For those interested, my wife, a friend and I voyaged to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and various parts of the West Bank of Palestine. We stayed in Jerusalem at my favorite hotel in all the world. This is the "American Colony." We went to the religious sites in the city, The Holy Sepulcher, St. Anne’s church, etc. More importantly we were on a fact finding trip for the church group to which we belong. The group financially supports schools for Arab children and young people in Israel, Palestine and Jordan and from time to time someone must go and "have a look." Bethlehem University continues to be a marvelous institution, admirably run by the Christian Brothers. (See website) They now have about 60% Muslim students and are educating a new generation of leaders for the Palestinian people. In the far northwest of the West Bank at Zebabdeh, we visited a parish school set in a beautiful, mostly Christian, village. The school is grades 1-12 and is immaculate in its maintenance and cleanliness. It has several hundred students taught under a largely lay faculty of whom some are Christian and some Muslim. A very hard Working East Bank Jordanian priest supervises this and his parish with the help of three Arab nuns. The students are about 20% Muslim. In the nearby town of Jenin, there is a university (The Arab-American University of Jenin?) The graduates of the Zebabdeh school are much sought after by the admissions office at this university. The school is in need of money for a new physics and biology lab as well as a lot more books for the library, but it is altogether an admirable institution. We drove to Jordan and visited a school located in a poor district of Amman that is now filled with Iraqi refugees, many of whom are Chaldean Christians. This school was in very bad condition. The building was inadequate and in poor repair. There was not enough of anything and many of the children are, of course, quite poor because they have, at least for now, lost their country.
We went on to Rome to reoprt on findings and then came home. By the time of our return we were all suffering from a nasty chest flu bug.
I would recommend to you any or all of the institutions mentioned above.
The easiest thing for those who wish to contribute money to these schools would be the following:
"Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
P.O. Box 29260
Washington, DC 20017-0260
The Order is a 501 (C)(3) organization under the I.R.S. Code.
Gifts to the Order should be made payable to: Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
Donors may direct their gifts to a particular project."
As you can imagine, these schools are very close to my heart and my people. Thank you for your good work there.
A wonderful thing to do and support.
Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this, Col. Lang.
Can you share some things the Caldeans of Iraq told you about the state of the Church in Iraq?
Thank you for your efforts for peace in the ME. You share much in common with American leaders like Admiral William Leahy.
Is it safe to say, based on your description, that the people are ahead of the politicians? There seem to be quite a lot of supposed “enemies” working, learning and living together in your description.
Well, it is uneven. The Christian Arabs in Jerusalem and the West Bank appear to be making a serious attempt to get along well with the Muslims. Thus you find Muslim students (boys and girls) in the schools of the Latin Patriarchate (the local RC bishop). I have the impression that the majority of Muslim small town people really value these schools and that there is a sense that they are a community asset. Christian houses almost always have built into their walls small ceramic plaques of St. George and/or the Virgin and Child. So, there is no problem identifying who is who. Palestinian Arabs are not really tribal (except for the Negev bedu). They are villagers who although they may have some family tradition of tribe do not function that way. They are village people and religion, economics and locale mean more. None of that applies to the Hamas people but, for the moment, they do not seem interested in the Christians who now number only around 170,000.
Israeli government movement controls are more effective than ever. There seem to be fewer IDF roadblocks, but the manner of the troops towards the Arabs is so degrading and humiliating as to be difficlut for me to watch. The IDF does not seem to care what the psychological effect of their behavior might be. In fact, I think they relish it. A common humiliation is for the father of a family to be hauled out of his car, made to stand in the road with his armes raised for a while and then searched by some kid with a gun while the kid’s buddies look on laughing. The effect of this on children watching from the car is ominous in terms of the future. Humiliation is a powerful word in arab culture. I have to believe that the Israeli government knows this and does not care or hopes that this pressure along with many others will cause these people to leave the country.
The lack of career NCOs in the Israeli ground forces may be a factor in the bullying behavior of IDF troops. As a result, privates, NCOs and junior officers are all pretty much of an age. Imagine a bunch of post-adolescents with uniforms and guns .
The Wall is effective. It lowers the incident rate along the “border” and prevents the Palestinians from moving around in patterns that they have long known. It also profoundly affects Palestinian life. Example; Bethlehem U. formerly had quite a lot of students from the WB north of Jerusalem. Now they have virtually none. The Wall took care of that.
The Israeli government is also in the habit of applying the strict letter of laws and agreements in ways that raise a question of whether or not there is reall good will on their side. There are a number of East Bank Jordanian RC priests in Palestine. The Latin Patriarchate includes in the diocese; Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan and Cyprus. There have been more priestly vocations in Jordan for some reason and the Patriarchate needs to be able to assign priests from Jordan in Palestine. Unfortunately for these men, the Israeli government takes the position that since they are Jordanian (and therefore foreign) they must have a visa to enter Israel. The Israelis have their border control posts on the river between the two “countries.”
As a result, Jordanian priests now west of the Jordan River can not leave the country because they would not be allowed to re-enter and return to their posts. Why not get a visa at the Israeli embassy in Amman? Israeli friends tell me that this is very hard to do. Very hard. The eembassy is like a fortress and slow to issue visas. As a result, one priest whom I know has been unable to visit his sick mother in Amman for the last two years. He knows that if he crosses the border into Jordan he will not be allowed to return to his parish.
None of this makes for a very bright future. pl
Rather than give you my personal impression on this, I will ask Brother David Carroll of CNEWA to comment. pl
The Lebanese Christians of south Lebanon that I know and grew up among (my father’s people) are indistinguishable from Palestinian Christians – culturally as well as every other way. I mean, i went to a Palestinian church fair in San Francisco and saw folk who looked exactly like people in my village, from the pert redhead with the pointed chin, to the albino guy with the European features, to the tall thin hawk-nosed fellow who looks like my dad circa. 1955. And even though I am half-WASP, I was dressed like all the other women (by chance) – jeans and a tailored jacket, gold chain – so that some guy asked me for directions in Arabic. And I answered.
HOwever, I cannot say that Lebanese Christians, even my relatives, care about living with Muslims in peace any longer. The war left deep divisions. Those divisions were there before but they have become fissures, chasms.
That said, my bishop, Msgr. Salim Ghazal, has been at the forefront of interfaith dialogue and good relations all of his career, and he is still fighting the good fight. He told me when I met him in Orange County last fall that “we must have faith in order to resist.” I didn’t ask him who or what we are resisting… he was speaking in French and my French isn’t terrific.
But I understand that he is not the only Catholic cleric in Lebanon who is reaching out to Muslims. So there is some hope. The Melchite church (which is associated with Rome – don’t ask me the exact parameters – they answer to the pope, sort of, although they see their patriarch as the equal of the Holy Father in Rome) sees itself as a bridge between Christians and Muslims.
I had thought, admittedly based solely on news reports, that a majority of Christians of whatever ethnicity had left Gaza and the West Bank over the past ten years or so. Is this the case? How does the Christian population compare to previous years and generations?
Regardless, it’s good to know there are still brave people their doing brave work in what must be very difficult conditions. Thanks for highlighting something that seems perpetually absent from the traditional media.
The numbers have been steadily declining since Israeli independence when the Christian population was something like 20%. pl
You are truly an impressive and righteous dude. If I was a religious man, I would say God bless you and your friends for your efforts in that troubled land.
Thank you for that very powerful piece, Colonel. I have Palestinian Christian relatives – though am not one myself – and their fate – and the fate of Christians in Iraq following the invasion – is terrible and one of the wickedest things which our leaders have caused or allowed to happen.
Thanks to Lang for posting about his trip to Palestine. The Christians in Palestine are now down to around 2% and more and more are leaving b/c of the occupation as revealed by Sabeel’s survey of a couple of years ago. The Holy Land Christian Ecunemical Foundation is trying to support the Palestinian Christians so that they feel able to remain in their ancestoral land. (www.hcef.org)
I have never been to the middle-east. Regretfully. Thus, my analysis is formed out of ignorance and some reading. My conclusion is a relatively simple one that the ancient mistrusts are not about religion at all (that of course is the cover story) but about resources, especially fertile land, water and now oil. I remain willing to be disabused of that analysis. It does seem that the Western World and the Islamic World are still unable to comprehend much about the rest of the world and that “REST” may be about to make both the Western (Christian) World and the Islamic World artifacts of history. Just give it 500 years. Almost nothing in middle-eastern time frames. Really just tomorrow. Glad you went to visit PL but I would be interested in your total time in the middle-east over your lifetime and did this trip change any of your speicif short-term or long-term understandings of that area of the World?
–“The IDF does not seem to care what the psychological effect of their behavior might be. In fact, I think they relish it. A common humiliation is for the father of a family to be hauled out of his car, made to stand in the road with his armes raised for a while and then searched by some kid with a gun while the kid’s buddies look on laughing. The effect of this on children watching from the car is ominous in terms of the future. Humiliation is a powerful word in arab culture. I have to believe that the Israeli government knows this and does not care or hopes that this pressure along with many others will cause these people to leave the country.”
That sounds like the US Army/Marine Corps in Iraq, or at least during OIF III when I was there. FTA
Is there any truth to this?
Do knighthoods of the catholic church have conflicting loyalties?
Come on. I lived there endlessly and was head of the defense department’s intelligence efforts there for almost a decade.
I am not going to defend my qualifications to you.
If you don’t believe me you have options. pl
“Do knighthoods of the Cqtholic Church have divided loyalties?”
What the hell does that mean? Am I a Zionist? Hell no. What division do you have in mind?