Olive Branch from Jerusalem
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”


Saturday, 18 November 2000

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, the Patriarch Michel Sabbah returned back from Jordan after the annual spiritual retreat of our priests, and soon after his arrival, we went to Beit Jala in order to present our condolences to the family of Dr. Fischer who died two days ago. In fact, we arrived to the Lutheran Church where the receive people, and bishop Mounib Younan was also there and welcomed us with members of his church and family. I noticed that the whole town of Beit Jala became one family, and they are mourning the death of Dr. Harry. Indeed the dean of the church said, we will stay here, we will not leave, they can do whatever they want, but we prefer to die here than anywhere else. The Patriarch replied: “If you ask the Palestinian people, what do you want? They will say: we want our freedom back, we want the end of the occupation, we want to live in freedom in our own land”. He added: “We don’t die because we love death, this should not become our target, but, if it necessary, we are ready to die”. The Patriarch called both parties to use reasonable ways in these difficult time, because at the end we have to come together and negotiate peace in order to reach just solution. Killing innocent people, shelling homes of civilians is not acceptable, even actions and reactions should be controlled and reevaluated; we have to use correct ways to reach noble goals.

After this visit of condolence, we visited several homes, which were severely attacked days before, many of them are evacuated and inhabitable. We saw many missiles launched by helicopters, twenty of them in the same house. It is written on them: made in the USA, illegal weapon, forbidden to be used against civilians. It seems, that Beit Jala is not a civilian town, but a military camp, and it is legal only to use these weapons against Palestinians. I assure you that, even in the war time, it is immoral to attack civilians, how about attacking unarmed people in their homes during the night when the whole family is gathered to sleep, if they can sleep?

I will dedicate most of my newsletter to send the APPEAL of CARITAS JERUSALEM. Mme Claudette Habash, president of our diocesan caritas office in Jerusalem, Vice president of Caritas International, will go to Italy next Monday in order to meet our partners there. She prepared they following rapport that I would like to address also to each of you. This is our Appeal from Jerusalem, we have many emergency needs and all the relief agencies in the country stopped their development programs and began first relief aid, especially to unemployed people who lost their daily bread because they cannot enter Israel for work since more that six weeks; the emergency cases of the families who lost their homes in Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, the cases of sieged villages cut from the other cities and villages because of the full closure imposed on them, even food, medicine and essential provision is forbidden to enter; nobody is allowed to go in or out of his own village. I myself, I will go tomorrow morning to celebrate the  Sunday mass in ABOUD, one of our parishes near in Ramallah area 55 Kms from Jerusalem, I have to replace it’s parish priest who is actually in Jordan. I am not sure that I will be able to reach there because of the closure and the many checkpoints in the roads. This village is under siege since more that two weeks, people are closed there like in prison, hundreds of olive trees of the villagers were uprooted by the settlers and the soldiers, the suffer from a shortage of essential provision. Therefore we are organizing for them a special campaign, which might arrive Monday. We will try to send them necessary food for one hundred families through the CARITAS.

I think that you got my message, and you heard my appeal, and I ask you kindly to react and act, as soon as possible. You will find all the necessary contact numbers of CARITAS JERUSALEM below, don’t hesitate to call them and coordinate your contribution.

Thank you in advance for any assistance ever possible…

You will find also in today’s newsletter:

1)     An article by Maria Khoury  “This Sunday in the Holy Land” updating us about the situation in our schools.

2)     Message from the Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission of Antwerp, Belgium to the Justice and Peace Commission of Jerusalem: This message is addressed to our Patriarch Michel Sabbah as president of our Justice and Peace commission, and to Fr Frans Bouwen, Secretary General of the Commission.

3)     I found it very interesting to tell you that not all the Jews are with the policy of the Israeli government, there are JEWS AGAINST OCCUPATION” I send you hereby their appeal addressed to:  Israeli government; international public opinion

Best wishes from Jerusalem, hoping that we all we will have a good and peaceful weekend and blessed Sunday.

Pray for me to be able to reach ABOUD in order to celebrate the mass there, otherwise they will remain without the Sunday mass.

Fr. Raed Abusahlia



November 15, 2000. The following is a summarization of historical events and of the current milieu that Caritas Jerusalem feels would be helpful in understanding the plight of the Palestinian people and the challenges facing Caritas at the close of the year 2000.



·         In 1948 the British Mandate ended in Palestine and Jews who owned only 5.9% of the land in Palestine at that time were granted by the UN permission to form a state. At the end of the Arab-Israeli War in that year, Israel had seized control of 78% of the country. Refugees who fled as a result of ethnic cleansing or left areas of conflict numbered about 750,000 people. At that time, the West Bank came under Jordanian control and Gaza under Egyptian administration.

·         In the June War of 1967, Israel invaded the West Bank and Gaza, expropriated 73% of the land and has gradually moved Israelis into 194 settlements on seized land in contradiction of international law. By 1998, Israeli settlers numbered 172,500 excluding Jerusalem. (Israel Central Bureau of Statistic)

·         A grassroots uprising called the Intifada began in 1987 to protest the harsh military occupation; it lasted until the Oslo Declaration of principles in September 1993. In July of 1994 the Palestinian Authority was established and was slowly given complete authority over cities, towns and surrounding areas totaling about 37% of the WB and 60% of Gaza.

·         The Camp David meeting called by the US government in 2000 resulted in a final breakdown of seven years of peace negotiations.


The present conflict ignited on September 29, after the provocative visit of Ariel Sharon with 1,500 policemen to the Temple Mount to again assert Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. Following the deaths that day, Palestinians began numerous demonstrations across the West Bank and Gaza to protest Israeli intransigence in negotiating a just peace settlement.

The characteristic difference between present clashes and those of the past is the use of short-range rifles, which are owned by only a few Palestinians, and the brutal disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army. Many innocent bystanders have been killed or wounded because of indiscriminate use of force.  Youth throwing stones are being fired upon with live ammunition, resulting in the deaths of about 60 of them. Rifle fire is met with attack helicopters and tanks. Heavy weapons are fired, often indiscriminately, into residential neighborhoods. The Greek Orthodox Church, St. Nicholas, was shelled in Beit Jala (Bethlehem area) for instance. Vigilante settler groups have fired upon and killed many innocent people.  As wage earners and school children set out for the day, they carry in their hearts the thought that they might not return home that day.


Israelis demand an immediate cessation of opposition of Palestinians to its policies. They also demand acceptance of their plans for the division of sovereignty over the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem.


1.       Palestinians ask that the use of heavy weapons against unarmed civilians stop in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Conventions. They also ask that as a signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Israel refrain from firing in situations that would endanger children.

2.       It is further requested that there be an international peace keeping force sent into the area to assess the situation and to protect the lives of civilians.

3.       Palestinians ask that in any framework for final peace agreements, there must be adherence to international law and enforcement of UN Resolutions, especially these three:

UN Resolution 181 and 303 providing for a special international regime over all of Jerusalem

UN Resolution 242 and 338 calling for Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian areas occupied in 1967.

UN Resolution 194 calling for repatriation and restitution of Palestinian refugees.


 At present Palestinians number 3.2 million of which 1.37 million are registered refugees. The UN registers over 2.2 million Palestinians in camps outside of Palestine. Additionally, there are estimated to be a few million people who are living outside of the country but are not registered as refugees.


 UNSCO released a report on the economy in Palestine on October 21. To summarize:

Israel controls all the main roads leading into and out of the West Bank and Gaza and all of their internal arterial highways. The present closure and control of roads has had a devastating impact on the free flow of goods and persons. First, the decrease in circulation of goods has had a dampening effect on internal production which results in a decrease in overall employment among Palestinians. Secondly, over 125,000 Palestinians who work in the Israeli sectors and in Jerusalem have lost their jobs. Unemployment is estimated at 50%.

Israeli use of heavy weapons has destroyed public and private buildings and vehicles.  Helicopters and tanks are continuing their bombardment, especially in the Bethlehem and Ramallah areas. Estimates of the aggregate damage have not been made as yet.

Tourism is a major source of income in the area Whenever there are clashes or conflict, the flow of tourists drops to a trickle resulting in the loss of jobs or decrease in work hours. For instance, the Hyatt Regency Hotel in East Jerusalem has let go 180 employees. The Notre Dame Pilgrim Center has decreased the paid work hours of its employees by 33%. Some tour agencies have closed completely. Those working in the tourism sector face a rather bleak economic future for months to come.

The loss of such wide spread personal income will necessarily result in an increase in poverty. The already financially strapped government and private institutions are not able to care for the welfare, medical and social needs of the people.


Over the last 7 weeks, the Palestinian Red Crescent (part of the International Red Cross) reports the shooting deaths of 188 people of which 14% were under the age of 15. Among the children killed was 18-month-old Sara Abdul Azeem who was shot in the head by settlers who were randomly shooting at cars.   The wounded number 7,978.  There are over 1,700 children counted among the wounded (Defense for Children International, Nov. 2, 2000).

One can only imagine the effect of the weeks of violence on the mental health of Palestinians. Of particular importance to our people are anxiety disorders and the post-traumatic effects of the violence on children. In the city of Hebron alone, over 40,000 people have been under continuous curfew for over a month, because of the presence of 400 settlers in an enclave in the old section of town.

Road closures prevent people from reaching medical care. Soldiers turn back not only individuals but also prevent ambulances from reaching hospitals.  Over 51 medical personnel have been wounded and one killed by soldiers and settlers. This is a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.

The number of hospital beds in this country number 3,179 (Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics). There is a shortage of medicines, but thankfully the international community is helping to respond to this need, as well as, trying to provide food to certain areas. Hospitals and clinics at this time do not have the capacity to properly treat patients.


 With the collaboration of local church leaders, Caritas Jerusalem was founded in June 1967 as a response to the emergency situation of the 1967 War, which resulted in the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Close cooperation with the local church leaders and the Christian community has always been of paramount importance. It is understandable that our ties must remain strong if we are to accurately assess the needs of both Christians and Muslims in our community and to respond appropriately as a Christ centered organization. Caritas is the main social service arm/organization of the Catholic Church in this country.


Short-term needs:

Over the years Caritas, which was founded in response to relief needs of people after the 1967 War, has been able to gradually focus its energies and efforts toward sustainable development. Its loans and grants have enabled many people to move toward self-sufficiency. However, in the present conflict and in the expected aftermath, Caritas is being asked by the people and the local church to increase their response to their emergency needs. Families and parish priests are rightly requesting assistance that we are not able to meet with our current budget.

With the loss of income, the working poor are facing a situation in which they need money for food, help with payments for family medical problems, school tuition, rent and utilities. Christian schools have not been able to collect all of the tuition fees for the current school year. It is extremely important for Christians that these schools remain open since it is here that they are taught catechism and are encouraged in the morals and expected behavior of their faith. One of the strongest witnesses of the Church locally is to the Muslim students attending theses schools and to their families. It is in these schools that the personal attention and quality education is given to youth to provide them the foundation that will help them become vital adults prepared to take their place among the nations.

Long-term needs:

We must not only seek to meet the short-term relief needs of people, but stay our course and maintain our highly successful loan programs. Our community clinics should be maintained to care for people living in areas of restricted travel. Indeed, the budget should be increased to cover the destitute who cannot afford medical services at this time.

It is very important in these fragile times that we as Caritas demonstrate our solidarity with the local churches and the people. As Christians we have the obligation under grace to give witness to our faith through our work to both Christians and Muslims.

We ask not only for your continued support of our clinic in Aboud, but also for help in buying a dental unit for our clinic in Taybeh. Additionally, we need assistance for our home for the elderly in Ramallah.


Claudette Habesch

Caritas Jerusalem

N.B. If you want to respond to the Caritas Appeal, please contact us or contact Mme Habash in here Jerusalem office: address: Caritas Jerusalem, Notre Dame Center, P.O.Box  20894, 97200 Jerusalem, Tel. 00 972 2 6287574, Fax 00 972 2 6288421, e-mail: caritas@shani.net

This Sunday in the Holy Land

By Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.

As Christians we glorify God unceasingly but especially on Sunday it’s typical to pray in      Church. Sunday, Nov. 12th was not going to be a typical Sunday in Bethlehem anyway. The surrounding Beit Sahour and Beit Jala Christian communities have been devastated by nightly shootings, bombings and a total destruction of their homes which in this country is a complete loss of a life savings due to lack of house insurance. It was not going to be a typical Sunday because the Palestinian massacre continues with over 200 dead and more than 7000 severely injured.

Our students in the Christian schools of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala have been traumatized by the brutal Israeli attacks. A great number of children have moved out of their homes because the missiles that American tax dollars send to Israel keep falling in their neighborhoods and terrorizing them. Our Beit Sahour 8th grade student George Hijazeen had his home totally destroyed by Israeli bombs, as have hundreds of other Christians in the area.

Our Beit Jala 8th grade student Jadallah Emil Khamamshta tried to escape the missile attacks by moving with his family to his uncle’s house. However, on Sunday as he was walking home after attending church services he was seriously injured when a missile suddenly exploded near St. Nicholas’ Church. He sustained head trauma as the shrapnel hit his head. Jadallah, in Arabic meaning, “as God gives” lies in the intensive care unit at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem after a major operation to save his life. His Uncle Sammy survived the missile attack and was also shot in the shoulder. Nine innocent civilians were reported wounded in this broad daylight attack after Sunday worship.

The next day in school who will concentrate on math? English? Science? Certainly none of the children that were walking home after church and were lucky enough to survive the brutal and unnecessary explosion that took place near St. Nicholas Church. Certainly not the children that listened to the all night bombing in their neighborhoods that lasted until 3am. Did these children even sleep enough to concentrate on any lesson? They did not have electricity to do their homework or review any of their studies. Jadallah’s brother, sixth grader Jimmy says that these bombings are not fair and he is so scared that the Israelis “just want to kill us all.” He also said that he can’t concentrate on what the teacher says in class. Many children report that they are scared from the night because of the bombings and shelling of homes and they are scared from the day because of the killings of innocent civilians. On October 12th, Jadallah wrote in his English classroom journal: “I feel so angry… the bullets hit the yard and the balcony of our house. The tanks on the mountain surrounded Bethlehem area. The settlers attacked the Palestinian villages and the houses and burn the houses. The helicopters shelled the houses with rockets… this is a catastrophe to Palestinians. I feel angry, I can’t sleep or study. All the time I think a missile or a bullet will kill me.” And, he is blessed to have survived.

Jadallah’s English teacher, Ms Sana Abu Amsha, confirmed that it was not a typical Sunday. She attended Church services in Bethlehem and as she left the church with her children she saw the Beit Jala bombings and houses burning in the explosion.  She got stuck not being able to return to her home until 5 p.m. However, she was on of the lucky ones because she did have a home to return too. But not true for her uncle Mr. Nasri Jarayseh, a devout Christian who had his Beit Sahour home burned completely. The Israeli soldiers prevented the fire engine from reaching the home to extinguish the fire. One fireman was shot in the leg and the other injured.

The very beautiful villa and clinic of a prominent Christian Gynecologist was also destroyed. During the week we saw the tragic death of a well-known German physiotherapist Dr. Harry Fisher.

It really was not a typical Sunday in the Holy Land, the peaceful Sunday that we yearn to have as a day of worship. The American government can stop the Israelis from carrying out these atrocities. Please contact your senators and representatives to stop these crimes against humanity. This sacred land where our Lord and Savior established our Christian roots deserves peace and a Christian presence.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Maria C. Khoury, a Greek-American lives in Taybeh, the only all-Christian village remaining in the Holy Land. She works in teacher training for the Latin Patriarchate Schools, Jerusalem.

Message from the Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission of Antwerp, Belgium

To the Justice and Peace Commission of Jerusalem

To H.B. Msgr. Michel Sabbah, President of the Commission

To Fr Frans Bouwen, Secretary General of the Commission

Your Excellency,

Dear Friends and Colleagues from the Jerusalem Justice and Peace Commission,

We have become increasingly worried and preoccupied by the escalating conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people in the Holy Land over the past few days and weeks. As of today, more than 230 people have been killed already, most of them Palestinians but also a number of Israelis. We remain firmly convinced that fair and honest negotiations, conducted with the necessary political will from both sides, will bring about a just and lasting peace, equitable to both peoples. Proposals in this regard have already been formulated by various think tanks. We want to specially emphasise the contributions made to the debate by H.B. Msgr Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, together with other religious leaders in the region.

While we are watching and weighing the conflict from afar, you are in the midst of it. We receive daily reports about the tragic events from various human rights organisations, churches and individuals, and of course through the international press. We are conscious of the fact that international press coverage has been disturbingly biased. But it remains impossible for us, here in secure Belgium, to experience the daily horrors of violence unleashed and revenge untold.

 We know that you must all be very concerned, at this moment, with the manifold consequences of the on-going strife for your personal, family and professional life and for your people as a whole.

It is our utmost desire to be of service to you in this conflict, to contribute our humble share in helping to resolve the violence and to bring about a just and peaceful society in the whole of the Holy Land. We would therefore be very grateful for any suggestions you may have, for instance, for political lobbying at the Belgian and European level or by sending out information to the press and influencing public opinion.

The Diocesan Commission Justice and Peace will continue to stay alert to the events in the Middle East region. The Commission will do this in close co-operation with other faith based NGOs and communities, including the Interreligious Working Group in Antwerp (WIDA).

Meanwhile, we continue to hope and pray in solidarity with you and the suffering people for lasting peace in the Holy Land.

Antwerp, 16 November 2000

Tijl Declercq

Chair of the Commission

Secretariat of the Diocesan Commission Justice and Peace: De Loodsen, Sint-Jacobsmarkt 43, B - 2000 Antwerpen, tel. ++32-3-2340511, fax ++32-3-2132409, E-mail: 0001@kerknet.be

Members of the Diocesan Commission: Vicar General Rik Aegten, Vinus Bleyen, Tijl Declercq, Wim De Groof, Magda De Vries, Wilfried Gepts, Hugo Jansen, Marie-Josée Kempen, Paul Lansu, Cécile Marynissen, Jenny Meijer, Dirk Ruymaekers, Wim Schobre, Fred Sels, Ward Tiebos, Julia Van Gils, Leopold Vinken.



To:  Israeli government; international public opinion

We, concerned Jews from around the world, continue to view with horror the consequences of military repression and economic blockade of the Palestinians by Israel.
Israel and the Palestinians are not equal partners in a peace process. Israel is a nation state equipped with an army and highly sophisticated weaponry; the Palestinians are a dispossessed people, living under Israeli military, political and economic control in a territory fragmented by expanding Jewish settlements.
The calculated act of provocation organized by Ariel Sharon at Haram el-Sharif, with the agreement and support of Ehud Barak, set the region ablaze. This was possible because the situation was already potentially explosive as a result of the Israeli delaying tactics and refusal to recognize a Palestinian state whose proclamation has been repeatedly deferred.
Israel gains legitimacy for its actions by claiming to act in the name of Jews worldwide. As Jews, we deplore antisemitism and all forms of racism. We support the co-existence, on equal terms, of Palestinians, Israelis, and all other peoples of the region and call for an end to Israeli aggression and oppression.
We urge Israel to uphold the human rights of Palestinians by:
* immediate, total and unconditional withdrawal from all of the territories taken by force and occupied in 1967
* recognition of the Palestinian right to national self-determination, to return and to compensation, and the implementation of steps towards the realization of this right
* abolition of all discriminatory laws, and the introduction of full legal equality between Jews and non-Jews
* redistribution of resources and a massive program of international aid to rehabilitate Palestinian communities.
Only an approach based on these elements stands any chance of leading to the conditions for a just peace in the region



Dear Fr Raed

I wanted to let you know that we very much appreciate all of the news and information which you continue to send to us via Paul Lansu at Pax Christi International.

Since October we have been trying to find ways of disseminating this information as one way of offering you our solidarity and also to offer to people here in England another 'picture' of what is happening in the Holy Land. I have been forwarding your messages and the Bethlehem Diary to a number of key Pax Christi members around the country and also to all of the Diocesan Justice and Peace networks. I know that one group used the first Bethlehem Diary in a service which they held in October for One World Week and they also sent a message to Toine. We also managed to get one of the main Catholic weekly papers to carry one of the Bethlehem Diaries and I hope to encourage more of this.

We are just in the process of sending out our monthly newsletter to our members, around 2,000 and the front page is calling for solidarity with our partners in the Holy Land.  I hope that this will encourage prayer and people to people solidarity and also move our members to write to our own political leaders about the situation in the Middle East.

As we approach Advent I cannot help thinking about how we will celebrate Advent and Christmas this year in the knowledge of so much suffering and violence in the land of Jesus birth!  How can we make our celebrations and liturgies appropriate in the face of this reality?  Surely we cannot sing in our usual unthinking way such Christmas Carols as ' One in David's Royal City' and 'Little Town of Bethlehem'.

Every year Pax Christi in London organize a special Peace service for Advent: the readings and message of Advent call and draw us to prepare for the Prince of Peace!  We must try to be faithful to this call and yet aware of the reality of life in the Holy Land today.  As Harry Hagopian says in his article: being faithful disciples of Christ in a broken, wounded and bleeding world is an arduous and trying task".

Please know that some of us are trying, albeit in a very distant and not very effective way, to offer solidarity to you all. As Pax Christi people we have to be people who face reality and people who live in hope that violence will not have the last word!!
In peace

Pat Gaffney, General Secretary
Pax Christi British Section.