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. 37 - Saturday, 13 January 2001

Dear Friends, Brothers and Sisters,

After the irregular news that I sent you last days about the shooting incident on our Bishop of Nazareth’s car, I return to my regular way of information “Olive Branch from Jerusalem” which is growing and becoming almost an “Olive Tree” hoping that it will continue to be a good instrument of information and a true voice of the truth from the Holy Land to the whole world. I renew here my commitment to serve the truth and only the truth. I will try all my best to keep you updated, but in order not to storm you with a lot of material you will not be able even to read I will limit myself by sending you this newsletter twice weekly unless we have a special occasion or news which can’t wait, as it might happen tomorrow!!!

The story of the shooting of the bishop’s car didn’t finish with the official apology of two minister of the Israeli government because we are waiting for the result of the investigation that they promised to undertake since the recognized that it was a mistake and the soldiers acted against the orders. The Bishop will celebrate tomorrow Sunday January 14 in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth in a sign of protest and solidarity with the daily suffering of our people in the Palestinian territories. The problem is not only a simple act of shooting on the car of the bishop, but it is a whole policy of complicating the life of a whole population with this kind of closure and siege of the villages and town where the freedom of movement is violated making out of the territories small prisons inside a very big prison. We noticed these last days a change in this policy that we hope will continue until everything will be opened.

You will find in today’s issue some articles that might be interesting to you:

For the first time I send you a short article written by my brother Dr. Sami Aldeeb about “Justice and Refugees” in which he is trying to suggest a possible solution to this very difficult problem of the Palestinian refugees. My brother is a doctor in Law, specialist in the Arabic and Islamic law, working since more than 20 years in Switzerland in the Swiss Institute for Comparative Law in Lausanne. He is also author of several books and scientific articles that you can find in my Nonviolence Homepage He is also a specialist in the subject of male and female circumcision and published two very big books in Arabic about this subject and his French book will be published in the near future.

2) We dear Friend Toine van Teeffelen is back again with his Bethlehem diary No. 11 before leaving to Jordan for one day, to renew his visa hoping it works out. If not he will face a dilemma. Last week he went to the Israeli Ministry of Interior in Jerusalem with a letter from the Freres School in Jerusalem providing him work and dwelling space. That was refused by the Ministry, due to hi being married with a Palestinian from Bethlehem and his previous work permits which were arranged through the PNA in Bethlehem/Ramallah and Beit El. The Ministry insisted that he should apply through Bethlehem, but there is no contact between the PNA and Beit El, and Beit El refuses direct submissions for work permits. He has kept his embassy informed. The problem is that at the bridge they have to give him a tourist visa although it is known that he works in Bethlehem, which will not resolve the problem because he will have to go out the country each three months and returns back with a tourist visa. I am telling you his story to show you how much it is complicated to live in this country not only to Palestinians but also to anybody who has a relation with them.

3) Dr. Maria Khoury will tell us another dramatic story like this in his article “The Holiday Nightmare of 11,000 Palestinians” in which she speak about her experience in passing the bridge. She is an eyewitness of what she is writing us.

4) Finally, Sister Mary who is living in the Old City of Jerusalem writes us in her Jerusalem Journal # 3 her experience of last Monday during the big march and manifestation of the right wing fanatic Jews, showing us another dramatic aspect of our life.

I am very grateful to all our friends who are writing us their precious experiences and sharing it with us, because they are witnessing on what is happening in these days in our country. I am very glad to give them a voice in this newsletter because they have the courage to write on behalf of those who don’t have a voice of our simple common people.
 Hoping that the next days will be better than the previous      Fr. Raed Abusahlia

Justice and Refugees
Sami Aldeeb, Lausanne Switzerland (13 Jan 2001)

"Peace will be the fruit of Justice". This is what Prophet Isaiah said 2700 years ago (32:17). Justice means to recognize the rights of others.

It is unavoidable that Israel has to recognize that it destroyed 385 Palestinian villages whose inhabitants became refugees (before and after1967: remember Emmaus, Beit-Nuba and Yalo razed by bulldozers in 1967 and transformed in picnic place called Canada Park).

As a Palestinian, I can understand that Israel cannot accept the return of all the Palestinian refugees in their own lands and the reconstruction of their villages. It is simply unfeasible. But Israel cannot neither expect that the refugees, after 50 years of miserable life, forget their right to return. What would be then the solution?

As a Palestinian, I may propose that Israel abandon the Negev to the Palestinians. In this way, there will be a territorial continuity for the future Palestinian State including Gaza strip, the Negev and the West Bank. In this territory, Palestinian refugees should be allowed to return and
Israel and the United Nations (as responsible of the Palestinian tragedy) should help them financially to have a home and a job to live.

Sami Aldeeb, doctor in Law, Switzerland



Toine van Teeffelen

26/12/00 – 8/1/01

Just before Christmas the seven young Palestinians returned from their three-month stay in Holland. They had left Bethlehem at the beginning of the new Intifadah. Some of them are from Beit Jala and Beit Sahour and stayed in daily contact with their homes to hear about any news that would affect their families. Most of them became increasingly interested in a longer stay in Holland. The situation in Palestine is indeed not very promising. Due to the traveling problems, several of the youth will at present not be able to continue their job or find work here. In fact, some of their family suggested them to stay in Holland. A few of the youth felt that they would become an economic burden at home when they cannot do anything. However, it was not at all the intention of the exchange program to encourage them to stay in Holland, let alone to facilitate in this plan. As a community education organization, it is difficult for our Institute to accept the erosion of the Palestinian community of Bethlehem by emigration. I wonder how the students look at the issue now, after their return. Next week we see each other.

At the Frères School I participate in a meeting with some 20 youth which is about this very question of emigration. The topic is the talk of town, especially among youth. Bethlehem and the neighboring towns have a history of emigration. In fact, there are presently more people from Beit Jala living in Santiago de Chile than in Beit Jala itself. Community leaders say that we should be careful not to loose those remaining. All those participating in the workshop, Christians and Moslems, seem to agree that everything has to be done to keep young Palestinians at home. A major motive of emigration is the lack of work and job careers here. But something can be done about that, it is argued, even such small improvements such as giving more information about which studies at the universities or vocational institutes can provide local work later. Slowly, more study and career information is beginning to be provided to the last classes at secondary schools. For instance, Bethlehem University now visits some of the schools in the region to inform school students about the various studies the university offers and their economic prospects. Teddy Giacaman, Fuad’s son, leads one of the sessions. He emphasizes that it is still possible to live and work in Palestine, despite all the difficulties. The question of emigration touches all fields of society, and everybody should be able to do something about it in his or her field. We should not erect a wall between “juwwa” (the “inside”) and “barra” (the “outside”) as if everything abroad, especially in the Western world, is good, and everything in Palestine bad. In fact, many Palestinians do not have such an excellent experience in the West, due to, among other things, discrimination. From his side, Ishmail from Hebron emphasizes that students should learn to love their land and their people through local excursion and meeting programs. I remember a remark of a politician here who once said that young Palestinians are willing to die for their country but often do not know what their country is.

Ishmail also tells me that his student Murad – together with some fifty other youth from Al-Arroub camp - will stay for some two months more in the prison of Megiddo (the Biblical Armageddon) in the Jisrael Valley not far from Nazareth. Family members are not allowed to visit him, but one of the inmates has kept a mobile phone and in this way it is possible to have contact once in a while. The imam of Al-Arroub camp has found a way to smuggle some clothes and cigarettes into the prison, and during Friday prayers in the camp the believers are asked to help covering the expenses.

These weeks the situation in Bethlehem is changing – though not much for the better. While previously the bombings and shootings were the main issue of concern, it is now the full closure around the towns and villages which is on everybody’s mind. Al Quds newspaper displays two photos taken at a checkpoint near Hebron. In the first, a man is shown arguing with soldiers about entry into the town. In the second one, taken immediately afterwards, he is shown to be shot in the leg (which, as it turns out, had to be amputated). Checkpoint stories abound again. The Israeli journalist Gideon Levy writes that a ten-year old girl from a village near Nablus was not allowed to leave the village. Three times her family tried to persuade soldiers of the seriousness of the case, and to allow the family to leave the village to go for a hospital, but each time they were refused. In the village the girl finally died from a burst appendix. The journalist states that “the barbarity of the siege cannot be overstated: neither a woman in childbirth, nor a critically sick person nor someone who is mortally wounded nor a girl with peritonitis can be taken out of their homes.” (Haaretz, 7/1/2001). Mary tells me that she has something for what she jokingly calls “my propaganda.” In Nablous a Palestinian with an American passport wanted to congratulate a relative on the occasion of the end of Ramadan. He was not allowed to enter the place where she lived. He decided to stay sitting at the checkpoint. After six frustrating hours, he died from a stroke. Here at the checkpoint in Bethlehem it happened that one woman was gestured by soldiers not to cross the checkpoint but to circumvent it by walking into the fields. Fine, she thought, if you suggest this, why not? After crossing the Tantur lands – which provide a way around the checkpoint -  she came back later on and was forced by the very same soldiers to sit for a few hours as punishment for “illegally” entering Jerusalem. Cat and mouse play. It is now a normal view to see people, mainly workers, sitting along the checkpoint for hours after being caught without papers. Our neighbour, with her diplomatic car, also meets problems. Lately, upon returning from Jerusalem, she was not allowed to enter Bethlehem. She called her colleague in Gilo, but the soldier took and closed off her mobile. The soldier told her, go back, do your shopping and come back after a few hours. She refused and stayed in the car waiting. When going to work she now takes a book in the car. I have the feeling that it is increasingly a matter of honour for her not to succumb to the soldiers’ intimidations.

During her Christmas holiday, Karishma visits a Jewish settlement, Maale Ephraim. Although she is clearly against the establishment of settlements for reasons of international law (she herself has studied human rights law), she was intent on seeing one from inside, and meeting people. By chance, she could come into contact with a Druze family living there. Like others, this family came to the settlement because they could buy a house there against low interest. One of Karishma’s observations was that she felt in the settlement the presence of another kind of border, less physical but also real. The Western, mainly American inhabitants kept themselves at a distance from her while she was walking around, quite possibly, she felt, because of her colour (she is Kenyan-Indian). Being Arabs, the Druze family is also left isolated in the settlement.

I had my own border experience. Last week for the first time soldiers did not let me pass to Jerusalem. They asked me whether I was a tourist. No, I said, I live here. Apparently, that was the wrong answer. Their instructions prevented them from allowing residents of Bethlehem to go into Jerusalem. I joined other workers in taking a side road through the fields which were still wet of the rain. While walking, a mobile of one of the workers rang. Sometimes, you hear those sounds which you never forget in your life because they are so out of place. Imagine, you are walking at an early moment in the morning when it is still half-dark, and performing an activity which is supposed to be “illegal.” You walk somewhat uncertain over the rocks in a queue of shadowy people. Then suddenly comes this technological sign of organized and planned life. Somebody saying “Hallo, I am here in Tantur, it takes me another half an hour before I can be with you.” However, after arriving at the main road to Jerusalem again, and walking further down along the road, I saw over my shoulders a soldier running towards the entrance of the escape route. I cherished my luck and thought that again some people might be forced to sit at the checkpoint, and would not reach their appointment. In Jerusalem, life was normal. I met the Jewish pharmacist who was again very friendly, and willing to substitute Abu Hannah’s medicines. He extended his condolences.

Mary tries to persuade her mother to leave the country for a few months in the coming summer, just for a break. Um Hannah seems to hesitate. She is the type of person who likes traveling yet she became reluctant due to a stroke a few years ago that left her with a difficulty in walking. Mary herself needs a break, too. She says that during all these months she cannot breath, she just lives in a tiny triangle, walking between our home, her mother’s, and the nearby university. Sometimes she has problems of sleeping, then she starts thinking about her father.


I wonder what it means educationally, to live in what Israel calls an “encirclement,” and the Palestinians a “siege.” A few years ago, one educator of Bethlehem University checked out with her students what “Jerusalem” meant to them. She was amazed to hear from several students: “nothing.” Due to the closure, they simply did not have a concrete image of Jerusalem although living in a distance of five miles from the city. Some people say that the real closure leads to a kind of “mental closure.” When traveling is difficult in reality, the mind travels less, too. Everything starts looking difficult; people become entrapped in the mode of what psychologists call “obstacle thinking,” rather than “opportunity thinking.”  A main question with which my colleagues and I struggle is now: How to keep the students’ mental windows and horizons open? Our Institute is presently embarking upon a fieldtrip program for school students. We have decided to implement it against all odds. Last year, we had a similar program whereby I myself used to stand with the microphone in hand in front of the bus full of teachers while approaching the Jerusalem checkpoint. The somewhat western-looking Palestinian teachers sat in the front, while the black-haired young men with moustaches remained in the back. To mislead the soldiers, I used to move my lips as if saying something interesting about the checkpoint to a group of tourists. One of the teachers called me their “key to Jerusalem.” Now these little tricks of course do not work anymore.

During Christmas, a group of “Magi” or “Kings from the East” arrived in Bethlehem. They are the real border-crossers. Organized by the Middle Eastern Council of Churches, their months-long journey on foot stretched from Iraq to Palestine. The group, among them several Arab Christians, wanted to show solidarity with Arab children, and to raise attention to the presence of Christianity in the Arab world. On their arrival in Bethlehem, there was a small celebration in the presence of a Christmas tree decorated with pictures of the youth killed in the recent clashes. I try to imagine how in the old times people used to walk long distances. One successful tourist activity, before the clashes started, was an imitation of the week-long voyage of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, in parts through “the fields.” Once I would like to do that trip with Mary and Jara. There is nothing which gives so much breath as a long walking journey.

At Christmas, before Jerusalem became also closed for foreign-passport holders, I left with Jara to the zoo, our favourite spot. The soldier at the checkpoint asked me from where I was, and hearing that I was from Holland, joked whether I could give him some drugs. With his desperate laugh, he looked as if he was in real need. Jara played with the animals the names of which she now often knows better than I do. Back home, she got some inspiration from the meeting with the soldier, and started playing “checkpoint” at the entrance of the kitchen. She put up one leg across the door and asked for the passport of the family. One guest joined the game and showed his permit. “OK, you go into the kitchen.” Otherwise, she plays with bags and imitation boats, made up of many pillows, and announces, as always, that she wants to go to Holland or Paris and not to school. Is Janet, Mary’s sister, allowed to join her, a visitor asks her. No, Jara says, Janet does not speak Dutch and would not understand what people tell her. Like always, Janet gives her a big hug.


 The Holiday Nighmare of 11,000 Palestinians
By Dr. Maria C. Khoury

During the Christmas vacation of the Latin Patriarchate Schools many teachers and students crossed the bridge from the West Bank  to the East Bank of Jordan to visit friends and relatives or in my case to show my children the rich history and Holy Sites of Jordan which gave birth not only to our  Christian faith but to other religions as well. The twelve hour bridge adventure crossing over due to the Israeli red-tape and politics was the most miserable experience I can re-call in my travels to over thirty countries in the last twenty years.  However, the hassle, misery and inconvenience of crossing over the Jordan River would be nothing compared to the nightmare that was waiting for me and 11,000 other Palestinians that could not return home to the West bank because of the severe closure imposed by the Israeli government.

The country of Jordan is absolutely stunning and beautiful, one of those dream vacations where you can have the ancient historical and biblical sites as well as McDonalds and Pizza Hut not to mention internet access at the hotels for children. Nothing could have been more magnificent than the ninth century "Red Rose City" called Petra. This spectacular place which is over two thousand years old is carved into rose colored stone and hidden away in the mountains. My children were stunned with the beauty and grandeur of this magnificent city which was lost to the world for over one thousand years and was rediscovered in the early 1800's. A two hour walk into this unique city once you enter only through a narrow crevice in the rock called "the Sig" takes you to the "lofty Dayr" the monastery at the top of the hills. It's such a fantastic archaeological location with the best view of the Jordan valley.

My favorite place in Jordan happened to be located in Madaba the ancient city of mosaics where I saw the oldest preserved ancient mosaic map in St. George Orthodox Church. Also nearby was a wonderful fifth century archaeological park at Mt. Nebo traditionally believed to be the burial place of Prophet Moses. The significant locations of both old and New Testament are far too great to mention in one article but the most important one is in the South region, the biblical "Bethany beyond the Jordan," where St. John baptized Jesus. It is recognized and recommended as one of the Vatican designated pilgrimage sites in Jordan.

The day we completed this fantastic dream vacation and were ready to return home we encountered the bridge nightmare of being refused entry into the West Bank. Although it was totally inconvenient to be with ten other family members, I tried to remain positive and think of it as an extra day of vacation, although unplanned for eleven people can be costly. My extra day was spent worthwhile with a trip to a brand new Latin Patriarchate School in Wasieh near Karak which was a very impressive building with all modern facilities, spacious classroom accommodations and a better teacher-student ratio according to Fr. Emil Salayta, the General Director of the Patriarchate Schools and the one who is overseeing this spectacular elementary and high school this academic year. The only think that kept going through my mind during the tour of the school was what great things money can accomplish to have such a genuine Christian presence in the middle of what appeared to be the dessert.  All the modern facilities that we dream about in our schools such as adequate classroom space, meetings rooms, auditorium, chapel, library and a beautiful playground were all available right here in a place that is not even on the Jordanian map. Impressive indeed and money well spent. If I could have a wish in the new millennium, I would personally wish that every student in the Latin Patriarchate Schools can have such a marvelous school to love and respect in order to stimulate better learning and more creativity.

Back to the nightmare, another eight hours the next day on the bridge and I still can't get to my office in Ramallah and my children missing the third school day in the new semester. These many efforts to cross the bridge add up to hundreds of unrefundable dollars in bridge transit fees, bus fees on the bridge to the Israelis and the Jordanians, taxi fees and after ten days of extra vacation even rich people run out of money. The Holy Land is owned and controlled by Israelis who have total authority to even keep teachers from teaching this week and students out of classrooms. Although the Red Cross tried to help emergency cases get home, we are far too many stuck on the wrong side during this cruel closure aimed at cleaning out the Holy Land of Palestinians.

The nightmare of 11,000 Palestinians not being able to get home after their holiday vacation and some actually sleeping in the streets and totally out of money is probably not even perceived as a human rights violation or a terrible and cruel collective punishment. They kicked people out of their homes in l948 and in 1967, what is happening in 2001?  When will justice prevail? When will Palestinians stop being treated like last class citizens in their homeland where they were born and their forefathers were born? Oh, did I mention that all of the Israelis and the Americans with me on the bridge where able to cross over, it was only Palestinians denied the right to return home during this holiday nightmare. After multiply tries and efforts to cross the bridge, eleven of us are still stuck on the wrong side of the river....


Jerusalem Journal no. 3
Sister Mary
Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Last Monday brought a huge rally of 250000 Israeli Settlers marching around the outside walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The march began at 5:00 p.m. and ended about 10:00. As the settlers marched, their singing of Israeli songs reverberated against the stone walls and magnified the voices that claimed this spot on earth as theirs. Arab shopkeepers here in the Old City had already closed their shops early in the afternoon, headed home, gathered their family around them and locked their doors -- with the hope and prayer that this mob would not spill over into the various quarters of the Old City, perhaps damaging whatever they came across.  Inside the Old City we listened to their songs and then the speeches given at the Jaffa Gate where they rallied. The sound system was so powerful that we could hear the speeches even from inside our dwellings, all the way over here at the New Gate. It sounded like they were just one street over, instead of one gate over.  Some children, who now learn Hebrew in school, were able to translate the speeches for their parents. Those with television could also see what was going on at the Jaffa Gate. When there was finally a long pause, I realized it was over. I think I was like my neighbors, holding my breath and listening to try to hear where the settlers were going. Thankfully they went back to wherever they came from.

Friday brought a contrast for me. I walked over to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in order to pray and light candles for some friends and I found the courtyard outside the church totally empty -- even the Israeli police were out of sight. It is the first time in 29 years that I have felt the desolation of that space. Inside there were four Italian seminarians and one family from an Eastern European country. Other than a couple of local women, with candles six to seven feet tall, I was alone. After time in prayer and lighting three candles, I looked down from the Calvary chapel to the entrance of the main body of the church. I was stunned to see only the patchwork floor of mis-matched marble and wood. I asked myself: "Where are the Christians?"  I looked at my watch; it was three o'clock, the time when only a few stood nearby as Jesus died. I walked down the stairs and over to the Tomb, spent some time there and then left the church out into the courtyard. There doves and sparrows were pecking at the prayers, and where now at the edge of the empty space stood a lone Israeli police woman. The sky was overcast and as I felt my heart sinking, I recalled a passage from John's gospel, "...the disciples had locked the doors where they were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood before them. 'Peace be with you.' he said. I walked up the stairs into Christian Quarter road in somewhat of a daze. Then I pulled myself together, walked home and decided to share this journal entry with you.



Dear Fr.Abusahlia and all those concerned,

It's heart rending hearing of the atrocity being perpetrated against God loving leaders in the Holy Land not to mention the common folk who daily come and go.

After reading the account of the shooting at Bishop Marcuzzo, I just couldn't turn the computer off without expressing my abashed feelings and my helplessness, but at the same time, realizing what's happening in your part of the world makes me feel connected and ashamed that I can't do more.  Prayer and sacrifice is all I can offer at this time.  May our Lord strengthen all in the Holy Land and please Him that these ungodly acts of injustice and violence will come to an end and nothing less than Justice and Peace will reign for the honor and glory of God.  Amen.     Sincerely and prayerfully,  A Friend


Dear Fr Raed,

We receive your bulletins regularly - thank you very much indeed - they are greatly appreciated as they are an informed, and accurate source of information as to what is actually happening in the Holy Land - our own national papers now have very little in them on what is taking place in Israel and Palestine - sadly.  So your newsletters are a vital source of information.

Many thanks indeed for keeping us so well informed and up to date with what is happening - a sad and worrying situation, during which our thoughts and prayers are with you all constantly.

If there is anything else we can do to help - you know that you only have to ask.

With our renewed prayers and support - Nora and David


We consider that as an unjustified action against one of our very important clergymen of the Latin Patriarchate

        Dear Friends, Fr Raed Abusahlia, I totally agree with you that this thing should not have happen. The Israeli press reported the incident with anger and the immediate investigation of the incident by the military authorities reflected the pressure on them to give an answer not only to the Latin Patriarch, but to the upset Israeli opinion as well.

        Yes, this is a result of the occupation, and should not happen. The Spanish newspaper were I am the staff photographer is read by many Christians here in Israel and all over Latin and North America is publishing today an article of condemnation of the incident.

        However, when the public autobus where Chief Rabbi Meir Lau was travelling was shot -about a month ago- and only by miracle nothing worst happen, we didn't hear one word that the Palestinian Authority is investigating the incident, not to mention that not one Palestinian leader apologize to the Chief Rabbi.

        We heard yesterday that some important Palestinian leaders proposed that our Prime Minister Ehud Barak should be put on trial by an international tribunal for war crimes. Is anybody serious that this is the way to advance a peace process?  Do you remember Mister Faruk Ashara giving his presentation as Foreign Minister of Syria at the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991? He pull out of the inner pocket of his jacket a photograph of Mr Shamir, who was in the room as his "partner"  - with whom he should find a way to end the conflict- representing the State of Israel, and he announced that Mr. Shamir is an international terrorist and so on. For sure, the peace conference was a total failure. Not because of Mr. Ashara's way of conducting negotiations, but this is only a detail of human relations between the parts. If I must sit down with someone whom I don't like, and have any conversation to solve any problem, should I begin my dialog by insulting my partner, there are very little chances that the meeting will bring any positive results, be it buying one kilo of potatoes or the peace process to resolve the Palestinian Israeli conflict. The other way round, on a meeting between Mr Saeb Arekat (I apologize if I don't write it correctly) and Shimon Peres at a closing session of one of the big annual events of the Peres Institute for Peace, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called them to the stage, and began to dance. In some minutes everybody was dancing, Mr Arekat's daughter from Jericho and Mr Peres grandson from Tel Aviv, and the atmosphere was very positive. However, Archbishop Tutu pointed out to everybody that he would like that peace could be achieved in such a good mood, but the true fact is that it doesn't work that way. Anyhow, he showed us all the importance of cultivating a human relationship with the "other", with the one who doesn't like us but we must live together with him.

    Sincerely Yours, Andres Lacko

Fr. Raed Awad Abusahlia

P.O.Box 14152  Jerusalem  91141
Tel.  00 972 2 6282323/6272280
Fax  00 972 2 6271652