled world, it’s time for peace.

my three teachers

21 Jul

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Abby, Christy and Sharon, you honored me by accompanying me to Jordan, Palestine and Israel. Having known you as teachers in our parish school, it delighted me for these fourteen days to travel, eat and pray with you in the Holy Land. It was like I was taking you home to meet my people, especially in my beloved Beit Jala, and to see the land in which I grew up, in Christ, that is. I wanted you to have an experience as life-giving as I have had. I wanted you to come to love the land and love the people as I much as I do. I knew that each of you would meet a partner teacher and be her house guest for two nights. I was confident that you would be in loving hands in her home and in her care. But a tiny part of my soul was a bit nervous about how things would be for you. I knew you had seen a photo of your partner-teachers, and had corresponded by email with them. But the father-worrier in me wanted to know for sure that you would feel comfortable, loved and safe.

0 Three teachers DSC_0648Myrna, Niveen and Sally, however much I would thank you would not be enough. As the teachers from St. Andrew came off the bus in your church yard, you embraced Abby, Christy and Sharon, as if they were your long-lost sisters who had finally come back home. After just a few moments, you whisked the teachers away. They were in your arms, in your hands, in your cars – and they were gone. Then I left for two days, wondering how things were going, and hoping that each of you would bond with the teacher that you took home and to school with you. When I returned to pick up Abby, Christy and Sharon to move on to Jerusalem. I got my answer. The smiles on the faces of all six of you were proof and evidence of the friendship and solidarity that was built up in less than 48 hours.

Myrna, Niveen and Sally, I cannot ever thank you enough for what you have given to Abby, Christy and Sharon. They are better teachers, better women and better Christians because of you! You are also “my three teachers” now, too. I owe a debt to you that I cannot repay. But God can repay you. I will remind God often of my debt to you, and will ask God to pay you back for what you have given to the teachers from my school – and to me. May God continue to bless you, your families, your students and your homeland. Keep hope. Stay holy. Remain happy. Be brave.

 

inside homebound luggage (2/4)

25 Jun

The jar of apricot jam was the item in my luggage that would have caused the most alarm to airport security and would have been cause for a search. It was solid and cylindrical. A jar of apricot jam can do no harm, but something that shape can.

There was evidence of a search into my luggage, but the jam and the jar made it home with me, a little later than I arrived, due to a quick shift of flights but not as quick shift of luggage, but nonetheless safely.

The jam is from Beit Jala, an area in the West Bank of Palestine, known for its apricots. The jam was from a Palestinian friend and family, a people known for their hospitality and generosity. It is being treasured, one taste at a time, for it brings me back to my beloved Beit Jala and back into the hearts and homes of my friends. It all tastes so good!

Notice the seeds in the jam, not really the seeds but the kernels from within the seeds. The apricot seed has a soft and sweet kernel. When added to the jam, the kernels  give a bit of a crunch and a hint of almond nut flavor.

Homemade and handmade, the gift of friends – sweet!! 

apricot jam

 

to Francis from Beit Jala

1 Feb

Shomali and Pope Francis

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.

Christmas peace be with you!

25 Dec

At Midnight Mass we prayed this prayer:

“That our Holy Land partnership with Annunciation Church and School in Beit Jala will help replace their despair with hope, their fear with security, and their humiliation with human dignity. We pray to the Lord …”

How can this be?

8 Apr

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Our sister parish of the Annunciation, located in Beit Jala (Bethlehem), West Bank, Palestine, celebrates her feast day today: the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.

Here in Milford at St. Andrew we will pray in our evening Mass that, through the intercession and care of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and woman of Palestine, God will make good on His every promise to His people in Beit Jala and full their every hope in Him.

On Easter Sunday morning one of our teenagers asked me, “Father, which is the more important day for Christians: Christmas or Easter?” How would you have answered her? She picked Christmas.

On this day, I ask myself, “Which is the more important feast: Christmas or the Annunciation?” I pick the Annunciation. Here is my reasoning. When did God become one of us and one with us? Not when He was born. When He was conceived! The English translation of the Nicene Creed used to be: he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. Now we say: he was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. The word incarnate replaces born. To be born describes the moment of birth. To be incarnate describes the moment of conception. The Word became incarnate – became flesh – in Mary’s womb. All of us – you and I and Jesus – were born. But God took on human flesh; God became human; God was incarnate. And the “incarnation” took place at the moment of conception in the womb of Mary, at the moment when Mary accepted God’s will and desire to become human. On Christmas we celebrate His birth among us. On Annunciation we celebrate His incarnation.

For me, the Annunciation feels like Christmas. It takes me back to Beit jala, and seeing that painting over the altar in their Catholic parish church, dedicated to the Annunciation. It takes me back to meeting Deacon Sleiman (Solomon) Hassan in that very church. It will be his ordination to the priesthood in June that will take me back to my next visit to Beit Jala.

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