Born in Beirut, Lebanon on August 31, 1950 (Son of Fawzi Francis Kobti and Verginie Elias El-Sharif). Studied at the Latin Patriarchate Seminary of Jerusalem from 1963-1975. Worked as a teacher at Terra Santa College 1973-1974 (Franciscan Fathers of the Custody of the Holy...Read More
Seeking truth and justice
Introduction by Rabbi Michael Lerner
Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the co-founder of Haqel and a recipient of the Tikkun Award at our November conference, needs your help to stop Israel and the JNF (Jewish National Fund) from evicting Bedouins from their homes in order to build a completely Jewish community on the land where they have lived. He is asking everybody who cares to contact the government – if you live in Israel – or your nearest Israeli Embassy or consulate, if abroad, to ask them to stop this outrageous action. Doing this has helped in the past, so it could make a difference again, and all he wants from you is a phone call or letter to the Embassy or Consulate asking them to stop that from happening. Please read Rabbi Acherman’s letter below.
–Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor, Tikkun RabbiLerner.Tikkun@gmail.comRead More
Hewlett-Packard (HP) is one of the largest contractors [sic] of the U.S. defense industry. The technology created by HP helps deport U.S. immigrants on a scale we have never seen, tracks Americans held within the massive and discriminatory incarceration system, and denies Palestinians freedom of movement in the West Bank and Gaza. Hewlett-Packard sells the tools necessary for state repression: surveillance and population registration technologies. The biometric IDs, fingerprinting, and retinal scanning equipment and software developed by HP are critical to Israel’s ability to maintain segregation and apartheid.Read More
By Adam Keller, Gush Shalom, January 16, 2017
A Palestinian villager and two Israeli activists detained by army when clinging to olive trees in the Qalqiliya area. Army starts uprooting 2000 olive trees to make way for a settler road.
Massive Israeli military forces and numerous bulldozers arrived at arrived at the olive groves privately owned by Palestinian farmers from the villages of Nabi Elias, Azun and Izbat Tabib, and embarked on mass uprooting of olive trees in order to make way for the “Nabi Elias Bypass Road”.Read More
JORDAN – The Catholic churches in Jordan marked on Friday, January 13, the national Christian pilgrimage to Lord Jesus Christ’s Baptism Site which has been observed since 2000.
Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Most Rev. Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa celebrated Mass. Present at the Mass were a number of bishops, priests, nuns, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Lina Annab , a number of Arab and foreign ambassadors, as well as a multitude of believers from Jordan, the Holy Land, and neighboring countries.Read More
JERUSALEM – 14 January 2017. Gathered in Beit Jala, Palestine, the Synod of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) elected The Rev. Ibrahim Azar, pastor of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem, as bishop-elect of the church.
In a democratic election, 38 voting members of the ELCJHL voted for Rev. Azar, the only candidate on the ballot, as the bishop-elect. The ELCJHL synod emerged following the vote.Read More
The new UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres greatly believes in collective diplomacy, and intends to imply this concept to advancing a two-state process.
by Uri Savir in Al Monitor, January 15, 2017
The new secretary-general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, sees in the Paris peace conference on Jan. 15 a realization of his long-held view that peace and conflict resolution can only be achieved and sustained through ongoing multilateral diplomacy. Guterres is now contemplating how to leverage the expected outcomes of the conference.Read More
Click on photos on this page to enlarge
By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service
1.14.2017 10:11 AM ET
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas thanked Pope Francis for his support of the country’s new embassy to the Holy See.
“This is a sign that the pope loves the Palestinian people and loves peace,” Abbas told the pope Jan. 14 before heading to the inauguration of the Palestinian embassy to the Holy See in Rome.
The pope welcomed Abbas with open arms, embracing the president and saying, “It is a pleasure to welcome you here.”Read More
By Dale Gavlak/ Catholic News Service
American doctors and nurses on a medical mission to Jordan are performing badly needed surgeries and other medical treatment free of charge to thousands of Syrian refugees who can no longer afford basic health care.
Dr. Bassel Atassi of the Little Company of Mary Hospital, a not-for-profit Catholic community hospital on Chicago’s South Side, led the 80-member mission.
Fanning out across Jordan, under the auspices of the Syrian American Medical Society, teams provided cardiac, eye and orthopedic surgeries; others offered care in pediatrics, obstetrics, dentistry, pain management and nephrology for refugees, inside camps and in the community. They also aided poor Jordanians.Read More
by Saher Kawas, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
AMMAN – On Thursday, January 12, 2017, His Royal Highness Prince Al-Hassan bin Talal met with Archbisop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, accompanied by Bishop Maroun Lahham, Latin Patriarchal in Amman and Chancellor George Ayyoub.
The Apostolic Administrator discussed with His Highness the latest developments in the region and the available means to achieve security and stability.Read More
Emphasis was placed on the importance of safeguarding the sanctity of the Holy Places for believers of all three of the Abrahamic religions.
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met Saturday morning with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican. Following the audience, the Holy See Press Office issued the following press release:
This morning the Holy Father Francis received in audience His Excellency Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the State of Palestine, who subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.
During the cordial discussions, the parties evoked the existing good relations between the Holy See and Palestine, sealed by the Global Agreement of 2015, which regards essential aspects of the life and activity of the Church in Palestinian society. In this context, mention was made of the important contribution of Catholics to favouring the promotion of human dignity and assistance for those most in need, especially in the fields of education, health and aid.Read More
by Uri Avnery, Gush-Shalom
THE ARAB taxi driver who brought me to Ramallah had no trouble with the Israeli border posts. He just evaded them.
Saves a lot of trouble.
I was invited by Mahmood Abbas, the President of the Palestinian National Authority (as well as of the PLO and the Fatah movement) to take part in joint Palestinian-Israeli consultations in advance of the international conference in Paris.
Since Binyamin Netanyahu has refused to take part in the Paris event side by side with Mahmood Abbas, the Ramallah meeting was to demonstrate that a large part of Israeli society does support the French initiative.
SIMPLE AS it sounds, the Ramallah meeting was not simple at all.Read More
Samia Khoury writes from East Jerusalem:
It is never too late to send a greeting for Christmas and the New Year from the Holy Land. The season stretches until January 19 when the Armenians celebrate their Christmas. And tomorrow the Orthodox celebrate the New Year, so I am seizing this opportunity to send you the newsletter of Rawdat El Zuhur with the hope you will enjoy it and appreciate that small oasis that exists in the heart of East Jerusalem.Read More
Wyatt Massey* | America Magazine | Jan 13 2017
The final month of 2016 was a chance for new beginnings for refugees and displaced persons in Iraq eager to learn. Jesuit Worldwide Learning, a collaboration of universities, organizations and companies to provide higher education to people living on the margins, officially opened three learning centers in the country on Dec. 12.
Peter Balleis, S.J., J.W.L.’s executive president, said students gathered outside the schools before the first day, ready to learn new skills or improve their language skills, both of which can be invaluable for making a living in refugee camps.
“A lot of people want to improve their English,” he said. “This is the start.”
The learning centers were opened in Khanke and Domiz camps and the Catholic University of Erbil. Students can earn a diploma of liberal arts at Domiz and at the university. English courses are available at Domiz and Khanke. Balleis said more than 200 students are enrolled in courses between the three facilities. Some of the teachers are refugees from Syria, but most come from Iraqi cities near the camps, which serve both Syrian refugees and displaced Iraqis.Read More
On Jan. 6, following the Julian calendar, the Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas. Hundreds took to the streets, from Bethlehem to Gaza.
On January 6, 2017, the bells of Bethlehem rang out in celebration and Manger Square was filled with Orthodox Christians of various rites from across the West Bank. It is Christmas time.
As per tradition, dozens of Scout groups, along with the civil authorities and many religious, welcomed the leaders of various denominations, during their solemn entry into the city where the first Christmas, two thousand years ago, revolutionized the fate of the world.Read More
It’s been a great few years for biblical archaeology. Here are three of our favorite examples.
By: Eric Metaxas | BreakPoint
Just before or after New Year’s, everyone—or at least so it seems—comes out with a “Best of” list. These best-known lists can contain movies, music, television shows, books, whatever.
But there are other “Best of” lists worth noting, and in the case of today’s BreakPoint, worth mimicking. Christianity Today recently ran an article entitled “Biblical Archaeology’s Top Ten Discoveries of 2016.”
Great idea. So we here at BreakPoint wondered, “Why not come up with our own list of recent favorites from biblical archaeology?”
Since time does not permit me to list ten finds, I will settle for three that we talked about on BreakPoint in 2016. At a minimum, these finds shed new light on the world of the Bible and help us in understanding the words of Scripture. In other cases, they actually confirm portions of the scriptures whose historicity, until recently, was in doubt. But all are a potent reminder that biblical faith is rooted in actual human history, as befits a people who confess that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”Read More
A glimpse at the important excavation work revealed this year.
Gordon Govier, Christianity Today
Archaeological discoveries announced in 2016 help us better understand the Bible and the biblical world, and affirm the Bible’s details about events and people.
Below are the top findings from the important excavations taking place in the lands of the Bible or that have a biblical connection. (This list is subjective, and based on news reports rather than peer-reviewed articles in scientific publications.)Read More
by Ambassador Ilan Baruch, Policy Working Group Peace NGO Forum*
Tomorrow, Thursday 12.1.2017 , a delegation of Israeli intellectuals and former ambassadors will meet with Hélène Le Gal, Ambassador of France to Israel, in order to present a petition of support for the French initiative to organize a Peace Conference in Paris on Sunday January 15.
In recent days, some 1200 Israeli citizens signed that petition in support of the French Initiative. The conference aims to provide a broad international base of support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
On December 21st the director of UNICEF, Mr. Geert Cappelaere, and six other local staff visited Al Khalil. The purpose of their visit was to visit Qurtuba School on Shuhada St., which runs past Beit Hadassah where some of Hebron’s most violent Israeli ‘settlers’ live. They also arranged to meet the CPT Palestine team, which monitors how many children from seven schools pass through the checkpoints, and EAPPI [Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine], which is responsible for monitoring the two checkpoints that the children of Qurtuba school must pass to go school.
As three of us in CPT-Palestine, including our Palestinian teammate and two members of the EAPPI team waited in the cold outside checkpoint 56 for UNICEF to arrive, we discussed what we would do if Israeli soldiers denied any of us entry through the checkpoint. Since late 2015, only people on a military list of approved people are allowed to pass. At even higher risk of denial of entry was our Palestinian team member and we knew that she was both anxious and excited about the opportunity of being in an area where normally the military deny her the right to be.Read More
Latin Patriarchate of JERUSALEM – On Monday January 9, 2017, and in the days following the Christmas celebration according to the Julian calendar, the Heads of Local Churches visited the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem to convey their Christmas greetings.
Departing from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and walking behind the Kawas, Most Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, accompanied by Bishop William Shomali, Bishop Kamal Bathish and a number of priests went to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate to present their Christmas greetings.Read More
Jamal of Hebron shares his story with the Christian Peacemaker Team.
“We live in a prison. We can’t move freely. There are checkpoints everywhere, and you never know if you will be allowed to pass, or if you will be stopped, IDed and searched. This can happen even on the street or on the sidewalk. How can we expect customers to come to our shops?”
Jamal is a shopkeeper in the Old City of Hebron. He sells shawls, handwoven Bedouin rugs, fancy dresses with hand embroidery, handbags made by village women and other textile items from the region.
He had a thriving business in the hustle and bustle of the Old City market until the 1st Intifada in the early 1990s. After that business declined modestly until the 2nd Intifada in 2000. Then his business crashed and has yet to recover.Read More
“Today an orchestra; tomorrow a state.”
The members of the Palestine National Orchestra are mostly professional musicians of Palestinian origin. They include performers at leading international orchestras and opera houses, freelance instrumentalists, top-flight studio musicians, and professors teaching at musical conservatoires across the Middle East and further afield.
The PNO is a festival orchestra, meaning it is not a permanent orchestra, but aims to meet once or twice a year to bring high quality professional music making to Palestinian communities, and providing an international platform to promote Palestinian cultural achievements worldwide. Many of the younger players were previously members of the Palestine Youth Orchestra (PYO), before joining the PNO.
In the letter below Rima Tarazi, Chair of the Supervisory Board of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, describes recent activities of the ESNCM including the performances of the Palestinian National Orchestra…and invites readers to visit.Read More
by Adam Keller, Gush Shalom
More than a hundred Israelis meet with President Abbas in Ramallah ahead of the Paris Peace Conference
Robi Damelin, an Israeli bereaved mother whose son – an IDF officer – was killed by a Palestinian sniper during the Second Intifada, gave to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) a watch bearing the flags of Israel and Palestine, and the word “Peace” in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. That was at the climax of a meeting which President Abbas held with more than a hundred Israeli activists who came to the Presidential Compound in Ramallah.
Robi Damelin and the other Israeli activists expressed appreciation for what Abbas said to them: “I do not believe in violence and terror. Despite all the difficulties that we face under occupation, we will not turn to other, improper means. We oppose such means and struggle against them. We are against violence and terror, anywhere in the world.” The activists noted the importance of bringing these words to the attention of the Israeli public, which is exposed to an enormous stream of hate propaganda against the Palestinians.Read More
by H.B. Michel Sabbah, Emeritus Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
How to be Christian in the Holy Land in the circumstances in which we live: general destruction in the region, all around us, and here in Palestine, Israeli military occupation.
In these circumstances you all, believers, bear a mission; you, the Christian, the Muslim, the Druse and the Israeli. The aim of the mission is to end the general destruction in the region around us, and the military occupation here in Palestine.Read More
January 8, 2017
Baptism of Jesus
The Gospel passage that is heard on this feast of the Baptism of Jesus (Mt 3: 13-17) is divided into two parts: in the first, there is the actual baptism (v. 13-15), in the second, (v. 16-17) there is an epiphany, a manifestation of God.
Yet this twofold scene is very eloquent, and we will keep it in the background, as a key to understanding this event: because the first moment is a movement of descent, of abasement, of humiliation; the second, on the contrary, is an experience of glory, of rising, of opening. It is the same dynamic of Easter, a death and resurrection dynamic.
Let’s begin with the first moment.Read More
January 7th is Christmas for my family (Eastern Christian traditions). After we had our large gathering of a few hundred members of the Qumsiyeh clan [in Bethlehem/Beit Sahour] and paid visits to my sisters and the older people in my family, I tried unsuccessfully to visit Jerusalem (both with my US passport and with my Palestinian ID). The idea was to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and have dinner in Jerusalem. Here is is a video and some text explaining why even this short encounter reveals at least six violations of International law.Read More
One of the most visited shrines of the Holy Land, the Church of the Nativity, holds a treasure of faith and history. According to the early Christian tradition, in this place there was a stable where Mary gave birth to baby Jesus.
The Church of the Nativity is one of the oldest churches in the Holy Land and even in the world. A real treasure for humanity, it is the only one to survive the destruction of holy sites.
Father ARTEMIO VÍTORES GONZÁLEZ, ofm
Pastor – St. Catherine’s Franciscan Monastery ad Nativitatem
“In the year 614, the Persians invaded the Holy Land and destroyed all the churches, with the exception of this one: when they saw the Fresco of the Three Wise Men wearing Persian clothes, they stopped.Read More
Consilium Conferentiarum Episcoporum Europae – The Holy Land Co-ordination, comprising bishops coming from across Europe, North America and South Africa, established by the Holy See with the aim of visiting and supporting the Holy Land’s local Christian communities, will arrive on next Saturday, January 14, 2017, for its annual visit, until January 19. Below is the program of the five days.
Following on from the HLC2016 meeting with refugees in Jordan, the annual meeting of the Holy Land Co-ordination (HLC2017) will begin on Saturday 14 January, the eve of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, with a day devoted to the situation of Christian migrants and refugees present in Israel. On the Saturday morning in Jaffa, the group of European, North American and South African bishops, who since the 1990s have been making an annual visit to the Christian communities present in the Holy Land, will participate in the traditional “Mass of the Peoples” animated by the various national communities present in Israel. In the afternoon, the bishops of the HLC2017 will transfer to Tel Aviv where they will visit the Pastoral Centre for Migrants.Read More
Let every Jewish mother know where and why her children are being sent. –Israeli women speaking to mothers of soldiers
MachsomWatch Women’s Fund for Human Rights: Israeli women peace activists who oppose the Israeli occupation in the area known as the West Bank and also oppose the appropriation of Palestinian land and the denial of Palestinian human rights have been observing and reporting on the Occupation since 2001. Here is their report on the first shift to Susiya in 2017.
Reported by Hagit Back, observer | Natanya, translator | Nasser, photographer
In the past year the inhabitants of Susiya ploughed their own lands which stand in the area of the settlement of Susiya next to the pillbox and next to the houses of the settlements. This area has been designated as a closed area to the settlers. When they [inhabitants of Susiya] go to plough their lands, they are escorted by members of the Civil Administration’s infrastructure department. When they arrived at the area they found written in stones with the emblem of the Magen David.Read More
There is so much ignorance. “The Nativity scene is designed to confront the problems of our time. This year we wanted to deal with the 65 walls that have been built in the world. The most scandalous is the wall built by the Israelis to block the Palestinians. –Father Franco Corbo
by Josephine McKenna, Vatican Correspondent, Religion News Service
After political outcry and personal threats, an Italian priest has replaced a Christmas Nativity scene that critics said depicted Mary, the mother of Jesus, with a Muslim body covering.
The Rev. Franco Corbo, a 76-year-old pastor from the southern town of Potenza, was the subject of a nationwide backlash on TV and social media and received hundreds of abusive telephone calls at his parish as a result of his Nativity scene.Read More