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An appeal from the Convent of St. Mary Magdalene

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  • frjohnwhiteford
    M. Agapia April 15, 2002 AN APPEAL to the Orthodox Christian Women of America Dear Sisters, I am a nun of the Convent of St. Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 18, 2002
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      M. Agapia
      April 15, 2002

      AN APPEAL to the Orthodox Christian Women of America

      Dear Sisters,

      I am a nun of the Convent of St. Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem
      (Gethsemane) and
      am responsible for the administration of the Orthodox School of
      Bethany, a
      school for Palestinian girls just outside Jerusalem. We have a small
      section and care for Orthodox children from Beit Jala and Beit
      Sahour, towns
      located next to Bethlehem. Many of the sisters of our Convent are
      from Beit

      I am not spreading propaganda but am simply reporting what has been
      to friends and acquaintances of mine -- Christian women, women with
      with elderly parents to care for, women such as yourself who are now
      greatly here under siege from Israeli forces.

      The situation has degenerated here so much, so quickly that I can't
      recount all the horrors going on. I'll start with the latest event.

      Dr. Hala K. is an Orthodox Christian woman from Beit Jala. Her
      husband, Dr.
      Nasser K. works at the Husseini Hospital in Beit Jala and is a former
      of the Orthodox Club of Beit Jala. A few hours ago I got off the
      phone with
      Hala. She had just returned from a clinic her and her husband have in
      Bethlehem, not far from Manger Square, near the Lutheran Church and
      the Syrian
      Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary. Hala and Nasser had received news
      that the
      clinic they operate had been damaged by Israeli soldiers, so taking
      of the fact that the Israelis had lifted the curfew for a couple of
      hours and
      people were free to leave their homes, they raced to the clinic. They
      did so
      even though they had to leave their children home alone (Israeli
      soldiers have
      entered their new home in the middle of the night three times in the
      month, once stealing all the money from the house, and another time
      the house with gunfire, miraculously only slightl! y wounding one of
      daughters). When they arrived at the clinic - what they saw crushed
      them. Hala,
      in a voice more full of shock and absolute amazement at man's
      inhumanity to his
      fellow man than any feelings of revenge or anger, described to me
      over the
      phone what she found:

      The clinic is in a building that houses other professional offices,
      dentists, lawyers, etc. As they raced to their offices they could see
      that the
      doors of all the various offices had been blown open. They entered
      clinic, the door had been blown open with some sort of explosive
      device, the
      waiting room had bullet holes all over the walls, the rooms were in a
      the soldiers had defecated on the floors and most of the equipment
      had been
      damaged. Most painful of all to Hala (she is trained as a
      gynecologist and in
      fact when she was first married she had an opportunity to study at
      University in New York City, but the newlyweds chose to stay in
      Palestine) was
      that the soldiers had destroyed her ultrasound machine, a machine
      that cost
      $20,000 and was used in her care for pregnant women. During the last
      two weeks
      while the Bethlehem area has been under siege three of Hala's
      patients have
      delivered their babies - AT HOME, it was impos! sible for them to
      reach a
      hospital or for a doctor to reach them because of the Israeli tanks
      and jeeps
      in their streets. Fortunately in her cases the babies and mothers
      have survived
      though there have been complications. There are reports that some
      newborns have
      died during these past two weeks in Bethlehem because they were
      unable to
      receive medical attention.

      Nasser and Hala have four children ages 5 to 16. They now live in a
      new home on the eastern side of Beit Jala, near Talitha Kumi Lutheran
      The last time I was able to visit them, about one and a half months
      ago, they
      were proudly and busily planting flowers and shrubs around their new
      (Over the past year and half their original home in the center of
      Beit Jala
      near the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas has been peppered with
      bullet holes,
      shattered windows and water tanks, and an outside staircase blown
      threw by an
      Israeli shell. Many of the homes on that street have suffered a
      similar fate.
      Nasser's elderly mother and a single sister are still living in a
      home in that
      part of Beit Jala, as is the family of three of our boarder girls and
      elderly mother and a sister of one of our nuns. For over two weeks now
      -starting Saturday March 30, the day before Western Easter, these
      people in
      Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and Bethlehem have been confin! ed to their
      homes, as
      Israeli tanks and jeeps parade the streets. From a number of sources
      there I
      heard that two days ago the soldiers announced that people could
      leave their
      homes for two hours to try and buy provisions. Barely half an hour
      after the
      time of the supposed lifting of the curfew the soldiers began
      shooting tear gas
      into the people in the market area.)

      I first came to know Hala after her original home which is near to
      the home of
      one of our nuns was damaged by Israeli gunfire back in October, 2000.
      the past year and a half I did what I could to help the people of
      Beit Jala.
      One project was to help Hala and a number of other Orthodox Christian
      women in
      the town who had voluntarily devoted their time to establishing an
      after school
      program for the children in Beit Jala. They found a building they
      could rent
      and established a library and an area for games, music and arts and
      activities for the kids. They are trying to keep the program going
      twice a week
      after school and every day during the summer. During the time of the
      here it has been hard to raise funds to hire a young person to co-
      ordinate the
      programs as well as pay the rent and fund the activities. They only
      ask for
      five shekels (about $1) a month from each child, and often waive the
      fee for
      those that can't pay. About 80 childre! n participate in the program.
      to say there have been no activities for the last month because of
      the Israeli
      army incursion into Bethlehem. I have attached photographs of some of
      the women
      involved in the program (all have been confined to their homes for
      the last two
      weeks, lucky if once every two days the Israelis let them step
      outside for a
      couple of hours to run to a store for food and medicine), as well as
      photos of damage done over the past year and a half by Israeli troops
      to homes
      of people in Beit Jala.

      Two more bits of information I received today.

      I was informed by a friend that a 24 year old Christian woman with a
      one year
      child was shot dead by Israeli soldiers this morning. She was the
      relative of a
      woman we know who runs the Spafford Center, a facility for special
      some of our boarders take classes there.

      This morning I was able to reach by phone Simon S., a friend from
      Beit Sahour,
      who has done many construction projects for our Convent and School as
      well as
      many other Christian institutions in the Jerusalem area. An Orthodox
      and the father of five children, including a teen-age daughter and two
      teen-age boys (more fluent in Greek than I (!), they attend the
      Patriarchate school in Shepherd's Field and have visited Greece
      twice), Simon
      is the kind of man that one would describe as "the salt of the
      earth." Besides
      the work he is hired to do he is always ready at any time to run and
      help any
      hapless nun who calls him, "Simon, the water pipe broke." "Simon, we
      can't fix
      the door handle." "Simon,." and before you hang up the phone Simon is
      there to

      Not forty years old and as meek a man as you will ever meet, Simon
      was nearly
      killed during the last Intifada (late 80's to early 90's) when
      Israeli soldiers
      dragged him out of his car and beat him badly. His only crime was
      trying to get
      home from work, but foolish him, the Israelis had said the curfew had
      begun and what was he doing driving around. After that experience
      constant prayer and a hope that he often relates to us is that he
      will live
      long enough to see all of his children reach adulthood (the youngest
      is four).
      Ever the eternal optimist when I spoke to Simon two days ago he was
      sure that
      things would be better and somehow he would be able to get to Bethany
      on Monday
      to do some work for us.

      Simon is scared now. I could only talk to Simon on the phone today --
      he didn't
      make it to Bethany today and we don't know when he will. He sits
      huddled in his
      home in Beit Sahour (Beit Sahour is Shepherd's Field-here lived the
      who heard the angels announce Christ's birth and even today 2000
      years later
      their descendants live in this town, men as gentle and hard-working
      as those
      shepherds of Christ's time) with his wife and children, praying that
      Israeli soldiers will not enter his house or that some emergency will
      force him
      to leave the house. He knows to well what can happen. Saud El Hayet
      is a man
      like Simon, a kind man Simon called him, an Orthodox Christian man
      with five
      children from Beit Sahour .. . Saturday Saud got in his car when the
      soldiers said the curfew had been lifted to try and get some
      provisions for
      his family. As he was driving towards his home soldiers were on the
      road, Saud
      was scared and turned ! his car from the soldiers - they shot him
      dead. A 60
      year old woman, a neighbor witnessed it all, and shocked by the
      horror of the
      act, died there on the spot.

      These are women and men just like you or I and NOW they are in dire
      need of
      your help -- as an Orthodox Christian woman living in the Holy Land I
      appeal to
      you to use all your resources to help them.

      Get on the phone and ask your Congressmen and Senators why the United
      government is backing this invasion of Israeli forces into sovereign
      areas, why
      so many innocent civilians are being terrorized in their homes, their
      towns and
      livelihoods being destroyed by the Israeli government all in the name
      stopping terror?

      Ask your representatives why are Israeli forces being allowed to
      Christian churches all in the name of fighting terror? I know for a
      fact that
      many Palestinians have been seeking refuge in churches, not only the
      Church of
      the Nativity. For the most part they are not "terrorists" but
      policemen and
      parishioners of these churches, husbands and brothers trying to
      defend their
      homes. From information we have, only seven of the men in the Church
      of the
      Nativity could be considered dangerous or "wanted men" by Israel. The
      both Muslim and Christian, are men of the Bethlehem area, well-known
      to the
      clergy inside the Church. Men taken in by the clergy because they
      know that
      they are people only trying to defend their homes from an occupying

      Once this bloody incursion finally ends many here will be in dire
      straits, not having work, and having many expenses as they try to
      rebuild their
      damaged homes, businesses, etc. I hope at that time the Orthodox
      women groups in the US will be generous in providing assistance to
      their fellow
      Christians in the Holy Land who are suffering tremendously now.

      And above all pray. As I hear from friends from Bethlehem, Ramallah,
      etc and
      see the wanton destruction that has gone on, I and they have no
      explanation for why all this is taking place. The destruction being
      out by the Israeli forces now makes no sense and will certainly not
      bring them
      any security. My only comfort is that as I try to stay in contact
      with friends
      now under siege I marvel at how meek, humble and long-suffering they
      are in the
      midst of their trials. I think of F.S., an acquaintance from
      Ramallah, an
      elderly man now, who is considered the dean of Palestinian lawyers,
      penned in his home, listening in his home that lies just around the
      from the main street of Ramallah where his legal offices are,
      listening as the
      Israeli tanks and helicopters carry out the destruction of the town
      he has
      lived in for the past fifty years. And when I call th! is
      capable man barred by twenty-year old soldiers (most likely
      immigrants from
      Ethiopia or Russia) from walking the streets of the city he has known
      as home
      for far longer than those soldiers have been alive, he speaks meekly
      matter-of-factly: no, no water running, just a little left in the
      tanks, but he
      is grateful, the Israelis gave them two hours to go out for food,
      though he
      laments, no fresh bread, the bakeries (those not destroyed) had no
      time to heat
      their ovens. And in his sweet, quiet voice the man who can outwit
      anyone in
      court knows no legal argument, no rational mind will help now, and he
      finishes our conversation, "Thank you for calling habibie (dear one),
      and pray,
      all we can do his pray."

      So please you too pray for all the good people of Palestine, people
      that are no
      different than me or you.
    • Josh Hatala
      Greetings! Recently I started creating an Orthodox webpage. As of now the site is in it s beginning stages and rather simple, but I m hoping it will grow and
      Message 2 of 2 , May 2, 2002
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        Recently I started creating an Orthodox webpage. As of
        now the site is in it's beginning stages and rather
        simple, but I'm hoping it will grow and develop. On
        the site I present Orthodoxy/The New Russian
        Martyrs/Convert Testimonies/Lives of Saints, Ascetics,
        and Inspirers/ as well as a discussion forum and links
        to other sites. If you visit the site you might notice
        that everything is presented rather simply and that
        there aren't too many original writings. With your
        help I'm hoping the site will become more original and
        inspiring. If anyone has any articles they've written,
        a conversion story, or thoughts they'd like to share
        please contact me so they can be considered as an
        addition to the site! Any comments, critiques,
        suggestions, etc. are also greatly appreciated.
        Hoping everyone has a joyous pascha.
        -P.Josh Hatala


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