Born in Beirut, Lebanon on August 31, 1950 (Son of Fawzi Francis Kobti and Verginie Elias El-Sharif). Studied at the Latin Patriarchate Seminary of Jerusalem from 1963-1975. Worked as a teacher at Terra Santa College 1973-1974 (Franciscan Fathers of the Custody of the Holy...Read More
Seeking truth and justice
Dear Friends and family in the USA,
You have heard from me recently about the establishment of a foundation for the friends of Rawdat El-Zuhur, Embrace the children of Palestine. Now I am glad to let you know that those of you who have been regular supporters of the school, and those who wished to help but did not know how to go about it, Embrace the children of Palestine is your solution. However, we cannot be grateful enough to Peter Makari and the Global Ministries for having handled your gifts to the school for the last few years, and are still willing to do so.Read More
by Myriam Ambroselli, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
JERUSALEM – On Saturday May 7, 2016, the Sisters of St. Dorothy welcomed former students of their boarding school and their school of arts and crafts, which they used to run in Deir Rafat. A Mass, under the theme of Year of Mercy, was celebrated on this occasion by Bishop William Shomali.
In her testimony written in Italian, Sister Estella Fano explains how between 1927 and 2009, for nearly 80 years, St. Dorothy Sisters worked at Deir Rafat, which houses the shrine of Our Lady of Palestine near Bet Shemesh, an orphanage and a school of arts and crafts. The compound where many Palestinian children placed under the wings of social services, have grown under good care, has survived wars (WWII, the Gulf War) and the consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, meaning the two intifadas (uprisings).Read More
by Claus Grue, Communication consultant at the WCC
(World Council of Churches) May 24, 2016 – Operating in an area where the needs for humanitarian assistance are enormous and where 43 percent of the population is unemployed – of which 80 percent are youth – has its challenges.
Thousands of destroyed homes, a damaged infrastructure, frequent power cuts and a continued blockade don’t make life easy for the 1.8 million inhabitants in tiny Gaza – one of the most densely populated self-governing territories in the world.
“We suffer daily, but we never lose hope,” says Dr Issa Tarazi, executive director of Near East Council of Churches (NECC), part of the Department of Services to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR), which in turn is a department within the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC). Around 100 staff are engaged in NECC’s activities.
“The main obstacle here is of course operating under occupation and siege,” he adds.
The constant unpredictability and fear permeating daily life in Gaza takes its toll on the population.
“The war in 2014 was devastating and worsened the situation. Health clinics were destroyed and 75,000 people still remain displaced,” Tarazi continues.
After more than 60 years in service, NECC has developed a strong base in Gaza and has become one of its main providers of primary health care.
Health program coordinator Dr Wafa Kanan administers a comprehensive operation with 25,000 individual beneficiaries annually.
“We provide access to doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, psychosocial workers, dentists and dermatologists at primary health care centres across the region. Our work is integrated with hospitals and we are well-coordinated with other non-government organisations, as well as with the Ministry of Health,” she explains.
Nevertheless, increasing demands and budget limitations require priorities. Mother and childcare is given special attention with focus on both medical issues and psycho-social support for children and mothers. A screening programme has discovered that a staggering 30 percent of children under school age are anaemic and 10 percent suffer from malnutrition.
“Health education, family planning and home visits to investigate why people are not coming to appointments with doctors are other measures designed to improve this situation,” says Kanan.
A growing number of patients has increased the workload of NECC’s 35 health workers. Thanks to a digitally managed health information system, valuable time is saved and easy access to reliable medical data secured, according to Kanan.
Due to a continuously unpredictable situation in Gaza, a six-month strategic stock of medication is necessary.
NECC recognizes that long-term sustainable development largely relies on education and employment. Consequently, an important part of its work focuses on economic development. The Technical Vocational and Educational Training program (TVET) provides three-year vocational training in carpentry/furniture making and welding/metal work, two-year training in electricity and motor rewinding and one-year training in dress making and secretarial duties. Two hundred students are currently enrolled in these programs.
“Seventy percent of the Palestinian population in Gaza is 14 – 30 years of age. Education is a key factor for a prosperous future,” says TVET program coordinator Mahmoud Al – Halimi.
To fulfill that dream, students are actively promoted to finish their education and 100 additional students are targeted to enroll on a yearly basis.
“We offer heavily subsidized student fees of $100 US, compared to the real cost of $2,000, which few students would be able to afford. We are networking with players in the economic sector, as well as international non-government organizations, to support educational programs and the employment opportunities that follow,” explains Al – Halimi.
Around 1,200 Christians reside in Gaza – a tiny minority in a population reaching two million. The Catholic and the Orthodox Church run four Christian schools in the area.
The overwhelmingly Muslim majority is similarly reflected in the NECC staff.
“In line with our Christian values, we employ people and provide services solely on the basis of needs, regardless of race, color, gender or political affiliation,” says Tarazi.
Along with his Palestinian colleagues, he wishes for permanent peace more than anything else.Read More
The General Definitory of the Friars Minor, with the consent of the Holy See, elected Fr. Francesco PATTON as the new Custos. He will succeed Fr. Pierbattista PIZZABALLA, who held the position for twelve years.
The role of the Custos in the Holy Land and the Middle East
The figure of the Custos is especially significant for the Church in the Holy Land and the Middle East.Read More
Fr. Francesco Patton was born in Vigo Meano in the diocese of Trent on December 23rd, 1963. He belongs to the Franciscan Province of St. Anthony in Italy. He is fluent in English and Spanish, besides his native Italian.
Beirut, May 18, 2016 – As of May 15, 2016, according to Save the Children and an assortment of UN agencies and NGO’s, nearly 7 million people are displaced within Syria, half of them are children and more than two million of the youngsters are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. In rural areas of Damascus one in 20 children is severely malnourished with 14 per cent classed as acutely malnourished. The charity’s chief executive Justin Forsyth recently told the UK Independent recently that “There is no room for delay or argument: Syria’s children must not be allowed to go hungry!”Read More
(CNA/EWTN News) Madrid, Spain, May 18, 2016 / 12:25 am – Father Rodrigo Miranda is a priest from Chile. But it was in Syria, among the oppressed Christian community, that he learned what it really meant to be a priest.Read More
Sixty-two years after the U.S. Supreme Court banned racial segregation in U.S. public schools, the United Methodist Church ended its 2016 General Conference by voting 559-157 to continue investing its funds in U.S. corporations profiting from operations in illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories.
This do-not-divest vote rejected an effort by some delegates to the UMC General Conference to halt all investments in three American corporations profiting from Israel’s immoral and illegal behavior.Read More
In an interview with French Catholic newspaper “La Croix”, the Pope spoke again about the immigration phenomenon caused by the wars going on in the Middle East and Africa and by underdevelopment. He also talked about arms trafficking and integration. Regarding euthanasia and civil unions, he said that when the State approves a law, it must respect people’s consciences. Conscientious objection is a human right of public officials too.
Vatican City, May 16,2016 – “In the face of Islamic terrorism, it would therefore be better to question ourselves about the way in which an overly Western model of democracy has been exported to countries such as Iraq”. Francis said this in an exclusive interview with French Catholic newspaper La Croix, in which he spoke about immigration, war and laicity.Read More
[Meserole’s[ running theory was that radicalization took advantage of two central French political ideas: “laïcité et liberté.” France and Belgium forced secularization on Muslims, but also gave them the freedom to organize against it.
* by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker, May 18, 2016
Late last fall, just a few weeks before the coördinated attacks in Paris, a Brookings Institution researcher named Chris Meserole assembled all the data he could find about which countries ISIS fighters came from, and began to run programs looking for correlations. Much of the scholarship in the evolving field of terror analysis emphasized jihadists’ networks and their psychological profiles, but Meserole and his collaborator, Will McCants, were interested in a separate line of questions. What was the social position of Sunni Muslims in each country that sent jihadis to Syria, and did any aspects of that position seem to correspond with the number they sent? Meserole thought that some new analytics techniques could help cut through the data, and once he applied them he found several correlations. Two were not especially strong or surprising: countries where Sunni Muslims were densely concentrated in cities, and where they had especially high rates of youth unemployment, tended to produce more ISIS fighters. But the third was striking. The most powerful variable by far in predicting how many jihadis a country would produce was whether the people in that country spoke French.Read More
Despite fierce opposition, which included calls to delegates from Israeli ambassadors and consulates, the United Methodist General Conference passed strong measures calling for an end to Israel’s unjust practices toward Palestinians.Read More
by Elias D. Mallon
(America Magazine, the National Catholic Review) May 17, 2016 – The Sykes-Picot Agreement, one of the most fateful pacts in modern history, was signed 100 years ago on May 16, 1916. It is not an anniversary to be celebrated. An agreement made between Great Britain and France to divide up the Turkish Ottoman Empire after the end of the First World War, it was negotiated by the Englishman Mark Sykes (1879-1919) and the Frenchman François Georges-Picot (1870-1951).Read More
by Mark Braverman, May 15, 2016
I was in Santa Cruz, CA to speak at a conference organized by Friends of Sabeel North America, an ecumenical organization devoted to bringing the voice of Palestinian Christians to the United States, and to mobilizing the church to work for the liberation of Palestinians and Jewish Israelis both from the evil of apartheid in our times. See this article for the story surrounding that conference — not an uncommon one these days, but the good news is that times are changing as the controversy heats up.
I was asked to stay on an extra day to preach at a local Presbyterian church. Yes, I’m Jewish but so far the invitations to speak at synagogues have not been forthcoming, much less preach from the pulpit. But since my return from Israel and the West Bank in 2006 and what has become, apparently, my ministry to help Christians take a faithful stand for human rights on this issue, despite the very real risk (well, really the inevitability) of being charged with committing or supporting anti-Semitism, the invitations to preach on Sundays have continued to come. See my website for a selection of sermons. Of all my writing, I think these have given me the most pleasure. I may have been exiled from the synagogue, but not from my love of scripture and my penchant for homiletics.
In this case, even though the pastor was very willing for me to preach, several people in the Session blocked this, saying that my voice would be too “political” and the topic too “controversial.” As a compromise I was invited to present a “Moment for Mission.”
So I preached.Read More
(abouna.org) May 10, 2016 – The Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See in Amman, in cooperation with Caritas Jordan–the social arm of the Catholic Church– and the Latin Vicariate in Amman, intends to launch a new garden offered by His Holiness Pope Francis personally. The new garden, to be located at the Our Lady of Peace Center in Amman, will be named “the Garden of Mercy”. The Garden of Mercy is designed to restore dignity to the forcibly displaced Iraqis who live in Jordan and to provide aid to needy families.Read More
*By Claus Grue
(World Council of Churches) May 18, 2016 – During the 29 years Virgine Nasrawi has worked in the Talbiah refugee camp, located 40 kilometers south of Amman, the Jordanian capital, she has witnessed many changes.
And the sudden influx of refugees from neighbouring Syria, caused by the devastating civil war in that country, is the most dramatic.
Talbiah is a small camp by current standards, housing 8,000 Palestinians and 3,000 Syrians.Read More
by Myriam Ambroselli, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
JERUSALEM – On Monday, May 23, 2016, the Prime Minister of France, Mr. Manuel Valls, currently visiting in Israel and Palestine, came with his delegation to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, to speak with the Patriarch Fouad Twal about the French initiative, which would relaunch the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.Read More
by Gerard O’Connell
(America Magazine, the National Catholic Review) May 5, 2016 – “It has been an explosive situation in the Lebanon for the past four years. But I’m amazed that while Lebanon is on the brink of an explosion the miracle is that there is no explosion,” Michael Zammit, S.J., Jesuit Refugee Service regional director for the Mideast and North Africa, told me in Beirut last week.
His words reflect the fact that the land of the cedars, after experiencing a 16-year civil war (1975-92), finds itself today in the midst of a geopolitical conflict, which is being fought with particular ferocity in neighboring Syria but also by proxy in Yemen. But the fact is the Sunni-Shiite conflict has not spilled over to Lebanon in any significant way so far; the local political forces have not wanted this to happen.Read More
One nonprofit looks beyond politics to bring contentious groups together in the West Bank.
by Lonnie Shekhtman, Christian Science Monitor
A solar project funded and operated by both Jews and Muslims is shining some light on Auja, a small Palestinian town located in one of the most controversial territories on Earth.
The $100,000 project is harnessing solar energy to power the drawing of water from deep underground to irrigate a grove of palms growing the prized Medjool dates. It is the first large project to be funded by both Jews and Muslims in the United States – including former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg – and to be operated by Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims on the ground.Read More
While many peace activists at that time would avoid the often divisive issue of Israel and Palestine, he decided to address it head on.
by Stephen Zunes, National Catholic Reporter
The first time I met Berrigan was in October 1973 during the Arab-Israeli War, when I was 16 years old, at a talk he gave in Washington, D.C. While many peace activists at that time would avoid the often divisive issue of Israel and Palestine, he decided to address it head on. Unlike many liberals of that era who opposed U.S. militarism but rationalized for Israeli militarism, he could not defend militarism by anybody. His analysis was blunt and he did not try to be “balanced,” but it was basically an accurate and honest assessment. In short, it was typical Dan Berrigan.Read More
The Occupation of the American Mind – Israel Public Relations War in the United States
Israel’s ongoing military occupation of Palestinian territory and its repeated invasions of the Gaza strip have triggered a fierce backlash against Israeli policies virtually everywhere in the world — except the United States. The Occupation of the American Mind takes an eye-opening look at this critical exception, zeroing in on pro-Israel public relations efforts within the U.S. Narrated by Roger Waters and featuring leading observers of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the film explores how the Israeli government, the U.S. government, and the pro-Israel lobby have joined forces, often with very different motives, to shape American media coverage of the conflict in Israel’s favor. The Occupation of the American Mind provides a sweeping analysis of Israel’s decades-long battle for the hearts, minds, and tax dollars of the American people — a battle that has only intensified over the past few years in the face of widening international condemnation of Israel’s increasingly right-wing policies. (Running time: 85 mins)Read More
Sr Bridget Tighe FMDM gives an account of health education activitiesRead More
Palestinian Christians in the Israeli occupied West Bank Village of Taybeh celebrate St. George Day in the community with the local Greek Catholic Church (Melkite Practice). Taybeh has one of the strongest Christian communities in Palestine with three churches, Ancient Byzantine Church and several enchanting chapels.
By Dr. Maria C. Khoury
Today, May 6th was a wonderful celebration with Archimandrite Jack-Nobel, our Taybeh parish priest of St. George Great Martyr Church of the Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarchate celebrating the feast of St. George in our village with His Excellency Archbishop Yousef Jules Zerey, Archbishop of Damiat and the General Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem.
Many members of the Greek Catholic community traveled from various locations in the Holy Land to attend today’s beautiful liturgy with over ten priests including our own local priests, Fr. Daoud and Fr. Johnny with the entire Taybeh community. It has been an annual tradition to have the amazing and glorious voice of Jack Rabah of Ramallah for Byzantine chanting.Read More
‘Mercy’ in Bethlehem has added a new eye clinic. Another way to keep the relationship with the territory alive and to offer ‘mercy’ to the most needy.
‘Mercy’, the oldest Christian institution of aid and assistance to those in need, born in Florence in 1244 and present in Bethlehem for several years, is expanding its work in the territory.
The eye clinic recently opened and its purpose is to give simple but essential services, in a gesture of love for others, especially children and families in need.
You see, the atmosphere in Israel lately has become more and more violent, racist, and extremist, and our government is responsible for this; but your government continues to caress my government’s head. –Tair Kaminer
Dear Mr Smith,
You don’t know me, but I feel as though we are really close. For the past 20 days I have worn your shirt. At least, the shirt that was yours while you served in the American army.
Here’s the thing: I am sitting in an Israeli military prison. And our uniforms, here in the military prison, were donated to my country by your country. Yes, it is really US Army uniforms that we are wearing, the tiger-skinned uniforms, the uniforms of the Marines, and some of them still have the family names of the soldiers sewn on the right and left sides of the shirts. And this time, I received your shirt with your name tag still sewn on the right side of the shirt.
I want to tell you why I am in prison.Read More
09 May 2016
After traveling to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv in the last week for a climate justice meeting, World Council of Churches (WCC) staff and partners were detained or deported in a manner that WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit terms both unprecedented and intolerable.
“The WCC protests the excessive, unreasonable and wholly unwarranted treatment by the Israeli authorities of these representatives of WCC member churches and staff traveling to engage in discussions on climate change and environmental stewardship, at the invitation of and hosted by WCC’s member churches in the region,” he said.Read More
by James M. Wall, Wallwritings, May 17, 2016
Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Deputy Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, delivered a public address on the eve of this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.
He spoke at Israel’s Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies, which is located at Tel Yitzak Kibbutz.
The General could not have chosen a more auspicious location for what Ha’aretz described as an “unusual speech”.
Four days later, General Golan was “harshly criticized” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, Ha’aretz reported, told Sunday’s cabinet meeting that Golan’s remarks “were outrageous, unfounded and they wronged Israeli society”.Read More
Miko Peled is from a famous and influential Israeli Zionist family and was born in Jerusalem. Miko’s father was a famous general in the Israeli army. Miko too has served his time there. When his niece was killed in a Palestinian suicide bomb attack, his family surprisingly placed the blame squarely on the state of Israel. They believed it was the torture, violence and forced eviction from their homes that was driving Palestinians to commit suicide to fight back.
In this honest (see below), ground breaking talk Peled reveals the truth about the terror state of Israel. His talk is based on his father’s insider knowledge on the Israeli war of terror, coupled with his own research. Many Jews and Israel supporters will be deeply shaken by this expose. Some facts from his talk are that the returning Jews are not the original expelled Jews, nor their descendants. He also reveals that until 1947 when Israel launched their illegal terrorist attacks on the people of Palestine, there was no conflict.Read More
As more millennial evangelicals work with Palestinians, their understanding of the conflict evolves.
By Shira Rubin | Contributor, US News, May 16, 2016
TEL AVIV — Hayley Ruth says volunteering in the West Bank city of Bethlehem is her personal religious mission, no matter how controversial it might be back in her hometown in Tennessee, where “this place called Palestine was never really talked about.”
“A lot of friends back home wonder why I’m living alongside terrorists…who are going to attack our chosen people, the Jews,” says the 24-year-old, who requested a nickname out of concern she might have visa problems tied to living in the West Bank. “I’ve been praying on it a lot and trying to understand it, and while I’m not sure how politically involved Christians need to be, I have realized that my compassion for Palestinians does not mean that I want to legitimize any one side.”Read More
Pictured here: During Passover, there are heightened restrictions and closures for Palestinians, and the apartheid path was apparently closed at this time. Not content with merely inhibiting these children reaching their homes, Israeli Border Police initially detained them against a wall, before ordering them to move into one alcove, and again, into another tunnel, before letting them leave after approximately ten minutes. During that time, the Border Policeman stood ‘guard’ at the entrance to the tunnel.
(Christian Peacemaker Team 28/04/2016)Read More
As a Christian, the condition of all children is important to you.
Imagine a boy from your family, neighborhood or church playing with friends outside his house. Suddenly he’s dragged away by soldiers. Worried, you and other family members call local police stations trying to locate him, but are unsuccessful. Hours later the police call and let you know where he is but they refuse release him into your custody until the next day. Now, the playful child you knew is gone replaced by a traumatized little boy who has nightmares at night and is afraid to play outside during the day.
This story is based on the lived experience of too many Palestinian children and their families. There are too many of these stories.Read More