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Reflection from my Christian Eyes
A Christian reflects on the challenges they face as a faith and community under Israeli occupation. Why isn’t Israel held to the same standards and laws as everyone else?
By Dr. Maria C. Khoury
The Day after Yom Kippur, I decided I should be more faithful in practicing my religion. I have seen over the year how the West Bank is sealed off from the world from sundown to sundown for Yom Kippur and other solemn Jewish holy days.
Did you know that the airplanes do not even land or take off from Tel Aviv airport and the radio station does not deliver the news?
The roads are closed in Jerusalem and people cannot move around in any vehicle. It is a very seriously celebrated holy day in Israel but the first thing that popped in my mind is why my Christian friends work on Holy Saturday when the Miracle of the Holy Fire happens in Jerusalem?
I personally see miracles every day in the Holy Land, thus I feel I must confess Christ, my Lord, my True God as Savior for humanity. Since each and every single day is holy and especially in the Eastern Orthodox Church there are thousands of holy people remembered daily, maybe I would never work if I took my religion so seriously. May the Lord forgive me since the work has basically taking over my life and I clearly remember giving a Taybeh Beer tour on Christmas Eve.
The good thing about Christmas, however, is that the Christian community celebrates three times in the Holy Land among the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian traditions. Thus, I can possibly try to honor a day for the Lord but how can you say “no tours” to a family who comes all the way from Gaza because that is the only time Israel allows a permit to enter Jerusalem on limited Christmas and Easter holidays.
Anyway, this is simply my excuse for working on precious sacred days. I hope when people hear the Taybeh story on their tours they will be inspired in many ways even to love God more and serve humanity.
Actually, some days are very interesting in the Holy Land because I feel the whole world comes to me in Taybeh (except some of my classmates who are too scared to visit us on the other side of the wall but I keep praying for them at the Holy-Life-Giving-Tomb-of-Christ whenever I get into Jerusalem for business and run into the church like a crazy person). I don’t get bored at all living in the middle of nowhere which is practically the heart of Palestine. Where else in the world can people run into a patriarch just on their way to church on any giving Sunday?
Last Sunday was so beautiful, yet filled with violence as is so typical under Israeli military occupation that seems to have no end. I had the great blessing to greet His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, the former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. I saw him walking to the Latin Church with the help of his driver so I quickly parked my car and ran as fast as possible to say good morning. The first thing I mentioned when he smiled is how much I missed not seeing him at the Taybeh Oktoberfest opening since it is the greatest blessing in the world to have the prayers and blessings of all of our Church leaders.
His Beatitude still leads an active busy travel schedule but he is our most famous resident at the elderly home in Taybeh when he is in town. Since there are thirteen heads of Church in Jerusalem, it has been a great blessing that someone offers an official prayer at our unique annual event like His Eminence Archbishop Joseph of the Greek-Catholic (Melkite) Patriarchate offered last month at the Taybeh Golden Hotel during the Oktoberfest reception. We also had the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Theodosios (the former Attala Hanna) on Sunday evening along with many others during the two day festival.
Back to last Sunday which started in the village and included an amazing day venerating the holy places in Jerusalem. Everything is beautiful and nice when you don’t listen to the news because obviously violence discourages you from moving around. So, while I was attempting to spend my day praying in these two locations, all hell broke loose. Terrible killings were happening all around me thus on my way back home it looked like the day after World War Three.
Black smoke filled the sky with tons of tires burning in the streets. Israeli jeeps were everywhere while it looked like it had rained rocks.
I found hundreds of cars backed up at one checkpoint called “Hisma” so I automatically tried the Qalandia checkpoint not to be late for our family lunch but coming across a worst situation than ever. Most people would just go back to Jerusalem or Greece but feeling so guilty that I did not even make the family lunch,
I was just focused on returning home as soon as possible.
I guess it’s a daily happening to protest against Israeli occupation, so rock throwing at the Israeli soldiers and the soldiers shooting back to kill is not unusual at all. However, when you are caught in the middle driving with your head down, you realize why the five million people are not travelling our way.
May God bring peace to this land that seems to be filled with darkness while the whole region has gone back to the time of our Patron Saint of Taybeh,
St. George the Great Martyr. What an example of how brave and loyal we should be to Christ, our God. Some things here will never change so to “fight the good fight” and keep our hope in Christ seems a must. God forgive me when I curse after being held at the airport for five hours. But eventually I say, may Glory be to God for all things! In the mean time, we should all pray that the holy people of God who celebrate so solemnly all of the holy days might allow basic human rights and freedom of movement for all people not just Jews only.
What is really funny about that part is no matter what ambassador or consul general I share my saga with especially on Monday at the Spanish National Day party (because even the Spanish Day had to be celebrated early this year since it fell on the day of Yom Kippur) most of the diplomats say: “When it comes to the Israelis, there is not much we can do.”
Why is Israel above all laws? Why aren’t any of these ambassadors willing to be a loud voice for a just peace?
“By God’s great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1:3-4
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Palestine Christian Writer, Blogger at St. George Greek Orthodox Church
Maria (Kouremenou) Khoury is the author of Orthodox Christian children's books including Christina Goes to the Holy Land, walking the footsteps of Christ. She is a graduate of Hellenic College (1982), Harvard University (1985) and Boston University (1992) with a doctor of education degree. Born in Tripoli, Greece, she was raised in Denver, Colorado. On Dec 31, 2009 she was included on the top 4 Human Rights Champions list by DC Human Rights Examiner including the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Hilary Clinton.
Maria is the author of Witness in the Holy Land (distributed by www.HolyCrossBookstore.com), a publication reflecting personal experiences living under military occupation with her husband the former Mayor of Taybeh, David Canaan Khoury and three children Elena, Canaan, and Constantine. Her articles have been published world-wide in numerous newspapers and magazines and have been translated to various languages bringing awareness of the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
Maria Khoury has been the Taybeh Oktoberfest organizer since 2005.She divides her time between her homes in Boston and Taybeh, travels throughout the world promoting the Christina Books and making presentations about the dwindling Christian community in Palestine.She encourages people to stay at the new Taybeh Golden Hotel and experience rural life in Palestine.