March - April 2011 Easter message & celebrations
The Easter Message of the Heads of Churches of Jerusalem .................... 2 Christian pilgrims flock to Jerusalem for Good Friday ............................ 3 Christian pilgrims celebrate Easter in Jerusalem ...................................... 3
Relics of St. Thérèse on a world pilgrimage arrive in Jerusalem .............. 4 Program for veneration of the Relics of St. Therese ................................. 6
Mary of Nazareth Center set to open ........................................................ 7
Information square .................................................................................... 8 Old City harmony .................................................................................... 10
Church leaders urge Obama to step up diplomacy for Israeli-Palestinian peace .................................. 13 Holy Land Custos: Politics is mute so violence speaks .......................... 14 Catholic, Jewish Leaders stress need for prayer ..................................... 15
State discriminating between Christian, Muslim Gazans........................ 16
Jerusalem's time tunnels .......................................................................... 19
Israeli Embassy welcomes Pope's "positive view" ................................. 26
International Christian Embassy study: Urgent social needs in Israel’s Arab sector ............................................ 17
Scholars: "Jesus of Nazareth" adds interactive dimension to Lent ......... 27 Year of the Bible in the Holy Land ......................................................... 29 Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher resigns .................. 30 FROM VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE .................................... 30 V.I.S.
Good Friday collection for the Holy Land .............................................. 30 Meeting of Synod of Bishops Special Council on Middle East .............. 31 Editor: Jerzy KRAJ, ofm
The Easter Message of the Heads of Churches of Jerusalem Alleluia! Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed. Alleluia! We, the Heads of Churches of the Holy City of Jerusalem bring you our greetings and our joy in the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christians find their joy is secure in the hope of the promise of eternal life which our Lord has won for all who believe. However, when we in Jerusalem, the city of redemption, see the suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere in our region our joy becomes more solemn. We find sadness competes with the joy of Easter as we witness the violence which has erupted in the face of peaceful demonstrations by people throughout the Arab world these past months. We Christians are watching in prayer the developments in the Middle East. We also pray that the reforms would lead to modern civil society where freedom of expression, freedom of religion, human rights â€“ including the rights of those who are considered being a minority in numbers â€“ are respected. We call upon all people of faith and good will to pursue peace while at the same time we recognize that peace cannot be bought at the price of silence and submission to corruption and injustice. The violence, when it erupts, reminds us that the cross of Christ is ever present for the faithful followers of the Prince of Peace. The crucifixion is an ongoing reality for many of our clergy and people who continue to seek to live with mutual understanding and co-operation with their neighbors. We urge all Christians to pray for reconciliation among people in the Holy Land, where the deteriorating situation makes peace and justice seem further away than ever before. We ask the Churches around the world to stand with us in giving voice to those who are silenced, in breaking down walls that separate us from one another and in building bridges of goodwill between people. We pray for the leaders of the nations, and for those who demonstrate for change, to use wisdom and their best judgment to serve the needs of their people and to promote peaceful solutions to change for a better future for all of God's children. Our Lord died for the sins of the whole world that all people will see in his example how violence only leads to death and destruction. In his resurrection we experience his victory over violence and death and we embrace a vision of the future in which all people live together in harmony. This vision gives us hope to renew our faith in the face of despair. Christians all over the world celebrate the victory over death which is ours as a gift from God who has compassion and mercy for all of his creation. We share our joy in the resurrection with you. The cross is ever before us day by day and the cross is empty. New life has come. Christ is risen. We are risen. Alleluia. Thanks be to God. +Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch +Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch +Patriarch Torkom II Manoogian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarch +Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land +Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Jerusalem +Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch +Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarch
+Archbishop Abouna Matthias, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch +Archbishop Paul Sayyah, Maronite Patriarchal Exarch +Bishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East +Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land +Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarch +Fr. Rafael Minassian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarch (Easter 2011)
Christian pilgrims flock to Jerusalem for Good Friday Thousands of international visitors and local Christians retraced Jesus' last steps down the Via Dolorosa, which is Latin for 'Way of Suffering'. The route ends at the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher, revered as the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and his resurrection two days later on Easter Sunday. "All my life I've been waiting for this wish â€” I've been wishing for one day to come here in Jerusalem to worship. I wanted to step where my lord stepped," said Roshan Futsom, a pilgrim from Toronto, Canada. "This is a special energy, a special love. I cannot explain," said another pilgrim, Miodrag Ivanovic of Belgrade, Serbia, who was on the Via Dolorosa with a large wooden cross on his shoulder. Jerusalem's walled Old City was crowded Friday with adherents of different churches and faiths. The calendars of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches coincide this year, so the sects are marking the holy week together. This has required careful arrangements to avoid conflicts among the many ceremonies and processions of each church. Jews are currently celebrating the weeklong Passover festival, and the city's Jewish Quarter was also full of visitors Friday. Israeli police were deployed in force in the Old City, which contains sites holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Herman Backhaus of Munster, Germany, said being in Jerusalem reminded him that Jesus "actually lived, and his message didn't die with him on the cross." Haaretz â€“ 23 April 2011
Christian pilgrims celebrate Easter in Jerusalem Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics hold ceremonies at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as the different calendars of the churches coincide this year Christians from around the world have been celebrating Easter in Jerusalem, marking Jesus' resurrection in the holy city more than two millennia ago. Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics held ceremonies at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, revered as the site of Jesus' crucifixion and burial and of his resurrection on Easter Sunday 3
The different calendars of the churches coincide this year. Clergymen in ornate robes held processions through the ancient building, where the ceremonies of each church are carefully coordinated to avoid conflicts. Protestants held their own Easter ceremonies outside the walled Old City at the Garden Tomb, which some identify as the site of Jesus' burial. Preachers spoke in English and rock bands accompanied worshippers in song. Haaretz – 25 April 2011
Relics of St. Thérèse on a world pilgrimage arrive in Jerusalem The relics are to be displayed in Old City's Christian Quarter for only one day, before being transported to Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation. Fresh from a visit to South Africa last year in conjunction with the 2010 World Cup, and a tour of England and Wales in 2009, the relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux arrived at Ben Gurion Airport Monday for a two-month stay in the Holy Land. A senior delegation of Roman Catholic officials from Israel and the West Bank led by Apostolic Nuncio Antonio Franco and Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal were on the tarmac to greet the canonized Carmelite nun's remains and escort her bejeweled reliquary to Franco's residence in Jerusalem. There the relics were going on display Wednesday, March 15, for one day at the Latin Patriarchate in the Old City's Christian Quarter before being transported to Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation. The reliquary will be on display for veneration until May 31, 2011 at various Christian communities in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip, becoming in effect "a bridge of peace," Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem's Latin Patriarchate told Travelujah.com. "On the church level, it's very important," the monsignor said of the Holy Land tour of the remains of the saint. "Part of our faith is that saints have intercession - mediation between us and God. This is done by praying to them, honoring them but first and foremost imitating them," he said of the saints. "We will speak about [Thérèse of Lisieux's] life, how she loved the Lord and practiced spirituality." "Her intercession is very strong, and will help us in praying for peace," Shomali added, noting the cooperation with the Interior Ministry's Christian Department, who helped facilitate the itinerary. "They understood this is about spirituality and peace, and not politics," he said. The relics will be flown to Spain at the end May. Director of the Christian Department at the Interior Ministry Cesare Marjieh called the event "nearly unprecedented," and compared its importance to that of a pontifical visit. "This is very important to the Vatican, and the relics will be in all the major Christian communities here," he explained. "We are happy to be able to support them and let them respect the relics." As a young girl growing up in France's Basse-Normandie region, Thérèse Martin (18731897), was passionately in love with Jesus and became a Discalced Carmelite nun at age 15. She died of tuberculosis at age 24 in a monastery in her hometown of Lisieux. A cult quickly grew up around the nun, called "St. Thérèse, the Little Flower," and her memoir, Story of a Soul, became one of biggest religious bestsellers of the 20th century. 4
According to some biographies of Edith Piaf, in 1922 the French chanteuse - at the time an unknown seven-year-old girl - was cured from blindness after making a pilgrimage to the grave of Thérèse, who at the time had not yet been formally canonized. In 1944 Pope Pius XII named her co-patroness of France alongside St. Joan of Arc. Today the Basilica of St. Thérèse in Lisieux, consecrated in 1954, is the second largest pilgrimage site in France, after Lourdes, attracting millions of worshipers annually. When not on tour, St. Thérèse's relics lie in the basilica's crypt. Canonized in 1925, in 1997 Pope John Paul II declared St. Thérèse a Doctor of the Church, a rare honorary title bestowed upon those whose writings greatly contributed to Christianity. Only 33 members of the Catholic Church to date have received the honor, and just three of whom are women. By Gil Zohar The Jerusalem Post – 15 March 2011
St. Therese of Lisieux arrives in the Holy Land! The aircraft that carried the relic of St. Therese of Lisieux landed this morning at Ben Gurion Airport (Israel). The relic will solemnly enter Jerusalem as St. Therese begins a pilgrimage in the Land of Jesus for two and a half months. The arrival of St. Therese’s relic is an historical event in the Holy Land. The relic will be officially received on Wednesday afternoon and be among Christians of Jerusalem. The reliquary bearing the relic was deposited on the tarmac at the airport on Monday, March 14th and was welcomed by Bishops, clergy, religious, representatives of the association of the Carmelites of the Holy Land, and children of "Caramel School in Haifa" under the direction of Carmelite Father Abdo Abdo. St. Therese, the saint of missions and Doctor of the Church was one who never left her convent but never ceased to circumnavigate the world. Now she comes to visit the Christians of Israel and Palestine. "I would like to walk the earth," she said, and now she will walk in the land of Christ. The Carmelites rightly remind us of her religious name: " Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face," a name that marks the itinerary of her visit here - in Bethlehem where the baby Jesus was born, in Nazareth where the Child grew, in Jerusalem where the face of Christ suffered under spittle and crown of thorns, " becoming a disfigured face for love of all and every one." Behind the Shalom Gate (Door of Peace) at the airport this morning, the arrival of St. Therese was celebrated with simple and sincere applause, singing and fervent prayers. On the wall by the door is a quote from Proverbs 3:17 “…Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace…” As she left for heaven, Therese confided to her sisters, “I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth.” The Holy Land, through her intercession await roses of grace and peace. It is a fervent hope and expectation that Amal, a catechist at the Carmel School in Haifa shares with Samar (16 years) and Juliana (21 years). His Excellency the Nuncio and Apostolic Delegate Archbishop Antonio Franco confirms that it " is a grace for the local Church because St. Therese invites us to renewed faithfulness to Christ's message: love of God." “And no one forgets also that St. Therese is the patron saint of little miracles in daily community life,” as recalled by Sr. Francesca Batato of the Sisters of St. Dorothy. For their
part, Sr. Anne-Francoise and Sr. Josephine, both Carmelites recall that “St. Therese journeyed through a trusted path, the path of spiritual childhood.” Since 1977, an invitation was presented for the relic of St. Therese to visit the Holy Land. After the pilgrimage of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, and an historical Synod for the Middle East, the request was finally granted. For one year, the Holy Land prepared for this special event. The itinerary for this pilgrimage promises to meet many parishioners in different cities of the of the diocese, in Haifa and Tiberias even up to Nablus and Gaza! By Christophe Lafontaine Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem – 14 March 2011
Program for veneration of the Relics of St. Therese March 16.3.2011 16.3.2011 17-20.3.2011 20.3.2011 21.3.2011 22.3.2011 23.3.2011 24-26.3.2011 27.3.2011 29.3.2011 31.3.2011
Official reception in Jerusalem At Jaffa Gate at 16.30 Vespers at Latin Patriarchate at 17.30 Haifa Isfia Akko Jaffa Nazareth Tiberias Nazareth Family encounter in Holy Family Hospital Reneh Kfar Cana Turan
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Illaboun Ekret – Beraem – Mghar Der Hanna Domus Galilaiae, Corazim Sakhnin Kfar Yasif Maylia Tarshiha Bukea Fassouta Rameh Jdaideh – El Maker Ibilin Solemn Mass in Church of the Sermon on the Mount Latin Parish, Nazareth Carmelite Sisters, Nazareth (Palm Sunday) Carmelite Sisters, Jerusalem Carmelite Sisters, Bethlehem Carmelite Sisters, Haifa (Easter Sunday) Beatitude Community – Ramleh Latroun Monastery Abu Ghosh Monastery
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Jaffo Tel Aviv Bit Jmmal Monastery Ramleh
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Jish Jerusalem Bethlehem Carmelite Sisters, Bethlehem Carmelite Sisters, Haifa Procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Mouqeibleh â€“ Jinin Zbabdeh Rafedia Ramalla and surrounding area Jericho Gaza Carmelite Sisters, Jerusalem Shefaamer Haifa
Mary of Nazareth Center set to open Jerusalem Patriarch to inaugurate complex on Friday On the feast of the Annunciation, just across from the Basilica of the Annunciation, an international, interreligious center dedicated to Our Lady is set to open. The International Mary of Nazareth Center will be inaugurated Friday by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal. [Editorâ€™s note: The former Patriarch Michel Sabbah in fact presided at the celebration]. A place for biblical reflection, the center puts technology at the service of the encounter with Mary and the discovery of the Christian faith. During the inauguration, the Mary of Nazareth Association, which built the center, will hand the keys to Father Laurent Fabre, founder of the Chemin Neuf Community, which will manage the center. At 5 p.m., an ecumenical celebration will bring together representatives of the Churches of the Holy Land. The following day, the center will open its doors to the public. Pilgrims will be able to submerge themselves in "a multi-media show, with the aesthetic and pedagogical resources of modern audiovisual techniques, and to review on passing through its four great halls the essential moments of the history of salvation and the Virgin Mary's place in Scripture," explained Olivier Bonnassies, executive director of the Mary of Nazareth Association. In an area of 4,400 square meters (43,000 square feet), one will be able to visit the Chapel of Adoration, which has a unique view of the Basilica, the biblical gardens in panoramic terraces that dominate the whole of Nazareth, the cafeteria recreated from a hall with arches, and a shop. A statement from the association noted that during the construction and renovation, a unique archaeological discovery was made: a house from Jesus' time and several cisterns and hiding places excavated from the rock. 7
The International Mary of Nazareth Center has an ecumenical aim and promotes interreligious dialogue, showing in one of the rooms the way in which the Virgin Mary is perceived by the Eastern Churches, in the Quran and as a Jewish woman. "This vocation of unity explains why the initiative is supported unanimously by the local Churches of the Holy Land," the association statement reflected. "Bishop Marcuzzo, who is supporting the project, has given his unwavering support to this work of unity, hope and peace." Zenit – 22 March 2011
Information square Omar Ibn al-Khattab Square near Jaffa Gate is short on space but long on attractions. One of Jerusalem’s liveliest streets is actually a short plaza called Omar ibn al- Khatab, named for the second caliph of the Islamic world. It runs from inside Jaffa Gate to the beginning of the Armenian Quarter at Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate Road. Bursting with both ancient and relatively modern historical sites, the street/square has two tourist information centers that are open seven days a week. Brilliant, tolerant and an administrative whiz, Omar visited Jerusalem soon after Muslim Arabs conquered the Holy City in 638. He revered many of the Bible’s most significant personalities and honored Judaism’s holy sites, including the peak on which Solomon erected the First Temple. Thus when he ascended to the Temple Mount and found it overflowing with trash, Omar was enraged. He immediately ordered the rubbish removed – and, say some, he helped clear it out with his own hands. At one point, Jerusalem Bishop Sophronius invited the caliph to join him for prayers inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Omar is said to have refused, explaining that if he accepted, Muslims might immediately demolish this important Christian site and replace it with a mosque. He proceeded to pray outside the church – exactly where a mosque named for him stands today. Begin your stroll outside Jaffa Gate, one of seven open gates in the Old City walls that were restored by Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1538. Stand in the plaza, with the vehicular entrance to the Old City on your right. Now head for Jaffa Gate and look up at the small parapet above the entrance. Its floor contains an opening called a machicolation, from which soldiers could dump boiling oil or hot tar on any enemy attempting to mount an attack on the city. A large mezuza is affixed to the right-hand side of the gate. Once you walk inside, you’ll see a large sign with information about Jaffa Gate. Pass the steps leading up to the ramparts to reach a new information center, which is open Sunday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays until 2 and Saturdays from 9 to 4. Here you can buy tickets for the city’s attractions, get hotel reservations, rent a car and even arrange flights to neighboring countries. When you exit, look to your left to see an iron fence. Beyond it are two tombs decorated with stone turbans. They are said to contain the remains of the two architects who planned the city walls.
Next door, the pleasant government Tourist Information Center is open Saturday to Thursday 8:30 to 5, and Friday 8:30 to 12:30. The staff will provide you with free informative touring material. Stop at the entrance to the Imperial Hotel. In the late 19th century, it was the grandest lodging place in the city. (Be careful – the road is undergoing renovations.) Turn into the alley between the massive columns that frame the entrance to see a stumpy pillar topped by a Greek Orthodox flag. On the fourth row you will read “LEG X.” The Tenth Roman Legion camped here during the Roman-Jewish revolt in the first century, and after its victory as well. At the corner, turn right to reach the handsome edifice that houses the Franciscan Christian Information Center. It was built in 1858 to accommodate the Imperial Austrian Post Office. The colorful original sign is on view inside the CIC, but at the moment it stands behind a fascinating display of the superb buildings designed by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi during the 1930s. Center hours: Saturday to Thursday 8:30 to 3:30, Friday 8:3012:30 (closed Sunday). Across the street stands the Jerusalem Citadel, the oldest and most exciting historical site on Omar el-Khatab Square. In 1917, after the Holy City surrendered to the British, Field Marshal Edmund Allenby stood there and declared Jerusalem to be under British rule. You may know the Citadel as the Tower of David, although it is unlikely that King David ever set foot on the site. However, Christian pilgrims, certain it had been constructed by the king, began calling it the Tower of David in Byzantine times. Centuries later, Muslims continued the tradition by fashioning a prayer site over the spot where they believed David had stopped to pray and named it after the monarch. Actually, the foundations for Jerusalem’s citadel were built about 1,000 years after the era of King David by the Hasmonean (Maccabean dynasty) rulers of Israel. They erected a defensive tower and a city wall; remains of the wall were discovered during excavations. King Herod constructed a palace next to the city wall and added three towers, one of which still stands. Today the citadel houses the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, an enterprise suitably located at the gateway to the Old City. The only museum in the world that deals exclusively with the history of Jerusalem, it spans the colorful millennia of the city’s history with a light and unusual touch. Besides the exciting displays, its buildings and grounds are historical sites to be explored. Free guided tours are available in English with your entrance to the museum. At least once a year the museum offers a new and creative exhibition. This year’s is called “Letters and More” and offers a lively display on the development of writing. A couple of years ago the museum added a Night Spectacular, whose dazzling sound and light show is a feast for the senses. And recently, the museum began offering daytime concerts and guided tours of Jerusalem as well. Open-air concerts should start up again in early spring (see www.towerofdavid.org.il for details). NOW CROSS the street to Christ Church, the first Protestant sanctuary in the Middle East. The church was built from 1842-1849 by the London Society for the Promotion of Christianity amongst the Jews, to draw Jews into the Christian fold; therefore it doesn’t have a single cross. The Turks wouldn’t let Christians use bells to call parishioners to worship, so the church didn’t even have a belfry. However, after the Crimean War (1853- 1856) left the Turks in debt to the British, the Anglicans added a modest bell tower and dared to ring the bell for worship. Eventually the Church of the Holy Sepulchre followed suit, and soon bells could be heard all over Jerusalem. Look for the bell tower to your left as you face the church.
Despite a typically Protestant lack of embellishment, Christ Church is a magnificent sanctuary and well worth a visit. The design combines a touch of English beauty (rich, dark, wooden ceilings and tables) with Middle Eastern stone walls and medieval vaulted arches. An unusual wooden screen covers most of the wall behind the communion table. Designed to remind onlookers of the Holy Ark, which in synagogues contains the Five Books of Moses, it is divided into four panels. The Ten Commandments (in Hebrew) are written in the two middle panels; on either side in Hebrew script are the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed. Other decorations include a stunning trio of stained-glass windows that face the entrance. Installed when the church was expanded in 1913, the middle window represents the Christian Trinity. The words are in Hebrew, and the dominant figure is a tree or a vine that vaguely looks like a cross. Each side window includes a play of branches. Interestingly, on one side the branches end in a menorah, and on the other is a cross. A stunning olive wood communion table, decorated with a Star of David and the Christian Alpha and Omega, was designed by architect Conrad Schick. Ten years ago, Christ Church opened the Christian Heritage Center (hours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily), which illustrates the history of Christian Zionism in Jerusalem through historic documents, medieval Bibles and contemporary models of the city. Also open to the public is a 2,000-year-old water reservoir that leads to an ancient tunnel. A cafeteria services visitors and tourists staying in the guest house. Your last site on this Street Stroll is the police station, known as the Kishle, used as a lock-up by the Turks who built it and the British who came after them. Today, Jerusalem’s mounted police exercise their horses in the Kishle’s paddock. Among the prisoners held here during the British Mandate were members of the Jewish underground who had committed the heinous crime of blowing the shofar at the Western Wall. In 1931, the British had decided that the Muslims’ ownership rights to the Temple Mount also encompassed the Western Wall area and forbade Jews to blow the shofar at this holy site. But the ceremony is an integral part of the High Holy Days, and the Jews could hardly take this lying down. So every year following the ban, IZL and Lehi members blew the Tekia Gedola to mark the end of the Yom Kippur fast, and ended up at the Kishle. By Aviva Bar-Am The Jerusalem Post – 3 March 2011
Old City harmony Muslim, Jewish and Christian students immerse themselves in the world of music. Violin teacher Tanya Beltser gently positions eight-year-old Majd’s shoulder and adjusts the angle of her elbow as the young student lightly holds her violin bow and prepares for her mid-term exam, to be graded by the Magnificat Institute of Music’s academic director, Hania Soudah-Sabbara, and director and founder, Father Armando Pierucci. Beltser, who immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine 15 years ago, speaks to Majd in English, but their real language of communication is that of music. “I love the violin,” Majd says. “Tanya is strict, but she is a good teacher and she smiles a lot.”
“I am Muslim and I don’t feel any difference between Christians, Muslims and Jews,” says another student, Fadi, 10, who is studying for his classical guitar exam with Israeli teacher Shiri Coneh. “It doesn’t make a difference, I am studying music.” The Magnificat Institute was founded in 1995 by Pierucci at the urging of SoudahSabbara and opened its doors to 50 piano and organ students. Today the institute, located inside the New Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City on the campus of the St. Saviour Franciscan Monastery, can proudly boast some 22 teachers of various ethnicities and religions teaching a similar mix of 250 music students now also violin, viola, violoncello, classical guitar, side flute, percussion, composition and choral music. There is also a preparatory course in music for children from three to eight years old. Here Muslims, Jews, Christians, Armenians and international students and teachers leave behind the sometimes turbulent political reality of life in Jerusalem and immerse themselves in the world of music. “Here it is not like the outside. It is different here. We all like music so we talk about music,” says Fadi’s 16-year-old sister Lour who studies the piano with a Russian-Israeli teacher. In its mission statement the school notes that in addition to promoting the high-level professional preparation of music students, it also fulfills a double role as “a place for dialogue and peaceful coexistence that permits human and social development.” The school is open to teachers, staff, musicians, and students without regard to language, country, race or religion. “It’s true that we have all of that. But we really don’t deal with politics,” says SoudahSabbara, 44, herself a graduate of the music education department of the Rubin Academy in West Jerusalem. In addition to being the academic director of Magnificat, she also teaches ear training and solfege, a technique for the teaching of sight singing, and is currently studying for her master’s degree at the Rubin Academy, which, she says, has been “very supportive” of the institute. According to Dr. Veronica Cohen, dean of the music education department at the Rubin Academy of Music, the educational level at Magnificat Institute is close to that of top conservatories in West Jerusalem. She says she has been involved with the institute for many years and admires the level of professionalism the school puts into the education of their students. “It is amazing how professional they are and how well-rounded an education they receive there, it is not just performance but also theory. And their choir is outstanding,” she says. “It is a delight the school exists,” she tells The Report. The school adopted the Italian curriculum style of teaching, Soudah-Sabbara says and the course of studies includes exams and competitions. Only those who pass an audition are accepted into the institute and if, after an honest attempt, a student is found not to be of the right musical level, he is politely asked to end his studies at the institute. The Magnificat has an agreement with the Conservatory of Music A. Pedrollo in Venice, Italy where so far two students have obtained a diploma in pianoforte and another student is currently studying for his master’s degree in organ. Other students have completed their studies in organ or musical education in Italy, Germany and Israel. “My main goal is to have the best teachers possible to give our students the best education and keep them advancing well,” Soudah- Sabbara explains to The Report, noting that not every teacher can withstand the strict academic demands at the Magnificat.
Having grown up in a home with a harmonica-playing father who had a love for Western classical music, it was her dream to have such a conservatory of music in Jerusalem, she says, especially for Palestinian children who “never had the privilege of music. For many it is still a luxury,” she says. She shared her dream with Pierucci who had just arrived from Italy to replace the organist at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Italian priest soon realized that there was a need for such a music school for future Palestinian musicians and after a few years was able to convince his superiors of the importance of the endeavor. Her next goal, says Soudah-Sabbara, is to see the formation of a full-fledged youth philharmonic orchestra; for now they have started an ensemble. At the moment there is one professional Palestinian orchestra, but that is made up of Palestinians in the diaspora who come together only for performances, she says. In addition, the Palestinian Authority Education Ministry has noted a severe shortage of music teachers in the educational system, so many of the institute students could actually find themselves making a living from their music in schools, she notes. The Edward Said National Conservatory, which was founded at about the same time as Magnificat and is based in Ramallah, also has a branch in Jerusalem and emphasizes the Arabic tradition in music. Today, she says, the institute has a “healthy competition” with the conservatory and their students participate in some of the institute’s competitions. Although Magnificat teaches Western classical music, it also highlights Arabic heritage by including Arabic songs – arranged in Western choral style with more than one voice – in its choral repertoire, notes Soudah-Sabbara. Teaching at Magnificat is “like being on another planet,” says 31-year-old classical guitar teacher Shiri Coneh, who is teaching at the institute for the third year. “People come from different countries, different religions, and it is very open,” she says. The students and parents are very serious about the music studies, Coneh notes. Magnificat has more of an educational framework, which is connected to a strict curriculum, than other Israeli musical institutes where she teaches, she says. “You can see it in the concerts, how much they want to perform. They appreciate it. There will be results,” she says. But it wasn’t always like that. “Magnificat had to do a lot of education of society about what it takes to have a musician at home. Parents didn’t know they have to attend their concerts and be patient with a child who is practicing at home. We lost a lot of students at the beginning with great potential,” SoudahSabbara says. After 16 years, attitudes have changed, and many of the students have gone on to higher music studies, with some returning to teach at the institute and others, who have not made music their career, now send their own children to study here. “This gives us and all the staff a happy sense of achievement,” says Soudah-Sabbara. “Music heals a lot of wounds. Giving such an opportunity to talented children gives them a better tomorrow. Before Magnificat they had nowhere to advance.” Haig Vosgueritchian, 27, a former organ student at the institute, now teaches music theory and harmony there. “This school gave me everything,” says Vosgueritchian, an Armenian. The multi-ethnic make-up of the school for him is just something that “comes with the package. I don’t intentionally take Jewish students to show them we can live together,” he says, noting that the students see the teachers naturally interacting with each other as a given.
“The school is important for local people, especially the children, because they are stressed and nervous and, here, the moment they enter they find peace and relaxation and listen to music.” Teaching at the Institute is at a very high level and “quite a challenge,” notes Beltser, who has taught for six years at Magnificat. This year she has been put in charge of developing the youth orchestra. “It is a very young school and it is growing and developing all the time. They really take [music education] seriously and [allow] the teacher to give the student extra study time if he needs it,” says Beltser, who is a traditional Jew and does not work on Saturdays, which is a normal workday for Palestinians. “This is a very special place. Here you can see how rich [in peoples and traditions] the City of Jerusalem is.” By Judith Sudilovsky The Jerusalem Post – 17 March 2011
Church leaders urge Obama to step up diplomacy for Israeli-Palestinian peace Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is one of 20 ecumenical leaders who wrote to President Barack Obama on March 7 urging him to "open up broad new channels of diplomatic effort" to encourage successful peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The church leaders have expressed regret that the United States vetoed a resolution in the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 18 that would have reaffirmed the illegality of Israeli settlement building in the Palestinian territories. "While we appreciate statements affirming continuing U.S. strong opposition to the expansion of Israeli settlements, these must be followed by concrete measures to halt this activity," the letter said. "We believe bold and immediate new steps are needed now to prevent this veto from further damaging America's credibility as a broker to help resolve this conflict that threatens the security of both peoples and denies self-determination to Palestinians." The church leaders are uniting as Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), a national Christian coalition which includes 24 Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant national church bodies and faith-based organizations, including the Episcopal Church. CMEP issued a statement on Feb. 2 urging the Obama administration not to block the U.N. Security Council resolution calling on Israel to stop illegal construction of settlements. Jefferts Schori made a similar plea some two weeks earlier, saying that use of the U.S. veto power "would send the wrong signal to both parties, as it would be interpreted by many as a break from past U.S. positions against settlement building." Israel and the Palestinian Authority briefly came to the table in September 2010 in negotiations mediated by Obama, but those talks faltered when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend a temporary freeze on the construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian negotiators have maintained that a full settlement freeze is a condition of their participation in peace talks. For most of 2010, the Israeli government maintained a temporary freeze on settlement construction. Obama had sought this freeze in order to bring the parties to the table, but the Israeli government declined to extend the moratorium past September unless the Palestinian
Authority would formally recognize Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people. Palestinian negotiators refused to do so. "Negotiations to end this conflict have foundered not just because of remaining differences over the specific issues, but also because of deep fear and mistrust," the church leaders said in the March 7 letter. "Both sides need to have confidence that any agreement for a just peace with security will be lasting and reliably executed in a reasonable timeframe. "We call upon you therefore to open up broad new channels of diplomatic effort to encourage both sides to take responsibility now for creating the conditions necessary for talks to succeed. This initiative must necessarily include support from the Middle East Quartet, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference for a set of proposals, building on the Arab Peace Initiative." The letter also noted that the Middle East Quartet recently expressed support for concluding an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians by this September, "and you also have expressed the hope there can be an agreement by then. With that time frame in mind, we hope that you and the other Quartet leaders will travel to the region together soon, visiting Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring Syria, to propose specific steps to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between Israel and all its neighbors." The Episcopal Church has repeatedly stated its support for a two-state solution in which Israel's right to exist in security is affirmed by all nations, while a free, independent, and secure Palestinian state exists alongside Israel. Under such a scenario, the Episcopal Church and most peace advocates support the sharing of Jerusalem as a capital between Israel and a future Palestinian state. The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem -- with its 27 parishes and 33 institutions throughout Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon -- is committed to a stable and lasting peace through a two-state solution. The U.S.-based Episcopal Church supports the Jerusalem diocese through partnerships and companion diocese relationships. Episcopal News Service â€“ 09 March 2011
Holy Land Custos: Politics is mute so violence speaks Reacts to Flare-up of Hostilities in Jerusalem, Gaza When politics is at a standstill, the "languages" of violence and mistrust enter the conversation, according to the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land. Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa shared this reflection with Vatican Radio, in response to the new increase in tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. A terrorist bombing March 23 at a bus stop in Jerusalem killed one person and wounded more than 50 others; such an event has not occurred in Jerusalem since 2008, when a Palestinian extremist entered a rabbinical school and killed eight students. The Israeli air force launched attacks against three sites in the Gaza Strip the next day, as at least 11 rockets were fired into Southern Israel. "I hope that it's not a going back and a reopening of a strategy of terror, as we saw in recent years," Father Pizzaballa said. "I hope it will remain an isolated incident. Nevertheless, it's true that there has been a sort of deterioration, first of all in political relations and then, consequently, in everything else." The Franciscan characterized political leaders as seemingly "paralyzed." 14
"From my point of view, they are afraid, or at least, they don't have the strength to take big decisions, because courage is necessary on both sides, and this creates a climate of ever greater mistrust, with reciprocal accusations, which then creates a situation, I'm not saying of barbarization, but of deterioration," he said. Speaking of the situation in Gaza, the priest noted how the increased violence is "something which, unfortunately, we have already seen in the past and which seems to be acute again at this moment." "Let's hope it is a parenthesis and not, in fact, a going back," Father Pizzaballa stated. In regard to the question of the Gaza Strip and of the settlements of colonists in the West Bank, Father Pizzaballa suggested that this "is the decisive question, which the political authorities, on both sides but above all Israel, must take in hand sooner or later. Perhaps the conditions don't exist; I don't know, I do not wish to enter into delicate political questions." Spiral Meanwhile the apostolic nuncio in Israel, Archbishop Antonio Franco, lamented the "innocent victims of situations that can certainly be resolved and that call for a commitment for their solution, but which certainly are not resolved with violence and the death of innocents." He told a weekly program produced by the Custody that such events are admonitions and calls. "My prayer goes first of all to the victims, but it also goes to the Lord, that he will illumine, so that there won't be a new spiral of violence, which leads also to more serious tragedies and sufferings," the nuncio added. Archbishop Franco said yielding to discouragement is useless. Rather "the reality imposes a commitment and it imposes it according to the responsibility of each one." "Situations of injustice, of tension, of difficulty cannot last for long," he said, "because every now and then there is one who thinks of giving a signal, a message, using mistaken methods." To find solutions, the nuncio added, "what is needed is the good will of all parts that are implicated and one needs the effort and the commitment of all. And the one that is directly involved is the international community." Zenit â€“ 28 March 2011
Catholic, Jewish Leaders stress need for prayer Highlight Religious Leadership in modern world Catholic and Jewish leaders are together underlining the importance of prayer so as to give witness to the presence of God in the world. This was one of the conclusions of a three-day meeting in Jerusalem of the Bilateral Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. The meeting was co-chaired by Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen of the Jewish delegation and Cardinal Jorge MejĂa of the Catholic delegation. The concluding statement was publicized Thursday, the last day of the meeting, which centered on the theme "Challenges of Faith and Religious Leadership in Secular Society."
The commission noted that "our modern world is substantially bereft of a sense of belonging, meaning and purpose." It affirmed, "Faith and religious leadership have a critical role in responding to these realities, in providing both hope and moral guidance derived from the awareness of the Divine presence and the Divine image in all human beings." The religious leaders affirmed, "Our respective traditions declare the importance of prayer, both as the expression of awareness of the Divine presence, and as the way to affirm that awareness and its moral imperatives." "In addition, the study of the Divine Word in Scripture offers the essential inspiration and direction for life," they noted. Moses The commission observed that "the Biblical description of Moses was presented as a paradigm of religious leadership." It noted that Moses, "through his encounter with God, responds to the Divine call with total faith, loving his people, declaring the Word of God without fear, embodying freedom and courage, and an authority that comes from obeying God always and unconditionally, and listening to all, ready for dialogue." "The responsibility of the faithful is accordingly to testify to the Divine presence in our world," the statement asserted, "while acknowledging our failures in the past to be true and full witnesses to this charge." It continued: "Such testimony is also to be seen in education, focus on youth and effective engagement of the media. "Similarly, in the establishment and operation of charitable institutions with special care for the vulnerable, sick and marginalized, in the spirit of 'tikkun olam' (healing the world)." The commission added that "the religious commitment to justice and peace also requires an engagement between religious leadership and the institutions of civil law." The statement noted, "Resulting from the discussion on the practical implications for religious leadership in relationship to current issues, the bilateral commission expressed the hope that the outstanding matters in the negotiations between the Holy See and the state of Israel would soon be resolved, and bilateral agreements speedily ratified for the benefit of both communities." Zenit â€“ 1 April 2011
State discriminating between Christian, Muslim Gazans NGO claims Muslims given less access to holy sites in Israel; state says Christians allowed to cross over for diplomatic and humanitarian reasons. The Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement NGO on Tuesday accused the Defense Ministry of discriminating between Christians and Muslims in allowing Gazan access to holy sites in Israel. In its response, the state said that Christians were allowed to cross over for diplomatic and humanitarian reasons. In December, the Tel Aviv-based Gisha filed a petition to the Beersheba District Court, following the Defense Ministryâ€™s refusal to allow seven Muslim women from the Gaza Strip to pray at the Aksa Mosque in honor of the prophet Muhammadâ€™s birthday. The petition said 16
that the Defense Ministry refuses to allow Muslim women from Gaza to enter east Jerusalem, but allows Christian residents of Gaza to pray at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, thus violating the Muslims’ right to freedom of worship. It noted that no security claims were made against the women. “The refusal to allow their exit is part of a policy that discriminates between Muslims and Christians, all residents of the Gaza Strip. Under the current policy, prayer at Al-Aksa is permitted for Palestinian Muslims from the West Bank, subject to age restrictions and an individual security check. Furthermore, Christian residents of the Gaza Strip receive permits to travel to pray in Bethlehem and Jerusalem on religious holidays, also subject to age restrictions. Muslims, however, are categorically denied permits to leave Gaza for purposes of prayer at Al-Aksa,” Gisha wrote. “Israel's refusal to allow these women out of Gaza to pray at their holy sites, while allowing Christians to do so, raises the specter of discrimination based on religious belief. Israel’s control of sites holy to multiple religions imposes an obligation to allow worshipers to access them on an egalitarian basis, subject only to individual security checks,” Gisha’s lawyer Nomi Heger said. The state wrote to the court that the petition should be dismissed out of hand, because it referred to a date that has already passed and therefore was no longer relevant. The response did, however, outline the reasons for allowing the Christian devout to cross over to Bethlehem, describing it as an “ad hoc” approval and an exception to the general no-crossing policy. “Indeed, in the past three years the entrance of Christian residents of Gaza to Nazareth and Bethlehem was approved for the purpose of prayer in the holy sites during the major holidays, subject to specified quotas. This entrance was enabled in light of the defense minister’s decision to ease restrictions on this population,” the state’s response. “The main grounds for this decision were for the most part diplomatic, touching on Israel’s foreign policy, strategic and humanitarian, in light of this population [Christians] being a persecuted group with little possibility of holding religious ceremonies in the Strip, as opposed to the Muslim population, who aside from the available options within the Strip, can exit the Strip for the purpose of prayer in Mecca, through Egypt.” The state rejected the claim that the decision infringed on the women’s right to freedom of worship, arguing that the freedom was not guaranteed to citizens of enemy entities and that allowing some people to enter did not obligate Israel to allow all to enter. By Ron Friedman The Jerusalem Post – 09 March 2011
International Christian Embassy study: Urgent social needs in Israel’s Arab sector International Christian Embassy Jerusalem ICEJ-funded study identifies most urgent social needs in Israel’s Arab sector The results of a pioneering nationwide survey funded by the International Christianity Embassy Jerusalem and commissioned by the Forum of Social Services Directors for the Arab Community were released last week identifying the most pressing social needs and
funding priorities among Israel’s Arab minority. Considered the most comprehensive study ever conducted of Arab sector welfare bureaus, the results will be used to guide Israeli authorities in targeting the most critical problems revealed by the survey: social workers overburdened by case loads involving large families, and not enough specialists in handling at-risk children. Now 20% of Israel’s population, the Arab sector is well ahead of most Arab populations in the region in terms of economic development and well-being. Yet there are still many daunting challenges within the Israeli Arab community, which lags well behind the national averages according to most economic indicators. This gap is growing again due to the increasing number of large Arab families with low wage-earners and multiple children. Carmi Ashboren, a consultant for several non-profit agencies combating social ills like poverty and domestic violence, approached the ICEJ AID department last year on behalf of the Forum with a request for funding of the ground-breaking survey of Arab social needs. “There were prior surveys done of the Arab sector, but their conclusions were never adopted by the government,” said Ashboren. “This time, the Ministry of Social Welfare has commented positively on the findings and is much more likely to use the results. New minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud) is also receptive to the survey’s findings.” “We were extremely pleased to fund this first systematic study of the welfare needs of Israeli Arab society,” added Rev. Malcolm Hedding, Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy. “It is also our hope that the results will be used effectively to lift many deserving families out of poverty and its ill effects, while also demonstrating Israel’s credentials as a fair and just society.” The Forum is an umbrella organization set up in 2003 to coordinate efforts among directors of welfare departments in the 75 Arab-run municipalities throughout Israel. Working in unison, the Forum has managed to secure increased expenditures for the Arab sector from the annual state budget in recent years. But this has failed to keep pace with the growing numbers of large families in need of social welfare services. In addition, municipal sources of funding – which by law account for one-quarter of social welfare budgets – have been cut due to the global financial downturn. This in turn reduces the state’s 75% share, as it is based on matching funds. “Due to severe pressures, most welfare departments devote their time and resources to extinguishing fires, rather than on planning and activities which can prevent them,” explained Emile Sema’an, chairman of the Forum and the head social worker in the mixed DruzeChristian town of Peqi’in. “This problem is even greater in the Arab sector since most of the population falls within a low socio-economic category.” Using a NIS 115,000 grant from the ICEJ, the Forum commissioned the Massar Institute for Social Research, Planning and Consultation, assisted by a team of researchers from the (non-profit) Organization for Equal Opportunities, to conduct the comprehensive survey with the aim of pinpointing the most glaring deficiencies and recommending solutions. Social welfare managers in twenty of the 75 Arab-majority municipalities took part in the extensive interview process concerning current practices and needs. The results have been compiled in an 85-page report that has been sent to all social welfare departments in the country. Ashboren is confident the study will lead to increased resources and enhanced performance for the Arab sector and applauded the Forum for deciding to conduct it. “The Forum does not focus on protests and complaining, but has a professional approach for constructive action in close cooperation with governmental authorities, local and national, with proven success” noted Ashboren.
The main findings of the survey include: 1) Most managers of Arab welfare departments are saddled with too much daily case work themselves to engage in proper planning, budgeting and administrative duties. 2) Half the Arab welfare departments have no case workers trained in the field of at-risk children, which is the most urgent problem area in the Arab sector. 3) Over 30% of the households in Arab communities are in need of social assistance, rising to 50% of households in four municipalities. 4) The two main types of social aid recipients were at-risk children (37%), and individuals living in poverty (20.5%). 5) The social problems that have steadily grown over the past five years are poverty, unemployment and violence. 6) Lack of manpower, specialized training and budgets are the major obstacles to the adequate handling of most of these social problems. 7) Social workers in the Jewish sector handle 43% fewer cases on average than in the Arab sector, with the average size of assisted Jewish families standing at 3.5 persons in 2008, as against 4.8 in the Arab sector. 8) During the years 2007-2009, some 252 new social worker positions were added nationwide, of which 42% went to the Arab sector. This slightly reduced the gap in case loads per social worker, but more are still needed. Among the primary recommendations are: 1) A mechanism to guarantee a more equitable sharing of case loads between welfare departments in the Jewish and Arab sectors, taking into account family sizes. 2) A more equitable formula for allocating budgets. 3) More training programs for Arab social workers, including in specialized fields like at-risk children, which is the most prominent social problem in the Arab communities. A non-partisan organization serving all Muslim, Christian and Druze communities in Israel, the Forum will now seek official approval for implementing the surveyâ€™s recommendations while also working in partnership with private charities to promote social services nationwide from a systemic perspective. The Jerusalem Post â€“ 3 March 2011
Jerusalem's time tunnels Horizontal excavations throughout the Old City of Jerusalem and Silwan are producing important archaeological discoveries, but opponents charge that they are undermining Palestinian foundations, in more ways than one Under the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem and the neighboring village of Silwan is a parallel universe. It is cool year round, and lacks the din of vehicular traffic and merchants. In lower Jerusalem, you cannot hear stones being thrown or smell the tear gas from the Friday clashes between Silwan youths and the police. On the final day of the Great Revolt against the Romans, in 70 C.E., as the Temple was going up in flames, the last of the Jewish rebels escaped into the city's underground sewer system in a desperate attempt to flee the Roman legionnaires. "Those in the sewers were ferreted out, the ground was torn up, and all who were trapped were killed," reported contemporary historian Flavius Josephus. The most significant sewage tunnel, which ran underneath Jerusalem's main street, has been excavated by the Antiquities Authority and the nonprofit Elad Foundation. This main street led from the Siloam Pool - the city's main water source - to the Temple Mount and the Temple. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims marched up this road three times a year.
Jerusalem's main thoroughfare during the Second Temple period is today directly under the main road of Silwan, known in Arabic as Wadi Hilweh Street. The Siloam Pool, at the bottom of Silwan, is a small remnant of the major waterworks that sustained ancient Jerusalem. Near the edge of the pool is an opening into the hillside, leading to a long, magnificently carved tunnel. Welcome to the Herodian period. After a few dozen meters, the tunnel suddenly drops from street level into the sewer below, which Josephus described. Once work is complete, visitors touring the City of David tunnels will be able to descend beneath the Old City walls and emerge from the ground at the Davidson Center, the archaeological park between just within the Dung Gate, to the immediate southwest of the Temple Mount. In the future, visitors may even be able to enter the Western Wall tunnels and continue all the way to the Via Dolorosa, in the heart of the Muslim Quarter. From there, it is a quick walk to the immense Zedekiah's Cave under the Muslim Quarter buildings. All told, this means that visitors could potentially spend hours on end exploring subterranean Jerusalem from end to end of the ancient city (though not including the Temple Mount), barely seeing the light of day. The excavation of the extensive network of caves and tunnels below the Western Wall, Silwan and the Muslim Quarter is now nearing completion. The intensive activity has been under way for decades, generally without collaboration between the various agencies involved. Yet despite the lack of a unified policy, critics of the tunnels charge that the excavations have changed the geography and geopolitics of Jerusalem's Holy Basin. The tunnels have created a new Jerusalem, one illuminated by fluorescent bulbs - a Jewish-Israeli expanse devoid of Palestinians and conflicts. Whatever the case may be, it seems that from this point on, anyone who wants to talk about dividing Jerusalem will need two maps, one for above the surface and another for the subterranean. The Western Wall link The excavation enterprise includes five different projects: the well-known and heavily trafficked Western Wall tunnels, which lead northward from the Western Wall plaza along the length of the wall obscured by the Muslim Quarter buildings; the City of David national park; the tunnel along the Herodian-era road, which connects the City of David to the Old City; a tunnel from the Muslim Quarter eastward toward the Western Wall; and Zedekiah's Cave, a gigantic quarry excavated over several thousand years, that extends under much of the Muslim Quarter. The partners in this immense excavation enterprise are the Western Wall Heritage Foundation (a nonprofit association that administers the Western Wall plaza and is controlled by the Prime Minister's Office ), the Antiquities Authority, the East Jerusalem Development Corporation (another government agency ), and the right-wing, nonprofit associations Elad and Ateret Cohanim. Some of the tunnels were excavated for religious and tourism objectives: Work on the Western Wall tunnels, for example, took place over the past 40 years at the initiative of current and former Western Wall rabbis and the Religious Services Ministry. However, most of the subterranean enterprise is archaeological. The excavations have yielded significant findings and insights, and even critics admit there is much of interest in at least some of the tunnels. There is also an important financial aspect. The two main tunnel networks - the City of David and the Western Wall tunnels - are among Jerusalem's premier tourist attractions, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. An underground link between the Western Wall and the City of David would undoubtedly boost the importance of the latter, 20
which the Elad Foundation controls. All it would take is a fraction of the millions who visit the Western Wall every year to descend into such a channel. The project's critics, mainly members of left-wing groups and independent archaeologists, view the excavations as a right-wing tool. The left argues that the tunnels are physically undermining Palestinian homes in Silwan and the Old City, while politically reinforcing Jewish settlement in the Muslim Quarter and Silwan. Others are concerned that the tunnels could be used by extremists to attack the Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount. "The settlement enterprise in Jerusalem takes place on three dimensions," says Meretz city council member Meir Margalit. "The ground, the rooftops and the underground. The tunnels are yet another way of gaining control over East Jerusalem. I have no problem with excavating per se; I myself am an archaeology buff, and I always get a thrill from these tunnels. The problem is the excavators' messianic political agenda. A provocation beneath the mosques could end the peace process for generations." Nevertheless, despite the occasional complaints by officials from the Waqf (the Muslim trust that administers the Temple Mount ) and the Islamic Movement in Israel, none of the tunnels actually go under the Temple Mount or threaten its structures, and there are no plans to excavate underneath it. In most places, the huge stones of the Western Wall actually block the excavators' access to Temple Mount. Lost temple treasures The most important tunnel excavator in the city's history was the noted British archaeologist Charles Warren. In the 1860s, tunneling was partly necessitated by the need to conceal from the Ottoman authorities some of the work adjacent to - or beneath - the Temple Mount. At the same time, the tunneling was also motivated by a mystical romantic hunt for the treasures of the ancient Israelites' Temple. The tunneling halted during the British Mandate and Jordanian rule, and was renewed following the Six-Day War. Then, as well, it was the pursuit of Temple treasures that underlay the excavations. The most significant figure in this pursuit was then-Western Wall Rabbi Yehuda Meir Getz. Getz, who had a spiritual, mystical approach to life in general and to the Temple Mount in particular, believed he could find the greatest treasure of them all the Ark of the Covenant. Journalist Nadav Shragai, who investigated the tunnels for his 1995 Hebrew-language book "The Temple Mount Conflict," explains that, according to Maimonides, when King Solomon was building the First Temple he knew it would eventually be destroyed, so he "built a structure in which to hide the Ark, down below in deep and twisting concealed places." Getz believed the Ark of the Covenant, which had not been seen since Solomon's days, was still hidden beneath the Temple Mount. The Ark, Getz believed, would hasten the redemption. Except that his excavations nearly led to bloodshed. Getz spearheaded the excavation of the Western Wall tunnels, which were meant to expose the western wall of the Temple Mount in its entirety. The tunnels stretch northward from the Western Wall plaza deep into the Muslim Quarter. One visual highlight of the tunnel tour is a colossal carved stone weighing hundreds of tons. Given the limits of Second Templeera engineering capabilities, it is still unclear how the stone got there. The tunnels also afford visitors the opportunity to pray at the closest point to the Temple's Holy of Holies. But Getz wanted much more. In 1981, his excavators broke eastward onto the Temple Mount, into an ancient tunnel first excavated by Warren. Getz was looking for signs of the Ark. His excavation was conducted under a heavy cloak of secrecy, with knowledge of it kept even from Prime Minister Menachem Begin. 21
When Waqf officials discovered the tunnel, a massive altercation broke out between the excavators and Palestinian youths who entered the tunnel from the Temple Mount side. In the wake of the riot, then-Minister of Religious Affairs Yosef Burg, ordered the opening sealed. In his book, Shragai quotes from the diary of a frustrated Getz, who wrote on September 3, 1981: "A sound of beating, a sound of Arabs in the tunnel. Apparently, they are sealing the inside of the wall with thick concrete. Every shout is like a dagger in my wounded heart. I yelled out: 'O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy Temple have they defiled.' But I must be stronger, and not be broken, for I must continue in my capacity, even if I am alone in the war." The violent dispute that was barely avoided in 1981 erupted in full force 15 years later in the form of the Western Wall tunnel riots, which came to be considered a harbinger of the Second Intifada. Violent clashes that spread from Jerusalem to West Bank cities claimed the lives of 15 members of Israel's security forces and about 60 Palestinians. The riots broke out after then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu authorized the opening of the Western Wall tunnels, calling them the "bedrock of our existence." In actuality, the tumult erupted over the opening of a short passage that enabled the thousands of visitors to the Western Wall tunnels to exit into the Muslim Quarter instead of having to retrace their steps back to the start of the tunnel. Then, unlike as in 1981, the tunnel did not pass below the Temple Mount. But it was enough for the Waqf and the Palestinian leadership to incite thousands of people to take part in violent demonstrations. The tunnel was reopened shortly after the riots ended, and still serves the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Western Wall tunnels. As opposed to his predecessor Rabbi Getz, the current Western Wall rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovich, vehemently objects to easing the prohibition keeping Jews off the Temple Mount, either above or below ground. "As far as I am concerned, it is not a political issue; it is an issue of halakha [Jewish law]. Just like I cannot eat on Yom Kippur, I will not go up to the Temple Mount. So long as I am the rabbi of the Western Wall, no one will get even within touching distance of the Temple Mount," Rabinovich told Haaretz. Nevertheless, he is continuing the excavation of the Western Wall tunnels, and has turned them into one of Jerusalem's most famous and popular tourism attractions, with 750,000 visitors each year. Briefing the parties The main excavation project in the Western Wall area is in a tunnel underneath the Ohel Yitzhak synagogue, in the Muslim Quarter, 80 meters east of the Western Wall tunnels. The excavation was initially funded by Ateret Cohanim, a nonprofit association that works to move Jews into the Muslim Quarter with the financial backing of settlement movement patron Irwin Moskowitz. Currently, states Rabinovich, Ateret Cohanim has nothing to do with the excavation, which has exposed an impressive Crusader structure, a Byzantine street and the remains of a large Second Temple-era structure. Rabinovich adds that he briefs all the relevant parties on the excavation progress, including American diplomats and Muslim Waqf officials. "Human life is more important than uncovering the past. No excavation will be conducted if I think there is any risk to human life," he adds. The Ohel Yitzhak excavation has already linked up with the Western Wall tunnels, and when it is opened to the public, it will significantly expand visitors' below-ground options. Uzi Dahari, deputy director of the Antiquities Authority, explains that in the case of Ohel Yitzhak, the excavation is not taking place in a tunnel; it is an ordinary excavation in a large underground chamber. The space was created by the construction methods employed in 22
the Old City in the past few centuries: Many Muslim Quarter buildings are not built at ground level, but rather on top of outsized arches. Over the years, the spaces under the arches fill with debris and sewage; once the debris is removed, excavations can be conducted underneath. These arches enabled excavation of the Western Wall tunnels and the Ohel Yitzhak synagogue. "We received a legal opinion stating that residents did not possess rights to these underground areas. Nevertheless, these are their homes and we must make sure nothing collapses. So we are working at all times with a safety engineer," Dahari explains. Rabinovich says that aside from the archaeological and tourism-related benefits, not only do the excavations not undermine the buildings, they sometimes save them. "The problem in the Old City is that there is no sewage infrastructure, meaning that when you excavate, you discover that the arches are warped, because the sewage is undermining the foundations," he says. Disconnecting the Palestinians As in the Muslim Quarter, Silwan is being excavated via tunnels; standard methods cannot be used because of the extant Palestinian homes. Since the mid-1990s, and to an even greater degree in the past decade, Antiquities Authority investigators have been working on a large-scale excavation in the City of David, funded by the Elad Foundation. Elad was established by David Be'eri with the declared objective of "Judaizing" Silwan, and in 1996, the organization took over management of the City of David national park from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Elad's fund-raising has enabled the excavations to expand immensely. A significant part of a typical visit to the City of David is now below ground. In some of the passageways, visitors march in the footsteps of ancient Jerusalem's waterworks employees; other tunnels were excavated by Charles Warren; yet more were cleared out only in the past 20 years. Being below ground helps detach the site from Silwan and reinforces Jewish control, say Elad's opponents on the left. "The story about the tunnels is a means of justifying Israeli settlement in Silwan and the Muslim Quarter. The tunnels form a Jewish-Israeli underground city and transform those who control it - the settlers - into residents, and those who are disconnected from it - the Palestinians - into temporary outsiders," writes archaeologist Yoni Mizrachi in a report on below-ground Jerusalem. Mizrachi, one of the founders of the nonprofit group Emek Shaveh, compiled a critical report, whose details are being published here for the first time, about the underground spaces in the Old City and Silwan. The Palestinian residents feel that they don't know what is going on under their homes. A few cases of craters appearing in the floor or cracks forming in walls were attributed to the excavations, sparking rage. In the past six months, Silwan has been on the verge of a "third intifada," complete with nearly daily violence between youths and security forces. The tunnels are surely not helping keep the quiet. The excavation of the sewage canal that links the City of David with the Western Wall began in 2003. In many respects, this tunnel became Elad's flagship project. If, as Elad officials hope, the public can walk the length of the tunnel, it would give the national park a major boost, connecting it directly to the Western Wall plaza. The excavators say this is not an excavation in the ordinary sense, but rather a matter of "clearing" sewage from a Herodian tunnel that was largely exposed by Warren and his successors. This explanation did not ease the misgivings of Silwan residents, who petitioned the High Court of Justice against the excavation, which delayed it by two years. But in September 2009, High Court justices authorized work to continue. 23
In her opinion, Justice Edna Arbel stated, "The importance of investigating the past does not negate the interests of the present. It cannot tread upon the right of residents of the excavation area to live in tranquility." Nonetheless, she ruled that the excavation was legal and archaeologically important, and was not causing damage to the buildings above it. This decision enabled the Antiquities Authority to announce by late January 2011 that the tunnel had been cleared all the way up to the Western Wall. While excavating the tunnel, archaeologists found coins and pottery from the period of the Great Revolt, thus confirming the report from Josephus about the rebels' escape into the sewers as the city was being destroyed. Human bones were also found, although they had apparently been swept there over the years. In any event, there is no way to determine how old they were or whether they were connected to the late Second Temple era, due to the law forbidding examining human remains found in archaeological excavations. Distorting archaeology? Since the excavation of the tunnel to the Western Wall plaza, the Antiquities Authority's home page (in Hebrew ) has featured a prominent link to a short promotional film about it. "I am now walking up the first step, prior to ascending to the Temple," says archaeologist Eli Shukron in the film. Shukron and Dr. Ronny Reich were in charge of the excavation. "From here, people started to ascend to the Temple. A gradual ascent; you don't run to the Temple, you walk up slowly. I'm very excited; this is the first time that I am touching the destruction here." "An archaeologist should not work based on emotions," says Prof. Yoram Tsafrir, one of Israel's most prominent archaeologists and a critic of the excavations. "He must uphold professional standards. He has to be like a surgeon, and behave professionally. They are saying they're 'only' clearing debris, but debris is important, too, and should be removed from top to bottom, not chipped away from the side, since it mirrors what happened there," says Tsafrir. He also objects to the massive use of steel necessary to stabilize the tunnels. "It looks like defensive fortifications, like the Bar-Lev Line. In such a case, you're best not excavating. Someday there may be peace here, and the Palestinian residents will agree to a proper excavation. It is unacceptable that the political needs of Elad dictate the pace." The scholarly objection to digging laterally through the tunnels is that this is a faulty, unscientific way of excavating, one that typified archaeology a century or more ago; it makes it impossible to find, date and document all the archaeological findings. Another objection concerns the fact that most of the excavations are cautiously retracing the steps of Warren and his successors, meaning they are providing only marginal added value. Critics also say the tunnels conceal the excavation from the public. The tunnels distort archaeology in favor of the Jewish narrative, say critics, who argue that the excavators are skipping over the archaeological strata of other cultures, primarily Muslim and Christian, to get straight to the glory days of the Jewish reign in Jerusalem. This serves the political interests of the sponsors, of course. "The Antiquities Authority and those whose bidding it is doing, the Elad Foundation settlers, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and others, are conspiring to superficialize both Jewish history and the history of Jerusalem," states Mizrachi in the report. "All of Judaism is compressed into the brief periods of Jewish-Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, while ignoring any layer of history that does not involve political sovereignty and ritual sacrifice. The history of Jerusalem is losing its infrastructure, including the period prior to the kingdom 24
of Israel and everything that happened afterward, when Jerusalem became a Christian holy city and the Muslim al-Quds." Archaeologist Dr. Ronny Reich is considered the father of the new tunnels. He and Shukron conducted most of the excavations. Reich was recently appointed chairman of the archaeological advisory council, the supreme professional body of the Antiquities Authority, after which he announced he was retiring from Jerusalem excavations after 40 years. Reich himself wrote in an introductory archaeology textbook that the tunnel excavation method is outdated. Nevertheless, he rejects the criticism of his work in the City of David. One must differentiate between genuine archaeological excavations and clearing out debris from an ancient sewer, he says. This is not a vertical excavation, but rather the uncovering of an ancient structure. As for vertical excavations, such as the stepped street - the street that was built above the sewer system, now cleared and part of the City of David national park - Reich explains that given the choice between what he gave up by adopting this type of excavation style, and what he discovered by virtue of employing the method, he has no doubt that the excavation was highly valuable. "Despite the allegations, we didn't excavate haphazardly," he says. "We decided to do without what we would have found by excavating garbage and mudslides in favor of discoveries whose added value to Jerusalem's history is immeasurably larger. We found that the entire slope is covered with 8 to 10 meters of garbage. The archaeologists who worked here in the past excavated with a bulldozer. We carried out a meticulous excavation; we sampled the dirt. No one has ever done such a scrupulous charting, even those who are criticizing us." Reich admits that it is not ideal to have a private foundation with a pointed political ideology underwriting the excavation. It would be better if the state itself were to fund it, he says. Yet Elad has never interfered with the scientific work, says Reich. "I'm not motivated by politics; I myself am on the left. I'm motivated by the archaeological understanding of Jerusalem. The excavation is sponsored by the State of Israel. What can I do if it is easy to raise funds for excavations in Jerusalem?" Reich is also proud of his part in encouraging tourism in the area. "When we started, 15 years ago, there may have been a thousand tourists a year . Now there are 450,000 and that is solely because of the archaeology. There is nothing else. So what am I being accused of, helping develop tourism in Jerusalem?" Reich also rejects the criticism regarding secret excavations. "What can I say? The excavation isn't always visible. There are safety issues. Elsewhere in the world you sometimes have to wait 20 years to see the sites," he explains. Dahari also defends the Elad-financed vertical excavations. "If you want me to say that I love the fact that Elad is financing the project, I can't. But Elad is like every other developer; it is the landlord, but the excavation is conducted scientifically. We have to be judged on the basis of whether we are doing good scientific work. We don't engage in politics. Of course, I would be happy if people weren't living in the City of David, as in Tel Hatzor or Tel Megiddo, and it were possible to excavate the ordinary way. Excavating in tunnels is not the best way, but there is no arguing that this is a significant site for the history of Jerusalem, and we have no alternative," he says. It was the Antiquities Authority, Reich says, that stopped his work on the ancient street, after he came across a Byzantine structure and concerns arose that the excavation might destroy it. Therefore, the excavators dropped down below the street level into the sewer, which enabled them to break through toward the Western Wall, says Dahari.
"I don't see the excavations as a political act," he says, "but because this is Jerusalem, it is hard to differentiate between scientific significance and politics. Just consider how people would respond to the discovery of such a sewer system in any other historic city." Discoveries of import 'for all human civilization' Haaretz received the following statement from Elad in response to questions about its excavations in Jerusalem. "The excavations in the City of David have been conducted for over 150 years by dozens of delegations from Israel and the world over. The excavations funded by Elad are being carried out by leading archaeologists on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. They are the ones who decide on the work methods at the site, and at each and every spot the digging is done according to their scientific and professional instructions. "Everyone is aware that those who are opposing the excavations in Jerusalem today are doing so for clear political reasons. The courts, headed by the High Court of Justice, repeatedly reject various and sundry attempts to stop the development in the City of David. Apparently the courts have also realized that the serial complainers are motivated by nonpractical considerations. "Over the years many of the residents of Silwan worked at the digs, and were an inseparable part of the tremendous project in the national park in which they live. During the past two years elements from the extreme left - from Israel and all over the world - have linked up with ultranationalist and extreme-Islamic players. Arab workers began to receive threats, and Arab and Jewish residents began to suffer from harassment and violence. Unfortunately most of the Arab workers left in fear for their lives, and because one of them was beaten and his car set on fire. As a result some of the residents now feel unconnected to what is being done on the site. Evildoers are exploiting that in order to feed them biased and misleading information. "Recently a drainage canal from the Second Temple period was exposed. This is one of the most important and exciting archaeological discoveries of recent years, not only for the Jewish people but for all of human civilization. It is clear to every thinking person that the route of the canal was determined 2,000 years ago, and there is no connection between its discovery and attempts to connect it, indecently, to political viewpoints." By Nir Hasson Haaretz â€“ 24 April 2011
Israeli Embassy welcomes Pope's "positive view" New book "exonerates" Jews from death of Jesus ROME â€“ The Israeli embassy to the Holy See "welcomes wholeheartedly" Benedict XVI's new book, in which the Pope reiterates that the Jews are not guilty of Jesus' death. A statement released Thursday in English and Italian from the Israeli embassy responded to excerpts of "Jesus of Nazareth" that were released to the press this week. The book will be available March 10. "We welcome wholeheartedly the emphasis reiterated by the Pope in his new book, in which he exonerates the Jews from responsibility for the death of Jesus," the statement says. The embassy itself noted that this is not new teaching. In 1965, the Second Vatican Council declaration "Nostra Aetate" already explicitly stated that "what happened in His 26
passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today." The embassy observed that the book is consistent with "the Church's official policy" and added that "Jesus of Nazareth" is a "confirmation of the Pope's known positive stance towards the Jewish People and the State of Israel." Jesus' accusers "Jesus of Nazareth" takes up the question of the Jews' role in Jesus' death in Chapter 7, Section 3. The Pope asks: "Now we must ask: Who exactly were Jesus’ accusers? Who insisted that he be condemned to death?" He goes on to look at the various answers offered by the Gospels. The Pontiff explains: "According to John it was simply 'the Jews'. But John’s use of this expression does not in any way indicate -- as the modern reader might suppose -- the people of Israel in general, even less is it 'racist' in character. After all, John himself was ethnically a Jew, as were Jesus and all his followers. The entire early Christian community was made up of Jews. In John’s Gospel this word has a precise and clearly defined meaning: he is referring to the Temple aristocracy. So the circle of accusers who instigate Jesus’ death is precisely indicated in the Fourth Gospel and clearly limited: it is the Temple aristocracy -and not without certain exceptions, as the reference to Nicodemus (7:50–52) shows." Benedict XVI also clarifies the phrase from Matthew, when "the 'whole people' say: 'His blood be on us and on our children' (27:25)." He says, "[T]he Christian will remember that Jesus’ blood speaks a different language from the blood of Abel (Heb 12:24): it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment; it brings reconciliation. It is not poured out against anyone; it is poured out for many, for all. 'All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . . God put [ Jesus] forward as an expiation by his blood' (Rom 3:23, 25). Just as Caiaphas’ words about the need for Jesus’ death have to be read in an entirely new light from the perspective of faith, the same applies to Matthew’s reference to blood: read in the light of faith, it means that we all stand in need of the purifying power of love which is his blood. These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation." Zenit – 4 March 2011
Scholars: "Jesus of Nazareth" adds interactive dimension to Lent Vatican launches 2nd volume of Pope's Life of Christ ROME, MARCH 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican officially released Benedict XVI's latest publication just after the last of the ashes had been distributed to Catholics worldwide to begin the Lenten season. Advance sales of "Jesus of Nazareth Part II: Holy Week -- From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection," reportedly topped one million within 10 hours of the release, according to CatholicCulture.org. The book is Benedict XVI's second volume on the life of Christ. Leading Scripture scholars from various denominations attended a teleconference organized by Ignatius Press on 27
Ash Wednesday to discuss the book, during which it was said that the volume adds another dimension of interactivity with Scripture for Lent. "The timing is significant," said Father Thomas Weinandy, executive director for the Secretariat of Doctrine at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. "The book is on the Passion narrative of the Gospel. What it brings new to the Lenten experience is that you have the Pope who, you can tell from the book, has contemplated the Scriptures for a long time over the course of his life and has come to a very deep understanding of the Scriptures. "All these mysteries of our faith the Pope is writing (about) in such a way to give us greater insight into these mysteries, but at the same time, he wants us to come into relationship with the mystery itself so that we come in contact with the Jesus who died for us or the Jesus who was raised from dead for us. "The Pope wants to give us theological insight, but in doing so he wants us to have a deeper relationship with the Jesus with whom we are speaking and contemplating." Father Joseph Fessio, founder and publisher of Ignatius Press, who published the book in English, said it exemplifies the Pope's goal to take results of historical criticism and scientific history done on Jesus and the Bible in the late 19th century and compliment it with an understanding "based on faith and awareness of what the disciples of Jesus have thought and said over the centuries." "Heâ€™s trying to present the figure, and the message of Jesus [...] in a way that can lead to a personal encounter with him," Father Fessio added. "It exemplifies the way he's reading, with the eyes of faith, the scriptural passages." Some recommended an accompanying study guide that will be available in two weeks to help with daily reflection. A slow read Weinandy said he recommends reading the book slowly -- perhaps one or two sections at a time along with daily meditations. Doctor Brant Pitre, Catholic theologian and professor of sacred Scripture at Notre Dame Seminary said: "This year, there is no need to look for good Lenten reading: Benedict XVI's 'Jesus of Nazareth' is a perfect guide to the mysteries of the life of Jesus that Catholics know so well from the Mass, but which they are often longing to know more deeply." "It's the best book I've read on Jesus in years," said Doctor Craig Evans, Protestant Scripture scholar and professor at Acadia University in Canada. "A couple of things that stood out to me too was the sensitivity, and I think historical accuracy, in the assessment of the factors leading up to the Jewish revolt, the destruction of the temple. I think Benedict is quite right in seeing how the policy of the aristocratic priesthood was just almost fated to result in that catastrophe." "It's a great book," he added, "a remarkable achievement would be a benefit to everyone and anyone who reads it." Mark Brumley, Ignatius Press CEO, co-authored the study guide. He suggested an approach to reading the book: "Read a bit of the book and reflect on it in light of a personal call for repentance and the main goal of the Holy Father which is a personal encounter of the world. "As I read the first chapter of the book, I should reflect on, what does it mean for my personal conversion and how does the Lord call me to change my life and in what way and to think about how I encounter Jesus better. The study guide includes questions for reflection and for understanding as the readers read the book." 28
"If someone thinks the book is too far above them," he added, "the study guide is there to help overcome that distance." Back to Scripture One panelist suggested during the teleconference that the book could have been written by a Protestant. "Even though it was said that it could have been written by a Protestant, it would have been a very unusual Protestant," Father Fessio commented in an e-mail to ZENIT. "While Benedict is simply going back to Scripture and presenting its meaning and deep unity, he does it from within Catholic tradition. But since that tradition in fact gives us the real interpretation of the texts themselves, intelligent Protestants can appreciate and agree with what the Pope says. "However, when the Pope talks about the kind of unity Christ intended when he prayed that 'all may be one,' a careful reading will show that he clearly believes that Jesus desired a single visible, Church." Another topic Benedict XVI addresses is that of peace. He writes: "At a later date, though, it would become clear that peace, in the final analysis, cannot be established at the expense of truth." Father Fessio said the passage is in reference to Pilate, who he said "knew Jesus wasn't guilty, but was willing to permit the Jews to have their way even though it meant sacrificing and innocent man. Pilate did this for the sake of 'peace,' of preserving order during the Passover season. "Benedict certainly believes in law and order. But, and this is a crucial qualification, it must be based on truth, not on expediency. There are many modern day examples of the problem. The most obvious one is abortion. Most countries have 'laws' permitting the slaughter of innocent unborn children. Pilate lives. Christ is daily executed." By Anna Maria Basquez Zenit – 10 March 2011
Year of the Bible in the Holy Land In October last year, a few days before the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, the Synod Fathers in the Middle East designated 2011 the year of the Bible. In the Holy Land, several projects have already been launched or are under consideration for the faithful to become familiar with the Word of God. Propositions 2 and 3 from the Synod for the Middle East are about Word of God as: “… the soul and foundation of Christian life and of all pastoral work…” The Synod Fathers have expressed their desire to promote studies, meetings and meditations on the Word of God and several initiatives to make known the Old and New Testament in the center of Christian life. The Church of the Holy Land has therefore committed to ensure that the Word is read, interpreted, and then proclaimed. A committee is charged with this mission led by Bishop William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem. A set of 12 catechesis to highlight different aspects of the Scriptures was prepared, and is being made available on DVD. In addition, pastors of all parishes in the Diocese have been invited to encourage their parishioners to get together with family or meet with individuals and spend five minutes every day reading the Word, either for continuous reading or
following the liturgical lectionary. Bible groups started to meet, in Jerusalem in particular, under the leadership of Father Peter Madros. "The Word is a personal love letter from God individually addressed to us," said Bishop Shomali, “He speaks to us in a direct way. In the Scriptures, we need to humbly listen to Him." Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem – 17 March 2011
Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher resigns His Eminence John Patrick Cardinal Foley resigned from his position as Grand Master of Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. As Grand Master, he served the Holy Land and the Christians with zeal despite his long illness. On November 24, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI made Archbishop Foley cardinal with the title of Cardinal-Deacon of St. Sebastian on the Palatine and appointed him Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem succeeding Carlo Cardinal Furno. He was appointed to this position after serving as Director of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for 23 years. Because of his health, Cardinal Foley, 75, submitted a letter of resignation to the Vatican Secretary of State on February 8th. After meeting Pope Benedict XVI on February 10th, he returned to the United States in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Cardinal Foley was a big supporter of the University of Bethlehem. The Latin Patriarchate is most grateful for all he has given to Christians and schools in the Holy Land. We pray for him, as he bears the cross of his illness with courage. Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem – 7 March 2011
SELECTIONS OF ITEMS FROM VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE Good Friday collection for the Holy Land VATICAN CITY – Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, has sent a letter to the bishops of the world concerning the traditional Good Friday collection for the Holy Land. The English-language letter, which also bears the signature of Archbishop Cyril Vasil S.J., secretary of the same congregation, explains how "the Holy Land expects the brotherhood of the universal Church and desires to reciprocate it in sharing the experience of grace and suffering that marks her journey. She wishes to recognize, first of all, the grace of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, and that of the papal visit to Cyprus. These events have increased the interest of the world and the return of a great number of pilgrims in the historical footsteps of the Lord Jesus. Yet also tangible is sorrow at the escalating violence to Christians in Eastern regions whose consequences are felt acutely in the Holy Land. The
Christians of the East are experiencing the actuality of martyrdom and are suffering because of the instability or absence of peace. The most disturbing sign of this is their inexorable exodus. Indeed a few positive signs in some situations do not suffice to invert the sorrowful tendency of Christian emigration which impoverishes the entire area, draining it of the most vital forces constituted by the young generations". "This appeal for the collection is inherent in the cause of peace, of which the brothers and sisters of the Holy Land desire to be effective instruments in the hands of the Lord for the good of the whole of the East". "It takes place at the beginning of the Lenten journey towards Easter and can culminate on Good Friday or on the occasions considered most favorable in each local context. However, the collection everywhere remains the ordinary and indispensable means of promoting the life of Christians in that beloved Land". After highlighting how "the Congregation for the Eastern Churches acts as spokesperson for these Churches' needs for pastoral care, education, social assistance and charity", the prefect and secretary of the dicastery note that "Pope Benedict invites us, however, to go beyond the gesture, although it is praiseworthy, of concrete help. The relationship must become more intense in order to attain a 'true spirituality anchored to the Land of Jesus'". An attachment to the letter of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches explains how, in the period 2009-2010, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land - the mission of which is to "to keep alive the liturgy in the places of worship, to take care of pilgrims, to enhance apostolic works, and support the Christian community" - dedicated particular attention to the planning and execution of such projects as: the Sanctuary of St. John the Baptist at Ain Karem, the Sanctuary of the Transfiguration at Mount Tabor, scholarships for university students, and building homes for the poor and for young married couples. VIS – 21 March 2011
Meeting of Synod of Bishops Special Council on Middle East VATICAN CITY – The Special Council for the Middle East of the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops met for the third time on 30 and 31 March. The agenda included an update on the current situation of the various churches of Council members, and the preparation of a study with a view to forming a working draft on the proposals of the Special Assembly of the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, held in October 2010. A press release issued today affirmed that "the general situation in the Middle East and North Africa provided the context for the exchange of opinions and information. The precarious situation caused by to socio-political movements directly involves the Churches which share in the joys and worries of citizens, in many cases forced to emigrate due to violence, lack of work, restriction of religious freedom and limited democracy. However, the need for free and constructive dialogue with other religions and with the legitimate representatives of civil authorities remains imperative". VIS – 12 April 2011
EASTER BLESSINGS TO YOU
filled with Joy and Peace of the Risen Lord!
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