Day 3 in the Holy Land

Today was a much more difficult day. I think the theme running through it is the torture of the Incarnation.

We began going through the old city of Jerusalem to meet with the Latin Patriarch.  He was away, but the Chancellor of the Diocese of Jerusalem met with us instead.  He provided a nice intervention that shared an honest skepticism that peace would not be possible soon.  He did offer some points of hope but they were tempered by the reality that even the Christian community is not that united.

We next visited two holy sites, the Cenacle (the place of the last supper) and the Church of St. Peter Gallincantu.  This church is believed to have been the High Priest Caiphas’ house where Jesus was condemned by the Jewish leaders and where Peter denied Jesus three times (thus the name of the church).  It is also here that Jesus would have been tortured and kept overnight in a dungeon before being taken to legal authorities the next day.

After lunch we had the gift (not a nice gift) of meeting some families whose house are being taken by settlers.  The story is a sad one but a typical one.

There are 28 households that were moved by the Ottomans in the 1910’s from their previous neighborhood in Jeresalem to their current one.  Now, the Israeli government has declared that the land is not theirs and has determined it should be made available for settlers.  They have begun moving these families out of their houses.  One family was able to get papers from Turkey proving that they are the rightful tenants of the land.  However, the case was “decided” before the official papers could arrive.  They have not been able to get an appeal hearing.

A word on “settlers” as the word brings up a connotation for Americans that is not true.  We think of settlers going to uninhabited or unused land and creating a new life, often from agriculture.  In Palestine, there is almost no uninhabited or unused land.  So to get the land they must take it.  The settlements are more like neighborhood or small towns than farm settlements.  The persons who are settlers fall into two types: religious/ideological and economic.  The first type believes the Holy Land should on be inhabited by Jewish persons.  The second are looking for a better life and housing.  In all cases the settlements are heavily subsidized by the Israeli government, which gets the largest amount of foreign assistance of any nation.  Our aid to the Israeli government frees money to subsidize the building and defending of the settlements.  So we who pay taxes are in part supporting the removal of families from their land.  The Israeli government’s reason is for security; however, their action squeezes the Palestinians so much that it builds pressure to a point where terrible things will happen.

The ongoing building of settlements is a torture to the people of Palestine.  Let us all pray for forgiveness and a peaceful resolution.

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