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Bishop Shomali: “The nature of the problems between Palestine and Israel is ideological and not only political. In fact, there are two opposing narratives, two different versions of geography and history, and two ways of explaining the same conflict.
What Palestinians call “Occupied Territories,” Israelis call “Disputed Territories.” There are two names for Jerusalem: Al Kuds for Arabs and Jerushalaim for Jews; and what Jews call “Temple Mount,” Palestinians call “Haram Al Sharif.” Even the gates of Jerusalem are called by two different names. Palestinians call their victims “martyrs and heroes” while Israelis call them “terrorists.”
[Unfortunately] if there are two ways of looking at the same conflict, there are also two opposed ways of looking at [any] solution.
A media war accompanies this struggle as one side tries to convince the world that its cause is right and due to the savagery of the other. Netanyahu and Abbas accuse each other. Netanyahu says: “It is time that President Abbas stops not only justifying it but also instigating it,” while Abbas criticizes Netanyahu for the ongoing disproportionate use of force and punitive actions such as demolition of houses, revocation of residency status and air-raids on Gaza, killing innocent people asleep in their homes.
While the Israeli leadership attributes the escalation in violence to Palestinian incitement, most Palestinians point to the decades long Israeli military occupation as the root cause of recent events.
We fear that more Christians will leave the Holy Land, looking for a better future for their children and for themselves.
As religion is part of the problem in the Holy Land, it should be part of the solution.
In this multicultural and multi-religious land we must include Muslims and Jews in our actions of mercy. Christians should avoid the mentality of ghetto whereby charity stops at the borders of our own parish or my own family.
Christian leaders try to be a bridge between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land. In the aftermath of last Gaza war we visited the Har Nof synagogue and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the same week. We did so after two Palestinians from Jerusalem carried out an attack in the synagogue and killed four rabbis and a Druze officer. The assailants were shot dead. It was a bloody massacre. So we visited Har Nof to express our solidarity in their time of suffering, as well as our condemnation and disapproval. In that same week, as the provocation against the Al-Aqsa Mosque became intense, we made a visit to express our solidarity with the Muslims who have the right to pray there without being disturbed.
We kindly ask the different dioceses throughout the world to promote pilgrimages to the Holy Land especially during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Despite the many difficulties and the tension that existed and still exists, this Hold Land is safe for pilgrims; they are much respected and appreciated by all the inhabitants of this land. The presence of pilgrims is a real enrichment not only for those who come to pray at the holy sites but also for the whole Christian community here. Even Jews and Muslims are seeking to increase the number. Without pilgrims the Holy Land cannot fulfill its vocation and mission.
Our church, with the support of many Catholic dioceses around the world, contributes to peace by:
Preaching non-violence: Since the beginning, and from the escalation of the Gaza war, we asked both sides to stop incitement and violence, and to respect the status quo in the Al-Aqsa compound. We asked that any resistance, unless it deals with immediate self-defense, should be nonviolent otherwise it becomes unethical.
Being the voice of truth: This means condemning evil wherever it originates. The bishops of the Holy Land condemned the arson in Tabgha committed by Jews, and the torching of Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus done by Palestinians.
Practicing interreligious dialogue: This dialogue is possible because of the common values that exist between us and others. Such a dialogue can help mutual understanding and fight religious radicalism.
Educating to tolerance and respect through high quality Catholic schools.”
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