For Jerusalem Parish, the Wall Cuts to the Heart

Maronite Church Deacon Laments the Barrier

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JERUSALEM, JUNE 23, 2004 ( Sobhy Makhoul, a deacon of the Maronite Church, knows firsthand the effects of the Wall.

«A few days ago they started to build the Wall in the heart of our district, Bet-hanina, in the northern part of Jerusalem,» Makhoul said. «The Wall will isolate us from the rest of the city. Working places, schools and parishes are going to be on the other side. We cannot live like that.»

The Wall is Israeli’s West Bank separation barrier, started in 2002 as a countermeasure to stop terrorists entering in from the Occupied Territories.

Palestinians affirm the barrier does not follow the border along the «green line» and strongly limits people’s movements. The United Nations criticizes the construction of the barrier because it encloses within Israel a part of the Territories.

Makhoul, who is also the president of the Works of Faith foundation of Bethlehem, asks everybody to pray for the Christians of Jerusalem.

He hopes they will remain «far from hatred so that they can keep living a life of love and forgiveness.»

The Maronite deacon recently sent a letter to AsiaNews entitled, «We must build bridges between people, not walls.» In his letter Makhoul recalls what the Pope said about the situation in the Holy Land.

Makhoul’s letter reads as follows:

Dear friends,

Yesterday the noise of the bulldozers woke me up. They were destroying an asphalted road near my house, which is situated in the northern area of Jerusalem. Israeli government decided that the Wall must be built here.

This Wall is meant to divide the area controlled by Israel from the one controlled by the Palestinians. The location of the Wall has been determined according to the needs of the Israelis. On the other hand, nobody really cares about the people who live here!

Many Christians live in Bet-hanina. Our neighborhood has been cut into two parts. Israelis controls one side and Palestinians control the other.

St. James’ parish, the only Catholic church in the district, is in the Israeli part. However, many parishioners live on the other side of the Wall. Usually, in order to go to Mass people just need to take a 100-meter walk. The Wall will force us to drive for 4 kilometers and pass through a border check.

Many families are going to be in a very difficult situation. We are going to be isolated from the rest of the city, and that is just a disaster. Almost everybody who lives in Bet-hanina works in Jerusalem. The schools and the churches are in Jerusalem too. It will become impossible to live here.

Many of my friends are thinking about moving in the city. However, the houses are very expensive in Jerusalem. You need $800 a month to rent an apartment. It is the monthly income of an average clerk! Buying a house is impossible too. A 120-square-meter apartment costs $250,000.

I ask you to pray for us all, and especially for the Christians who live in this area. May we face this difficult situation with tenacity and intelligence, keeping our attention focused on the only authentic hope, namely Christ.

Pray for us so that we can keep a good heart remaining far away from hatred, despite all the injustice we are suffering. Pray that forgiveness and love may always be our way of life and of testimony to the Gospel. Thank you.

Sobhy Makhoul

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