Message from Jerusalem
+Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal
Dec. 12. 2000

Dear Abouna Labib,
Salaam and Grace in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and blessed Christmas time greetings from Jerusalem.
The following is our most recent update on the current situation in the Land of the Holy One.
Christmas is the season that honors the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ and once again, His Land is tainted with turmoil and uncertainty.  There is no doubt that the current conflict targeting thousands of innocent Palestinians from Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel Proper, has markedly escalated over the past two months.
The Peace Process, in its drawn out state, has brought about frustration and disappointment, which manifests itself into violence and hatred.  Many of us were confident that a peace deal would be brokered and that the Palestinians would finally have a legitimate homeland, coupled with peace and security.  Many believed that the struggle for absolute freedom would be over, a notion that was quickly dismissed when the provocative visit of Israeli politician Ariel Sharon to Al Aqsa Mosque on 28 September 2000, destroyed all hopes that peace would prevail.

Once again, the government of Israel has used an unimaginable amount of force and violence against the Palestinians.  So far, over 332 Palestinians have been killed and over 16,500 wounded.  Health care institutions are full beyond capacity, and the Palestinian Ministry of Health reports a dangerously low stock of medications and supplies.  Gaza Airport has been closed down by Israel on several occasions, which not only hinders the arrival of international donations of medical supplies and aid, it necessitates the transport of critically ill and injured patients across the border to El Arish in Egypt for air evacuation.  300 homes have been destroyed, mostly in the villages of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour and thousands of trees have been uprooted, some which date back to the Roman ear.  Twenty-nine ambulances were targeted by Israeli air raids as they were on they way to transporting the injured.  Nine ambulances were completely destroyed.  Israel has refused to allow a donation of eighteen ambulances to cross into Gaza from Egypt and twelve ambulances from Jordan.

The Diocese of Jerusalem has repeatedly expressed its profound disappointment at the way in which the Israeli Leadership has allowed this situation to rapidly deteriorate.  We vehemently denounce the random shooting by the Israeli forces.  We hold the government of Israel responsible for the killing and injury of our fellow brothers and sisters.  Nevertheless, we need to maintain a position of spiritual and physical healing.  Your support to help alleviate the pain and suffering of our injured will be greatly appreciated.  We ask that you send your gifts of kindness to our Diocese, which will be earmarked toward needy families, Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza and St. Lukeís Hospital in Nablus.  These two medical institutions have repeatedly displayed their commitment and dedication to the cause of the Palestinian struggle.  Our hospitals offer medical care to all those who have been the victims of the brutal attacks of the Israeli Forces, with no payment required whatsoever.

We deeply value your support in prayer and your endeavor to bring awareness of the Palestinian cause to your respective governments.  May God bless you all with a deep faith; may His healing power be with the thousands who are injured; may those who have died rest in peace and may the bereaved know their Fatherís comfort.

In Christ,

+Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal