News, articles and documents from the Holy Land


“Peace will be the fruit of Justice and my people will dwell in the beauty of Peace”


Issue No. 43 - Saturday, 3 February 2001

Dear Friends, Brothers and Sisters,

I just came back from Nazareth after a very long busy day because we went to take part in the Funeral service of one of our eminent priests who died last week suddenly in Italy after attending a meeting in the ROACO, an organism in the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in Rome; he is Msgr. Raouf Najjar, originally from Nazareth, therefore he was buried in Nazareth He spent a very busy life for 45 years in Jordan working in several important positions. His funeral in the annunciation Basilica which was crowded with more than 1000 people, was very impressive because he was surrounded by all the Patriarchal Clergy beginning with the Patriarch Michel Sabbah, H.E. Msgr. Salem Sayegh bishop of Amman, H.E. Msgr. Boulos Marcuzzo bishop of Nazareth, H.E. Msgr. Kamal Bathish General Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem, and many other priests, religious men and women, a lot of friends and family members and a special delegation from Bethlehem University because he was his president for 10 years. We will remember Msgr. Raouf Najjar as a man of God and a man of society because he had very vast and strong relations with everybody and with the high level of the society in Jordan, beginning from the Royal Hashimite Palace, Ministers, Diplomats, civil and religious authorities in the Country. He returned back to Nazareth to rest there in peace.

We are living very critical moments these days before the Israeli elections because it seems that Mr. Barak is almost loosing or is going to loose, and Mr. Sharon is going to become prime minister of Israel. I don’t say that one is better than the other or worst. But I say that it seems that they have not at all leaders in this country to choose one of these two candidates, therefore we have to wait the other nearby elections to see if there will be a new generations of leaders in this country who are courageous enough to make peace and be more credible. With the actual candidates we can’t react any kind of peace acceptable for Palestinian, they can’t even convince the Israelis of their peace programs which make me laugh when they say we will make peace, especially Mr. Sahron who electoral slogan is “Sharon leads to peace”. Of course, we say that this an Israeli affair and we don’t interfere in internal matters, it them who have to choose, but the problem that the forthcoming will have a very strong impact on our daily life and in our future because our fate is unfortunately in their hands if not under their foots. We see this already from now by the total and complete closure of our territories, where a whole people is living in big prisons inside a bigger big prison. We are under their mercy day and night…!

You will find in today’s “Olive branch”:

1)      The Jerusalem Journal # 6 of Sister Mary, writing us about the Christians in Jerusalem, it is good even if I don’t like saying that we are a minority because and it is better to say that we are “a small Christian community”, please cancel this word minority from your dictionary, nobody will ever understand the meaning of the presence of this community because it is a mystery.

2)      I send you also an Extra Diary but this time from Al-Arroub Camp near Hebron written by Ismail Muqbal who is a principal of an UNRWA school in Hebron who lives in Al-Arroub camp. What I thought makes the diary perhaps especially worth reading are the strong values which shine through his life. In fact, one episode reminds of the Good Samaritan!

3)      Dr. Harry Hagopian sends us as usual one of his valuable articles which deals another time with the subject of Jerusalem … A Mirror of Multiple Faiths! He exposes himself again to different sighs of partiality /impartiality since it is hard to deal with such an emotive issue in a most
dispassionate and 'uninvolved' manner!  However, he has tried his best, and he does hope that some of his ideas could help devolve the negotiations over the future status of Jerusalem in a responsible, honest and coherent way. He also apologizes in advance for any misinterpretations in relation to all three faiths and take refuge in his status as a lawyer, not a theologian!

4)      Lily Habash, a member of “Global Leader for Tomorrow/ 2000” and director of PYALARA, couldn’t go to Davos, therefore she wrote a “Letter to the GLTs meeting  in Davos / January 29-31, 2001”. That I am glad to share with you.


Jerusalem Journal # 6

February 3, 2001

By Sister Mary
    Here in Jerusalem, the wearing of a cross seems to be much more of a declaration of who you are rather than just a decoration. Seeing adults wearing a cross or crucifix around their neck is not much out of the ordinary for me. But seeing so many teenagers and young men and women wearing metal crosses strikes me as significant.

    The Arab population in Jerusalem is only 30% and of those Arabs, very few are Christian; the rest are all Moslem. So the Christians here find themselves a minority within a minority. I know that in some societies a minority often tries to assimilate itself into the majority, but this is not true here. Rather, the Christian minority of  Jerusalem deliberately distinguish their identity very clearly, wearing a cross around the neck, outside the clothing. But this, I understand is nothing new, not a passing fashion, it is their tradition. In fact, the local Coptic Orthodox Christian community maintains their tradition of tatooing a boy with a cross on his arm, as an indelible sign of his identity. With so few Christians left in the Holy Land, it is reassuring to see the Arab Christians wearing their cross.

    As we approach the elections in Israel, I ask that you pray for the Christians of this land. Some are preparing to leave as they see no future in remaining here for another war. I have been trying to encourage them to stay. They are the remnant of the living community of Jesus here. I was amazed to learn that there are more Christians in Syria now than there are in the Holy Land. In Syria they make up 10 - 15 % of the population. Here they are only 2%.


Extra Diary from Al-Arroub Camp
I am a school principal at a United Nations School in downtown Hebron. During the Al-Aqsa Intifadah, my school was closed, and my students were obliged to go to another school outside Hebron. Many of them were in fact unable to attend classes, due to the curfew in Hebron and the many problems in traveling.

I was born to a simple Palestinian family of six boys and one girl. My father worked hard to raise us in spite of his old age. He worked in menial jobs which mostly depended on muscles. When I was six year, he was in his sixties and my mother in her forties. His sole aim and hope was to once see his sons and daughter in good and dignified jobs. He did his best to give us the opportunity to complete our university studies. When I was a grown-up child of fourteen, I remembered him saying: “My son, study hard to be a teacher so as to get rid of all the hardships that I faced during my life.” It was the aim of every Palestinian refugee to have well-educated sons and daughters since they lacked the land to earn a living.  I never forget what happened when I was at secondary school in Hebron. The students of my age wanted to become friends with me, but as soon as they heard that I was a refugee they stopped trying. Once a good student from Hebron wanted to become friends since I was also a very good student and known for my quietness and politeness. However, when he asked me where I came from and I told him that I was from Al-Arroub refugee camp, his face turned red and he managed with difficulty to continue talking to me although he clearly preferred not to do so. Most people in Palestine consider Palestinian refugees – especially the ones who live in camps – as of lower standing and class.

The student’s behaviour aroused something within myself. I decided to prove myself despite the bitter circumstances. I wanted to complete my secondary school although I had not enough money to even take a taxi. During some days of the week I walked the three kilometers to the school. When other students asked me why I walked, my reply was that I preferred to read some class topics while walking. My parents tried to give me the best they had. In 1970 I joined the “tawjihi”, the last class in the secondary cycle. I worked hard so as to get a high average. I was able to join the Teacher’s College in Ramallah. My father, who was very ill at the time, was happy to see me coming back from the college. Each time I shook hands with him, hugged him and kissed him. I know from the expressions of his face and his unseen smile – he was completely paralyzed – that the aim of his life was fulfilled. I wanted to help him and support the family.

From that time on I learned the lesson that one needs to give more than to take, to help deprived people and to raise my children the way that my father dreamed of. The people of my camp are simple, poor, and with a good heart. They need somebody to support them, to help them overcoming their problems and bad conditions, mainly at times of crisis. They are deprived of many things, of freedom, humanity, social care, health care and all the necessary things that people inside and outside Palestine have. The only thing I can give to support them is education. I help many students in my camp in different subjects and encourage them to complete their study. My advice to them is to be patient since patience bears fruitful results for those who believe in it.

A coincidence is better than a hundred appointments (Arab proverb)

It was on Ramadan 1992 when my family and I were invited by my brother to share the al-Iftar meal, a special meal for Moslems that is eaten after sunset. At noon on the tenth of Ramadan we left Al-Arroub camp for Jerusalem where my brother and his family live. Relatives, friends and neighbours enjoyed a special meal together. As we had school the next day, we decided  to travel back home at midnight. My brother drove us back in his yellow-plated van. When we were about one km from Al-Arroub camp, we saw a car driver along the road who waved at us. He did not speak Arabic so my brother, who knows Hebrew fluently, asked what he needed. Initially the stranger was very frightened to learn that we were Palestinians. My brother reassured him and told him that we were ready to help him. My brother said to me that he was an Israeli from West-Jerusalem who was on his way back home after joining a wedding party in Harsina (a settlement inside Hebron city). His car had broken down, and he was looking for a mechanic. He worked as an engineer at Jerusalem Municipality.

My brother and I left to find help in Al-Arroub camp. We told a mechanic about the Israeli engineer and his car. The mechanic was willing to accompany us and fix the car although it was late in the night. He took all the tools and equipment needed and came to the place where the man was waiting. After the car was fixed, the man was pleased and gave the mechanic some money which he refused. The Israeli thanked the mechanic and us and urged us to visit him in the coming days. The event passed and became history.

In summer 1999, history came back. While my daughter took part in a Seeds of Peace summer camp in Maine in the United States, she became a close friend of an Israeli girl who supported the Palestinians and peace. One day while my daughter called us, the Israeli girl told my daughter that she was familiar with the phone number. Her family turned out to be that of the man from Jerusalem. He called us and our relationship came alive again. They expressed their sadness to what is going on now and opposed the oppression and suffering of the Palestinians. We started to exchange visits and phone calls but everything stopped after the Al-Aqsa Intifadah. Still my family and I respect the Israeli family who are full of humanity and against to what is happening now to the Palestinians. We are praying to see peace spread all over the Holy Land, the land of the holy religions and the holy places.

Never give up hope

Rami is a thirteen-year old smart boy, whose behaviour says more than a thousand words. He is very clever but shy. Before the mid-term exams, Rami was absent. As school principal, I investigated the reasons for his absence since he was not ill and he had not asked permission for a school leave. To my astonishment, one of his friends told me that he had seen him at a bakery near his house.

The next day, I decided to visit him at the bakery. It was sad to see Rami in his poor clothes helping a baker in his job. I asked the baker whether I could speak with him for a few minutes. After a moment of hesitation, he agreed and asked Rami to bring two wooden chairs and to attend for the tea. After I introduced myself, he told me that Rami’s father had disappeared and that nobody knew his fate. He was a man who was often drunk. Because of that his wife had left him, together with Rami’s grandmother, and the wife had married an uncle. After the grandmother died, Rami was forced to leave school so as to earn a living. The baker sympathized with Rami and gave him work and a place at the bakery to sleep. I thanked the baker for the tea and his explanation, and he agreed to let me with Rami alone for a while. Rami started to weep in front of my eyes. I felt very sorry for what happened to him, and assured him that his teachers and I would provide him with the money and all what he needed. He agreed to come if his mother also agreed. I invited his mother to come to school and asked her to help us solving Rami’s problem. She supported Rami and us and she told us that she was afraid that her husband would prevent her from taking care of Rami. She told us that most of Rami’s cousins were less-educated people. Although they were of school age, they all earned a living by carrying things at the vegetable market.

We – I as principal, the school counselor and the teachers of Rami – did our best, and Rami joined school for a few weeks. He then disappeared again. He rented a cart to work with vendors. I decided to see him personally again, and ran into him in the vegetable market, pushing a cart full of fruit and vegetable boxes. When he saw me he almost fainted but I smiled at him. He promised to visit me at school after class time, so that there would be no students and teachers. He kept his promise and visited me in May 2000. He told many sad stories about himself, his family and relatives. I suggested him to join a school for orphans, which is in fact one of the best schools in Hebron. He agreed after some hesitation and I assured him that I would do my best to support him. He accompanied me to the new school where he found food and a dwelling place together with his classmates whose lives were not better than his. I promised to visit him from time to time and to keep contact with his new principal and teachers.

Now Rami is a different student. He is a good friend of most of his classmates. His teachers and principal support and respect him. Rami became like a cousellor to his cousins and he advised them to go back to school again. I am happy to help Rami and save him from the negative influences from his environment. As a school principal, I face many cases like Rami’s, sometimes more complicated, sometimes less. My school is in an area of Hebron which is deprived of many things, including educational opportunities, health care, and social services. My teachers and I try to lessen the burden on the shoulders of these deprived children.

The last moments of Ala’a

During the Al-Aqsa Intifada, my son was very much impressed by the death of his friend Ala’a who was shot by soldier’s bullets when he went to the entrance of the camp out of curiosity to watch the stone-throwing that was going on. Ala’a Mahfouth was a 15-year old boy. He was born on March 14, 1986, and died on October 25, 2000. My son asked to include into the diary of my life the following brief account of the father of Ala’a.

“I was standing next to him just near the entrance of the home. I felt that something was going to happen and told him not to go out. But he refused. I suddenly heard somebody shouting that Ala’a was injured so we took him to Al-Ahli hospital. There they told us after a while that he was clinically (brain) dead. They advised us to treat him abroad. So we went to Saudi Arabia. We lifted him in a special airplane. The pilot flew us to the Holy Place of Mecca, and made a circle around the Kaaba in order to receive the blessings of Allah. In Saudi he died. They put Ala’a’s body in ice to protect him. On our way back home we passed by Jordan, where we were not treated in a respectful manner. Back in Al-Arroub we put his corpse into a tomb.” After saying this, small shining tears started to flow from the father’s eyes onto his chin. His smallest brother looked at Ala’a’s picture and cried, too.


Jerusalem … A Mirror of Multiple Faiths!

by Harry Hagopian, LL.D

Doctor in Public International Law (UK)

Object or Subject?

Only ten days ago, one question being asked repeatedly was whether Palestinians and Israelis could reach a draft accord before President Bill Clinton left the White House on Saturday, 20 January 2001? A subsequent question being pondered was whether a rabbit will jump out of the hat at the ‘marathon’ talks in Taba before Tuesday, 6 February 2001? In so doing, would such an agreement confuse the majority of the polls predicting a decisive win by Likud leader Ariel Sharon and have instead the incumbent Prime Minister Ehud Barak re-instated at the head of a diffuse government? Moving forward ever more, another fashionable query these days seems to be whether President George Walker Bush - and his Secretary of State Colin Powell - will adopt a more even-handed approach to the conflict in the Middle East?

I believe the reader will have formed by now a distinct impression of the direction my questions are taking! All of them are attached to persons! Nobody is asking questions in terms of the issues themselves! In a classic Rufellian reversal of subject and object, the names are determining the issues rather than the issues pre-determining the names!

Indeed, my musings today - encouraged largely by a splendid article from Monsignor Robert Stern I read some weeks ago - take me back ten years when James Baker was US Secretary of State. He and his wife Susan were known to be practising Christian believers and stalwart supporters of the Palestinian cause. It was therefore assumed that American foreign policy will be changed single-handedly by this man and his coterie of advisers! Few were those people who stopped to think of the different fundamentalist lobbies or political groups that are constantly at play in the USA. Fewer even stopped to think that America’s policies are perhaps not guided by a heart-rending concern for the plight of the disenfranchised (this statement speaks volumes about America’s own history!) but are dictated by its own global interests. After all, if one wants to change a policy, one needs to change the interest too. And to change an interest, one selects the issues carefully.

            Spiritual Issues, Political Facts

Ever since I returned to Jerusalem some four years ago, I have been witnessing interminable rounds of diplomacy and negotiation between Palestinians and Israelis interrupted by equally interminable rounds of fighting and bloodletting. Those fights and negotiations have both focused mutatis mutandis on the critical issues that define this 54-year old conflict. They relate roughly to the future status of Jerusalem, the right of return and compensation for Palestinian refugees, the contiguous territorial borders of a sovereign Palestinian state, settlements, water rights, economic standards and security guarantees.

I have already dealt in previous articles with a number of those issues, addressing myself to the legal and political loci from a faith-centred lens. Setting aside today the - sharp - secular and political aspects of Jerusalem, I would like to mull over its spiritual character and magical holiness to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Mind you, this is far from being an original thought or innovative approach! However, it is a sobering one and might help us all appreciate further that compromises touching the soul of Jerusalem - its spiritual side - are at least as difficult as those touching its body - the political aspect. From a spiritual perspective, no one faith can afford an exclusive monopoly over Jerusalem.

It is almost a non-sequitur to claim that any solution to the problem of Jerusalem has to deal with its religious and political dimensions. Those who claim that Jerusalem is singularly a religious problem are singularly wrong!  Those who insist it is an exclusively political issue are exclusively wrong too! The inseparability of both components is the paradox most people wrestle with daily. In Jerusalem, the hagia and the polis  - the holy and the secular - remain inextricably intertwined.

            Three Faiths, Manifold Attachments

Starting off chronologically with Judaism, let me posit that Jerusalem was considered for long the spiritual centre of ancient Israel. The psalms - Ps 122 being only one such example - are replete with references to this city being at the centre of the Jewish faith. The Old Testament (1 K, 2 Ch & Ezra) reports that the First Temple was built during the reign of King Solomon.  (According to Jewish rabbinical tradition, God forbade King David to build it himself since his hands were defiled by war). Following the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 586 BC (Ez 33:21-22 & Jr 52:7), a Second Temple was built during the 5-4 C BC. Enlarged and embellished by King Herod, it was destroyed again by the Romans during the reign of Titus in 70 CE.

According to the Bible, Solomon had built the Temple in order to house the Ark of the Covenant that was brought to Jerusalem from Kiriath Jearim (2 S 6) by his father David. It consisted of a chest carrying the Tablets of the Law and epitomised for Jews the contract between God and Israel. The Ark was a privileged place of communication with God where prayers were offered and sacrifices made. It imparted its shchinah or divine presence on the Temple.

Jerusalem evokes equal spiritual attachment in Christianity. Going back to Jesus’ roots and the early days of the Christian faith, the New Testament speaks about the presentation of the infant Jesus to the Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem (Lk 2: 22-25).  Furthermore, and once he started his public ministry after his baptism by John (Ac 10:37) and the miracle at Cana in Galilee (Jn 2:1-12), Jesus often went to the Temple to learn from the rabbis as much as to teach them (Lk 2:41-48).  However, he also went to the Temple to drive out the merchants and overturn the tables of the moneychangers (Lk 19: 45-48, Mk 11: 15-18, Mt 21:12-14, Jn 2:14-17). Yet, what towers over and above all those signs for most Christians is that Jerusalem represents the sacred physical space of Jesus’ passion, death and Resurrection. The empty tomb at the Church of the Resurrection (or Church of the Anastasis) is a vivid reminder to all Christians - irrespective of their theosophies - that their faith derives its witness and sustenance from a glorious miracle that happened on Easter Sunday in this holy city.

Indeed, Jerusalem is replete with churches, shrines and sites that are associated with Jesus’ life and that of his apostles and disciples. Jerusalem is the Mother Church of the whole Christian faith, and a symbol of the ultimate redemption of all Christians. Chapters 21 and 22 of the Revelation to John describe how God, through Christ the Lord, will finally defeat all enemies and reward the faithful with the blessings of a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:2) - the new Jerusalem.

And last but not least, Jerusalem is also a pivotal spiritual centre for Islam. To start with, Muslims recall and venerate all the prophets that preceded Mohammed - including Abraham who is considered the father of all prophets, Moses and Jesus. However, and at the epicentre of their attachment to Jerusalem, Muslims refer to the nocturnal experience of the prophet Mohammed (al-Isra’ wa al-Mi’raj) when he travelled to Jerusalem by a winged steed named Buraq, alighted at the rock and was transported into heaven where he met all the prophets and where the face of God was finally revealed to him.  On this very spot known as the Haram el-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary, the Dome of the Rock was built in the seventh century CE. A second mosque adjacent to the first one is al-Aqsa, or the farthest mosque as mentioned in the Holy Koran, which symbolises the furthest point in religious experience.

Ever since the Hejira from Mecca by the prophet and his followers, Jerusalem has been considered the third holiest place for Islam after Mecca and Medina. In fact, each kneeling for prayer in this mosque in Jerusalem is the equivalent of five hundred in most other mosques, and therefore each prayer recited therein is tantamount to two thousand prayers elsewhere.

            Inclusion or Exclusion, Harmony or Conflict?

As such, it seems sensible enough to conclude that the spiritual pull and magical symbolism of Jerusalem are as strong and mesmerising for Christians as they are for Muslims and Jews. Not only do the three religions of this land enjoy a special spiritual patrimony, it is one they hold in trust for the billions of Muslim, Christian and Jewish believers world-wide.  It is extremely difficult to reach a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis - whose political parameters are perhaps easier to untangle - without taking into consideration the religious identity of Jerusalem.

But this is not enough in itself!  Indeed, when dealing with something as personal and yet as public as religious affiliations or attachments in the Middle East, it behoves to be sensitive let alone respectful to the beliefs and values of others. As a Christian myself, and based upon the exegetical writings of many eminent scholars such as Jacques Vermeylen, Ahmed Qabbasi or G H Jones, I might disagree with, and even dispute the veracity of, a number of faith-centred narratives and traditions adhered to by Jews and Muslims - let alone by some Christian groupings! I could also evince some misgivings about certain schools of thought within Islam or Judaism which confine their jurisprudence to a literalist time-warp.

Nonetheless, I remain conscious that many Muslims or Jews could also question some of the rudimental tenets of my own faith. However, none of those disagreements grants me or anyone else the prerogative to dismiss summarily those values that others hold dear!  Respect for the beliefs and narratives of others is a sine qua non for peaceful and convivial relations. In fact, I strongly believe that a critical parting of the ways lies between those who seek to impose a version of their own religious tradition - be it Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other religion such as Buddhism - in the interests of political supremacy, and those who recognise the more varied and pluriform texture of their spiritual pedigree and therefore its potential for making choices and showing openness toward others.

However, herein lies one of the misfortunes of this small parcel of land.  People reinforce their own sets of assertions by belittling at best or trashing at worst those upheld by others. They are quite ready to denigrate those beliefs they find incongruous with their own. Hence arises the phenomena of collective memories and collective psyches that are inexorably in perpetual motion, in perpetual competition and thereby also in perpetual conflict. The answer - extremely hard and painful to envision let alone nurture - is to accommodate the beliefs of others within one’s own normative context.

            Intellectuals for Jerusalem

And here enter the intellectuals! One major role that intellectuals fulfill is to foster an honest debate about the dynamics impacting their own societies. Whilst politicians zigzag and religious leaders justify, intellectuals are meant to encourage a critical examination of facts and to be at the forefront of new horizons and bold initiatives. But I sometimes wonder where many of these men and women can be found in [relation to] Jerusalem? Are they not meant to be the non-partisan voice of probity, defending freedom of conscience and religious liberty as much as standing up for the dignity, the rights and the transcendent dimension of the human person? Are they not meant to counter any hostility to concepts such as modernisation, democratisation, basic freedoms and the information revolution in order to contribute to the future stability of society?

I become concerned when I sense that some currents or individuals engage themselves in the process of building their own legitimacy with regard to Jerusalem by fomenting religious tensions. With the unfortunate dearth of an overwhelming number of inspiring religious leaders in our midst, intellectuals - an overarching category of men and women - have a duty to help society build up its legitimacy by pushing education and awareness-raising. They are the weathercocks that redress imperfect balances and speak out for the truth. In a nutshell, intellectuals should forcefully address the sort of education children are offered, the sort of economy that underpins a nation, and the sort of rule of law that a society establishes for itself in order to help determine the dignity and standing of a people anywhere in our global village.

            Win-Win Peace or Win-Lose War?

After four challenging years in Jerusalem, I remain convinced that peace can only reign in this land when negotiators maintain and prop the political and spiritual dimensions of this city. I also remain adamant that this can only happen when we become vulnerable to others and honest with ourselves. So long as the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis remains a zero-sum game, peace with justice and dignity is likely to stay out of reach. Rather, the bloodshed, hatred and distrust that have been rampant in this land will continue to despoil the basic tenets of all three faiths that hold this land holy.

In moments of naïve optimism, I wonder whether it would be possible to float once again the idea of turning Jerusalem into an international spiritual capital for the whole world. The purist jurist in me still retains a healthy scepticism about abstruse concepts as ‘sovereignty to God’, having often advocated alternatives of ‘non-sovereignty’ or ‘shared sovereignty’. Yet, it might well take such an ‘outlandish’ proposition to set a precedent in International customary law, liberate both Palestinians and Israelis from the ‘stand-off of possession’ (J Wright) and help them achieve recognition of their mutual rights.

In the final analysis, if peace has not yet been ‘conquered’ in its truthful form, or if multi-faith dialogue for that matter has not yet been refined beyond platitudes and handshakes, this might well be due in large part to the fact that we are sorely bereft of a bracing vision that overrides our nugatory concerns for the sake of our larger aspirations and oversteps our comminatory attitudes towards others for the sake of achieving reconciliation with them.

Let me now go back full circle to my introduction and voice an obiter that we all need to overcome our solipsistic tendencies and emotive mentalities for the larger good. In order to succeed, however, we need to acknowledge the narratives of the past so as to construct the hopes of the future. We need to purify our memories, develop a regional code of ethics in our relations with each other and de-personalise what is at stake - from persons to issues, from vested interests to shared ones. Can we achieve such a developed level of transcendence and enlightenment? Can we rise above the fray and deflect pettifogging barters into more inclusive models? Can we put peace, with justice and dignity, above ourselves?

Last week, Rabbi Arthur Waskow wrote a powerful letter calling upon all rabbis to rally around the principles of emet, tzedek and shalom. His letter constitutes a clarion call for our region that is gutted as much by painful physical closures as it is by agonising closed minds. Surely, truth, justice and peace - fundamental to all three traditions living back-to-back in this land - deserve better from us all than what we have offered so far ..?  Most definitely!

©  harry-bvh @ 1 February 2001


Letter to the GLTs meeting  in Davos / January 29-31, 2001.

Dear GLTs,

I am submitting this letter with a perplex feeling of disappointment being unable to join you in this year’s meeting.

Unfortunately, as a resident of the West Bank, an area under the Palestinian National Authority jurisdiction, I am not able to get a permit from the Israeli authorities because of their arbitrary policies and tight siege imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The control over the borders is still under the Israeli occupation and is still a matter of negotiation between the Palestinian and the Israeli parties.

In fact, I was extremely enthusiastic to be with you again this year, since I now feel part of you especially considering that we all have a duty to work together as a group of selected intelligent, charismatic and committed individuals. A duty that is needed in order to “improve the state of the world”, the logo of the World Economic Forum. The institution that we now have the honor to be part of as Global Leaders for Tomorrow. To me, this starts by incurring change in the daily lives of my people.

Today, and while you are meeting, my country honors the sacrifice of 353 Palestinian youth -most of them not even your age-, who died for their belief in the right to obtain their country’s emancipation from occupation.

At this very moment while you are discussing ways for a better future, we the Palestinians are still far behind in basic demands where about 4 million Palestinians are living under siege, and facing total uncertainty wrapped with frustration.  The imposed Israeli restrictions on movement are canceling the simplest right of human beings, which is the freedom of movement.

It may have never occurred to you how important it is to be able to move wherever and whenever you want. In normal life conditions, people can move, travel, trade, work and enjoy what a peaceful enabling environment can offer to prosper and succeed. Being Palestinian means total deprivation of all such basics.

One of the main themes of the forum has been the issue of bridging the divides, and bridging the gap between the haves and the have nots. I believe that it is also our responsibility as “Global Leaders for Tomorrow” to be part of this venture, a venture that has become a demand for the small world of the 21st century. A world aspiring to live in harmony between its principles, interests, reality and obligations toward the others.

The Palestinian people are amongst the have-nots. They do not have or even enjoy the simplest basic rights of the human being of the 21st century. They are still seeking their human, economic and political right to peace and self-determination.

I hereby, invite you to think of how you can help, not only youth who are eager to be part of this globe and take a participative role, but a whole nation living under occupation and more than half of a dispossessed nation living in Diaspora with no identity, and scattered dreams of regaining their homeland and dignity.

I wish that you would come and visit my country and help think as Global Leaders for Tomorrow how we can help install peace, freedom and coexistence in the Holy Land.

Lily Habash
Global Leader for Tomorrow/ 2000


Fr. Raed Awad Abusahlia

P.O.Box 14152  Jerusalem  91141
Tel.  00 972 2 6282323/6272280
Fax  00 972 2 6271652
My personal E-mail:
Latin Patriarchate's E-mail:
Visit the Latin Patriarchate's Homepage:
Visit my "Nonviolence Homepage":
Visit Fr. Labib's Homepage: