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Re: [OrthodoxNews] Following Jesus’ pa th for last time

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  • Meni53@aol.com
    Following Jesus path for last time By Jonathan Cook in Bait Fagi Thursday 01 April 2004, 20:37 Makka Time, 17:37 GMT Israel is ignoring all calls to stop
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 2, 2004
      Following Jesus' path for last time
      By Jonathan Cook in Bait Fagi

      Thursday 01 April 2004, 20:37 Makka Time, 17:37 GMT

      Israel is ignoring all calls to stop building the separation barrier

      While the clashes over land confiscation from Palestinians in the
      West Bank have been capturing the headlines, another shocking
      development in the evolution of Israel's wall, in Jerusalem, has gone
      entirely unnoticed.

      In recent weeks, Israeli bulldozers have finished their work at the
      Palestinian village of Abu Dis, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and
      moved to the very heart of the Holy City: the Mount of Olives.

      There demolition crews have begun scarring the eastern slopes of the
      mountain and uprooting hundreds of ancient olive trees.

      Paradoxically, the place where Israel's activity is concentrated is
      at a hamlet known as Bait Fagi, which at this time of year is the
      focus of global Christian attention.

      Reputedly, 2000 years ago Jesus stopped at Bait Fagi to ask for food
      while on his way to Jerusalem. All that could be found, according to
      legend, was the unripe fruit of palm trees, from which Bait Fagi
      derives its name: the Place of the Unripe Dates.

      Palm Sunday

      More famously, Jesus was also brought a donkey, which he mounted and
      rode into the Holy City, his way set out for him on a carpet of palm

      This coming Sunday, Palm Sunday, Christians will commemorate the
      event with processions and the blessing of palm branches.

      But the most important procession should be taking place on the Mount
      of Olives, following in Jesus's footsteps from Bethany, now the
      modern Palestinian village of Aizariya, to Bait Fagi, where two
      neighbouring chapels - one Roman Catholic, the other Greek Orthodox -
      lay rival claim to be built over the rock where Jesus mounted the

      Officially the churches are saying nothing apart from that this
      year's procession will go ahead as normal. But privately they concede
      that this will be the last procession - next year the route will
      almost certainly be impassable.

      Even this year the pilgrims, carrying aloft palm and olive branches,
      will be greeted at Bait Fagi by a section of wall comprising 8m-high
      concrete slabs obstructing their way to the two chapels.

      But on Sunday, they will at least still be able to navigate their way
      round it.

      Legal challenge

      Hope that the progress of the wall can be halted or even slowed on
      the Mount of Olives looks misplaced.

      Although the legality of the wall is being challenged at The Hague,
      the ruling, even if it goes against the barrier, will be non-binding
      on Israel.

      Also, officials for the Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs have so far
      refused to speak out. Both churches are currently mired in difficult
      confrontations with the Israeli authorities and do not want another
      public row.

      The Greek Orthodox has been struggling to win the official Israeli
      stamp of approval for the appointment of their patriarch in
      Jerusalem, Bishop Irineos.

      Although the government, after two years of wrangling, has finally
      backed him, the decision is now being challenged in the courts by
      Israeli businessmen interested in the church's huge landholdings.

      The Catholic church, on the other hand, is battling Israeli red tape
      to renew visas for more than 100 staff, including priests, monks and

      Many applications are being turned down by the Interior Ministry and
      there have even been recent reports of nuns being arrested.

      Deliberate damage

      David Jaegar, a spokesman in Israel for the Vatican, said: "In the
      Catholic world there is a growing view that Israel has deliberately
      framed a policy to hurt the church.

      "Nobody believes some clerk in the population registry is able to
      reach these decisions on his own."

      Although the wall on the Mount of Olives will be shielded from the
      view of most tourists to Jerusalem, it will be only a few hundred
      metres from the Old City and some of the sites holiest to Judaism,
      Christianity and Islam, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,
      the Wailing Wall and al-Aqsa mosque.

      The Greek orthodox church is unable to stop many Israeli actions

      At Bait Fagi, some 40 homes were saved from demolition only after the
      intervention of the Greek Orthodox Church, which offered up a section
      of its grounds for the building of the wall.

      But, as a result, the families will now be stuck on the wrong side of
      the barrier: despite paying taxes to the Jerusalem municipality, they
      will soon find it almost impossible to access the city or benefit
      from its services.

      This unenviable position has been inflicted on thousands of other
      families too. As the route of the wall begins to snake its way across
      Jerusalem, they have found themselves trapped in ghettos.

      Black hole

      Afghani Nasira, aged 49, suffers from heart disease and her husband,
      Abid, aged 58, has diabetes. Both are fearful of how they will cope
      once the wall is finished.

      "We won't be able to get to Jerusalem hospitals and we are not
      insured for West Bank health care. We are in a black hole. No one is
      responsible for us now," she said.

      Their only way to Jerusalem will be to travel into the West Bank and
      back in on roads designed for Israeli settlers. There they will have
      to negotiate their way through army checkpoints.

      "A journey that took me a few minutes on foot will now take hours by
      car, if it's possible at all," she added.

      "Some days a soldier turns them back, other days he is not there.
      Soon it won't matter, as the wall will block their way to school

      Husam Katishi,
      Bait Fagi resident

      Husam Katishi, aged 30, also lives in one of the homes that were
      threatened with demolition. The reprieve means that he, his wife and
      three young children will now live with the wall just 2m from the
      back of their house. They will be overlooked by armed gun towers and
      security lights.

      Katishi has joined the other families in petitioning for a gate in
      the wall, but the experience of other Jerusalem Arabs cut off from
      city services or other family members suggests it is unlikely it will
      ever be approved.

      "We have repeatedly rung the army representatives but they refuse to
      say what will happen in the future," he said.

      School trip

      He says some 200 local children cross by the small section of wall
      each day, past the Bait Fagi chapels, to reach their schools.

      "Some days a soldier turns them back, other days he is not there.
      Soon it won't matter, as the wall will block their way to school
      anyway. Where we will be able to send them, I don't know," adds

      Fahdi Hamad, 28, has been on the ancient path taken by Jesus from his
      home in Aizariya to Bait Fagi for the past four years. He works as
      the gatekeeper at the Catholic chapel in Bait Fagi. He admits his
      days there are numbered.

      "The wall will soon be finished and there will be no way I can reach
      the church. No one seems to care," he says.

      Enham Shama, a caretaker at the neighbouring Greek Orthodox convent,
      says she is shocked to think that this Palm Sunday procession will
      probably be the last.

      "I can't help but ask myself, what would Jesus do faced with a wall
      like this?"



      Please pray for the Orthodox in the Holy Land.
      In Christ,

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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