Subject: Sorry We Are Closed
A message from the Church in Nablus (West Bank, Palestine)
October 8, 2002
(This is the situation of many churches and Mosques in many Plaesrtinians cities, the reason, read below)
Dear Friends, Grace and peace to you.
Since June 20th, Nablus has been suffocating.What I mean is that life has ground to a halt. We have been under curfew for 103 days now, unable to leave our homes, unable to attend schools, unable to go to work, unable to worship together. You name it, we can't do it... You must be able to imagine how dreadful the situation is. This doesn't only mean that life has been on pause, but it also means that many homes, many institutions, and many lives have been destroyed.
The parishes of Nablus, Rafedia, and Zababdeh, along with their four institutions (St. Luke's Hospital, two kindergartens, and the Pennman Clinic), have been deserted. I fear that the long-term consequences could be disastrous. Let me give you more details. St. Luke's Hospital, with its 108 employees, is facing the threat of bankruptcy, unable to pay salaries. But at the same time, realizing the harsh reality of unemployment, we do not wish to send anyone onto the street. These days, employment is a vital ministry.
From my desk, I want to extend my gratitude and gratefulness to the Diocese of Jerusalem and all who have supported and continue to support these families and our ministry. This is just the tip of the curfew iceberg. Our two kindergartens in Nablus and Rafedia should have opened their doors to the children more than a month ago. It is only last week that we started in spite of the curfew. Breaking the curfew is a dangerous enterprise, as you well know. We have been particularly concerned, knowing that a ten year-old boy was killed at the door of the Anglican Compound where our kindergarten is located. It took us a great deal of energy to increase our student enrollment to forty children through local TV advertisements and the like.
Zababdeh is a different story altogether. There is no curfew, but Zababdeh is like a deserted isle in an ocean of battle. Personally, this means I am unable to travel to Zababdeh much. For example, the last month I was only able to go there for one week only. My "commute" (if you can call it that) was not only difficult - having to walk up to two kilometers straight down hill across the Israeli army road - but also extremely dangerous.
As for parish activities, it is only today that I have started a Bible study after an undesired "leave of absence" (because of curfew) of more than three months. We have lost important connections between parishioners themselves and with me as a result. Parish visitation, in a normal situation, is the most natural ministry of the church. Here, it is only possible by ambulance, and even then it is potentially dangerous. For example, I was stopped by the Israeli army for three hours (in an ambulance!) by the side of the road, although I was dressed in clerical vestments. As a result, I am only able to make emergency parish visits. On a more personal level, since my return to Nablus in the beginning of August, I am still here and cannot leave the West Bank. Even though I have family connections and social obligations outside of the area, I have had to put all of this to the side - like the rest of our lives here. Please pray for us, for the perseverance of our parishioners and institutions, and for the important witness they represent and bear to the world.
Love and Prayers,
Rev. Hosam Naoum
St. Philips Episcopal ChurchNablus