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Final Peace Mission Update from Sister Barbara

posted Nov 8, 2014, 11:52 AM by Aidan Collett   [ updated Nov 8, 2014, 11:52 AM by Parishes of The Holy Family ]
Dear Friends,
Tomorrow we head back across the border into Jordan from where we take our flight home on Sunday. This the last of our updates so we want to share with you some of our experiences with the Palestinian people.

Today we made the short journey by bus from Taybeh/Ephraim, on the west Bank ,to Jerusalem. As foreigners we can take the bus for the 20kms trip without too much hassle, something the Palestinians can't do without a work permit for Israel or a special permit, not easily come by. We also passed through the checkpoint with relative ease, soldiers bordering the bus to check our passports and the Palestinians permits. A number get told to leave the bus to go for further investigation at the check point office. This is one effect of living under the military occupation by Israel. Palestine is made up of 3 geographical areas, West bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza,yet Palestinians cannot move freely between the 3 parts that make up their homeland.

In the parish in Ephraim where we spent the last week to reflect on our time here, we spoke with the Palestinian parish priest, Fr Aziz who shared his own family's experience living in the occupied territories. Two of his 4 brothers had spent 2 years in Israeli prisons, no crime committed and no court case. The younger one was only 18 and still at school when he was taken. Neither Father nor the boys' Dad,because they have Palestinian I.Ds.,could visit them while in prison ,only the mother because she had an Israeli I. D. Father said what a toll that had taken on his mother.
The following day we met Father's parents who had come to visit their priest son. The mother told us of her pain over those imprisonments, and the fear with which they live, even the fear of being killed. After he was freed they had sent the younger son to study in Italy and they don't want him to return for fear of what might happen. She said how much she misses him but it's for the best that he stay in Italy.

Zuhair the parish secretary, an older man, took us for a drive and pointed out his land and olive trees which he no longer has access to because a Jewish settlement has been built on that area and Palestinians are not permitted in the Settlements even though those Settlements are illegally built on Palestinian land. It was interesting that as we drove along,Zuhair had wound down the car windows but when we asked if there any problems from the military he put the windows up before explaining about his land. (This lack of trust or need to be careful) was something I experienced when we asked Father about using the parish Wifi. Where in other places we had been told the security key to put in ourselves, Father asked for my phone to put it in himself. I never did find out what it was.) Zuhair also told us how the military come into the villages at night and take young men from their homes and from there they end up in prison . He explained," it's not for what these guys have done, but for what they might do"!

It was interesting hearing how it has been for 26yrold Tony the seminarian who's grown up as a Palestinian on the Israeli side in Haifa. On leaving school he got a job in an Israeli firm while he was studying at University. Because he spoke Hebrew perfectly they didn't realize he was Palestinian but when the bosses found out he was, he could no longer be promoted in the firm.

Remi was the chef in the restaurant in Taybeh. She told us it's very quiet for her in Taybeh but she's limited where she can go . Christians have the possibility of getting a permit to visit Jerusalem at Christmas and Easter for one week.

Khalid is the Dentist who works in the Caritas centre in the village. He lives in East Jerusalem and has an Israeli I D that permits him as a Palestinian to travel between the two. He has to pay for that permit. However he said "I would like to go to Gaza but can't get a permit to go there. " With so many restrictions he would like to emigrate but his wife doesn't want to.

Wisam the young guy in the parish office would like to emigrate to the States where he'd have so many more opportunities but Father Aziz has employed him in the parish as Youth Coordinator of Taybeh and the surrounding area in the hope that he will decide to stay in Palestine and not emigrate as so many do out of desperation with the situation.

To end on a positive and happy note I have to tell you about a lovely experience we had yesterday morning when we went for walk down among the olive trees after Sunday Mass. As we passed a house the man invited us in for a cup of refreshing mint tea. He told us he was of the Greek Orthodox religion and welcomed everyone . While we were there his 19yrold son returned from his church service at the Orthodox church and he had brought the communion bread home to share with the family. It was quite touching for us when the man shared that blessed bread with us.

As St John writes at the end of his Gospel "all this and so much more took place that is not recorded..." or words to that effect.
We've had a similar experience, so much has happened that has not been recorded,in this month here praying for a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine . We are so grateful for the opportunity we've had to be here and have been so blessed along the way. Hopefully we return with more peace in our own hearts so that as Etty says "when we each have peace in our hearts the world will be at peace."

Thank you for accompanying us along the way.

Blessings of peace from Jerusalem ,"For the peace of Jerusalem, pray"
With love,
Margaret and Barbara.