Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Holy Days Turning into Fury
Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.
It is such a special month in the Holy Land especially for the Orthodox Church, although we start the fast thirteen days later, we turn our eyes and heart onto honoring the Most Holy Mother of God in this special 14 day Dormition Fast. A few days before the Feast day of the Dormition of the Theotokos, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch with a huge entourage of bishops, priests and faithful walk in a solemn procession from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre carrying the icon of the Virgin Mary to her empty tomb at the bottom of the Garden of Gethsemane. People from all over the world come to celebrate this special occasion but Christians who are Palestinians are not allowed to enter Jerusalem unless they have special permits.
I have often disobeyed the law, feeling sorry for people who want to pray and cannot get permits that I risk the high penalty of being fined and also thrown in jail to help people pray especially at the Life Giving Tomb of Christ since I find it one of the most precious and holiest of sites to venerate as a Christian. But on Monday, when Elena, my daughter and my nieces visiting from Boston said that Fr. Jack, our local Melkite priest was willing to take them to the Holy City to pray I was relieved that he would be a better person than me.
Last Bright Week after the Holy Pascha, I got stuck at the checkpoint for over five hours when the Israeli soldier accused me of sneaking “illegal immigrants” into Israel. The “illegal immigrants” were my Palestinian husband, whose American passport clearly states, born in Jerusalem and who by the way had a permit to enter but his permit was “not good” at that checkpoint because this idea of Jerusalem being freely open to Jews and not the rest is based on pure discrimination, unjust laws and total bias. And, the other “illegal immigrant” was my mother-in-law who was too elderly to leave home alone so we thought its better she comes to extend our good wishes to the Patriarch since he receives visitors for three days proclaiming, “Christ is Risen!”
It’s always frustrating at these checkpoints. Fr. Jack was detained and interrogated for over four hours with Palestinian Christians who also hold a valid American passport that says “The Secretary of State of the United States of America hereby requests all whom it may concern to permit the citizen/national of the United Sates named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.” You might imagine after all of the billions of dollars that the United States sends to Israel they might avoid their outright prejudice.
However, even this week, nine Palestinian families were evicted by Israeli police from two houses in occupied East Jerusalem. I am outraged as an American citizen and as a Palestinian citizen that Jewish settlers moved into the houses almost immediately. Does anyone out there behind this awful wall pay attention to the bias laws that Israel sets up to deny people born in Jerusalem the right to enter yet invite Jews born in Britain or Russia to freely live in homes previously owned by Palestinians. How long will this injustice continue because surely we will be on the verge of another civil uprising very soon.
My good friend Samia Khoury described this terrible news on August 2nd as follows:
“I could not go to church this morning; I was simply too angry, and I felt like screaming and not pleading any more How Long O Lord How Long ????? All the efforts of the local people and the support and solidarity of internationals; NGO’s and officials over and above the demand of the USA administration that Israel cease all settlement activity, and especially in Jerusalem, have failed. The Hanoun and Ghawi families were evicted from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah area in East Jerusalem this morning to make room for Jewish settlers in that area. The Hanoun family is next door to the YWCA and the Ghawi family is not far from it and very close to where the Sabeel office used to be before moving to Shufaat. Helpless parents watched their traumatized children and a whole community stood around in solidarity while the onslaught on Jerusalem continued.”
It is not enough for the President of the United States to “urge” Israel to freeze settlement activity. The United States government has the power to stop Israel. Please let your representatives know that we have no basic human rights from what is suppose to be the only democracy in the Middle East, “Israel.”
In the mean time we struggle to maintain our Christian values “You have heard that it has been said, thou shall love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44)
“Depart from evil and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.” (Psalm 34:14-15)
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